Quietly opening its doors but a few weeks ago, Gustology is still a well-kept secret.
Owner Marco Guerrero had the idea for Gustology while closing his first bar, Gusto. The small watering hole was located near Bahia Azul in The Alley on Bitters, and focused on a farm-to-bar concept. But the family man and father of four decided to take a pass on bar life and give a new idea, Gustology, a shot.
In the most simple of terms, Gustology provides cocktail education. After witnessing the success of painting-while-sipping classes, Guerrero, 32, introduced the concept minus the paint palettes. Coincidentally, Gustology sits next to a Vino van Gogh, in the same shopping center that houses several art studios.
A marketing professional by trade, Guerrero’s venture into cocktails was self-taught, which helps drive the stress-free atmosphere of the Gustology home. Much like Planet Fitness, this is a judgment-free zone, though Guerrero does have a bit of cachet: His father was part of the sales team that helped introduce Corona beer to the US.
Guerrero designed the space as “raw-industrial and modern,” the gray walls are accented only by local artist Carla Veliz’s large canvas. For now, the bar area accommodates 10-12 students, but Guerrero will be adding tall bar tables in the coming days.
The class starts with introductions into Gustology. To be sure, this isn’t a bar and guests aren’t buying liquor. Instead, to square with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, booze is complimentary and used for instructional purposes only. A point that the business-savvy Guerrero likes to stress is that his drinks are mixed using one-ounce pours instead of the usual one-and-a-half.
“I’d like for people to think of this as something to do similar to going to the movies, or dinner,” Guerrero said.
I joined the mix master for a test-run last Wednesday. The online menu consisted of a fresh apple martini, a Dirty Shirley (though Guerrero switched it for a surprisingly tasty pumpkin spice martini in class) and a skinny marg.
Before each class, Guerrero sets up all of the necessary utensils: a stainless steel shaker, a pair of jiggers, a pint glass and glassware. The lesson started with a crash course on how to shake glass. It sounds simple enough and looks so effortless when bartenders do it behind the bar, but taking the matter into my own hands was a bit nerve-wracking. After three drinks, you’re either going to get the hang of it, or you’ll have enough confidence to not worry about whacking the pint glass on the counter (several times).
The cost analysis is also a reason to give these classes a shot: Guests are going to spend just as much money, if not more, buying specific liquors to create three drinks. And when’s the last time you made simple syrup?
The November drink list consists of a few classics (an Old Fashioned here, a Sidecar there, a dry martini to end the month), while also catering to its audience: Alamo Heights moms and early 30-somethings. You’ll find fruity concoctions like cranberry and apple Old Fashioneds and a pomegranate margarita.
Fans of Gusto will be able to enjoy signature drinks such as the Cupeño and the St. Pierre soon enough, but for now the idea behind the late bar is stillalive at Gustology. The ingredients are fresh and the liquor is local or eco-friendly (Guerrero’s currently using 360 Vodka, which requires less energy and materials to make, as one of his main spirits).
Attendees can expect to learn how to muddle, strain and yes, shake, while surrounded by friends in this very hands-on environment. The take-home gift of printed recipes and a marked pint glass that spells out margarita ingredients is a sweet bonus.
“There’s a psychology behind it,” Guerrero said, “you’re having fun with your friends; it’s going to make you want to go home and try the recipes.”