My bar at home is pretty uneven: We have our pick of a good 40 bottles of wine, some rum remnants, Grey Goose (a wedding leftover), and vermouth (from … college?). As much as I like cocktails, crafting anything fancier than a martini has always seemed like an expensive hassle to me.
Leave it to a man who mixes arugula, heirloom tomatoes, and Iberico ham into his drinks to change my mind. Nacional 27’s master mixologist Adam Seger shares his expertise during an hour-long “happy hour” class the third Thursday of every month. I was picturing a hands-on, sparsely attended session; instead, Seger set up shop behind the bar during March’s “Spice & Ice” class, with about 20 curious drinkers stationed on stools and a few tables.
He spent the first few minutes showering us with spice facts: those with higher oil content (like seeds and flower buds) have a greater intensity and are antioxidant-rich. And—lucky us—alcohol is a better carrier of antioxidants than water. Hibiscus tea, be gone!
Animated and passionate in his delivery, Seger then moved on to infusions. I had always been impressed by bars that advertise ginger-vodka and vanilla-bourbon in their drinks. Not anymore. They’re easy to make—super easy. Like, “throw some hibiscus flowers, cardamom, and ginger nibs in rum and let it sit” easy. It’s also snap to make a ramped-up simple syrup (for instance, add lemongrass and basil if you’re making cocktails to pair with Thai food).
Now ready to assemble, Seger instructed us to always follow the “two parts spirits, one part sweet, one part sour” formula, demonstrating with drink No. 1, a mojito made from rum, pomegranate juice, ginger-habanero syrup, and muddled mint and lime. A dazzlingly clear pink, it was dangerously refreshing—with a hint of heat. Drink No. 2, a mango-ginger-habanero daiquiri, came in a martini glass rimmed in a Christmas-y seven-spice blend. We left with a copy of the recipes (see below) so we could whip up the impressive drinks at home.
I left the session feeling completely satisfied with how I used my 5:30-6:30 p.m. hour—as well as with how I used my $20. When I first signed up for the class, that fee felt a little steep, but the full-sized mojito alone clocks in at $12 on Nacional’s menu. Throw in the daiquiri, Seger’s formidable knowledge, and the smattering of snacks passed about, and it’s more a steal than a deal. Plus, April and May’s classes are priced at just $15, which is good because I have some liquor shopping to do.
Adam Seger’s Pomegranate-Ginger-Chile Mojito
Build in a 16-ounce pint glass
1/2 lime, quartered
16 mint leaves
Muddle the above until juicy and aromatic.
Add 1 ounce ginger-habanero syrup (see below), 1.5 ounces rum, 1 ounce Pom Wonderful Pomegranate juice. Stir, fill with ice, stir, top with soda, stir. Optional garnishes: sugar cane stick, additional mint, candied ginger)
ginger-habanero syrup: 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water heated to just before boiling with one seeded habanero and 2 ounces sliced fresh ginger. Remove habenero five minutes after taking off heat. Cool and strain out ginger. Keep sealed in the refrigerator for three weeks.
2 ounces 10 Cane Rum
1 lime fresh squeezed
3/4 ounce ginger-habanero syrup
3/4 ounce mango puree
Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled 10-ounce cocktail glass rimmed with sweetened Homemade 7 Spice by wetting rim with lime then dipping in equal parts superfine sugar and spice blend.
Homemade 7 Spice: 2 parts fresh ground cinnamon, 2 parts ground fennel, 2 parts dried ginger, 1 part ground Szechuan peppercorns, 1 part ground cloves, 1 part ground star anise, 1 part ground cardamom.