Raising the Bar

There’s something intoxicatingly wonderful about the perfectly placed cocktail: a cold gin and tonic on a humid summer night, a glass of rye whisky on the rocks around the fire, or an ambitious coconut rum concoction while laying beachside.

Back in the day, when three martini lunches were the norm and Mad Men sensibilities ran rampant, the art of cocktailing was an at-home hobby, with all the fixings for a well-made Manhattan at the ready.

But, according to drink historian David Wondrich, when recreational drugs became the vice du jour in the ’70s, cocktails fell by the wayside in favor of more potent ways to get messed up. Liquor bottles were put up on the proverbial shelves, along with bitters, jiggers, and muddlers, gathering dust as romantic vestige of a bygone era.

Until now.

For the last five years or so, well-crafted cocktails have experienced a revival as the classics have been resurfaced and rethought, ushering in a new generation of connoisseurs to the market. Look no further than Mouton and Curio for evidence that folks are not only ready to drink—but to drink well.

But what happens when you try to bring the bar experience home? Enter West Egg Cocktail Supply, Columbus’s newest boozy beverage boutique that focuses on small-batch artisanal bitters, beautiful barware, and other accouterment that elevates that rogue bottle of Amaro on your bar cart into a well-made drink.

Founded by sisters Jess Saleska and Cole Londeree, the idea for West Egg was inspired by small, carefully curated shops in found in other metropolitan cities where the enthusiastic amateur could get tips from knowledgeable staff in addition to interesting ingredients.

“We loved making cocktails at home, but the process of buying the ingredients and learning new techniques was daunting,” says Saleska. “When we first got started, books and YouTube were our sole source of knowledge, but like many people we learn better through hands-on experience, especially for something as sensory and sybaritic as mixology.”

Looking at the current landscape—and the bevy of cocktail experiences—Londeree and Saleska determined that the Columbus market was ripe for this kind of on-trend concept. They’ve set up shop in Stump’s Cactus Consortium in Grandview, where, in addition to quality products, they also offer classes, allowing eager drinkers the opportunity for hands-on participation in the latest libation trends.

For their inaugural class, they collaborated with Patrick Thomas, mixologist at The Pearl, to create three takes on the classic Manhattan. Participants are equipped with their own Hawthorne strainers, jiggers, and Yarais while Thomas walks them through the steps of mixing, straining and sipping their own cocktail creations.

The clinking of the  glasses and the swirling of the ice serves as a sweet tribute to the quiet poetry that comes from combining ingredients and blending flavors. Because, like cooking, it’s the process that brings you closer to the experience and allows greater appreciation for the end product. It’s this that West Egg celebrates and fosters in their mission to bring good drink to the masses.

While nursing a bitter Boulevardier, Saleska sums it up beautifully:

“You can experiment with so many flavors, ingredients and techniques; it’s quite amazing that in a relatively short amount of time you can create something so complex and delicious to share with someone you love.”

For classes and events, visit westeggcocktails.com.

Looking where to start?

Here are your well stocked home bar essentials, courtesy of West Egg:

• Measuring Jigger

• Mixing glass (i.e.,Yarai)

• Bar Spoon

• Shaker

• Muddler

• Hawthorne Strainer

• Fine mesh Strainer

• Channel knife

(Also always have on hand fresh citrus for juice and ice made with purified water)