Steven Kowalczuk has been bartending for nearly 20 years. He's so passionate about his craft that he hopes you'll spend a few hours learning how to do what he does. So about a year-and-a-half ago, he brought his "The Art of Mixology" series to Pittsburgh .
"I love spreading the word of mixology," he says.
The energetic Kowalczuk stands behind the bar for each three-hour session, leading topics that range the gamut from basic cocktail-making techniques to more esoteric themes, like "From Paris With Love," and "Savory is the New Sweet." Students stand on the other side of the bar and get hands-on experience in what it's like to mix drinks like a pro.
For example, at a recent class, Kowalczuk used three cocktails to demonstrate a variety of "Classic Techniques." Via the Dirty Martini, students learned how to precisely measure ingredients — and also that stirring is the best way to mix a martini. (Bond-like shaking releases tiny shards of ice that water down the drink.) After that, students crushed, muddled and free-poured (count to five for the perfect amount of liquor) their way to a Mint Julep. The final drink, a Ramos Gin Fizz, taught participants an advanced technique: Students separated egg whites and shook the classic cocktail until it was a frothy, creamy concoction.
Kowalczuk takes his job as instructor seriously; he previously taught similar seminars while bartending in Atlanta. And he works with every student until each one is up to speed on every cocktail. Kowalczuk's real aim, however, is to make sure everyone has a good time. He says his clients "don't want to learn how to be a bartender. They want to learn about the passion for the craft of a cocktail."
Sharing passion isn't a problem for Kowalczuk: Asked to sum up a typical class experience, he says, "It's a lot of liquor, and some motivational speaking."
Classes are $49 per session — drinks included. Check www.artofmixologyusa.com for a schedule of upcoming classes.