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Mix, Shake, and Stir

El Segundo's R6 Distillery hosts hands-on cocktail-making classes this holiday season. You're invited.

By Meredith Hayman

Have you ever tried to make your favorite cocktail at home, but it somehow fell short of the bartender’s version? Curious about what goes into making punch for a crowd? Wondering what really separates one variety of whiskey from another? Happily, Meredith Hayman, Cocktail Director at El Segundo-based R6 Distillery at the Smoky Hollow Tasting & Taproom, feels you, and she invites you to the distillery to experience its hands-on cocktail-class offerings. 

Cocktail-Making 101

R6 Distillery was established in 2014 in El Segundo by Rob Rubens. (See The El Segundo Scene’s previous coverage of the distillery in its July 2018 issue.) Rob’s goal for the business was to provide a memorable experience for patrons through service, education, and quality spirits⸺all while bringing people together. To that end, his distillery not only produces Los Angeles First Bourbon and other spirits and specializes in both whiskey and vodka, it also offers the community fun, hands-on education in specific spirits-related topics, such as rum, tiki cocktails, how to craft the perfect Old Fashioned, and, currently, holiday punches. Each class dives into a brief history of the cocktail or spirit used and how to make the classic rendition. Following the lesson, everyone gets a chance behind the bar to craft his or her own concoction. The real fun, Meredith says, is actually being behind a working bar and having access to everything you need and would otherwise not have at home. Each R6 cocktail class incorporates R6 grain-to-glass spirits to allow participants to really taste and understand the nuances of what creates super-high-quality spirits, she adds.

Meredith Hayman poses with cocktail ingredients behind a bar
Cocktail Director Meredith Hayman teaches cocktail-making classes at R6 Distillery

During a recent class on Old Fashioneds and Manhattans, for instance, class participants got to sample six brands of vermouth to pair with an R6 whiskey and more than 20 types of bitters to concoct their ideal Manhattan (not a perfect Manhattan, as that would include both dry and sweet vermouth⸺a fun fact students learned in class). Students created combinations of chocolate, sweet vermouth, and R6 Blue Corn Bourbon, or lemongrass with dry vermouth and R6 Wheat Whiskey, as other students carefully selected their ingredients. 

In every R6 cocktail class, Meredith says, everyone gets an opportunity to taste each others’ creations, provide feedback, and share their recipe with the group. Jenn Smith, a recent cocktail-class participant, says she loved receiving the recipe book filled with the traditional cocktails taught at R6, which she uses at home “when she needs inspiration,” and she also appreciated the ideas and recipes from her fellow classmates. “It’s fun to see how other people interpret the recipes and come up with creations I would not think to try⸺but are delicious!” she adds.

Students at cocktail class pose in the bar
Cocktail-class participants at R6 Distillery

Channel Your Inner Bartender

Ready to shake, mix, and stir things up yourself? Classes are typically held one Saturday and/or Sunday a month and led by Meredith, who brings a diverse and deep spirits background and knowledge to the class while providing hands-on guidance throughout. Check out the full run of classes at Private classes also available for your next event or party. Email Meredith for more information. 

Meredith Hayman is Cocktail Director at R6 Distillery at the Smoky Hollow Tasting & Taproom. 

This story appears in the December 2019 issue of The El Segundo Scene.

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