Groupon Fail Cocktail Adventures: Will et Cie Cocktail Classes

Will et Cie

10 Place du Colonel Bourgoin
75012 Paris
Tel: 06 59 92 10 57

Recently, I took a full day off the computer. When I logged on the following morning I had close to 50 mails. I deleted every single one without reading. Being online most of the time, I bin things as they come in so I never realized just how much junk comes into my box on a daily basis. A large portion of these mails are Groupons, which come so frequently, I’ve stopped reading them. Unless…the word ‘cocktail’ catches my eye. And, that’s how I ended up buying a Groupon for a cocktail class at Will et Cie. For 45 Euros (instead of 119 Euros) I got a pass for two to learn to shake “two or three” cocktails, bake goodies to go with them, and partake in a ‘warm and convivial’ tasting after – all in one hour!

So, Mel and I rocked up to the tiny studio that serves as their classroom. This space is adorable as a studio apartment. But, as a professional classroom, not so much. The large flat screen TV played old Buffy reruns, the frisky house pup jumped about licking classmates’ fingers and the fridge was stocked with, well, the same things mine’s stocked with: half of last night’s dinner, bits and bobs. But, then again, I’m not running a cooking class out of my house.

A friendly and pleasant instructor broke us into three groups of two and set us each to a different baking project. I was assigned the savory gateaux au yaourt while the others worked on cookie type things and mini-muffins. I was slightly surprised by the simplicity of what we were learning. I was mixing up something that children learn to bake at an early age in France. But, it’s not like they were teaching me to put Cheezewhiz on Ritz crackers, so I rolled with it. As she instructed, she periodically called up to a man lounging in the little loft just above the kitchen (Will, I presume?) to ask how much of what ingredient went into which dish. I wasn’t expecting Alain Ducass, but I was hoping the person teaching would actually know how to do it themselves.
Once the baked goods were in the oven, the cocktails commenced. And rather than “two or three” we were to learn one: the Cosmo. A shaker, Smirnoff, lime syrup, triple sec and Oceanspray were set out and she instructed Mel on how to make it. She had her pour the ingredients into the shaker (without ice) and while I don’t remember her proportions, I do remember thinking at the time that they were surprisingly accurate. Given what I had seen up to this point, I had expected some bastardized version of the Cosmo calling for copious amounts of cranberry and a drop of vodka. Then she gave us the ‘secret’ to making a good cosmopolitan: use just two ice cubes and shakes it until they melt. Sigh….

After Mel did so, she asked us which glasses we’d like to use. Our choices: tumblers or wine balloons. Call me an overdemanding traditionalist, but if you’re going to charge people to come to a class to learn about a specific cocktail, wouldn’t you maybe splash out a tenner at Ikea to get the proper style of glass? We went for the wine balloons. And, the cosmo tasted pretty much as I expected a watery and too warm mixture of the above ingredients.
About this time the finger foods were coming out of the oven and tasting began. But, the strange thing was we were all just tasting what we made. There was no instruction or suggestion to share with the group. Having a wealth of mini-savory cakes, Mel and I offered ours up to the class. But, no one else did, rather boxing them up in the provided to go containers to gorge on them all alone later. If we aren’t all going to taste everything, what was the point of us all being there at the same class or making different things?
And there’s more. After Mel made our drinks, the instructor cleared away the ingredients. The other four students neither made nor at the very least tasted the cocktail of the “cocktail workshop.” In fact, she pleasantly shuffled them along once they filled their boxes while offering us the opportunity to make a second one if we wished. She was so cheerful and friendly, but this whole thing just seems wrong on so many levels that I’m really just shaking my head here.
Their website is cute and looks professional enough. They seem to be partnered with other professional-type businesses. I even noticed that some of my acquaintances in the cocktail world like their page on Facebook. It was the twilight zone of cocktail courses. All external indicators point to something useful and fun, but the reality is entirely different. If I were Will, I would completely change my marketing on this one. Rather than presenting it as an apero dinatoire and cocktails workshop I’d play it as a class on “Entertaining on a shoestring” or “Entertaining with an empty fridge” because we weren’t learning gastronomically interesting things. We were working with minimum, cheap ingredients and very simple recipes.
I debated on posting this for awhile because our instructor was so nice and they seem so woefully out of their league that it feels almost cruel. But, I got to thinking: we get enough junk mail and junk experiences in life that clog up our time. So, I decided to post so you know you can just delete that mail on the Will et Cie Cocktail Workshop Groupon immediately when it pops into the inbox.

9 thoughts on “Groupon Fail Cocktail Adventures: Will et Cie Cocktail Classes

  1. Really good to know – sounds like they've managed to fool cocktail novices but aren't prepared for the already erudite like yourself! How disappointing. Thank you for preventing us all from making the same mistake!

  2. Very good post. No harm in telling the truth and explaining your experiences. Hopefully the course instructor will also read and take onboard what you have said and change the way the course is run. They should not be afraid of constructive criticism if it leads to improving the workshop. They should invite you back in a months time!

  3. I admire your ability to follow through on and give the ol' college try to what you probably knew in your heart of hearts would be an insipid pile of bullshit. (Whereas I simply write everything off as such before even trying, which will someday come back to bite me in the ass.)

  4. Having done events out of our teeny apartment, I'm kind of in awe of how bad your experience was. I mean, I know that it can be a challenge to host people in your personal space, but at that price point, there's a level of professionalism that is just implied! Thanks for taking one for the team!

  5. That's a shame Forest, and thanks for giving us your feedback. I was lucky enough to get a group buy by some other smaller copy of groupon to the lessons of the excellent Stephen Martin in his Jazz Club Étoile. I was delighted by his lessons, he really puts effort on it showing his personal collection of cocktail books and vintage bar tools. The Ramos Gin Fizz made in his giant shaker up to 4 serves was my favourite! The only weak point was I didn't really approved his "Réponse à Colin Peter Field" cocktail (I have actually never liked cocktails using apple juice).

  6. This is so sad. What is with the french and their fear of ice cubes! Drives me freakin'insane! and I married a Frenchman so it's no ice cubes for the rest of my life!!!! AHHHHHHHH!

  7. Sentimental Suicase: I know! i have one of those tiny fridges with the icebox the size of a shoe box. i had to buy a seperate freezer for my little apartment, just to have a place to make plenty of ice! 🙂

  8. Ugh, shudder! I hate the whole concept of groupon but that's another story. Being someone who is in the food business and also teaches classes from time to time, this is just disgraceful to read about. Especially if I'm sorry did you say the regular price is 119 euro per person??? Even at 45 euros per person, that is outrageous! Next time, come take a cupcake class with me — it's less expensive, I'll teach you two recipes and you get to take home 5 cupcakes you have made during the class! 🙂

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