Cortez Cocktail College featuring Grey Goose


This past Thursday, March 19th, Cortez Restaurant hosted their monthly cocktail course. The tapas restaurant located in the Hotel Adagio in Lower Nob Hill offers an introductory course on the third Thursday of each month and features a different spirit each time. Last month it was Don Julio tequila, and this month was my personal spirit of choice, Grey Goose vodka.

The event started off by tasting the different flavors of Grey Goose, which included classic, citron, mandarin, and pear. I didn’t even know there was a pear flavor, and the bartender told me it was their newest flavor and only came out a few months ago. What’s good about the Grey Goose line is they flavor their vodka by infusing it with all natural, organic ingredients, which gives it a nice flavor that is not too sweet or overpowering on the palette. Mid-grade flavored vodkas, such as Smirnoff and Absolut, use artificial flavoring and load it with sugars to mask it’s relatively lower quality. Though Grey Goose is high quality vodka, it isn’t the best there is, but it’s my favorite overall when taking price, quality, and flavor into consideration. All Grey Goose vodkas make an excellent cocktail base, especially classic Goose because it is very clean, smooth, and absorbs the flavor of fresh ingredients nicely. 

Head bartender at Cortez, Brandon Skaggs, led the course and gave a good, basic introduction to mixology. He talked about matching and contrasting flavors, how to muddle and strain, and the importance of trial and error when it comes to creating new cocktails. None of it was new to me, but it provided a good foundation to those who may not be familiar with crafting their own cocktails from fresh ingredients. 

He taught how to make two of their house cocktails that use Grey Goose. The first was a Rustic Pear, that used pear flavored Grey Goose muddled and strained with fresh pear, ginger (genius!), and lime juice, then topped with ginger beer. It was very fresh, perfectly balanced, and not too sweet. The pear and ginger flavors complimented each other well. The next drink was called the Sommelier, which was made with classic Grey Goose, fresh red and white grapes, lime juice, and topped with cava, which is a type of Spanish sparkling wine. The drink was good, but a little too tart for my palette and wasn’t as balanced at the Rustic Pear. I think it would be better with a little more sweetness to cut the tartness from the grapes, lime, and wine. But that’s what’s so great about mixology, just like food everyone has their own flavor palette and it’s all about experimentation and playing with different ingredients to come up with something new and fresh.

After the quick lesson, guests were invited to step behind the bar and concoct their own custom cocktails utilizing the different flavors of Grey Goose and fresh ingredients and garnishes. Laid out across the table were blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, mint, basil, sage, and sea beans. I’ve never heard of sea beans before, but I learned that they are fresh water seeds that get flushed out into the ocean by way of rivers and are collected and sold at the culinary orgasm feast that is the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmer’s Market. They have a unique salty, slightly bitter taste to them and pack a lot of flavor into their tiny 1″ long bodies.

I thought long and hard about what I wanted to build, slowly being inspired by all the ingredients at my disposal. While many were just throwing anything and everything into their drinks, I like to think that less is more, and allow the natural flavors of ingredients to shine and compliment each other.  I decided on the pear Grey Goose, because it was my first time having it and I liked the subtleness of the flavor. Having chosen a flavored vodka, my choice of ingredients to use was severely limited. I ended up using blueberries and lime juice to add some tartness to the pear, mint for some sharp flavor contrast, and my additional sweetness came from jasmine infused simple syrup, which was absolutely delicious. I muddled everything in a pint glass, gave it a shake, and strained it into a cocktail glass served with a sprig of sage to give it a nice aromatic. It was sweet, sour, slightly minty, and had a nice purple hue…almost perfect. I used a little less mint thinking it would overpower the flavors, but the mint was not as forward as I would have liked. For a spontaneous concoction, I think it went pretty well. Thinking before acting really does yield better results, if only I could apply that concept to other areas in my life. 

Phil went up next and used classic Goose as his base, muddled some grapes, lime juice, jasmine syrup, and the sea beans that everyone else seemed too scared to try. His drink actually came out very well, showcasing the sweetness of the grapes and the bitterness of the sea beans. Overall, a couple less beans would have led to a less prominent sea bean flavor and aftertaste, and it would have been more balanced. Not bad for using an ingredient never heard of before that day!

The Cortez Cocktail College events are very fun and social. Everyone is there to enjoy themselves and learn a thing or two about mixology, and the best thing about it? It’s completely free! That’s right. Premium spirits, fresh ingredients, socialization and education, all at your disposal for not a single cent!

Next month the spirit of choice is Kentucky bourbon, featuring Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam. Rumor has it they will be making a cocktail using beef jerky! If you would like to attend future courses, they are held every Thursday and you can RSVP on their website. 

Cortez Restaurant
550 Geary St.
San Francisco, CA  94102
(415) 292-6360 

Also check out:
DrinkScope: The Allure of Fernet Branca 


2 Responses to “Cortez Cocktail College featuring Grey Goose”

  1. 1 Nicoel

    I love Brandon Skaggs, he’s the best in San Francisco!

  2. Yeah he was great, can’t wait for the next one!

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