Never let it be said that I am not a true professional. Not content to educate eager young minds all day, every day during the week, I choose to further my own education at weekends by taking part in erudite, mind-improving activities - only last Saturday, for example, I was to be found eagerly studying in the downstairs bar at Cord. True, the subject of the lesson was tequila, a spirit with which I already have more than a passing acquaintance, but anything calling itself Drinking Classes is clearly highly educational - and just happens to include alcohol as well.
Drinking Classes operate in over twenty cities throughout the UK, and offer 90-minute experiences on five different spirits: Vodka, Gin, Rum, Whisky and Tequila. Most of the Manchester events are presented by Neil Garner, a personable and highly knowledgeable soul who has been a bartender for 18 years - you might know him as one half of Bar Wizards, who dazzled us with their shaking skills on Britain's Got Talent a few years ago. Saturday afternoon's class was Don't Shoot Tequila, aiming to persuade us that tequila is a fine and subtle drink deserving of slow sipping rather than reckless necking - I need no convincing of this, and nor did my companion Didsbury Girl, who we both agreed probably had no need of classes teaching her to drink either.
We started with a good, entry level tequila blanco in the form of Calle 23. We were also given a generous shot of sangrita, a spiced, peppery tomato juice that is traditionally drunk alongside tequila blanco in Mexico and which was absolutely delicious. We drank our tequila from a champagne glass, in order to better appreciate its aroma and flavour, and whilst I am aware this has resulted in a series of near-identical photographs, I have at least tried to vary the angle for entertainment and variety purposes.
The second tequila we tried was our favourite of the night. The Olmeca Reposado has been aged in ex-bourbon casks, and we could really taste this in its sweet, woody notes - even the non-tequila sippers (and yes - there were plenty in attendance) liked this one.
Next up, Curado agave-infused tequila - a surprisingly fruity, jaunty little number. Neil also brought out a dish of worms at this point, and was - I think - a little taken aback by how swiftly they were devoured by the marauding masses. I declined, as did the gentleman sitting next to me - after worriedly asking me what was inside a worm. Didsbury Girl suggested "guts", I suggested "praline", but in the end we agreed a worm was probably a bit like a Revel - if you were lucky you might get caramel, but on other nights it might be an unlucky orange or coffee worm.
Shot number four was my second favourite - Tapatio Anejo, another warming, aged tequila. Whilst the heat in Mexico means that tequila can't be left to age for too long - the inevitable evaporation would result in too great an angel's share - we did feel that you could taste a much better flavour in those that had been left to rest awhile.
Finally, it was cocktail time, and Neil demonstrated how to make the perfect Margarita before gamely allowing each of us to have a go ourselves. Obviously the one made by Didsbury Girl and myself was outstanding - you see her here giving it her all and displaying her fine wrist action, as well as a few shots of Neil showing us all how it's really done.
All in all, we very much enjoyed our first brush with Drinking Classes - they're not cheap, but Neil is a great host and Didsbury Girl and I both learned a few things as well as sampling some really good tequila. The class was really well attended and had a great atmosphere despite being at 3.30 in the afternoon - turns out it's perfectly possible to enjoy 40% spirits at pretty much any time of day. In the interests of professionalism and thoroughness we'll be trying a few more classes over the next few weeks (it's this kind of attention to detail that's got me where I am today) before presenting our full and considered report. In the meantime, you can find out more about them and book classes here on their website. Next stop - whisky...
- We were invited to the class as guests and were not required to pay for our places. However, we were not asked to say anything positive, and genuinely had a lovely (if slightly drunken) afternoon.