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Omnivore - H. Harper Station's staff education meeting: Scotch 101

H. Harper Station teaches Atlanta about alcohol on Thursday nights

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Last Thursday, I went to H. Harper Station’s weekly staff education meeting. It’s a new thing the restaurant is doing — inviting people to come learn about the different types of alcohol at their bar, so that their customers can be (theoretically) as educated as their staff, and can stop bothering their staff with dumb questions. I went on the second week of the event; their first open meeting was all about bourbon, and I sat in on Scotch 101.

The meeting was held in the front of the restaurant, which was separated from the back by a curtain. We sat down with about ten other guests at a long wooden table, adorned with big and small mason jars and small tasting glasses. The tasting and learning lasted about an hour and was led by Callie Schlosser, one of H. Harper Station’s owners and leaders of the bar program, with owner and head barkeep Jerry Slater pouring the Scotch and adding some of his knowledge here and there.

The meeting was basically taught like a class — the history of Scotch, the different ways it’s made, the dramas that ensue when people disagree on how it should be made — but a friendly, comfortable class where you weren’t afraid to ask questions or admit that you knew absolutely nothing about Scotch. We sampled five different Scotches with varying degrees of strength — from regular, whoosh to your head alcohol taste to so peaty it tasted like drinking a campfire — and learned a little about each one and why they tasted the way they did. Then, we’d pour out our leftover Scotch into the big mason jars, and watch in dismay as the unwanted scotch levels grew and grew. Unfortunately, no one at my side of the table seemed to be too keen on the drink — our mason jar had more than double the amount at the end of the meeting than the other three had.