Thanks to Mad Men, sophisticated cocktails so popular in the 1950s and '60s have made a comeback. The long-neglected martini is back, along with a lot of other drinks that languished for years. This cocktail resurgence has created celebrity mixologists and signature cocktails galore. Santa Fe is well represented. Just about every upscale bar and restaurant has them, many spotlighting local ingredients.
Young entrepreneur Nick Peña, owner of Food Tour New Mexico, takes it one step further: he and mixologist extraordinaire Quinn Stephenson of The Den have come together and created the Culinary Cocktail Demonstration and Sampling experience.
Nightlife at The Den — Photo courtesy of The Den
The Den is on Water Street in the heart of Santa Fe's downtown. The now dry-as-a-bone street got its name because it was originally an arroyo, draining swamps where Saint Francis Cathedral is now. It's four blocks are loaded with restaurants, boutiques and galleries. The Den, part of Coyote Café, occupies part of the old Greyhound Bus Depot.
The Culinary Cocktail Demonstration and Sampling classes, started last December, are fun and informative. Participants learn how to make three of The Den’s signature cocktails from start to finish. Plus, they also get to see the polished mixologists strut their stuff, shakers in hand.
Learn to make the "Senorita" at a culinary cocktail class — Photo courtesy of The Den
Class members will learn how to make the "Señorita" margarita, a deconstructed version of this perennial Santa Fe favorite with a lime and salt foam on top; the Gentleman’s Vice, a “small batch bourbon Manhattan" that's finished with cherry wood smoke; and the Quinakazi, a Kaffir lime infused vodka that's shaken with fresh lime and poured over - drum-roll, please - cotton candy. The good news: the class gets to sample each creation.
Quinn Stephenson, a second-level sommelier, credits celebrity chef Mark Miller - founder of Coyote Cafe and often called the "Godfather of Modern Southwestern Cuisine" - with inspiring him and teaching him about taste and texture. He’s continuing his culinary education with current Coyote Executive Chef Eric Distefano.
School’s in session on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. Classes last about an hour and are by reservation only. They can accommodate up to 16 people. They can also offer private classes for larger groups. The cost is $40 per person, and participants must be at least 21 years old. You can get more information by calling (505) 231-6296.
"The Quinakazi" is another tasty drink you'll be able to admire at The Den — Photo courtesy of The Den
In addition to restaurant walking tours, Food Tours New Mexico offers Tap into Santa Fe, a walking tour of four of the city’s tap rooms, as well as Tequila's Finest, a tequila class held in the historic downtown area. You can find full tour information on their website.