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Fresca Fever!

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SCHOOL IS IN SESSION AT THE COCKTAIL CLUB

It was noon on one of the hottest Saturdays Charleston has seen this summer, and I was trekking to class, thirsty for knowledge. While Saturday summer school doesn’t sound very enticing, this was not your typical learning experience—this was Cocktail Class at The Cocktail Club. Instead of desks there were high-top bar tables, set with all of the mixology supplies we would need—muddlers, strainers, glasses, crushed ice, and a menagerie of juices, herbs, and simple syrups. And instead of a strict school teacher with a rigid lesson plan, there was the dynamic duo, Jasmine Beck and Katie Powers, ready to lead us in the art of creating delicious, craft cocktails.

Photo by Josh Meridith
Watermelon Aqua Fresca. Photo by Josh Meridith

Our instructors picked an appropriate lesson plan for the sweltering hot July day, putting “Agua Frescas” on the agenda for the class. Literally translating to “fresh water”, these Latin American inspired cocktails are refreshing indeed, and consist simply of crushed ice, your choice of fresh fruit or vegetables, herbs, soda water or champagne, simple syrup, and any clear liquor. To put us in the learning spirit and give us a taste of what we would soon be creating, they had refreshing Watermelon Agua Frescas ready for us to enjoy as class commenced.

They kicked off the lesson by establishing their comforting mantra that “preference is personal” and assuring us that mixology can be fun and easy. While some combinations do tend to work better than others, you should feel free to get creative with your fruit and herb combinations. They also advised us that fresh ingredients not only create tastier drinks, but they also spare you the headache that unnatural cocktails are notorious for giving you the next day.

With these tips in mind, we took a stab at creating our first Agua Frescas—the Vintage Summer Cocktail, a sipper adapted from The Cocktail Club’s regular menu. The first step was to take the fresh ingredients, the basil leaves and strawberries, and muddle them together. Jasmine and Katie tipped us off that freezing your fresh strawberries not only makes them last longer, but also yields more flavor in the cocktail. Next we simply added the simple syrup, lime-juice, and lastly, the gin. As another tip, they instructed us to add the liquor last, as it is the most expensive ingredient and you would want to avoid wasting it if something went a-rye in the early stages of your drink-making.

After successfully making cocktails under the guidance of our expert instructors, we were free to experiment with the ingredients and make our own Agua Fresca varieties. I opted for a mixed-berry concoction, muddling blackberries, strawberries, and mint, and adding ginger juice, crushed ice, and aguave tequila. It was quite delicious, if I say so myself.

By the end of the two-hour class, I vowed to add the Cocktail Class to my agenda every month. With the perfect balance of education and fun, Jasmine and Katie seem to have the recipe for a great mixology class down. I look forward to continuing my education with The Cocktail Club!

Watermelon Agua Fresca
from The Cocktail Club, Charleston, SC