Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans' massive spirits trade show, isn't the only booze conference Mai Thai bartender Michael Reed attends each year (see Food, this page). In 2014, Reed has traveled to Phoenix for sake accreditation and visited Sonoma, Napa and San Francisco to take (and pass) a sommelier exam. And, of course, Tales, in July.
"In a couple of weeks, I go to Camp Runamok, which is a bourbon camp sponsored by the whiskey distilleries," said Reed. "Then after that, Portland Cocktail Week and then we'll do Chicago and probably San Diego this year."
Reed's accumulated booze knowledge will be put to the test when Mai Thai launches Sunday School, a spirited weekly educational event. For around $25 a person, students will get a flight of booze, food pairings and a lesson on what they're drinking. Topics will cover everything from "how to taste and smell like a sommelier" to "how to build a home bar." The first Sunday School class, which is tentatively slated for the second week of September, will cover bourbon.
Brian Livesay, who also attended Tales, is distilling his knowledge into a lineup of classes at The Mode that will cost $60 each and take place every six to eight weeks.
"There's a wide world out there and we just want to share that with people," said Livesay, Mode general manager. "I'm finding a lot of people in Boise that come in and sit down and want to know more. They want to know more about the beer they're drinking, they want to know more about the wine and they definitely want to know more about the cocktails."
The Mode's first class will take place Monday, Aug. 25, and will also cover whiskey, which Livesay admits "is a huge, huge topic" to go over in two to three hours.
"You'll get tastes of several different cocktails; you'll get tastes of several different alcohols," said Livesay. "Basically we're going to provide $60 worth of food and drink for every participant, and then the class is just kind of icing on the cake."
Future booze class topics at The Mode include tequila, wine, and bitters and amaros.
"If there's enough interest we may do a class just on scotch or just on bourbon," said Livesay. "There's a lot out there."