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Visible Learning and The Dream

I’ve been really excited about something recently that I’m calling ‘Visible Learning.’

I strongly suspect that others may have another name for this, but this seems fitting so I’m running with it.

I believe there’s a dissonance in the education system as well as in our broader culture that states learning to be the main objective but then accepts no works-in-progress, or even shuns them. As luminaries like Sir Ken Robinson (mentioned in a previous blog post here) and Seth Godin (my new hero) will espouse, this is a result of our education system being designed during the era of industrialization and being modeled in its image.  Kids born in the same year must learn at the same rate, and perform similarly to make it in life, hence standardized testing, and individual evaluation as opposed to evaluation of a collaborative group- all grave fallacies with long lasting implications.

As an adult and someone who teaches a bunch of beverage classes (at this point I have roughly 10 that I teach at 4 schools) I think about this a lot. All of my classes are currently recreational, one-session classes. On one hand this is great because people who pay to attend one class are more likely to show up in the first place, be engaged, be open to having fun, and feel uninhibited about asking for feedback on their creations. On the other hand, this makes critique a funny thing (a lot of people don’t want it) and the practice of Visible Learning –the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow- hard to achieve….there’s just not enough time.

So what is this ‘Visible Learning’ you ask?

I am defining Visible Learning as the confidence to put yourself out there- to put your work out there- knowing it may be ugly and imperfect, but that’s where you are and you’re proud of it. It’s the willingness to not only seek critique, but to embrace it and thrive on it. It’s the acknowledgement that while you may want to be perfect right away, the more empowering reality is to invest the time- reserving judgment- and when you turn around you’ll be amazed by your progress. Basically it’s the courage to learn joyfully without judgment or fear of comparison…the courage to be authentically you.

 I’ve experienced this phenomenon in groups only a couple of times in my life- once in design school when my class of 20 got together to critique individual projects, and for 15 minutes people dropped their egos and had an honest and constructive conversation. Somehow that ‘safe space’ disappeared after those 15 minutes- I think someone made a snarky remark and all of the sudden guards were up again. I remember being very sad that the teacher didn’t rein the group back in and hold us accountable, because that was the closest we came to sublime collaboration in my entire academic career.

The second time I experienced this in a group was actually this past weekend. I have been going to an amazing yoga school, run by two incredibly warm, open, incredibly intuitive women. They organized a yoga retreat a couple of hours north of the city, and 15 of us trekked up and spent the weekend there.  All I can say is that it was the most fun, most heart opening experience I’ve had in years. People took a lot of risks sharing themselves, and the reward- love, confidence, community, empowerment- has already had resounding impact on my life.

One of the factors that made this retreat experience possible was the understanding that it was a safe place. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we live in a world full of judgment- of questioning whether people’s intentions, tone, attitude are intended to hurt us or not. The more we can strip away our fears of that judgment, the more empowered we will be and the higher we will soar.

This brings me to a dream I’ve been nurturing recently. Some people reading this may have seen my mocktail photos (themselves a joyful exercise in Visible Learning- I know they’re not perfect but frankly I don’t really care, I love making them and photographing them and drinking them:)).  A bunch of people have been encouraging me to make them into a book, (including some friends who initially thought I was a wack-job for wanting to make beautiful mocktails) and I’ve decided to pursue it! But publishing a book doesn’t get to the heart of what I want to do with this, and I’ve been mulling over this part for years.

‘The Dream: Part 2’ is that I want to create a space where I can serve beautiful healthy food and drinks to people- that is a safe community space, a place of learning, of collaboration, of actually genuinely giving of ourselves without ego, a place that welcomes Visible Learning. (I actually already decided that I want a little sign on the door saying ‘Please check your ego at the door’ with an arrow pointing to a basket labeled ‘ego check.’) LOL.

In any case, ‘The Dream: Part 1’ is already in progress (though if anyone has thoughts on content or what publisher might be a good fit, ideas would be super appreciated.) We’ll see how long it might take for ‘Part 2’ to happen, but it’s on the brain. Maybe it starts as a pop up or as a multi day class, who knows. For now, excitement is a great start:)

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'Sorry, lady, but that is definitely not a Mint Julep'

This is a title stolen cheekily from my buddy and cocktail writer extraordinaire. He wrote a blog post of this title with a video showing a lady make an abomination of a Mint Julep, then posted a video on how to make one properly. View the blog post and videos here.

This mocktail is also definitely not a Mint Julep (hence why I think the title's funny).... but it IS delicious! I drank it first this this morning after making it, and it is super duper refreshing, and a great start to the day:)

*By the way- I'm making an exception to my 'no added sugar' rule, as you need the sugar to carry the mint flavor....this will be an infrequent exception.

'Sorry, lady, but that is definitely not a Mint Julep'

Mint Granita* See recipe below- you'll need this entire batch for a standard julep cup
Pineapple                2
Celery                      2
Mint leaves              8-10

Prepare Granita as below. Place mint leaves in the bottom of a Julep cup and muddle, pressing gently. Add juice, and granita on top. Stir when cup is 3/4 full to frost the cup, then cap the granita into a snow cone shape. Sprinkle granita on top, like you would salt food (using your fingers.) Garnish with Cilantro sprigs (no leaves)...it's nice to nibble these as you drink. Also, though there is no straw in the first photo, you need one to properly enjoy this drink. Get badass metal julep straws from Cocktail Kingdom here.

Granita
*Granita recipe and visual inspiration taken from Dabbous the Cookbook. I paraphrase here a bit and add my own thoughts.

Mint                      150 grams
Water                    500 ml
Salt                         2 grams
Caster sugar      40 grams
Spinach               50 grams

Divide mint between 2 bowls. Bruise mint in one bowl, bring salt/water/sugar to a boil, pour over bruised mint and cover with cling film for 10 min. Strain through a chinois- press down well.

Bruise mint in a second bowl and pour mint liquid over it. (I let it sit for another 10 min), and strain as before. Transfer to a blender and add spinach. Blend for 3 seconds. Strain again, and pour into a shallow dish or sheet pan and place in freezer. Once frozen scrape with spoon or fork to separate ice crystals. (I had more success scraping with a spoon and mashing with a fork.)
 

If you want to make larger quantities, scrape granita from pan and place in a quart container, cover, and store in the freezer. 
 


 

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Website revamp and Mocktail recipes to date

Guys, apologies for the clunkiness here- I'll be making some big-ish changes to this website, so for the next few weeks it might be a little confusing where things are. The cool thing is that the website is changing to reflect Swig and Swallow's changing identity and I'm amped about the new direction!! I'll be migrating all the content over here from my other website, www.aprilwachtel.com, so my classes, Mocktail feed, press, and various projects and services have a single home, as opposed to being scattered as they are now.

First order of business is to get all the Mocktail recipes over here from Instagram. I can see from the metrics that a lot of people are coming here specifically to view the recipes I've been posting each day, and I want to make it easier for you to see everything at once rather than having to flip through the recipes in Instagram.

Comment below if you have a better idea of how to display this (I wanted to also maintain the images in gallery format, as I think they look so nice contrasting each other) but at the moment with this specific site template I can't figure out how to display them in grid format along with the text in a way that still keeps them clean and uncluttered. 

Cool, all the recipes are below... hope you enjoy! :)

Recipes

*All of the fruit/vegetable ingredients listed are fresh juice unless otherwise specified. These are not good- or good for you- with frozen juice, canned juice, or juice from concentrate, so beware the illusion of the shortcut! 

*I prepare these recipes in liquid ounces, though you can easily change the language to 'cups' or 'parts' as long as the ratios stay the same.

*'Fine straining' means to strain a second time, through a tea strainer or chinois. 

 

Green Machine.JPG

'Green Machine'

Kale                       1
Grapefruit          1
Green Apple      1
Celery                   1
Jalapeño              2 slices
Cilantro                large pinch

Build ingredients in a mixing glass or tin.  Add ice, shake and fine strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a pinch of salt and cilantro.

 

Carrot vs Stick.JPG

'Carrot vs Stick'

Fresh OJ             4
Carrot                 splash
Ginger                 2 slices

Muddle ginger to a mixing glass or tin. Add remaining ingredients and ice. Shake and fine strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with drops of chili oil and a whole chili.

 

'Beet Down'

Beet                       2
Green Apple      2
Ginger                 2 slices

Toast sesame seeds in a dry pan until light brown. Mix in kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Dip rim of glass into a plate of fresh juice or honey syrup. Dip in sesame/salt/pepper mixture and set aside.

Muddle ginger to a mixing glass or tin. Add remaining ingredients and ice. Shake and fine strain into the rimmed coupe glass.  Garnish with drops of sesame oil and enjoy!

 

'Bright Eyes' Celery Stalk, Cracked Pepper Garnish

Pineapple                        4
Green Apple                    1
Celery                                 1
Fresh Lime                        1 bsp (1/8 part)
Apple Cider Vinegar     1 bsp (1/8 part)

Build ingredients in a mixing glass or tin.  Add ice, shake and fine strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with cracked pepper and a leafy celery stalk.

 

'Zen Mocktail'

Pineapple                     1
Celery                            1
Cucumber                    1
Kosher salt                  1  pinch

Build ingredients in a mixing glass or tin. Add ice, shake and fine strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with drops of sweet Balsamic vinegar, and cucumber batons. 

 

Carrot.JPG

'For Eyes'

Carrot                         2
OJ                                 2
Green Apple              1
Ginger                          Large chunk (.25 in or so)

Build ingredients in a mixing glass or tin. Add ice, shake and fine strain into a coupe glass. Shake, garnish with curry powder.

 

'Spring Surprise'

Pear                          3
Celery                      1
Lemon                     .5
Ginger root            .25 inch, sliced
Vanilla Bean         .25 (scraped)

Build ingredients in a mixing glass or tin. Add ice, shake and fine strain into a coupe. Garnish with a celery curl.



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"There's a fungus amongus"

....is what my grandmother joked when any of us grandkids pouted- hinting that our lower lips looked like mushroom caps, and cheering us up. So, while it may not be the most appetizing of all names for mushroom mocktails, that's what it'll be;)

'There's a fungus amongus'

Shitake Broth*                                                2
Black Tea (I used English Breakfast)    1
Tamari                                                                1 tiny barspoon (1/16 of an oz)
Rice Wine Vinegar                                         1 dash
Salt                                                                        To taste, I used 4 pinches

Build all ingredients in a mixing glass. Taste at room temperature, then either pour as is into a coupe, or add ice, stir, and strain into a coupe. Garnish with seared or torched scallions.

*To make Shitake broth, place .5 ounces rehydrated dried,  and .5 oz fresh Shitakes in 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, and reduce by half. Add 2 cups of water and reduce by half. Repeat, adding additional Shitakes if desired. Strain immediately and reserve liquid.

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Mocktails!

So I've been on a bit of a mocktail craze these days and my great friend Alli reminded me that I should be folding these into my website (great call) so this blog will also be a home for my mocktail pics and specs. This first one is from my Mocktail-a-day project, Day 10. (I'll retro post the others too.) All juices are fresh and can be made with a centrifugal juicer and standard barware. Comment below if you want a full list of recommended tools.

Hope you enjoy!!

:)

'Lambs Blood'

Green Apple Juice          4 oz
Lime Juice                       .25 oz
Raspberries                     6-8 depending on ripeness
Mint leaves                      6-8

Cilantro sprigs (leaves removed) and Mint Oil for garnish

Muddle raspberries and mint in a mixing tin. Add juice and ice, shake and fine strain into a coupe. Carefully place cilantro sprigs and garnish with mint oil. Enjoy!

 

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Peter Clayton and The Bartenders Academy

This blog was originally published at www.aprilwachtel.com on 12/27/2014

I am always on the lookout for good people, and I'm always looking for innovative ideas- to get involved with/to gawk at/and to be inspired by.  

Professionally I feel very strongly that I solely want to support people who operate with integrity, and intellectually I love seeing people think outside the box, look for uncommon answers to common problems, and embrace their place in life as an opportunity to fulfill their wildest dreams.

These elements seem to have converged, surprisingly, at The Bartenders Academy in Fairfield and Waterbury Connecticut (I say 'surprisingly' because CT is not the first place I think of when I think innovation- I tend to think of rolling hills, white picket fences, and no accents;))

Peter Clayton, the owner of the academy, is launching a 7 week 100 hour bartending course for industry professionals starting in mid January. The curriculum includes TIPS certification, hands on training with tools and techniques, introduction to spirits, liqueurs, bitters, vermouth, amari, beer, and wine, and more. The comprehensive list of 'textbooks' includes Danny Meyer's seminal book on hospitality 'Setting the Table,' as well as Dale Degroff's 'Craft of the Cocktail,' 'Imbibe' by David Wondrich, and more. The academy also provides job placement assistance- resume building, interview skills, mentorship and job leads. 

The total cost of the course is $1950 and they offer financing of $350 down and payments of $100 per month. What this means is that not only is the TOTAL cost of the experience lower than any other academic investment/career change I know of but they know their clientele well. In a cash-heavy business like hospitality, often cash flow is an issue, as it tends to 'flow' into your hands and quickly out again with little evidence that it existed at all;). $1950 up front is not a reality for most people, but $100 a month? That's doable.

The real kicker to why I am enamored by this program is Peter himself. We met last year at the US Bartenders Guild regional conference in Pittsburgh, and caught up just before the holidays earlier this week. Peter described the program as a 'business with a purpose,' the purpose being (I paraphrase) 'to help people in a big way- to empower people to build their own futures and skills in an amazing industry.'

This is the first time I've said it here in my blog, but the theme will continue to crop up should you read future posts: I have a vested interest in mentorship, accessible and affordable education, and democratizing our value system around what disciplines are embraced by society. If you haven't seen Sir Ken Robinson's phenomenal TED talk 'How schools kill creativity,' you must drop everything and watch it immediately. He explains that the entire educational experience is modeled in the image of Industrialism, and is designed to guide us- not towards our passions, but towards fields that are 'most valuable for work,' with math and languages sitting atop the academic hierarchy, and the arts limping along far below. Food and beverage is not even mentioned as an academic option, and last I checked, everyone eats, and nearly every important historic event is marked by customs around food and beverage consumption. Deserving of note, no?

In any case, there is an established culture of education and apprenticeship around food and cooking, and at a high level; wine, beer, and spirits. However, as far as opportunities go that set you up for immediate economic independence (finding a job) as well as equip you with the proper historical context and classic technique to further your education and professionalism, there's not much going on. 

I'm expecting that The Bartenders Academy's new course will fill a much needed void, and increase the level of professionalism in our community. I am hoping to sneak out to Connecticut to witness the course in action, but until then, I'll be rooting them on from good ol' NYC.

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Product Reviews!

This blog was originally published at www.aprilwachtel.com on 12/23/2014

So some kind folks have been sending products my way to sample, and I thought why not reward their generosity with a word or two here and there? If I'm fortunate enough to receive and enjoy the products, I'd like to share it more broadly.

One of the greatest learning tools we have in this industry is the comparative tasting- when we have the opportunity to sample products side by side and make an informed assessment on the benefits of a brand (or lack thereof.) 

I was a lucky enough duck to be one of the tasting writers for last year's Ultimate Spirits Challenge, and it was a wonderful experience because how often do you get to taste 20-30 fantastic products in the same category- side by side and think critically on the matter??? Pretty infrequently, I'll wager, no matter who you are.

Bringing it back to the topic on hand, I'm fortunate to have accumulated a tremendous collection of spirits in a range of categories, so each time I receive something new, I can place it in context, and in good company. Do I love them all? Nope, but I can appreciate the wealth of quality products available on the market today and hope to speak knowledgeably about them- independent study in the extreme.

So this is not in fact my first review, though Powell & Mahoney (non alcoholic mixers) will be that... but I just wanted to say that for anyone who has sent me product (or who cares to- you can email me at april@swigandswallow.com)....here's what you can expect from me- I can't promise to write a blurb on every product but I will try- if I dislike the product I will post nothing, but if I enjoy it, I will post tasting notes, my general impression (if it's great for the consumer, trade etc), and if I enjoyed it in a cocktail I will also say that. Objective being to disseminate information about great products, and to keep it positive, always.

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ICE, ICE Baby!

This blog was originally published at www.aprilwachtel.com on 12/17/2014

I am incredibly excited to announce that this Friday will be my first class teaching at ICE, The famed Institute of Culinary Education! The class will be a new class called 'Couples Cocktails,' themed around cocktails 'designed to be mixed, preferably through an after-sip kiss';)


This was a fun little project, as we decided to feature 5 pairs of cocktails, each pair including one 'feminine' and one 'masculine' cocktail (the secret of course is that there is no such thing, just a perception of 'girly' vs 'manly' drinks.)

We will be linking each pair of the cocktails together by base spirit, one shaken cocktail, one stirred. The sneaky part is that to go along with the theme of the class, each set of cocktails is linked by an 'aphrodisiac' ingredient featured in the shaken cocktail, and a secondary complimentary flavor in the stirred cocktail, so when the drinks are sipped in quick succession, or mixed via smooch, the flavors will work well together;)

For example, our first cocktails will be gin based- 

  • A Bee's Knees (Gin, Lemon, Honey, Shaken), and 
  • A Vesper (Gin, Vodka, Lillet Blanc or Cocchi Americano, Lemon Twist, Stirred)

….featuring the aphrodisiac ingredient, Honey, with the complementary flavor, Citrus.


Another pair will be Scotch inspired- 

  • A Blood and Sand (Scotch, Cherry Heering, Sweet Vermouth, Orange Juice, Shaken), and
  • A Rusty Nail (Scotch and Drambuie, Stirred)

….featuring the aphrodisiac ingredient, Cherry, and the complementary flavor, Smoke.

This should be fun!

Also, not only am I excited to teach a fun new class in a new context, but I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work alongside the inimitable Anthony Caporale, Director of Beverage Studies at ICE, and a BADASS instructor. Anthony is building a small team of educators in anticipation of ICE's move to their new 74,000 foot location in the Financial District, and I feel fortunate to find myself in Anthony's company, as well as alongside industry juggernauts Pamela Wiznitzer and Jonathan Pogash.:) 

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Rum Tasting and Cocktail Primer launching at Astor!

This blog was originally published at www.aprilwachtel.com on 12/03/2014

Hello everyone!

I am very happy to announce for this inaugural post that I'm launching my first rum category class at Astor Center this Friday December 5th! I've done rum category seminars before, but this will be the first with both a comparative tasting portion as well as a cocktail portion.

As always with the curriculum development process, I start getting excited when I make the 'pull list,' which indicates what spirits we'll be tasting and what cocktails we'll be making. The biggest challenge in the case of the rum category is that there are so many diverse products on the market, and so many ways to use them as tools to explain history, production, etc.

In this case I'm using Denizen, Mt Gay, Facundo Eximo, and Cruzan Black Strap in the neat pours to illustrate the breadth of flavor available in the category, and we'll be making a Hemmingway Daiquiri (contemporary riff on a Papa Doble) with Bacardi Superior, a Mai Tai with Smith & Cross and Rhum JM Blanc, and an El Presidente (Machado) with El Dorado 8.

The intention with the cocktails is threefold-

1) To showcase classic rum cocktails with relevance in the development of the category

2) To expose students to the major obvious rum styles- between neat pours and cocktails we hit Carta Blanca, Jamaican, Demerara, Agricole, and Blackstrap... I am including Mt Gay Black Barrel as an obvious example of how a specific production decision (to age in heavily charred Bourbon barrels) affects flavor. I'm also including Facundo Eximo not as a unique category like spiced or blackstrap rum, but as what I would consider to be the only true 'sipping rum' of the lot.

3) To provide a range in cocktail styles showcasing the versatility of the category

Excellent. I'll keep you posted on how it goes! So much to cover, so little time. :):)

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