CLASS ACT MORE CRAFT DISTILLERS ARE BECOMING EDUCATORS
WRITTEN BY MARGARETT WATERBURY
ew sectors offer quite as many opportunities for lifelong education as spirits. There’s always a new spirit to taste, a new skill to learn, or a core concept to understand more deeply. For many distillers, their industry peers have provided an abundance of learning opportunities, from friendly phone calls with the moreexperienced distiller down the street, to industry-leading education programs that draw an international student base. Now, as the industry grows, more distilleries are starting to return the favor by offering classes of their own. The format of those educational events runs the gamut, from casual after-work cocktail classes to weeklong intensives. Classes have become particular important for relatively earlystage distilleries that rely heavily on tasting room traffic for revenue, as they present opportunities to engage with and educate current and potential customers. For more established distilleries, sharing their hard-won “We started offering professional cocktail classes knowledge through career so our customers development could join the classes is a cocktail revolution natural growth without feeling avenue. Holding intimidated or classes can overwhelmed.” accomplish MELKON KHOSROVIAN simultaneous GREENBAR DISTILLING goals of LOS ANGELES, generating CALIFORNIA
revenue, promoting the distillery in the industry community, and ensuring that new distillers are equipped with the skills they need to elevate standards in the craft industry for years to come. We interviewed several distillers across the country to find out what kinds of classes they were holding, why they were holding them, and tips and tricks for making sure customers and staff alike walk away with a good experience.
COCKTAIL CLASSES Designed to engage consumers, build brand loyalty, and just plain have fun, cocktail classes are one of the easiest educational formats for distilleries to implement. Typically around two hours in length, cocktail classes are an enjoyable, easy way for locals and tourists alike to roll up their sleeves, get their jiggers wet, and learn to make the kinds of cocktails that highlight a distillers’ spirits. Many distilleries borrow strategic themes from their businesses or key aspects of brand identity and build them into their cocktail classes. Koval Distillery in Chicago, Illinois, is owned and operated by former academics who loved spirits but wanted to maintain a connection to classroom instruction. “You never throw anything away,” says Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart, president and co-founder of Koval. “When we shifted from academia to spirits, we brought with us our love of teaching and educating.” Here, consumerfacing cocktail or spirits education classes
are participatory, but also incorporate elements of history and science. “Our cocktail classes are still very academic,” says Sonat. “We never teach something in a vacuum. It’s never just how you put the cocktail together, it’s where it comes from.” Greenbar Distilling in Los Angeles, California, takes a slightly different approach. Rather than focusing on history, its cocktail classes are geared towards hands-on action, with a class format that encourages experimentation and customization. “Many of our attendees have had elaborate cocktails,” says Melkon Khosrovian, co-founder of Greenbar, acknowledging Angelenos’ love of contemporary cocktail culture. “But few know how to make simple drinks. We started offering cocktail classes so our customers could join the cocktail revolution without feeling intimidated or overwhelmed.” Melkon has found that getting people involved right away has been the key to Greenbar’s success. “Make it interactive and fun; no one is that interested in a lecture.”
HANDS-ON LEARNTO-DISTILL CLASSES GEARED TOWARDS ENTHUSIASTS There comes a time in every true spirits nerd’s life when they start wondering what it might be like to helm the still on their own. Half or full-day hands-on distilling courses are just the thing for this crowd. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
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