Never Too Cool for Cocktail School

Breakthru Beverage’s whiskey specialist Michael Doyle. Photo by Bill Davidson.

With temps dipping to “holy shiii-iii-iit” on Day 2 of Life Is Beautiful (a definite first, am I right?), I found myself wishing aloud for a hot toddy pop-up. And a V-VIP hot tub wristband. But alas, neither was to be. So I steered clear of the frozen blended drinks entirely and instead focused on comfort. For me, that meant hot coffee and doughnuts. Or, in this case, doughnut-infused booze.

Using mysterious alchemical magic (or, rather, a giant cheesecloth filled with glazed chocolate cake doughnuts from Pink Box), the Breakthru Beverage team infused all that doughnut-y goodness into the powerfully herbal Fernet-Branca amaro and Caffé Borghetti Espresso Liqueur for a rich and satisfying treat called Time to Make the Donuts (natch), which was served at the brand’s tented bar across from the Art Motel.

If you’ve been riding the Mule train this festival, Fernet-Branca offers the Dark ’n’ Stormborn, a twist on the Moscow Mule made with the amaro plus Zaya Rum, fresh lime and Q Ginger Beer. There’s also the Hotline Bling (Fernet-Branca, Carpano Bianco, Giffard Strawberry Liqueur, fresh lemon, berries and rosé) and the frozen Mint Eastwood (Branca Menta, Templeton Rye, mint, coconut cream and Oreos) as well as straight shots of Fernet-Branca and Branca Menta, you know, in case you hear your band starting up and you’ve got to drink and run.

If you need to get indoors and/or sit down for a little while, Cocktail School makes the perfect respite. Happening at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. daily during the festival, the sneaky little extra program welcomes 50 lucky attendees into the backroom of The Writer’s Block to learn about spirits and cocktail making from the people who know best.

Just before Capital Cities absolutely rocked the Downtown stage and nearly put a dent in the Earth from all the jumping during the Cash Cash remix of their hit “Safe and Sound,” I snuck into the School to see the setup. There, Breakthru Beverage’s Brown-Forman whiskey specialist, Michael Doyle, was preparing for his class, “Whiskey Remix: Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour,” sponsored by Old Forester Bourbon. While the crowd queued up outside, Doyle laid out the ingredients to make three twists on those common classics. He started with a discussion of common cocktail categories (aperitif, mule, Collins, smash, etc.), and how to use a “plug-and-play” format to get from one drink to the next.

The Day 3 Cocktail School classes will focus on the Michelada (4 p.m.) and Kimo Sabe Mezcal (6 p.m.). Be sure to hang out around the Writer’s Block before doors open to score your Golden Ticket.