The Great Courses

The Great Courses

December 13, 2011 12:00 ET

Mastering Bar Basics this Holiday Season: A New Video Course in Mixology for Home Bartenders

NEW YORK, NEW YORK--(Marketwire - Dec. 13, 2011) - "The Everyday Guide to Spirits and Cocktails: Tastes and Traditions" provides a guide to cocktails that's rich with history, recipes, and mixology techniques. These cocktail courses, presented by Certified Specialist of Spirits Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, make it easy for the home bartender to master bar basics and create a winning holiday cocktail menu. The brand new video cocktail course is available both on DVD and as a digital download.

Every part of the drink matters, from bar essentials, to spirits and presentation, says Ms. Simonetti-Bryan: "Using the right glassware and choosing the right ice type - cubed, crushed, or shaved - can really benefit a cocktail. Coupled with knowing when to shake or stir, and with what, will impress your guests no end."

So where to start? How about bar basics? According to Ms. Simonetti-Bryan, these include:

  • Double-sided jiggers: You need two types - one that measures 1 ounce and 2 ounces, and one that measures 3/4 ounce and 1 1/2 ounces.
  • Shakers: These are generally used with ingredients that are cloudy or opaque, such as juice, cream, or eggs. There are two types of shakers - the cobbler shaker (consisting of a metal container to hold the liquids and a cover with a removable cap) and the Boston shaker (the professionals' choice, which consists of a glass tumbler and a metal tumbler).
  • Strainers: Again, there are two types - the Hawthorn strainer (which has a spring) and the Julep strainer (with holes). Strainers are used to keep ice and fruit pulp out of cocktails.
  • Cocktail spoon: This has a long handle with a twisted stem. It is used to stir clear ingredients with ice in order to chill them.
  • Muddler: This wooden tool is used to release the juice from fruit or the oils from herbs. It is generally best to use a long, unlacquered muddler.

To ensure your cocktails are the coolest around, make sure to use the right ice.

  • Cubes are best for cocktails with dairy ingredients (cream/milk), eggs, or fruit juice. They won't melt too quickly.
  • Crushed or cracked ice chunks are smaller than ice cubes but larger than shaved ice, and used for such cocktails as the Mojito or Caipirinha.
  • Shaved ice has a snow-like texture and is used for fruity, summertime drinks, such as frozen Margaritas, frozen Piña Coladas, or frozen Daiquiris.
  • Blocks of ice are used to chill punch. A block of ice melts slowly, keeping the punch cold without diluting it.
  • Ice balls are small enough to fit in a glass. Like an ice block, a single ice ball melts more slowly than ice cubes, so the drink gets less diluted.

You can also add the right amount of class by selecting the right glass.

  • Sophisticated: The cocktail or Martini glass is used for Martinis, Cosmos, and Sidecars. These glasses make the cocktail look sophisticated.
  • Classic: A tumbler, rocks glass, or whiskey glass is usually used for drinks meant to be served over ice or sipped, such as aged spirits.
  • Keep it long: The Highball glass, also called a Slim Jim glass or a Collins, is for drinks served long over ice, such as the Mint Julep.
  • Short and neat: A shot glass is for a drink meant to go down in one shot.
  • Bubbly: Flutes are used for champagne but also for some mixers, such as Mimosas. They can be used for sparkling wine and some sparkling cocktails.
  • Small and sweet: Because liqueurs are sweet, a cordial or liqueur glass is small.
  • Breathing room: Snifters, also called brandy balloons, are traditionally used for brandy but can also be used for other brown spirits or aged spirits, such as rum or añejo tequila.
  • Lady-like: The curvy coupette, also called the Marie Antoinette glass, is used mostly for traditional or frozen Margaritas.

Ms. Simonetti-Bryan notes: "With these bar toolkit basics, everyone can make their cocktail parties a success for the holiday season, and beyond."

The Everyday Guide to Spirits and Cocktails: Tastes and Traditions is an eight lecture course covering classic spirits, cordials and liqueurs, plus recipes and the mixology toolkit. For more information on mixology courses and how to purchase it as a DVD or as a digital video download, please visit

Notes to Editors

  • The Everyday Guide to Spirits and Cocktails: Tastes and Traditions is available from for $27.95 (digital video download) and $29.95 (DVD). Shipping and handling costs apply.
  • Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan is a definitive authority on spirits in the United States and among a small number of people to have received the highest credentials in the spirits and wine industry. She has a Professional Certificate in Spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and is a Certified Specialist of Spirits from the Society of Wine Educators. Ms. Simonetti-Bryan is also one of only a few hundred people in the world to hold the Master of Wine title (M.W.) from The Institute of Masters of Wine in London, England-the highest and most difficult title to achieve in the industry. Winner of the Wiesbaden Tasting Trophy from the Institute of Masters of Wine, Ms. Simonetti-Bryan has trained thousands of professionals in the spirits and wine industry, has judged international spirits and wine competitions, and has hosted seminars with Food Network stars including Rachael Ray and Bobby Flay. She is a frequent guest on television programs, including Fox Business and Bloomberg TV, and has been featured in Fortune, Wine & Spirits Magazine, and Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
  • The Great Courses is a highly popular series of university-level lectures crafted and delivered by top professors and experts. Designed to meet the demand for lifelong learning and to change the way people think about the world, The Great Courses currently offers more than 350 courses in a range of video and audio formats including DVD, CD, and digital downloads. Courses span more than 5,000 hours of content across ten subject categories: science and mathematics, history, fine arts and music, religion and theology, philosophy and intellectual history, literature and English language, business and economics, better living, professional, and high school. Since 1990, over 10 million courses have been sold around the world.

Contact Information

  • For further information on The Everyday Guide to Spirits and
    Cocktails or The Great Courses, please contact
    Gina Tunley or Kirsty Shaw
    +44 (0) 1858 411 600