Keith Raimondi (L), head bartender at Townsend and an adjunct professor at Drexel, will teach "Mixology and Spirits." Photo credit: BMK Photography.
Gone are the days of restaurant bar menus offering only the most basic of drink options, from a gin and tonic to a vodka soda. Now, sophisticated, innovative cocktails have become a staple, and drinks are expected to be as carefully crafted as the food the establishment serves.
Demystifying the process of making cocktails – from the classic to the creative – is just one aspect of “Spirits and Mixology,” a new class in Drexel University’s Center for Hospitality and Sport Management, which is open to a limited number of members of the general public. The class also will explore the history, processes and uses of major spirits, emphasizing the foundations of creating a bar program, calculating recipe costs and implementing proper service guidelines.
“Until recently, restaurants didn’t place much emphasis on bar programs and often left them as afterthoughts,” said Paul O’Neill, director of special projects for the Center for Hospitality and Sport Management. “But now, bar programs have flourished due to the demands of the savvier restaurant patron, a return to more foundational techniques, a respect for the product and the overall potential for money to be made through a bar program that distinguishes the establishment from its counterparts.”
The course will be taught by Keith Raimondi, head bartender at Townsend and an adjunct professor at Drexel.
“Keith is one of the city’s best bartenders, having years of experience creating successful bar programs everywhere from Chifa and Lemon Hill to his current position at Townsend,” said O’Neill.
Using the bar and lounge area of Drexel’s Academic Bistro (Paul Peck Problem-Solving Building, 101 N. 33rd St.) as a classroom, the ten-week course will focus on the fundamentals of preparing and serving classic and craft cocktails. Each week will focus on a specific spirit as well as the distillation process. The students will then create a cocktail list and a patented cocktail of their own. Class sessions take place on Tuesdays from 6 – 9 p. m. beginning on March 30.
As part of the coursework, students will read “Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to ‘Professor’ Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar Featuring the Original Formulae” by David Wondrich.
The course, open to current Drexel students (must be 21 years of age), will also have a limited number of seats available to the general public for $595 as non-credit continuing professional education. Registration is now open to the public here.
“Spirits and Mixology” is the latest course being offered through Drexel’s Beverage Studies Initiative. The initiative is a broader attempt at bringing industry research and skills to the experiential level and to provide a richer learning experience for those looking to expand their beverage-industry knowledge and proficiency. Additional courses will be offered in wine, beer, food and beverage pairings, equipment operations and communications and sales.
Seats in several of the Center for Hospitality and Sport Management’s courses this year will be open to the public as continuing professional education for industry professionals or serious laypeople.
As head bartender at Townsend on Passyunk Avenue in Philadelphia, Raimondi oversees the restaurant’s exceptional drink selections. His inventive, seasonally influenced cocktails quickly earned a loyal following among the city’s drinkers and have also garnered critical acclaim.
Prior to joining Chef Wentz at Townsend, Raimondi spent two years as the general manager at Lemon Hill, where his bold beverage program and straightforward, welcoming approach to hospitality earned critical praise. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Craig LaBan wrote that “I took a sip of [Raimondi’s] Old Fashioned – a backbone of good Buffalo Trace bourbon with an earthy clove whiff of Bitter Truth bitters – and I instantly understood…there’s plenty for the with-it urban family to eat at this revived Fairmount-area pub…but there’s little doubt (even at brunch) that the greatest draws to Lemon Hill are flowing from the bar…my new favorite cure-all.”
Before joining the team at Lemon Hill, Raimondi honed his skills at Jose Garces’ JG Domestic, Village Whiskey and Chifa, where he helped to create the ambitious beverage programs that complement the Iron Chef’s fare. He joined Garces Group as a bartender at Philadelphia landmark Amada and worked at Tinto and Distrito, developing cocktails and executing the group’s notoriously high service standards.
In addition to his restaurant work, Raimondi has long served as a cocktail consultant, creating all of the cocktails for Chef Garces’ The Latin Road Home (Lake Isle Press, Fall 2012), as well as contributing a recipe to April White’s Philadelphia Chef’s Table (Lyons Press, Fall 2012). He has appeared on Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue” as a consultant and works as a brand ambassador for Pernod-Ricard, serving as Philadelphia’s English gin connoisseur.