Two bars in New York City are drawing in customers by educating them about the drinks they serve.
“Our tasting flights do really well, so we started classes because we wanted to bring the education a bit further and respond to a need,” says luxury bar owner Flavien Desoblin. “It’s a great tool to get people into these drinks and then they keep coming back.”
Copper & Oak and Brandy Library, both owned by Desoblin, offer regular classes which mostly focus on dark spirits, which is the bulk of what both bars serve. The classes at each are fairly different, and Desoblin or his spirits sommelier teaches them.
At Copper & Oak, a small location on the Lower East Side, classes run every other week and are casual, Desoblin says. He began the lessons here three months ago and each one draws around 10 people, mostly in their 20s. “Here we are dealing with a younger generation that’s really interested in brown spirits, so they need to know everything about them,” he explains. The bar offers everything in 1-oz. or 2-oz. pours “but most people buy 1 ounce because they really want to discover the differences between everything. We started the classes to respond to this need.”
The classes last for an hour and include four tastings. Topics include “Cognac vs. Armagnac”; “Bourbon”; and “Rye: The King Grain.” Each class costs $50, although participants not actually doing any tasting pay just $10.
Students learn how a spirit is made and where it comes from, and they discuss tasting notes.
The classes at Brandy Library in TriBeCa are more established. They’ve been running for 13 years, essentially beginning just after the bar opened.
These classes are different. They are more in-depth and last for a couple of hours. Brandy Library classes cost $130 and include seven tastings and food. Guests are greeted with a drink and provided with another during an intermission. These are fun classes, Desoblin says. “Because they’re all sitting down classroom style I’d like to say it’s formal but it’s not, it’s entertaining.”
The classes at Brandy Library draw in a more diverse and sometimes older crowd. A son or daughter might attend with a parent, and even three generations of one family have attended together, says Desoblin. Attendance is capped at 25, and each class typically attracts at least 18 people. For the more esoteric subjects, attendance may drop to 15 to 18 people. “Here we have a clientele with greater means and they already know so much that they need more to challenge their palate and their brain,” says Desoblin.
Topics here include “Bourbon: Old vs. New,” and “Sherry Cask Whiskies.” Next year there will even be a three-part progression series on bourbon, exploring the drink as it ages, with the youngest varieties being served at the first event and the oldest at the final class. Classes run two to four times per month.
Getting the word out about these classes is pretty simple. Both venues use advertisements in the bars themselves, the websites, an email database, Instagram and Facebook.