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Do This: Tippling Tuesdays at Double A

By Roger Kamholz in Food on Jun 1, 2011 7:00PM

2011_6_tipl_tues1a.jpgSpurred by bartender Dante LoPresti's "Star of the Bar" competition win at the recent National Restaurant Association Show at McCormick Place, we dropped in last night on the latest installment of Tippling Tuesdays, LoPresti's weekly series of free mixology seminars at underground cocktail lounge Double A, to see what pointers we could score. We were delighted to find a balanced mix of informal spirits education, hands-on training and, well, delicious tippling.

LoPresti schooled the intimate group of attendees on some of the classic cocktails of summer - think the Daiquiri, the Margarita and, why not?, the Negroni - allowing them to step up to the bar and mix their own drinks, with the freedom to improvise new versions or go off-menu. One of LoPresti's useful bartending tips: when recipes permit, build your cocktails starting with the least-expensive ingredients, in case you make a mistake and must start over. To show the importance of fresh ingredients, LoPresti presented a side-by-side tasting of whiskey sours, one made with bottled mass-market sour mix and the other using housemade stuff. The difference in flavor was eye-opening. (Basically, we should all be making our own fresh sour mix at home. It's just equal parts lemon or lime juice and simple syrup. Cheap, easy, better.)

At the Star of the Bar finals, which took place on May 22 during the NRA Show's International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event, LoPresti bested five other talented semi-finalists with another summertime-friendly libation, his original Pink Lion cocktail: Cazadores Blanco tequila, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, hibiscus liqueur, Lillet blanc and elderflower liqueur, garnished with lemon peel. He took home a grand prize of $5,000.

Next Tuesday, LoPresti will be joined by author and rum scholar Ed Hamilton, who will conduct an educational seminar and tasting of rhum agricoles, from the French West Indies. And while Tippling Tuesday seminars (7 to 8 p.m.) typically focus on a particular spirit, LoPresti and Double A manager Brian Hicks say future events will likely break that mold, covering bitters, beer and even coffee as cocktail ingredients. We can't wait for those.

Double A is located at 108 West Kinzie Street beneath Mercadito.