Master Mixologist William Perbellini Guided Cocktail Aficionados Through the Artistry of Crafting Contemporary and Classic Cocktails
Not knowing what to expect in my first spirits class since I obtained a Level Two Intermediate certification from Wine and Spirits Education Trust in 2010, I was thrilled to get a press pass into this event. I talked about it on Facebook the week prior, and others had seen my teasers and were anxious to learn as well. In fact, before I even got back home after class I already received one message to find out how it went so I texted this quick response:
Great bar program.
William IS the real thing.
Interesting twists to recipes.
Had a great time.
They are planning on taking over the entire bar just before Valentine’s Day to do this, or a version of this, again!
William Perbellini, resident mixologist at Bar Toscana, presented an interactive holiday mixology class on Saturday, December 6, to a limited group of cocktail aficionados. Guests received a welcome cocktail, appetizers and take home gift of Perbellini’s house-made botanicals and spices to begin their own infusions and creative cocktails at home.
The two-hour class included:
· Review of the main spirits and liquors
· Essentials for your house bar
· Creation of classic and contemporary cocktails:
· Classics: Negroni, Americano, Manhattan, Old Fashioned
· Contemporary: Perbellini’s Margarita, Mojito, Gabriele, Pearbellini
· A Special Creation to Entertain Guests during the Holidays
What Happened in Class Didn’t Stay in Class
If you look over my Facebook album (link: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10204411689639733.1073741891.1455706632&type=1&l=bb3a44365d) one of the photos shows a little bag that was at our place settings at the bar when we arrived. Prepared by Perbellini himself, it was “a little gift of chamomile, lavender, sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg…to go in your bar at home that in a couple of hours you will know how to use.” We were intrigued already.
Perbellini stared with a review of the basics. He moved over to different sections of the bar to show how “select areas concentrate on each category; scotch, vodka…” All of the alcohols on display, he explained, had been fermented from food, herbs, and cereals like barley.
Starting each guest off with an Aperol Spritz (2 parts Aperol, 3 parts Prosecco and 1 part of sparkling soda water, adjusted for your own palate) guest nibbled on thin crust pizzas while Perbellini explained more about what is needed in a bar. Then, while dizzying us with his technique and style, he started whipping up more cocktails.
Onto The Drinks (all measurements are for one serving.)
According to Perbellini Sours, which are cocktails made with fruit, citrus, and herbs, can have several ingredients. The other common category, Aromatics, are not made with sugar or fruit, but they are the classics, usually made with only three ingredients.
Perbellini compared making drinks to playing a slot machine with three ingredients to choose from. For example, when making an aromatic, you spin out one ingredient and add in another to make different options while keeping two of the same ingredients. By “locking one and changing the other two” or changing one and locking the other two, for example, a Mojito made with tequila instead of rum is a mint Margarita.
We almost threw him off his plans for the class when we (my husband) asked about martinis. Not in either category, Perbellini said, but he made us one anyway. For his gin martini use three ounces of gin, washing the ice with vermouth first, give it lots of stirring and watch for a bit as the glass gets foggier, as the gin must be watered down a little. Pour into a martini glass and add olives. (Perbellini Twist: Buy empty olives and stuff them with what you want. Blue cheese, jalapeños, red bell pepper, or a combination in the glass – whatever you guest wants.)
Then we asked for this one too: The Vesper, which is 2 parts vodka, 1 part gin, 1/2 part Lillet Blanc. Shaken, finished with a lemon twist. (Perbellini Twist: The bigger the ice, the less dilution, and good results. Use a strainer to catch the extra crushed ice. He suggested we all go to CocktailKingdom.com for bar toys.)
We then moved over to the Negroni, the second easiest drink to make at home after the Aperol Spritz: One part each of Gin, Rosso (red) sweet vermouth and Campari over ice, stirred. Prepare another glass with ice, and pour the mixture over. “Don’t let the orange sit there looking sad” Perbellini said. Add the zest of a thin lemon slice over the glass, rub over the rim and lay between the ice cubes. (Perbellini Twist: use a potato type peeler to get a nice rectangle of lemon rind, with more white than peel.)
The Manhattan was next with 2 parts rye, 1 part Rosso sweet vermouth, 3 dashes of aromatic Angostura bitters and 3 dashes orange bitters. Add one Luxardo brand of Maraschino cherry. And, similar to the Negroni but with an orange, use the zest over the top and around the rim of the glass.
Next was the Old Fashioned with a “generous 2 parts of Rye” or Bourbon Whiskey, a couple of drops of angostura bitters, a couple of drops of orange bitters and a couple of spoonfuls of liquid sugar, serve on the rocks. (Perbellini Twist: Crystal clear ice is preferred. Distilled or boil water for three hours is one way but a better way is to “use a beach cooler with filtered water.” Because it’s insulated it freezes from top to the bottom, and in three days in the freezer the impurities will be at the bottom, use an ice pick to get the top two layers of clear ice. Second Perbellini Twist: Liquid “Sugar “is boring” so Perbellini has his own recipe, a seasonal one using things like cinnamon, bitters of rhubarb, orange, water, whisky, nutmeg…)
Our Perbellini slot machine now has about five ingredients.
First up, the Mojito with Rum, fresh lime, simple syrup, soda water, mint. Start with a tall glass, add fresh mint. In this drink, Perbellini says, you can use crushed ice. Made with 1 ounce of lime, 1/2 ounce of the simple syrup, then “don’t kill the mint” but muddle it gently, 2 ounces of rum (he likes Cruzan), a little bit of soda water, stir up to down, finished with mint garnish and maybe a slice of lime and a little splash of angostura bitters on top.
His Margarita has 2 ounces of El Tesoro agave tequila, fresh lime, 1/2 ounce Combier Cointreau orange liqueur, 1 ounce of lime, two drops of agave nectar. (Perbellini Twist: to make agave nectar: 2 parts agave to 1 part hot water mixed together, while simple syrup is made with one part each.) If you add fruit then adjust the sugar to take into account the fruit’s sugar. (Perbellini Twist: If you see a bartender sample your glass – with a straw only please – they are striving for perfection, because at that point the drink can still be adjusted to make it right.)
Pearbellini – Per means For and Bellini is Perbellini’s mother’s name. For this cocktail you will need the juice of one quarter of fresh pear, 1 ounce fresh lime, 1/2 ounce St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, a
couple of drops of bitters and 1 ½ ounce Grey Goose Le Poire (pear vodka). Make in a martini shaker. If pears are sweet enough may not need to add sugar but add a little bit of basil leaves on top as a final touch, and as a beautiful contrast from the pink color.
Our final drink, if I remember correctly, was the Gabriele. A “mix of memories” and also a mix of the “Sours and the Aromatics” according to Perbellini. He wanted a cocktail for the holidays and designed this one with 2 ounces of vodka, 1/2 ounce juice of ginger, 1 ounce lemon, 1/2 ounce simple syrup (or cinnamon syrup) cinnamon powder (or fresh ground or a cinnamon stick) and red apple. Start with 3-4 slices of soft red apple (save one slice for garnish), muddle apples and syrup, add ginger, lemon juice, vodka, shake in martini shaker, pour through strainer, serve in martini glass, with grated cinnamon on top – and this is a “good apple martini.” I had to agree as I’d only see that green one, and never wanted to order that!
(Final Perbellini Twist: You don’t see a lot of muddling of fresh fruit in bars. Look for fresh fruit and herbs on display at your bar of choice. Or follow me to Bar Toscana for a sure thing.)
About William Perbellini and Bar Toscana
Born and raised in Verona, Italy, Perbellini has led the bar program at Bar Toscana since their opening in 2010. Specializing in Italian-inspired apertivos and digestivos, Perbellini brings his knowledge to the Westside clientele following four years as bartender at the prestigious Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Italy.
Bar Toscana is where Italian traditional cuisine meets the modern art of craft cocktails by Perbellini. LA Confidential credits Perbellini, who perfected his craft at the famed Hotel Cipriani in Venice, as the “living embodiment of the trend” and increased interest in Italian aperitifs and aperitif-based cocktails in the United States.
Located in the heart of Brentwood next door to the legendary Toscana, Bar Toscana is an intimate cocktail bar showcasing a simple, elegant menu of small plates – or stuzzichini – an array of hand-crafted cocktails and an Italian-focused wine list. At once relaxed and stylish, this neighborhood lounge is ideally fashioned for imaginative market cocktails and sparkling conversation.
Follow on Twitter: @BarToscana
11633 San Vicente Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90049