Taste of Tahoe: Want to make your own classy cocktail? Truckee Tavern’s you covered
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Truckee Tavern and Grill is helping visitors not only learn to make incredible cocktails at home, but also feel more comfortable when ordering from the bar.
The business’ “Blueprint of a Cocktail” course teaches simple, executable formulas with proper ratios and ingredients so anyone can create a timeless beverage with the freedom to modify as they choose.
“Balance is the most important ingredient,” said Ryan Dierks, co-owner and bartender of Truckee Tavern and Grill. “A bad cocktail is too sweet, sour, boozy or weak. Most all flavors are pleasant when balanced correctly.”
Upon entering the class, you take your seat at the bar alongside nine other excited students. One of my classmates was Amy Smith, a local attending her first class as well.
“This is awesome — especially learning to modify using my favorite spirits and variations and balancing my cocktails,” Smith said. “And it’s such a great place to meet with friends on a Saturday night, you get to play with your favorite boozes and learn what to do later, on your own.”
Throughout the class, students enjoy small bites from charcuterie boards as they taste and learn to make six different cocktails.
In front of you is a laminated, illustrated cocktail index with proper measurements for the recipes discussed in class that participants get to take home.
Beside the cocktail index place mat is a lovely array of fun cocktail modifiers you can add to the cocktails, including a glass dropper bottle of the Tavern’s house-made aromatic bitters, also for keeps.
The bar’s bitters are made through a long process, which includes adding small charred pieces of the barrel into the bitters to enhance their special blend of herbs and spices, rather than aging the bitters’ concoction in the barrel itself.
“We’re going to be making classic cocktails with tried-and-true methods,” Dierks said. “They’re modified to seem sophisticated, but they are very easy to make. You’ll learn to whip-up cocktails on the fly with this plug-and-play method; it’s kind of like Mr. Potato Head.”
So long as you stick to the method of balances and ratios of liquor to acid to sugar to modifiers like bitters or aromas from citrus peels, you can virtually mix any flavor. The class teaches a “cocktail algorithm,” if you will, to create a nearly-perfect drink from any spirit, sweet, bitter, sour and water ingredient you choose.
“As long as you adhere to these rules with balance as the most important thing, you can make a drink,” Dierks said. “It may not be a 10 out of 10 your first try, but it’ll be a 7 out of 10.”
The final phase of the class has teams of two choose various ingredients from each cocktail category to experiment with their own new flavors (and Dierks was right, our tequila-pear liqueur-Sherry combo was a solid 7 out of 10).
In the hour-and-a-half social lesson, I got to meet fun and kind locals, learned to make classic cocktails that would make even my grandfather proud, and can say I have a much better understanding of balancing flavors.
The next time we find ourselves ordering a nice drink from the bar, we know what to look for, which Dierks says can be a funny situation.
“Now you’re all going to see someone shake your drink without straining the cubes, and it’ll drive you crazy,” he said.
The Blueprint of the Cocktail class takes place every Saturday from 6-7:30 p.m. at Truckee Tavern and Grill, located upstairs at 10118 Donner Pass Road in Historic Downtown Truckee. Space is limited; visit truckeetavern.com or call 530-587-3766 to learn more.
Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at email@example.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.