Everything in place, ready to join Three of Strong Spirits’ mixology class. Photos by Angie Bryan

Missing your favorite bartender(s)? It might be possible to connect with them online, learn how to make some of your favorite cocktails, and help support them financially, all from your home.

Several bars have been finding creative ways to keep in touch with their regular clientele (and maybe even develop some future customers) by providing free online mixology tutorials. In a three-day period, I participated in three unrelated virtual mixology classes, each one with a different approach, but all really enjoyable.

Bartenders Nick and Ricardo from Ogunquit piano bar The Front Porch gave tips for substituting bartending tools with other kitchen items.

The first “event” was a Facebook Live presentation by The Front Porch in Ogunquit. Bartenders Nick and Ricardo did a fabulous job alternating between sharing tips for quarantined home bartenders and fielding questions about what drinks their customers could make with the ingredients they had on hand. No shaker? Use the container you use to mix up your protein shakes. No strainer? Use a hammer and a (sterilized) nail to punch some holes in the metal lid to a jar of pasta sauce and mix your cocktail in the jar, using the hole-punched lid to strain it once it’s cold. Craving a white Russian but can’t get milk? Use equal parts vodka, Kahlua and Bailey’s instead. I may never go back to the original recipe.

The next day was another Facebook Live event, this time a collaboration between Rad Plaid (an entity which connects the local music scene) and Eat Drink Lucky (a free daily newsletter with three short tips on food, drink and lifestyle news) featuring folk singer-songwriter Caroline Cotter and Patrick McDonald, a bartender at Chaval in Portland.

Chaval bartender Patrick McDonald takes an upscale approach to his mixology lesson.

EDL had published the recipes for the two cocktails in advance, so that people could prepare. McDonald showed how to make one cocktail, which people drank while Cotter sang, and then he demonstrated the second cocktail. He took a more upscale approach, teaching viewers how to make Campari sugar (one part Campari to five parts sugar) which he then bruléed onto an orange slice for a garnish. He also provided tips like reminding viewers to pre-chill the glass while making a cocktail and noting that you should spend three times as long stirring a cocktail (45 seconds) as you do shaking one (15 seconds).

The third day, my liver and I tuned into a Zoom class on how to make a “what do I already have” Old Fashioned hosted by the crew at Three of Strong Spirits, a rum distillery in Portland. Participants register in advance for free via Eventbrite, then receive detailed instructions on what they might want to have on hand, as well as a reminder about which services deliver alcohol in Maine and what products they have available for sale (hello, cocktail kits!). Each week, they showcase ways to adapt a familiar cocktail. Being a rum distillery, they used rum in their Old Fashioned, along with the usual bitters and simple syrup. They also encouraged viewers to experiment with different flavors of bitters. I had some chocolate bitters, so I tried that – it worked really well with the rum.  They even taught participants how to make their own bitters using Earl Grey (or any black tea): ¼ cup boiling water, ¼ cup light brown sugar, and two tea bags steeped for 10 minutes.

Crystal Pomerleau of Three of Strong Spirits demonstrates how to make an Old Fashioned using ingredients you happen to have.

All three events included Venmo and/or PayPal options for tipping the bartenders.

If you’re interested in similar events, check your favorite bars’ social media accounts to see if they have anything planned. The Front Porch event is every other Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., Eat Drink Lucky is Wednesdays at 6 p.m., and Three of Strong is Thursdays at 5:30 p.m.

Angie Bryan is a former diplomat who is enjoying getting acquainted with her new home in Portland, one cocktail at a time.

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