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The Everyday Guide to Spirits and Cocktails: Tastes and Traditions

The Everyday Guide to Spirits and Cocktails: Tastes and Traditions

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The Everyday Guide to Spirits and Cocktails: Tastes and Traditions

Course No. 9144
Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, Master of Wine and Certified Specialist of Spirits
Institute of Masters of Wine
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4.7 out of 5
28 Reviews
96% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 9144
Video Streaming Included Free

Course Overview

Scotch sipped from a tumbler on a cold evening. A shot of gin adding a pleasantly sharp bite to an after-work cocktail. The satisfying sweetness of aged rum enhancing a homemade punch. Regardless of where, when, or how you enjoy them, spirits offer a nearly limitless array of tastes, aromas, sensations, and traditions.

Yet despite their varying degrees of sophistication, spirits can be understood and enjoyed by anyone. Knowing the secrets of tequila, cognac, whiskey, cordials, and more—their history, their production, their varieties, their uses—can offer endless rewards for both you and others. It can transform you into someone who knows how to make parties exciting, unique affairs; someone who can easily pick the perfect gift to impress a cherished friend or important business client; someone who knows how to order the best drinks to match specific occasions.

In the six interactive lectures of The Everyday Guide to Spirits and Cocktails: Tastes and Traditions, join acclaimed expert Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, a Certified Specialist of Spirits, as she demystifies the world's most popular spirits and shows you how to

  • discover your own personal preferences,
  • make classic cocktail recipes just like a master mixologist, and
  • use little-known insider tips and techniques for tasting and shopping for spirits.

Taking you around the world from the comfort of your living room, these dynamic lectures feature fun and interactive tastings, illuminating interviews with industry experts, engaging footage that captures expert bartenders in action, virtual tours through the production process of spirits, and much more.

Discover the Secrets of Popular Spirits

Each lecture of The Everyday Guide to Spirits and Cocktails, filmed entirely on location at a nationally renowned venue, is devoted to a popular and well-known spirit. In each instance, Ms. Simonetti-Bryan provides interesting historical facts behind the spirit's origin; reveals the details of how each spirit is processed, aged, and flavored; demonstrates how to taste, judge, and compare the quality and complex notes of each spirit; and offers recipes for making the best cocktails that show off the spirit's unique characteristics.

  • Whiskey: At its core, whiskey is distilled beer aged in oak and the product of a fascinating process of malting, milling, and mashing grain. While Ireland and Scotland were the first official producers of whiskey, the United States, Canada, and even Japan also make it.
  • Tequila: Made from the root of agave plants, tequila gets its name from the Mexican town where it originated. In fact, tequila can only be called "tequila" if it comes from blue agave grown in the region of Jalisco and bordering states. Tequila from highland regions is more fruity and delicate, while tequila from lowland areas is more earthy and robust.
  • Vodka: One of the most popular spirits in both the United States and other parts of the world, vodka is a clear spirit that is extremely "mixable" for a variety of cocktails. It can be made from any fermentable agricultural product, including grain, potatoes, molasses, grapes, and even onions.

Make Amazing Cocktails—Just like a Mixologist

You'll also learn, from Ms. Simonetti-Bryan and award-winning bartenders, how to mix these and other spirits into a range of cocktails to fit any occasion. Among the cocktail recipes you'll find in these lectures are those for the best

  • Martini, the veritable "king of cocktails" that can be made with either gin or vodka and is best garnished with plenty of olives;
  • Brandy Alexander, a rich brandy cocktail that enhances the comfort of this popular spirit with its mix of dark crème de cacao, heavy cream, and nutmeg; and
  • Mojito, a refreshing blend of white rum, mint, simple syrup, lime juice, and soda water originally popularized by Cuban farmers.

Plus: Get Two Bonus Sessions with Insider's Tips

The Everyday Guide to Spirits and Cocktails comes with two bonus sessions featuring a wealth of tips—drawn from Ms. Simonetti-Bryan's expertise and experience—that you can use to dramatically change the way you think about shopping, tasting, making, and serving spirits and cocktails. Here are just three of the many tips you'll find, both in these bonus sessions and throughout the entire course.

  • Garnish your drink the right way: Garnishes are the perfect way to make any cocktail look delicious, impressive, and professional. For mint garnishes, make sure to use spearmint, as it has small leaves that don't wilt as easily as others. Also, the best oranges for garnishing are navel oranges, which have a thicker skin and less juice.
  • Pair the right spirit with the right dish: One tip for delicious spirit-food pairing is complementing a cocktail's flavor to the same flavor in the dish being served. One example: pairing a wild mushroom ravioli with scotch, as the earthy flavors of the dish create a strong connection to the peaty aromas in the scotch.
  • Make cocktails more figure-friendly: You can still enjoy spirits while trying to watch your weight by following helpful tips. These include avoiding sweet touches such as sugared rims, drinking cocktails with club soda mixers (which have few calories), and substituting some liqueurs, such as triple sec, with juice.

As a Certified Specialist of Spirits, one of the most prestigious titles in the spirits industry, Ms. Simonetti-Bryan lends an unparalleled authority to The Everyday Guide to Spirits and Cocktails. She has trained thousands in the industry, has judged in international spirits competitions, and is frequently sought after by the media for her incredible ability to make even the most complex aspects of spirits both easy to understand—and fun.

By the end of her interactive course, you'll have a comprehensive knowledge of spirits sure to make your next encounter with spirits—and all future ones—a deeper, more rewarding experience.

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8 lectures
 |  31 minutes each
  • 1
    Vodka and Gin—The Cocktail Spirits
    First, Ms. Simonetti-Bryan offers you some pointed tips on how to make the most of learning with these interactive lectures. Then, begin your exploration with a closer look at vodka and gin. Both clear spirits are very mixable and usable for making classic cocktails such as Bloody Marys and Martinis (which you learn how to make here). But in order to truly appreciate the tastes and versatility of these popular spirits, you have to take a closer look at how they were discovered and how they're distilled. x
  • 2
    Whiskey—The Complex Spirit
    Here, shatter the myth of whiskey as a purely rough and rugged drink and uncover some of the incredible flavors, textures, and taste sensations to be found in single malt scotches, bourbon, fine oak scotch, and other intriguing whiskeys from around the world. Discover how the malting process works, why a whiskey's age is so important to its taste, the history of whiskey in Europe and America, and more. Also, watch a bartender make popular whiskey cocktails, including a mint julep and a Manhattan. x
  • 3
    Rum—The Versatile Spirit
    A darling to mixologists, spirits connoisseurs, and the average cocktail drinker alike, rum has one of the widest ranges of styles of any spirit. In this lecture, taste everything from rhum agricole (based on sugar cane juice) and white rum (based on molasses) to rums from Barbados and Jamaica. You'll train your nose and palate to recognize the distinct aromas and tastes of these delicious spirits, learn the terminology of rum to make shopping easier, and perfect the art of making daiquiris, Mojitos, and classic rum punch. x
  • 4
    Tequila and Mezcal—The Ancient Spirits
    Often considered to be the "bad boy" of spirits, tequila and mezcal are actually just as complex and beautifully sophisticated as whiskey, rum, and other spirits. How is tequila harvested and cooked from agave plants? Where do better tequilas come from—the lowland or highland regions of Jalisco? What are the taste differences between tequilas that are classified as joven, reposado, and añjeo? Is the myth about the "worm" in tequila bottles true? And how can you make the perfect Margarita just like a seasoned bartender? Find out all this and more here. x
  • 5
    Brandy—The Luxury Spirit
    Finish your journey through the tastes and traditions of spirits with a look at brandy, a wine-based spirit long associated with royalty and sophistication. You'll learn how French brandies such as cognac and armagnac are distilled and aged; compare this process with other brandies from Spain and South America; learn tips and tricks to getting the right kind of brandy to suit your personal palate; and get the secrets to making two classic brandy cocktails: a Brandy Alexander and a Sidecar. x
  • 6
    Liqueurs and Cordials—The Flavored Spirits
    Explore the sweet side of spirits with liqueurs, which serve as a veritable spice rack for enhancing the flavor of cocktails and meals. Ms. Simonetti-Bryan guides you through the distinct tastes and traditions of Amaretto, Drambuie, Cointreau, Angostura bitters, and more. Conclude the lecture with tips on making three iconic cocktails that feature liqueurs: Cosmopolitans, Champagne cocktails, and Black and White Russians. x
  • 7
    The Mixology Toolkit and Classic Recipes
    Jiggers. Shakers. Strainers. Muddlers. Learn why these and other bartending tools are so essential—and how to use them. Also, discover tips for using the right type of ice (such as shaved, cubed, or crushed) and the right type of glass (Martini glasses, cordial glasses, snifters) for your drink. Then, get expert recipes for seasonal cocktails, including sours, fizzes, and toddies. x
  • 8
    The Home Bar and Seasonal Recipes
    What does a fully stocked home bar look like? The kind that makes entertaining both fun and a breeze? Find out in this bonus lecture that covers the right selection of spirits, mixers, and garnishes to always have on hand. In addition, Ms. Simonetti-Bryan reveals the secrets of exceptional food and spirit pairings, techniques for making your own flavored spirits, popular seasonal recipes, and ways to make your cocktails more figure-friendly. x

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Video Download Includes:
  • Ability to download 8 video lectures from your digital library
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DVD Includes:
  • 8 lectures on 2 DVDs
  • 200-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 200-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos
  • Glossary
  • Biographical notes

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Your professor

Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan

About Your Professor

Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, Master of Wine and Certified Specialist of Spirits
Institute of Masters of Wine
Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan is among a small number of people to have received the highest credentials in the wine and spirits industry. She is one of only a few hundred people in the world to have achieved the Master of Wine (M.W.) title from The Institute of Masters of Wine in London, England-the highest and most difficult title to achieve in the industry. She also has a Professional Certificate in Spirits from the Wine &...
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The Everyday Guide to Spirits and Cocktails: Tastes and Traditions is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 28.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not to be Missed! This is an excellent course for anyone interested in the usual, and not so usual spirits used to make cocktails or just taken neat/ on the rocks here in the United States. The presentation is upbeat with jazz background music, and the presenter has all the skills to make the experience meaningful. Her delivery is interesting, and with her use of examples, she obviously knows her subject matter; the photography is sparkling and colourful, with great backdrops and on-site locations for interest. The process and history of the manufacturing of the products is discussed, along with the practical application of making drinks. Perhaps the best course I have purchased from the Great Courses, this one is "Great".
Date published: 2014-12-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Value Great course for a basic understanding of distillation and spirit tasting. I love having the list of spirits in each course so that I can taste along with each lecture. I'm hoping there will be another series that expands on the material in this set.
Date published: 2014-11-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic !!! This was my first DVD course from The Teaching Company and it was well worth the price. The instructor is wonderful. I plan on watching it again soon and only wish there was a part II or perhaps a course which continued to focus on mixing drinks. Strongly recommended!
Date published: 2014-05-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Savor--the fourth step! See, sniff, sip, savor--the four steps to evaluate a spirit as presented by Ms. Simonetti-Bryan. This course takes sprits out of the party-room and bar-room, and places them into a rarified category of complex creations. I have had little interest in spirits--mostly my interest is in wine, but this course opens spirits for me to an interest level similar to that of wine. I knew that spirits result from a distillation process, but I did not know the wide range of plant and grain sources--along with proportions-- from which spirits are produced. From the presentations in this course, spirits take on an almost magical quality. The course does not make me want to drink spirits, but rather sip some of the different types and taste some possible combinations of resulting cocktails. This course is to savor!
Date published: 2014-03-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Buy tiny bottles of spirits- you'll love this... Didn't know much about spirits before this course. Great information. Best part--buy the tiny bottles of spirits and liqueurs and taste along. This made all the difference for us and if we didn't like what we tasted, there wasn't much left. Some, however, are very very expensive so... As noted by other reviewers, the camera angles were atrocious and frankly made the course hard to watch. Recommendation: the T.C. needs to redo this course, it makes you feel like 'the spirits' are haunting you.
Date published: 2013-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just a delight I have purchased about 60 courses from the TC but this is the first DVD set I have ever purchased (I usually buy the audio version). I thought the course was well done and a good introduction to a variety of spirits and some ways these liquors can be prepared. I enjoyed learning tips such as how to really smell the aromas to spirits or how certain types of rums are made. I enjoyed the mostly non-academic detour from the TC to expand into courses that stimulate the artistic/recreational side of human life. I also enjoyed drinking the concoctions. If I had one complaint, it is that the course is too short. I understand there is only so much you can say about how certain spirits are made (and here it is very thorough), they could have shown how many other drinks were prepared (they usually only showed three different drinks per spirit). Either way, it was money well spent and I liked it!
Date published: 2012-12-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great content but crazy editing After viewing Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan's Great Courses on wine we decided to purchase this one on spirits and cocktails. Overall we found it to be a good introduction (which is what we needed). Jennifer is extremely knowledgeable about her subject and makes the courses interesting. However we found the editing extremely distracting and amateurish. Jennifer was often looking off-camera which made it seem less intimate. There were many cases of odd camera angles and editing cuts that distracted from her lecture. Maybe if you are drinking some of the cocktails while watching this wouldn't seem so abrasive.
Date published: 2012-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Culture & fun Some background knowledge about the main spirits and about barware with some cocktails at the end of each lecture. I watched all in a weekend and started preparing the prescribed cocktails immediately.
Date published: 2012-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Something to Talk About at Cocktail Partie Excellent introduction to the cocktail culture. Course could be improved by expanding of many of the "teases": such as more about the cocktail culture and customs, and several more lectures on the many cordials and liqours such as Pernod or Grenadine. And also would have loved to learn a bunch more classic cocktails.
Date published: 2012-05-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Light-hearted fun from TGC This course is a hoot: a quick tour through the aisles of the liquor store, to get a better understanding of what you're reading on the labels, and ultimately foster your enjoyment of spirits. You learn some fun trivia about the various spirits, and get a clearer picture of what makes for differences between bottles of the same spirit (such as peated vs. highland scotches). The format is fun, and, as others have reviewed, and very Food Network-ish. There are frequent zooms, close-ups and camera angle changes, with music in the background. Nothing like any other course I've come across. Prof. Simonetti-Bryan is enthusiastic, lively, and engaging, with a perfect speaking style for the subject manner. Fair warning: even though this course is short and often on sale, it could end up costing you many, many multiples of its price in bottles of high-end booze. Fine scotches, cognacs, and even tequilas are not at all budget beverages...prepare for the delight of your palate at the cost of pain for your wallet.
Date published: 2012-05-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sophisticated and Fun. Definitely worth a shot. This is a perfect course for you if: -> you're thinking you *might* be interested in spirits but don't know much. -> want to help educate/entertain your spouse and friends -> just want to get *something* interesting during this special offer and can't find anything else you'd like. The course is very well produced, professional, and fun. But, as they used to say, "This isn't your father's oldsmobile." This course is a huge departure from all of the other TGC courses I've seen. It is set in a bar, with lots of interesting camera work, jazz music. It's "Food Network-esque." The lecturer is very appropriate for her subject matter, but this makes her quite different from the typical academic lecturers. The technical aspects of spirit production are presented but not in a lot of detail. That is, the visuals of the process are a little hard to interpret and follow. However, the course does give you a *great* sense of the culture, tastes, distinctions of the spirits and the mixed drinks. UPSHOT: If you are even thinking "this might be interesting," get it! PS - Help me write better reviews by clicking below whether or not this was helpful. :-)
Date published: 2012-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun and informative Overall this was an informative course, especially for lovers of spirits. I learned quite a few things such as the fact that gin comes from vodka, bourbon from whisky, etc, and also the characteristics of different regions that produce the same spirit. The teacher is very enthusiastic, well-informed, and a great presenter. However, she does not teach how to pick out a good spirit from a poor quality one (eg what makes a vodka or scotch excellent as opposed to just average). Perhaps she leaves this up to our own experimentation. If you drink spirits regularly or go to parties alot and want to hold your own on conversations regarding spirits, then this course is for you.
Date published: 2012-04-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Trivia By the way, no one is quite sure why a martini, "shaken not stirred", tastes better, but it does. Fleming got it right, she got it wrong, plus the alcohol content would be unreduced in any case. Web search "shaken not stirred" and you will step into the world of some graduate students with way too much time on their hands. Bottom line seems to be oxygenation, probably of the Lillet.
Date published: 2012-02-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Pleasant pour While this is a enjoyable tour of spirits and cocktails, it certainly isn't nearly as detailed or as well done as her course on wine. I would have preferred more detail in several areas: scotch for example. I would give a casual buy recommendation, for this casual course. PS: Ms Simonetti-Brown is easy to watch, and has a huge wardrobe. I do wish she didn't seem to be reading from a prompt so much.
Date published: 2012-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging Overview of Main Spirits and Cocktails While I teach at a university, I decided on my last break to take a bartending class. While taking the class, I decided to also take Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan’s course on spirits and cocktails as a suppliment. In this lecture series, Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan takes us through the major classes of spirits and cocktails made from these. In each lecture, she introduces us to a different class of spirits, teaches us how to enjoy them (e.g., the four Ss: see, smell, sip, and savor). During each lecture, she gives a bit of history, tells how the spirit is made, and then at the end bartenders make drinks with the ingredients discussed in that lecture. Jennifer is very engaging (and, to be honest, attractive) and the pace of the lectures is enough to keep one interested without getting bogged down. This course was a great formal introduction to the major classes of spirits and helped me feel more comfortable when improvising with the skills I learned in bartending class. Great series and highly recommend.
Date published: 2012-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A tasty and fun new course! Wow! I’m glad I got this course because it really is a superb follow up and complement to The Everyday Guide to Wine. Each spirit highlighted in the 6 lectures has its own history and origin, distillation process, guide to tasting, and a cocktail lesson from a mixologist. I’m trying hard to say that one was better than another, but they’re all equally entertaining, educational, and tasty. This series was not filmed at the TGC studios, but on location at various establishments in the greater DC area. It’s polished, professional, delightful, informative, relaxing, and cheerful. The Guidebook is awesome and includes a transcript and recipes. Get the DVDs. The music and graphics are thumbs up, too. Whether you’re a whiskey connoisseur, a happy hour enthusiast, dinner party host, or even a nondrinker, there is definitely something here for everyone. Each lecture provides the yeast for interesting conversation at any kind of social event. The bonus lectures were useful. I liked to food and cocktail pairings and the glassware tips. And on the topic of your waistline, did you realize how many extra calories mixed drinks pack? One shot is about 100 calories, so some cocktails will actually hit you harder in the stomach than a Big Mac! To be honest I’m not much of a drinker myself. But I appreciated the short historical tutorials and learned a bit about the distillation process. Since Christmas I went out and tried a couple of the drinks I’ve never had before and compared some whiskeys. So yep, this is a definitely a practical course. I’m NOT going to invest in all these spirits and liqueurs, stock my house with a bar, or take up a new hobby with the goal of becoming a connoisseur. As with The Everyday Guide to Wine, I’m trying something out of my ordinary routine; I’ve got a new reason to head out with friends; and I feel more informed.
Date published: 2011-12-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Illumination of the World of Spirits. .But I thought this course was great in helping me advance my limited knowlege of the "spirit" world. I particularly liked the side by side comparison of Contireau, Triple sec and Grand Marnier. On that note I think it's a stretch for the lecturer to expect anyone to buy the sprits/liquors to taste with her (unless you own a liquor store). The only real complaint I have was that the course was slightly repetitive (mainly on the proper way to taste and cocktail making) and this time could have been used to cover other topics.
Date published: 2011-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from GREAT FOR CHRISTMAS GIFTS We were so impressed by this brief series of lectures, we purchased multiple sets as fun to send to certain friends--the type who have everything including a well-developed sense of humor--for Christmas. The types of friends were: 1. Those who knew we were big fans of the Great Courses program, but were too intimidated by the alleged intellectual firepower to order any for themselves. 2. Big fans and customers of Netflex who were always looking for something different when they ordered DVD's. 3. Those who loved to party and entertain. In addition to the off beat subject for the Great Courses normal offerings, there is a surprising amount of miscellaneous information one can learn from this series. The kind of stuff one can lay about at cocktail parties or with drinks among friends before dinner at someone's home. Besides, the price is right for a simple gift that would amuse those one cares about.
Date published: 2011-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Interesting and Informative Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan has followed her superb 'The Everyday Guide to Wine' with another excellent course about spirits and cocktails. In six lectures which are given in a renowned bar she gives a short history of each spirit (Vodka and Gin, Whiskey, Rum, Tequila and Mezcal, Brandy, and Liqueurs and Cordials) followed by how each is processed, aged, and flavored. She continues by illustrating the proper way to taste and compare various spirits. Each lecture concludes with a renowned mixologist demonstrating how to make several popular drinks. The course ends with two bonus lectures concerning the mixology home toolkit along with classic and seasonal recipes. Simonetti-Bryan's credentialed expertise as well as her excellent lecturing skills and pleasing personality come across vividly and I found the course to be very informative and interesting even though I am a teetotaler.
Date published: 2011-12-09
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