"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee is brought to you by Miller Brewing Company, calling Milwaukee home since 1855. For the entire month of March, we're serving up fun articles on bars, clubs and beverages – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews, the results of our Best of Bars poll and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!
Free Pour, a new Milwaukee-based company, wants to de-mystify mixology for the home cocktail enthusiast.
"Our goal is to really bring things down to earth for people who want to know more," says Aubrey Dodd, bartender and owner of Free Pour. "We want to make cocktail accessible. I get so much joy from making cocktails, and it’s about teaching and sharing that experience with other people."
Dodd, who got her start in the hospitality industry as she worked her way through college, began bartending at Shakers in Walker’s Point while attending UW-Milwaukee. She says her intention was to attend law school after graduation. But her love for the work eventually made her rethink her plans.
"I kept bartending even after I graduated and was working as a paralegal," she explains. "In the end, it turned out I really loved bartending and I really hated law."
Dodd, who currently works as a bartender at The Outsider, the rooftop bar at the Kimpton Journeyman, says the idea for the cocktail-focused business developed organically.
"People were always coming to me for cocktail recipes or asking me to teach them how to make drinks," she says. "And when a friend suggested I turn it into a business, something clicked."
The same is true of the name, Free Pour, which she says is an homage to the days before she really understood the importance of measuring out each ingredient in a cocktail.
"When I was young, I thought I was so slick because I could free-pour an ounce of liqueur with my eyes closed," she says. "But, after years of learning from mentors who knew much much more than me, I came around to the fact that measuring everything is really necessary for balance."
Dodd says that, as the cocktail movement grows in Milwaukee, she’s noticed a growing number of people who want to be able to make a great drink at home.
"There’s a growing interest in cocktails," she notes. "And bartenders here in Milwaukee have really begun to push the movement forward by talking to people and opening them up to new things. Our goal is to take the pretension out of mixology and craft cocktails and teach people how they can create and enjoy cocktails at home."
Take a class
Free Pour takes the form of both public and private classes. For now, the classes take place in area bars, although Dodd says she's looking for a space that would serve as the home base for the company and it's offerings.
Public classes, which take place about once a month, last between an hour and an hour and a half and include both instruction on cocktail-making along with history and interesting facts about the spirits and ingredients used. The cost is $45 per person and includes three cocktails.
Meanwhile, Dodd says private classes are far more customizable.
"Each of the bartenders we work with has a different pool of knowledge," she says. "So we’re really able to call upon people with different areas of expertise to teach a wide range of classes, including making syrups, using bittering agents or even how to make cocktails from different parts of the world. And they’ve taken a variety of forms. We’ve done everything from bachelor and bachelorette parties to team-building activities."
Pricing, she says, is based on the size of the group and what they’re interested in doing. For smaller classes, the charge is usually based on the number of attendees. However, for larger scale classes and cocktail-making parties, which can include perks like bottomless champagne or food items, there’s a flat fee.
"Cocktails to me are so artistic and deep," she says. "Someone could tell me how they were feeling that day and I could put together something that would really make sense for them. But, we’re really open to people’s ideas when they ask for private classes."
In the end, Dodd says, it’s all about sharing knowledge.
"The more people know, the more they appreciate what’s out there," she says.
Try this at home
Are you stuck in a cocktail rut? Do you drink a margarita every time you go out? Dodd says this cocktail is a solution.
"This is a way to drink tequila that most people wouldn’t think of." she says. "It’s balanced and enjoyable, and it’s a great way to introduce people to the way a really carefully crafted cocktail can come together into this really beautiful, smooth classy drink."
1 ounce Reposado tequila
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce blanc vermouth
¼ ounce of creme de violette
(optional) dash of Bittercube orange bitters
Place all ingredients in a glass vessel and stir until ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Pour finished cocktail into a coupe glass. Sit back and be proud of what you’ve accomplished.
Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.
Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon.
Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.