ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Created in 2006 by Chief Tasting Officer Tammy Coxen, Ann Arbor-based Tammy’s Tastings takes people on a tour of their tastebuds.
While the tasting company also offers food-based classes, it is most known for its public cocktail classes which were offered at The Last Word.
“My classes are very interactive and hands-on,” Coxen said, adding that part of what made the in-person classes great was how participants could socialize and pass ingredients or drinks around.
“So when everything came down, I was like ‘Ok, that’s not going to work anymore,’ and ‘what is it that I can do to keep my business going and keep connecting with my customers’ " said Coxen, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic and how was important for her to keep interacting with her customers.
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So, she moved the public cocktail classes to Zoom. After some experimenting on friends, she figured out a recipe that translated her in-person classes online.
The virtual classes are small and only cost $15 per household. Each is capped at 11 participating households, which may be one or a few people. Coxen said that she’s had couples, small friend groups and parents with adult children try out a class.
Each Tammy’s Tastings cocktail class is around one hour -- depending on how chatty participants are. In that time, Coxen educates on the history of some drinks, demonstrates techniques, gives attendees a chance to mix their own and offers helpful tips.
She said the online platform has been great for the storytelling aspect of each class. She can include audio-visuals like slides, pictures, videos and diagrams, and more stories.
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Before a class, participants receive a list of ingredients, including recommended brands, that they will need. Eight to 10 drink recipes are also included. All of the recipes are discussed during the class, “but the idea is ‘pick drinks that you like, pick drinks that you have the ingredients to make.‘ ”
“I try to pick drinks for people who have one bottle and a trip to the grocery store or for people with weird, obscure cocktail ingredients and they want a chance to use them,” said Coxen.
The Tammy’s Tastings classes are designed for a wide range of people on different cocktail learning journeys and many revolve around a single spirit, like bourbon or gin.
After each class, Coxen also sends participants an email with links to resources and an evaluation form.
Smaller classes mean more classes for Coxen. She used to teach between two and four public in-person classes per month, now she is teaching two to four per week.
As an extrovert being stuck at home is hard for Coxen but the online classes let her socialize and grow her business internationally. She has class participants in Ireland, Amsterdam, Canada, England and from across the US.
So far, there have been 20 different Tammy’s Tastings online classes. Coxen said that she plans to offer more as soon as she can translate what was taught in-person to a friendly digital format.
Although some of her customers have asked her to start public in-person classes, Coxen said that isn’t feasible right now.
“One, I just wouldn’t want to risk anybody getting sick because of coming to one of my events,” she said. “And I also think that the ways that we would have to change them to meet the guidelines and to be safe would make them much less fun for people.”
Some participants even prefer the online cocktail courses. “I’ve actually have people who say, ‘I like online classes better than in-person ones,’ " Coxen said.
For now, she plans to keep offering the online format even when she is able to offer in-person classes again.
Currently, Tammy’s Tastings isn’t offering food-based classes but it does offer private online drink classes and very small in-person events.
Want to take a class or learn more about spirits? Check out the Tammy’s Tastings website for a class schedule and a cocktail blog.
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