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Cocktails when I was in college meant run and coke and, though I hate to admit it, since then I haven’t really upped my cocktail making skills except to use Diet Coke in the early years after graduating.
That’s why I decided to meet with Schueneman and Andrew Claeys at the 1912 white round barns that is the focal point of the Round Barn Estate, a winery, distillery and brewery in Baroda, Michigan to learn about the Shake & Stir workshops they hold each weekend.
“We try to use the fruits that are in season,” say Schueneman, the retail manager at Round Barn. “That’s why for the three cocktails we’re making in October we’re using pear juice and local honey for our Honey Pear Margarita which is garnished with a sprig of rosemary. We also have an Apple Cider Sangria we’ll be showing how to make using apple cider, pears and apples.”
A section to hold the workshop has been separated from the tasting room area and has a lounge-like look with comfortable stuffed chairs.
“We think it’s the perfect place to spend a fall afternoon,” says Schueneman. Indeed, it is very cozy while still being sophisticated—the perfect place to watch rain or snow come down and still feel snug.
But before one can relax, there are lessons to be learned. The recipes are displayed on television screen and they look easy enough. But there’s a complicated basket of wood and gleaming stainless steel cocktail making equipment. I recognize the two types strainers, jigger and zester as well as shaker, cutting board and several types of glasses. Schueneman explains one of the several objects is a muddler.
Giving the lesson today is Seth Claeys who shows how to make each recipe with a showmanship that is impressive. He can pour the drinks at great heights from the shaker without a drop being spilt. It would seem he’s done this many times before.
“We like the recipes to be easy so that people, after attending the workshop, can create them at home,” he says.
The 60-minute cocktail making masterclass costs $40 per person and includes creating and tasting three Round Barn cocktails as well as the weekend cover charge/
“The classes take place on Saturdays and Sundays unless people schedule ahead of time,” says Claeys. “We change recipes frequently so people can come back and learn how to make other cocktails.”
While the equipment stays there after the workshop, those attending receive a souvenir cocktail glass and $5 off every three-bottle purchase.
Since I have a strainer (though I’ve never used it before and it just gets shoved aside as I look for other equipment, zester and jigger from my parents who made martinis and Manhattans, I didn’t really need anything else to make the Honey Pear Margaritas at home. My husband said they were delicious but then what else can a husband say. But I haven’t learned to pour the drinks from a great height and have them fill the glass perfectly. In fact, I didn’t try figuring I’d rather drink the cocktail then clean it off the counter.