When we arrived at the Saveur Holiday Social early, long before it opened to the public, we had no idea we’d be among the last ones there too. But it wouldn’t have been “social” of us to cut our class short…
Saveur asked us to do a class for 20 people on Brooklyn spirits for their Holiday event and we jumped at the chance. We thought it would be great for us to talk about about the Brooklyn spirits scene (and shamelessly plug our book) while we had one of the borough’s best bartenders pour drinks. So we reached out to Will Noland of Sidecar. Will managed to have more recipes in our book than any other bartender. Why? When we went to visit him one day, he just kept making great, beautiful drinks with local booze. Basically he made our job easy. And that’s exactly what we needed again.
The specific challenge laid on us by Saveur was to come up with a holiday themed menu with an audience participation element. Will said, “OK.” He came up with 4 cocktails, finishing with a milk punch with cookies to leave out for the true Santa in your life. Although he worked the recipes to perfection for two weeks, tweaking proportions this way and that, in the end he made it look easy.
That’s not to say that there wasn’t a roadblock or two — literally. Will said he would arrive by 5 for our 6:15 class. When he wasn’t there yet by 5:15, we started to worry. After all, not only were there 10,000 protesters streaming down Broadway but it was also the dreaded Santa Con.
We figured it wouldn’t be an issue as his car could cross the Brooklyn Bridge, take Center Street and Lafayette and avoid the morass. What we didn’t know at the time is that protesters had essentially closed off the bridge. We called Will. He was 4 blocks away on the other side of Broadway, trapped behind the protesters with too much to carry. It was just 10 minutes before our class started when we started our sprint toward him into the heart of marchness. We found his Uber stranded four blocks away. We crossed the protest and helped Will gather everything and headed back. We got the bright idea to take a photo of us crossing back through the protest but were photobombed by a demented elf. It pains us to say this pic did not turn out.
When we got back to Astor Center, there was no time to prepare, so we winged it. Will started mixing drinks and we start talking about the fantastic group of producers who make up the Brooklyn spirits scene. Our talking to the group as a whole ended almost as soon as the class got Will’s first drink, a milk shake made with candy canes, peppermint oil and Greenhook American Dry Gin. Their attention as a group went straight to the next drink and we realized we were better off talking to the folks in the class individually as they made their drinks — the vibe wasn’t right for any kind of a lecture.
Next, Will poured a Poinsettia featuring Owney’s Rum. He also showed the class how to make the cranberry syrup for the drink from scratch. The day started for us early in the morning with coffee and cookies. And aside from the occasional taco and churro, we hadn’t eaten. We grabbed whatever nutrition we could from the ‘shake and the Poinsettia, then moved on to Will’s next drink, a Jesuit made with homemade tonic syrup and 77 Wheat Whiskey. That brought us right up against 7 o’clock and presumably the end of our class. But Will had one more drink to make, and by now a lot of the Saveur staff was in our class. So we sallied forth.
Will mixed up his milk punch with Van Brunt Bourbon and we handed out cookies made specifically by Kimberly Wetherell of Spirited to go with Will’s last drink. Many in the class now were double and triple fisting, asking for seconds of their favorite drinks and dipping cookies into a boozy milk punch. All of the tables in the other rooms were now empty. Brooms were filling the floors where hundreds of shoppers had been all day. And our class went on. . .I guess you could say we became the unofficial after party for the Saveur Holiday Social. Quite an honor, indeed. And none of it would have gone down without the help of the great Will Noland.