It’s probably not synonymous with Realtors, but every so often our office offers a “Lunch & Learn” class, where a subject is taught while we enjoy a light lunch provided by the brokerage or one of our industry partners. They’re always well attended because . . . you gotta eat, so why not fill your mind as well as your tummy!
Somehow this concept was picked up by the folks at Oak & Stone, who’ve become wildly popular for their craft beer and artisan pizzas. Me thinks they’re ready to take a leading role in another segment of the industry, recently offering a Liquid Library sampling of their 7 newest, home grown craft cocktails.
Mart couldn’t attend that night, so I drafted my friend Jo Ellyn at the last minute. I never liked going to a library alone, except to study for finals, and if this was going to be a Liquid Library I needed a side kick, just in case they were serving a side car . . . you get my drift!
The head bartender is a friendly guy named Christian, who took his lesson plan quite seriously. We were each provided with a spiral bound menu that included the ingredients in each libation, and “class” started right on time.
First up was a Jalapeno Margarita, a pretty simple cocktail unless you’re like Christian and insist on making your own sour mix. Oak & Stone’s Jalapeno Margarita featured a jalapeno infused tequila, as well as that house-made sour, spicy sugar, and a salted rim. As the photos shown, Christina showed us how to make the cocktail, then showed how the standard-sized portion would look (allowing us to take photos as needed) and then split that cocktail into small tasting cups. So . . . mom, you don’t have to start a prayer chain wondering if I’m drinking too much.
Next up was a really “pretty” cocktail, the Lavender Lemonade. My friend Jo Ellyn was quick to point out that lavender is an aphrodisiac for men, but a relaxant for women. (Keep that info in your back pocket for the next time you need it!) As for the Lavender Lemonade, it was really popular with the ladies, many of whom had braved a major rain storm driving over to the Liquid Library class.
The men? They had their eyes focused on a number of small plates that Oak & Stone sent out to compliment the tasting. We started with Mozzarella Lollipops and a mozzarella and basil pizza, before moving on to a delightful spinach dip served with house made stone fired house crackers, bbq chicken wings, “Machos” (not a typo!), and San Marzano meatball sliders.
Everything was spot-on delicious, but those meatball sliders were da bomb for me. I only had half of one, but let me tell you . . . those meatballs weren’t messing around. They were seasoned to please and large enough to be a meal if you ordered two of them for lunch. Another big hit at the “classroom table/aka bar” was Oak & Stone’s Pretzel-Crusted Tuna Sashimi, served with a drizzle of ginger honey mustard.
If you want to know how great the food was, notice that I was only able to grab photos of the pizza and the spinach dip. Being a group event, it didn’t seem right to stop the other “students” from jumping in and enjoying the food. Afterall, there are a few more cocktails to focus on.
While enjoying the small plates, Christian never missed a beat, serving up a lovely Straw Basil Berry Gin cocktail made with house-crafted (I’m sensing a theme here) strawberry puree, market basil, fresh lemon and Nolet’s Gin with a splash of carbonated water. I’m a big fan of a light gin cocktail, so this was one of my favorites. I asked one of the gentlemen next to us if it bothered him that the cocktail was pink . . . “It’s pink?” he said, sounding surprised. “I didn’t know gin came in that color.” It was still early, as you may guess.
Christopher had promised 4 moderate cocktails before moving into the more “robust” ones, and the first of these was the Foghorn Leghorn, another Nolet’s gin based cocktail. A vibrate purple, created by fat, juicy black berries, makes this cocktail a show stopper. Served with barrel-aged Bullet bourbon, Nolet’s gin, blackberries and Creme de Peach with just the right amount of fresh lemon juice to balance all that sweetness, Christopher describes this as the Ultimate Southern Gentleman’s cocktail.
Next up, we noticed Christian breaking out the BIG ice cubes. That, my dear, is a clue that the cocktail in progress is meant to be enjoyed slowly — the larger ice cube integral for keeping the cocktail cold while not allowing the ice to melt and disrupt the flavor of the drink. The Nibble & Sip is the perfect name for this craft cocktail, featuring handcrafted, house-made ginger syrup, barrel-aged Bulleit Bourbon and candied ginger. The idea is to nibble on the ginger while you sip on the cocktail. It was interesting how a few tiny bits of the ginger would alter the flavor profile of the cocktail. Nice move! I look at this kind of cocktail when I’m at a large function where I’m expected to mix and mingle. This allows me to sip and savor without repeated trips to the bar. Keep that in mind next mixer you go to.
Our final cocktail of the night was the Tiki Fashion, call it a “rum fashion” made with Sarasota’s own Siesta Key Spiced Rum, Appleton Estate, Florida oranges and a drizzle of cherry. Tiki bitters and pineapple are added at the end, capping off a wonderful lesson of impressive cocktail mixing. Tikki bitters, as I came to learn, is made with cinnamon, allspice and island herbs. Who knew?
I’d like to think I was a good student but must note that I missed taking a good photo of the Crafty Mule, using Christian’s own ginger beer, made right at Oak & Stone. If you aren’t one to imbibe on craft cocktails, you should order a ginger beer! (No alcohol involved!) You have to admit that Oak & Stone must be 100%serious about being a top craft cocktail destination if they’re making their own ginger beer, sour mix, fresh strawberry puree and other cocktail mixers and components! That’s some serious focus on quality libations!
While we were learning about Oak & Stone’s exciting craft cocktails, the restaurant’s beer wall was (naturally) surrounded by other guests, and I saw more than a few Bourbon Flights carried out to adjoining tables. The purest who enjoy bourbon on the rocks, or straight up, won’t be distracted by the craft cocktails, any more than those adventurous folks sampling the variety of beers at the beer wall. Those of us who like to switch up their drinks now and then, will, quite happily, be able to study the Liquid Library, and find just the libation to sip, savor and enjoy.
Thanks Oak & Stone! What a great twist on some classic cocktail combos!