There are two types of cocktail drinkers in the world. Ones that like to leave the making of their cocktails to the experts; and those that wish they had some of the creative flair their favourite bartenders have in crafting them. For the latter - and those just looking to have a bit of fun, do something different, or learn something new - we've rounded up seven stellar local bars and venues that offer lessons in cocktail (and spirit-making).
"The bar is a dark, Americana-styled speakeasy offering exceptional cocktails and spirits," says Ethan Ortlipp of Coal and Cedar, which he co-owns with Ryan Hawthorne and Sean Gaddes.
"Coal and Cedar brought the Cocktail Masterclass to Newcastle. Our original format was used at a Sydney small bar Ryan and Ethan were at during the city's best nightlife years."
The masterclass caters for two to 40 people with bigger classes split into two groups. A hands-on experience, you'll learn how to free pour, shake, and present three cocktails, the likes of a Negroni, Amaretto Sour, and Daiquiri. Start with a beer or bubbles, snack on shared antipasto, and create your own signature drink for the finale.
The 75-minute classes - which Ortlipp says are popular with corporate groups and hens' parties - cost $99 a head and run during the week (you'll need a group of at least five, though) and on Saturdays.
"Our classes are exceptionally good value, very funny, and the competition at the end makes for an incredible crescendo."
380 Hunter Street, Newcastle
A little tropical cocktail bar in Hunter Street Mall, Blue Kahunas is big on tiki vibes and fun. Opened in late-2018, this colourful venue is the work of "partners in business and life" Prudence Farquhar and Byron Marzinotto.
Blue Kahuna cocktail classes are held on Saturdays, generally between 2pm and 3pm, and run for around an hour-and-a-half. Three fruity cocktails are the focus of each class - East 8 Hold Up, Bahama Mama and Southside.
You'll need at least six people (and a 20 per cent deposit) to book the class, which also includes a wine, beer, or cider on arrival and tasty tropical antipasto boards to share. It costs $89 per person, with a non-alcoholic version available on request for $45 a head.
"We want everyone to have a fun time and enjoy themselves!" says Farquhar.
3/146 Hunter Street, Newcastle
The Koutetsu is a sophisticated and intimate little speakeasy bar on Hunter Street, which owner Chris Wilson opened in December 2014.
"We have an in-depth selection of all spirits, with a range of Australian gins and Japanese whiskies that dominate the back bar," says Wilson.
"This is paired with a complex yet approachable cocktail list that can be fully customised to suit your personal drinking style."
The Koutetsu cocktail classes are as fun as they are educational. Offered on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 4pm, they cost $110 per person. You'll need between six and 15 people to book. Private classes can also be arranged.
Grab a beer, wine, or sparkling on arrival and nibble shared platters during the class, where you'll learn how to make two seasonal classic cocktails and one nominated by the group.
555 Hunter Street, Newcastle West
Gin lovers wanting to delve a little deeper than cocktail classes will enjoy Earp Distilling Co.'s gin-making experiences. Opened in December 2019 by Michael and Richard Earp, the stylish Carrington-based bar, distillery, and spirit school offers two types of classes.
Their one-hour gin-blending class ($99 per person) sees participants choose from over 20 botanicals, which are added to an Earp base spirit and made into two 200ml bottles of bespoke gin to take home.
While Earp's gin school classes are more in-depth, running for two-hours and costing $350 for two people. Choose from over 100 botanicals and create a bespoke gin on a mini still while you sip a G&T, graze on a cheese platter, and learn about gin and distilling. Each pair takes home two 500ml bottles of the gin they made.
41 Darling St, Carrington
"Babylon opened four years ago. It is a sophisticated yet relaxed 1920s-inspired whisky, cocktail, and dining destination," says Babylon manager Philip Elsley.
The restaurant/bar is located on King Street in the grand old Central Hall, a beautiful historic former theatre built in 1903. An elegant backdrop for their cocktail masterclasses, which costs $99 a person and are run by appointment for groups of ten or more.
'The Shaker' masterclass includes a cocktail on arrival, cheese and charcuterie to share, with three cocktails covered in the session. Babylon also offer three tiers of whisky and gin-tasting sessions, ranging from $49 to $119 per person.
145 King Street, Newcastle
Want to try something a little different to the usual wine experiences on offer at Pokolbin? Take a cocktail class overlooking the sprawling vines of Roche Estate at the elegant Goldfish bar and restaurant.
Learn the basics of cocktail making in a fun and informal private class led by a Goldfish bartender, which includes making two classic and one mystery cocktail followed by a shared grazing-style lunch. Designed for two to six people, it costs $129 a head and you'll need to book ahead.
2144 Broke Rd, Pokolbin
Housed in the stunning heritage Bank Corner building in Newcastle West, Bar Mellow is the second venue of hospitality couple Prudence Farquhar and Byron Marzinotto.
"Bar Mellow is light, open, refined, and cosy. With classic cocktails and wine-focused, it's the perfect way to spend your afternoon," says Farquhar of the elegant bar they opened in October 2021.
Cocktail classes are a recent addition to the Bar Mellow offering. Like their sister venue, Blue Kahunas, sessions run for around one-and-a-half hours on Saturdays (generally between 1.30pm and 2.30pm) and you'll need a crew of at least six people and a 20 per cent deposit to book.
Enjoy share plates of cheese, focaccia, and cured meat along with a wine, beer, or cider on arrival, before making and drinking three cocktails - an Amaretto Sour, Elderflower Martini, and Brandy Crusta. Classes are $97 per person, or $50 for the non-alcoholic version.
Ground Floor, 744 Hunter Street, Newcastle West
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