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Master Class

Watch some of Manila’s best bartenders as they show us how to enjoy absinthe, gin, craft beer, and Japanese whisky.

Drink responsibly, it is always advised. Mantle recommends going a step further, though. Don’t just drink responsibly: drink well.

While the consumption of alcohol can be as casual or as formal as we want, true appreciation of it goes beyond simply ordering a bar’s bestselling cocktail or buying a familiar brand. There is something to be said for mindful drinking: taking in not just the sight, the smell, the taste, and the texture of it but also the sense of tradition and social import.

Alcohol isn’t simply just for getting us drunk, even though it does a fine job of that. We argue that it can and should be about occasion and meaning, and that’s the spirit (pun intended, of course) of Master Class: Mantle’s new video series, covering four specific types of alcohol you can enjoy in more measured and appreciative ways as taught by people we consider among the best in their field.

Absinthe

First off, few alcoholic beverages have as colorful a history as absinthe (references to la fée verte aside). Thanks to an origin cloaked in oral folklore, prominent connections with European artistic luminaries of the 19th century, and a controversial reputation for having hallucinogenic properties, absinthe carries itself with an air of intrigue even to the present day.

While the medical establishment widely accepts that it is about as safe as most other alcoholic beverages and its rumored psychoactive qualities were most likely due to unsafe production practices in days of yore, absinthe has never lost its mystique. From its ornate spoons for carefully diluting sugar cubes to its cultural significance in things like the Sazerac signature cocktail of New Orleans, this Swiss-born, French-raised spirit has an undeniably aesthetic appeal made more enticing by its thrilling past.

Gin

Gin, too, had its own checkered origin—albeit one more rooted in societal and political strife in Europe—that is not quite as romantic and dashing as absinthe’s but no less historically significant. The social climate at the time of its popularity boom in the 18th century, coupled with its comparatively low cost and ease of production, spawned both the Gin Craze and gin-related legislation in Great Britain: a polarized time that both confirmed and entrenched gin’s mass appeal.

The consumption of gin today, while clearly no longer a sociopolitical hot-button issue, remains one of the broadest and most accessible of the alcohol markets. Accessibility doesn’t diminish its value, though, and gin can be found in a wide spectrum of flavors, preparations, and mixes. That versatility underscores both gin’s longevity and the evergreen sport of finding inventive ways of appreciating the juniper-borne mainstream liquor.

Beer

Of course, however prominent and widespread gin may be, it’s nowhere near the most mainstream of all alcoholic beverages: beer. Reputedly the third most popular beverage in history next only to water and tea (or so says Max Nelson’s The Barbarian’s Beverage: A History of Beer in Ancient Europe, a claim that we’re not likely to contest given the literal millennia of evidence supporting it), drinking beer is the historical cornerstone of what it means to appreciate alcohol.

What we’re interested in, though, is micro brewing in particular: the contemporary practice of formulating and producing beer in comparatively small, typically bespoke batches compared to the standardized methods of mass-market corporate-scale breweries. Our early readers may recall our glimpse into the Philippine craft brewing scene, and we have more on that courtesy of our friends at Pedro Brewcrafters. We won’t spoil what they’ve got to share with you for this series: stay with us instead and see for yourselves.

Japanese Whisky and Cocktails

Wrapping up our series, we come around to whisky. Instead of touching base with the Western world of alcohol once more, however, we remain in Asia and look instead into Japanese whisky: an award-winning tradition that has elevated the craft of whisky production to levels of distinctive quality that impress even the most seasoned aficionados of Scotch whisky.

While the Japanese whisky industry did originally set out to replicate Scotch whisky production (due in no small part to the similarities in climate) and thrived primarily within Japan before recent years, it truly came into its own after the start of the 21st century. Winning awards in international competitions prompted the Japanese distilleries to broaden their market to the global stage, allowing critics and laypersons alike to recognize that they weren’t simply having “Scotch whisky made in Japan”: they were enjoying Japanese whisky, period.

Welcome to Master Class, fine readers, and drink well.

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