Nearly a year into the pandemic, the phrase “Zoom Happy Hour” may elicit a groan. Sneaky Spirit Social Club is here to change that. Brooklyn Bartenders Liz Norment and Zach Eichenhorn launched virtual offerings last June, offering a mixture of spirits education and socializing. Prior to the pandemic, they worked at Le Fanfare and had hosted a few speakeasy style events at their apartment. The pair, who met working at now shuttered Barley, has spent a collective 17 years in Greenpoint and brainstormed the idea over Negronis one Sunday at the St. Agrestis and Greenhook Ginsmiths tasting room. Now, they’ve partnered with those brands and others for their classes, which ship cocktail ingredients, tinctures, and custom playlists to people across the country.
While there are many challenges to launching during a pandemic, the biggest one “has been starting a business with your partner while also sharing a space and being in isolation from normal life,” explain Norment and Eichenhorn. They’ve built this company in a 600 square foot apartment, where “finding a balance is almost impossible.” Once it’s safe to gather, they hope to host in person speakeasies.
After a busy holiday season, the work has paid off. They’ve hosted corporate gatherings, bringing remote workers together. A real highlight, said Norment, has been events when “you have a family who is spread over the US who wants us to virtually host their normal holiday get-together, or friends who assumed they wouldn’t get to spend New Year’s together, and then they’re all opening the same box, they’re all cracking jokes with each other, they’re participating in the same activity and sipping the same drinks, it creates this feeling that transcends restrictions and boundaries. And that has been incredibly rewarding.”
Class offerings range from an entirely custom experience with spirits, syrups, garnishes and tinctures to a $75 “Show Us Your Bar Cart” package. “Our goal isn’t just to arm you with the tools needed to do one class, but also to build out your bar cart. We ship out enough goods to make several cocktails, even after our Zoom call ends,” Norment explains. The starting package helps drinkers learn new cocktails using ingredients they already own, with some fun additions, like the tinctures sold on their site.
Looking to step up your cocktail game? Norment and Eichenhorn suggest adding bar spoons, “A commonly overlooked item in your average bar cart. And by extension, a proper mixing/stirring glass is also missing. Unless you’ve got a Negroni or Martini lover, you typically find that people don’t really do too much stirring of their drinks at home. However, once we introduce our guests to the “stirred side” of the bartending world you open a whole new portal of cocktail exploration.”
On the spirits front, they recommend branching out to “Something different like a dark rum, an anejo tequila, a tobala mezcal. Also, most people are familiar with Sweet Vermouth, or Campari- expanding that to explore Blanc Vermouth, or St. Agrestis Inferno Bitter to replace Campari, for instance, is a great way to enhance your bar cart. We also love anything with a secret recipe made by monks, like Benedictine and Chartreuse.”
The price, Norment explains, will be determined, “once you let us know what spirits and number of cocktails you prefer, how many people you expect to participate, and what dates are available, we work with clients to build a menu that fits their budget.” And next time you’re on a Zoom happy hour, consider making a playlist and trying some new drink recipes. The best events happen when “there’s a slight sense of vulnerability, of not really knowing what you’re doing or how to do it, but everyone is learning together. We also create a custom playlist for each class, so that makes everyone feel like they’re in the same room, partying together. And by the second cocktail, everyone is having such a good time, it hardly feels like we’re stuck on a Zoom together.”