Hipcooks West: Swank Cocktail Party 101

— by Caroline on Crack

Flickr Shot by dotsara

Flickr Shot by dotsara (detail)

Ever wanted to throw a cocktail party, something so swank that it would put Holly Golightly and Sinatra to shame? My cocktail parties always involve simple Trader Joe appetizers and vodka and whiskey with mixers. Sure, my friends probably didn’t care but it’s always better to do things with style. Thankfully Hipcooks teaches a class about how to throw a swank cocktail party with pretty gourmet appetizers and delicious but easy-to-make cocktails.

I had the good fortune of attending a Hipcooks class during the inaugural week of the Westside location. The original location is in the Brewery downtown much to the chagrin of Westsiders like myself but fortunately Hipcooks owner, Monica, was good enough to open up a school in Culver City so we could join in the fun, too. The classroom setup is reminiscent of the original with white wood, a large half circle island for the 14 students to stand around and the dining table where they can enjoy their creations.

My unofficial CoC photographer, dotsara, and I showed up to class pretty early, easily finding a spot out front at a meter. That was one of the explicit instructions when signing up for the class: You must be on time. Unfortunately, some peeps didn’t heed that and still showed up kinda late but we got started anyway.

Flickr Shot by dotsaraSince Monica had injured her index finger in a bad car-door-slamming accident and had it wrapped in a lot of bandage, her associate Quint took over for the demonstration portion of the class. Monica did the intros and would interject every now and then, getting the students to interact. She’s a bubbly girl, that Monica. So much energy, which was good cuz our class seemed to be filled with shy girls.

Yes, it was an all-women cocktail party. I don’t understand why there will be a ton of men at the ladies’ night at Seven Grand and no women and only women at a cocktail class. Guys, I’m telling you, these classes are a good place to meet the ladies. And if anything, at least you walk away with a new cooking skill for future seductions. Riiiight?

But this class was so cool. We learned not only how to make caipirinhas, mojitos, flavored martinis, lemon drops, amaretto sours and the classic martini (thanks to our teacher George) but we were taught how to make fabulously pretty and delicious appetizers to serve with them.

Flickr Shot by dotsaraThere were about nine recipes but my ultimate favorites had to be the crisp potato cakes with goat cheese and thyme, leek and goat cheese tartlets and the tuna tartar on cucumber strips with wasabi roe. Each was shockingly simple to make…. If only I wasn’t so lazy. But I can see trying these if I ever feel ambitious and want a stellar shindig.

Back to the cocktails, though, before you think that we all got wasted drinking six cocktails and made a mess of the food, we were actually taught to make one drink and then had to divvy it up among three people. Yeah, I had initially said boo to that until I actually started to get a little buzzed. They taught us to make strong-ass drinks! Sweet!

Things I learned in this class:

  • Those silver cocktail shakers that you give as gifts to cocktail lovers are actually pretty lame because the metal tumbler will contract from the ice while the top remains the same. And then they end up not fitting right the more cocktails you make. The best shaker is the Boston shaker: a two-piece shaker — one metal tumbler and one glass with a separate strainer. It’s what professional bartenders use.

  • There’s a restaurant supply store in Culver City called Surfas that sells all the things you’d need for such a shindig, from silicon baking mold sheets for your tartlets to mandolin slicers to cut your potatoes in thin slices.

  • In order to flip something in a pan, with one hand hold the pan down away from you, shimmy the contents to the lower part of the pan and then flip! Yeah, I still can’t really do it. Will definitely need to practice.

  • Girls can be scary aggressive when there is only one caviar, creme fraiche and chives cup left on the plate.

  • To really get the most out of the class, stand on the right-hand side of the island since it seemed like that side always got to start the food prep. By the time the dishes got to us to add goat cheese or whatnot, everything was already done. Boo!

  • For a cocktail party, instead of serving cocktails in plastic cups, it’s best to buy a bunch of cheapie tumblers from IKEA ($1.99 for a six-pack) and use those instead. That way the taste of the cocktail isn’t affected.

  • Girls can be scary aggressive the more they drink and the less food there is to be had.

Flickr Shot by dotsara I had a lot of fun taking the class but would have probably had more fun if more of my friends took it with me. Only dotsara was down for paying the $65. Later she said that at first she had been turned off by the price until she realized that we would be learning to cook, too. “You know that ahi tuna ain’t cheap,” she said.

And I think she’s right. The quality of food we used was pretty darn good. Monica said that most of the stuff wasn’t too expensive (you can pick ’em up from Ralphs, TJs or Surfas) and they’re probably cheaper than catered apps.

And at the end of the class you get an email with all the recipes in it so you don’t have to worry yourself about taking notes during class. So you really get a lot for your money, I think.

More Hipcooks class pictures from dotsara.

Hipcooks West
2833 S Robertson Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90034