Back for its first full season since the pandemic, Le Chat Noir hosted a full house on Saturday evening, Jan. 21, for a three-ingredient cocktail workshop.
Off of downtown Augusta’s Broad Street, at 6 p.m. sharp, cocktail creator and local expert Zach McCabe invited several first-comers to the bar with a cocktail mixology class.
With attendees of various ages, McCabe began the session by explaining the basics of crafting one’s very cocktails – such as the importance of glassware and the origins of vermouth.
“It is a wine-based product,” said McCabe as he introduced the first drink of the night – the Manhattan.
Moving on with the teachings of “functional garnishes” by dropping an orange twist in a freshly crafted Manhattan, McCabe said he tailors his classes to be centered around inclusivity and making drinks approachable.
“I try to take this and teach people what a good cocktail could be, because when you’re going out and spending $12, $13 or $15 per drink it should be good,” he said. “It’s a way of elevating the drinking culture in Augusta. I just want to teach people how to make a good drink, and what a good drink should taste like – how simple it is.”
McCabe, creator of All Equal Parts consultations, said he unfortunately often runs into people who limit themselves to a certain type of liquor or beverage, like beer or vodka, due to a past negative experience.
The program followed by teaching participants how to make a Sherry Cobbler – this drink being one no one in the group had ever tried before. With simple ingredients such as orange slices, Sherry, simple syrup and aromatic bitters, McCabe said delicious cocktails do not have to overly complicated; the simplest ingredients can impress.
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“There’s a lot of really great classics that were made in the 1800s, Sherry Cobbler is a good example, that’s delicious and balanced, but it’s not something people know about,” he said. “People can rediscover things that are good; just because they’re not popular now doesn’t mean they aren’t good.”
He also shared how he tries to fight against the social drinking stigmas of “pink drinks” and “manly glasses,” because he believes labels only limit people’s experiences.
“There’s a cocktail for everybody out there, but not every cocktail is for everybody,” said McCabe. “You should drink what you like, and you shouldn’t feel weird about it.”
For him, craft cocktail making should be viewed with respect and enjoyment as it can act as another form of communication.
“It’s easy and delicious … and it’s also a really nice way of being hospitable,” he said. “This is my way of saying, ‘Welcome to my home’ … we try to have fun with it too – make something weird enjoyable.”
Mike and Keelyn Sleeper, regular attendees of McCabe’s classes who used to limit themselves to beer, said they keep coming back to learn more, and it has made drinks for at home date nights all the more creative.
“Our first one we came to was about a year and a half ago, and literally because of him I learned the word ‘balanced,’” said Mike Sleeper. “I would definitely suggest it to anyone, and it’s fun. I don’t know everything, and I always learn something.”
While they had both known about Manhattan cocktails, Keelyn Sleeper said she and her husband were pleasantly surprised by Sherry Cobbler.
“We have never tried that before, and that’s why you come back,” she said. “You find something you like that you just didn’t know about.”
Mike Sleeper said, prior to finding the Le Chat Noir mixology sessions, he used to hate tequila; however, after one tequila with class McCabe, Sleeper was able to find a handful of tequila-based drinks he likes.
“This takes you from sitting around with your friends, drinking the same old thing, to all of a sudden having the knowledge to try new things, and distinguish why you like one thing as opposed to something else,” said Mike Sleeper. “Nothing wrong with finding something new.”
Trevor Percario, fellow participant and fairly new to alcohol, said he thoroughly enjoyed the event because of the history mixed into the cocktail lesson.
“It’s always fun to learn something,” he said. “I liked the history involved; it was interesting to learn about the art of it – the craft.”
Le Chat Noir is a community theater with a full service bar that seeks to produce and present different art forms and entertainment to those in the CSRA, according to McCabe.
“The best way to make a drink is whatever way you like it,” said McCabe. “These are purely up to personal preferences.”
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Upcoming sessions at Le Chat Noir will feature a single malt tasting at 7 p.m. on Jan. 27, which will include a “special’ bottle of Jack Daniels’ Twice Barreled American Single Malt, and a fan-favorite, the New Orleans Style workshop on Feb. 25, also at 7 p.m.
For more information or to purchase tickets for the upcoming session, visit: https://lechatnoiraugusta.simpletix.com
Liz Wright is a staff writer covering education, lifestyle and general assignments for The Augusta Press. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org