Idle hands may be the devil’s workshop, but if they’re mixing drinks everything is probably alright. For months, Abbey Farkas, of Swissvale, has enabled fellow Jewish young adults to taste the goodness of being at home through digitally offered mixology lessons, hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
“By working within a really basic framework you can do just about anything, as long as you have some basic things hanging around,” explained Farkas.
Farkas films the lessons from home, and while participants may note that the on-screen bar is better stocked than most, the point of the class isn’t to exhibit exotic liquors. Rather, the reoccurring Zoom meetings afford participants a greater appreciation of the odds and ends found inside a refrigerator.
“People can just plug in what they have available to them,” said Farkas, 31. “If you don’t have lemon juice, maybe you have lime and that will go well with these specific liquors. Maybe you don’t have lemon or lime juice, and you only have a grapefruit because that’s what’s left from the last time you went to the store – well we can work with that.”
Farkas, a Penn State University graduate, first mixed drinks in college, but “the real starting point for all of this was when I moved to D.C,” they said.
Six years in the nation’s capital introduced Farkas to other mixologists, including a housemate who specialized in a Wisconsin-styled Old-Fashioned. While other aficionados traditionally paired liquor, bitters and sugar in the cocktail, Farkas’ housemate substituted brandy for whiskey and added in “bitters, sugar, lemon lime soda and a lot of muddled fruit.”
Farkas was intrigued by the concept of customizing cocktails, and began collecting various spirits.
“When I moved in with my now wife she can attest to the fact that I bought a lot of different bottles of things to try,” Farkas said.
In order to “bring some order” to the overflowing supply, Farkas began reading up on the subject.
First was Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s “The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.”
With its instructions on choosing fruit, juicers and sugar, the book “does away with most of the pretension” found in similar reads, “which is nice,” said Farkas.
The other book, which Farkas enjoyed early on and still recommends is “Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails” by David Kaplan and Nick Fauchald.
“That’s more of a book for people who have access to the more obscure ingredients,” but it still does a “really good job of laying out what the basics are for being able to have an equation for a drink and plugging in what you have available to you.”
During Farkas’ next class, scheduled for May 21 at 5 p.m., registrants will learn how to make a strawberry balsamic vinegar shrub. It’s a noteworthy departure from whiskey sours and daiquiris, explained Farkas: “We pay a lot of attention to the drinks that we make when they’re alcoholic. And I think it’s also important to pay attention to what you’re putting into the drinks that you make that are not alcoholic.”
A fun drink “doesn’t have to have alcohol in it, and it also doesn’t have to be a smoothie,” they added.
Farkas would love for newcomers to join the class, or more importantly, to craft their own at-home adventures.
“There’s a lot of fancy cocktail bars out there, and they’re really wonderful to go to, and I can’t wait to patronize them again, but people shouldn’t be afraid of making something at home from fresh or bottled juice,” said Farkas. “Don’t be afraid to try things. You know the worst thing that happens is you don’t like the thing that you made and you try again.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.