Shaken and stirred at St Albans cocktail masterclass: with gallery

Sam is shown how to hold a bottle properly

Sam is shown how to hold a bottle properly - Credit: Archant

MY friends will testify that I am the kind of girl who enjoys knocking back a Margarita or two after a long working week and counts a strawberry Daiquiri as one of my five-a-day.

So, if there is something I could be certain of going into my cocktail masterclass at The Snug Bar, on French Row, I had no problem slurping these colourful concoctions, but would I be equally as talented when it came to making them?

Everyone knows it’s no fun drinking alone, and as the lesson is designed for at least six people, my colleague Monique needed very little arm twisting when I asked her to join me for my (albeit slightly tipsy) stint behind the bar.

Having spent a summer serving punters in a pub during my student days I secretly hoped I was going to be quite the suave shaker. But while I may be fairly confident in my pint-pulling skills I was about to learn that the art of free pouring was a whole different ball game.

This impressive technique involves pouring liquor straight from the bottle without using a measure and according to our mixologist for the afternoon, Mike O’Flynn, can take even the most accomplished bartender years to master.

We had just a few attempts to pour an accurate double shot so before you could say ‘chin-chin’ we followed Mike’s guidance and turned our imitation rum bottles upside down, said the word ‘bubble’ and then counted to eight.

Clearly we were naturals and both passed the first test with flying colours. ‘This cocktail-making malarkey is thirsty work’, I thought to myself.

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Now it was time to move on to the hard stuff and try our hand at muddling together the ingredients for The Snug’s most popular cocktail of which they sell around 6,000 per year – the Mojito.

Made following a strict Cuban recipe we squeezed the juice of three wedges of lime, added two spoonfuls of sugar and mashed it into a paste using a pestle-like tool called a muddler.

Next we grabbed a handful of mint leaves which we were instructed to bruise rather than squash to release the aroma. “It reminds me of the smell of my Grandma’s garden”, Monique nostalgically exclaimed.

A scoopful of crushed ice and a generous glug of Havana rum later, we gave it all a good churn and topped it with a splash of soda water.

True to form I dived straight in and took a big swig to test my tipple, while Mike was left wincing after he went for a more conservative straw dip.

“It’s all about balance,” he told me. Oops, perhaps I had been a bit heavy-handed with the rum.

As the bottom of our glasses started to reappear, we tackled a Long Island – another classic cocktail which according to myth was invented in America in the 1920s.

On the promise that if made correctly, “It should not smell like alcohol but it will get you bombed” we poured a lethal combination of equal parts of vodka, rum, gin and triple sec over ice and added a mixture of pre-made lemon, lime, sugar and water.

Armed with cocktail shakers we vigorously threw the liquid back and forth over our shoulders (glass side up to avoid injury) until it was “too cold to hold”. This was a serious bicep workout and a surefire way to banish any bingo wings.

Then all that was left to do was strain the mixture over ice, fill to the brim with coke and take a sip.

Conscious of the fact by the end of this drink, which tasted like fizzy cola bottles, I was going to be “bombed” we took a breather and soaked up our alcohol consumption by tucking into an array of tasty treats from The Snug’s sharing platter.

Once revived Mike then gave us free rein of the bar and I opted to make a tequila-based strawberry Margarita, while Monique got busy with a blender and whizzed up a frozen passion fruit Margarita.

By the end of the class I must admit I felt a bit like I had been ‘shaken not stirred’ but it had been a really good giggle and I reckon with my new-found tricks of the trade I could give Tom Cruise a la Cocktail a run for his money.

n The Snug cocktail classes start from £30 per person and include a lesson in free pouring, three classic cocktails, a sharing food platter, and a personal bartender for the evening. For more information visit