Last December, I took the opportunity of a weekend away in Barcelona with my friends to attend the 2-day mixology course at the European Bartender School there.
The course was held at EBS actual headquarters right in the heart of Barcelona, a few minutes walk from the Plaza de Catalunya in the Barrio Gotico. I was impressed with the school: it is brand new and really well thought out. The flair room is huge so people have a lot of room to practice. There are numerous bar stations as well and the whole school is very luminous, a pleasant contrast with London’s dark basement where I did the 4-week international bartender course with EBS over the summer. I smiled when I realised the presentation bar was the one form the Gin & Tonic 2005 vs 2015 video that was buzzing on the Internet.
The first day started with an introduction to the history of cocktails and bartending through the ages accompanied by explanations about the different cocktail categories (punches, swizzles, fizzes, coblers, sours, etc.), demonstrations of methods (students were invited to prepare the drinks), garnishes and, of course, tastings! We were given recipe sheets to write down the ingredients and steps to reproduce the drinks back home. The instructors prepared some classics, as well as some twists on the classics with, for example, home infused spirits. After lunch time we were shown the different types of equipment as well as the methods (shaking, stiring, etc.) and techniques (ice carving, etc.) used to mix drinks. We were explained how each method affects the cocktails in terms of dilution, temperature, aeration, etc. We then went back to our seats for more history of cocktails and bartending.
On the second day we got into the thick of mixology. In the morning, two of the bartending stations turned into cooking stations as the instructors demonstrated how to prepare our own products, such as syrups, cordials and foams, from scratch. In the afternoon, we were split into groups. Our mission: create a cocktail using at least one homemade ingredient. Now, each group had a pretty eclectic composition, as the course participants was a good mix of experienced bartenders, bar owners and newbies fresh from EBS 4-week international bartender course. It made for interesting collaborations, recipes and garnishes!
My group was mostly composed of people new to bartending. Three had just completed the 4-week course in Barcelona, one had done the same one as I in London in April and there was me. We started with our homemade ingredients and worked out our recipe from there. We decided on a ginger syrup with a little pepper kick and I came up with the idea of using it to take a twist on the Penicillin cocktail . Instead of smoked whiskey we used mezcal as our base alcohol. Then we switched fresh lime juice for lemon juice and agave syrup for honey. While the two guys worked on finding the right proportions for each ingredient, the two girls and I worked on the presentation. As I was looking for the perfect glass and sculpting an ice ball, the girls came with the nice idea of using a pineapple leaf as a substitute for an agave plant leaf. After all, mezcal is made from “piña“, the heart of the maguey plant, a plant that bears a striking resemblance to pineapple, which is also called “piña“ in Spanish! They sprayed the leaves with golden food spray and skewered them with a fresh slice of ginger and a flamed dried lime wheel as reminder of every ingredients used in our “Mexican Penicillin” recipe. We got to prepare our drink in front of the instructors and the rest of the participants at the end of the day. I’ll take the fact that one of the instructors nursed our glass until it was empty as a sign that our cocktail tasted as delicious as he and his colleague said!
I really enjoyed EBS 2-day mixology course and would definitely recommend it. Actually, I was in one of the first classes taking it and, judging from the curriculum now on EBS website, it seems like they’ve perfected the content of the course. So, who knows, I might take it again! The instructors were really passionate and knowledgeable. We covered an extensive range of ingredients that could be homemade and I can’t wait to make my own at home now!
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