Let’s get a couple of things out of the way:
1. I paid $45 to attend a cocktail class that turned out to be a marketing presentation for a single brand of whiskey, and
2. I don’t care.
Commercialization is annoying and we all have too many ads shoved down our throats. Hell, Facebook may even be using digital advertising to destroy our democracy. No, it’s definitely doing that.
Somehow, marketing and advertising just seem a whole lot less irritating when they’re combined with giving me some delicious cocktails. And these were. Also, I knew what I was getting into.
The French Room is partnering with various brands to create a series of cocktail classes ostensibly training guests to be skilled home bartenders and filling out their recipe repertoires while also maybe selling them on the partner’s brand. In our case, that brand was the very hot Angel’s Envy whiskeys out of Louisville.
“Hot” is a spirits term meaning high specific gravity or “lots of alcohol.” But in this case I mean that this brand emerged just before the global explosion of bourbon.
In the mid-2000s, it was hard to get a decent bourbon, let alone rye, in such popular destinations as Mexico or Western Europe. I had a perfectly acceptable rye whiskey in Bangladesh last month. Bourbon is everywhere. (For now, your president has put a hurt on the industry.)
Angel’s Envy represents the second distilling career of Lincoln Henderson, whose first act gave us Woodford Reserve, arguably the hottest brand of the first wave of popularizing bourbon inside the United States, and his son Kyle.
Its genius is twofold: First, it hit the market at exactly the right time as global brand conglomerates were growing and pushing their whiskeys into new markets, and second, it gently stretched the definition of “straight bourbon whiskey” to include a secondary maturation in port barrels. This produces whiskey that is smoother and sweeter than traditional ones matured only in new American oak. This makes it one of the most accessible whiskeys in its segment.
Incidentally, this author favors hotter styles of whiskey and disfavors secondary maturation, specifically because of the sweetness thing, but that’s just a matter of taste.
The recipes from the Adolphus, meant for holiday gatherings, were delicious. Brand ambassador Morgan Moore spun a delightful tale of the development of his product (leaving out reference to its 2015 acquisition by Bacardi) and was truly knowledgeable about American whiskey and bartending.
The “class” portion of the event consisted mostly of pouring premeasured vials of ingredients into a shaker or pitcher to chill them, but the activity provided just enough interactivity to be fun.
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At that point, the evening might have felt a little bit light on value, but it then moved from the Adolphus lobby into the French Room Bar for more of the Bad Apple Punch and some light snacks. Moore also passed around tasters of Angel’s Envy rye, which is a little hard to find. It has secondary maturation in rum barrels, so despite its hotness (the alcohol kind; 100 proof), it’s still too sweet (for me).
The great discovery my group made at that point, however, is that the French Room Bar serves a menu that is strong on both cocktails and food. And there’s a hack: If you walk across the lobby to the more casual concept, City Hall, its staff will deliver food to you in the bar. As we’ve told you, City Hall is good. The bistro, not the government.
Anyway, the whole thing was fun. Watch for more cocktail classes at the French Room in the new year as part of The Adolphus’ event series. As fond as I am of the historic hotel, it had grown a bit staid before its most recent remodel. The events are a conscious attempt to energize the lobby, and I think they’re on the right track.
The Adolphus, 1321 Commerce St. (downtown)