A Disney Springs Afternoon With Cocktail Classes And Sangria Glasses
While the bulk of my days and weeks are spent reporting on the joys of downtown Orlando living, I love a little day trip to some of the local attractions that keep Central Florida grinding. So when I was offered a boy’s day adventure to Disney Springs, built around a craft cocktail class in a whimsical make-believe power station, I couldn’t say no.
The Edison has recently launched a new series of onsite cocktail classes that are one part workshop and another part just an excuse to drink a bunch of booze in the middle of the day. Which made it the perfect launch pad for an early evening of debauchery with a friend. The new Shaken & Stirred Cocktail Classes are meant as a hands-on opportunity for guests to learn from The Edison’s amazing master mixologists in an intimate setting and explore the basics of making a cocktail while also showcasing all the talent and skill of their awesome staff.
I attended a workshop hosted by The Edison cocktologists Chelsea Gilpin and Talon Steinhauer called “Classic Cocktails and Building on the Basics.” There were about six other people in the class but they can accommodate up to ten, so conversation was flowing easily and any time anyone had a question come up, we could just blurt it out and get an answer immediately. So small class sizes for the win. Tell your local school board official.
Each cocktail class is tailored to the interest of the group that signs up, and they last about two hours, which makes them a great way to break up an afternoon in Disney Springs; a) because you can get out of the hot sun and crowds with an adults-only activity, and b) because you can get a good buzzy base going before heading back out to hop your way around all of the fun bars and restaurants.
Classes are $100 per guest, and you learn at least two cocktails while you’re there with plenty of samples in between. We learned how to knock out a classic Old Fashioned and a Margarita, but I must have had about four different samples in between while we chatted about bitters, the difference between ryes and whiskeys, and mezcals and regular tequila. So I was well-pickled by the end when they sent me on my way with a brain full of new knowledge and an appetite for empty carbs.
As I stumbled out of the dark industrial interior of The Edison’s faux power plant, I was met by my friend and coworker Mike Donohue, who held my purse, fixed my eyeliner, and accompanied me to the conveniently adjacent Pizza Ponte to soak up some of my cocktail class and get our little dastardly Disney Dash started.
Pizza Ponte is a Sicilian-style pizza joint that serves quick Italian bites by the slice. Our PR friends told them we were coming so as soon as we showed up, they filled our trays with a startling amount of food ranging from more traditional slices to a homunculus pinwheel thing that really hit the spot. The Sicilian-style crust is thick and bouncy and deliciously chewy and pairs well with the spicier sauces that Pizza Ponte is doling out. The aforementioned pinwheel monstrosity is called the Bun Giorno, which my whiskey-addled brain found really really funny at the time. It’s essentially a garlic cheese bun rolled like a cinnamon bun but filled with mozzarella, provolone, roasted garlic, Parmigiano, and magic. And it instantly had me centered and sober and ready to tackle the rest of the tour. I should also say it came with a side of marinara for dunking that I sloppily used on almost everything else on the tray. A special nod is also deserved for the San Gennaro pizza, which really was more of a fancy focaccia, with a thick bready base, tomato sauce, mozzarella, fontina, sweet Italian sausage, onions, and hot peppers.
After we wiped the dairy and grease off of our faces, we skipped through the crowds to make our way over to Jaleo at Disney Springs, a beautiful Spanish restaurant and bar that took over the former Wolfgang Puck’s Grand Bistro building in 2019. Full disclosure, the last time I was in this building I was twenty years old and on a date with an older, much more handsome and interesting man, who helped me to discover an allergy to shellfish. Which I tried to drink away with his wine before we got kicked out and I never saw him again. Ah, youth.
I should also say, we had really polished off our tray at Pizza Ponte, thinking we were just checking out Jaleo’s popular Sangria Happy Hour and having a couple of drinks, but boy were we surprised when we saddled up to a table full of dishes to preview. And while I would have tried to contain myself and exercise better judgment, the manager was too gorgeous to say no to, and the food looked too good to turn away. So I undid a button and laid into it.
Jaleo’s popular Sangria Hour runs daily from 4-6 p.m. in the back bar area, which overlooks the adjacent lake full of amphibious Cadillacs and mini speed boats bumping around. They offer a robust tapas menu with items like pan con tamate (bread with tomato, but fancy), a refreshing gazpacho with tomatoes and cucumbers, and these little cones of goat cheese, oranges, and almonds that the aforementioned hot manager told us were designed by the chef to be the “perfect bite.” And he wasn’t wrong. The textures and flavors were spot on.
The croquetas were truly remarkable, as they arrived to the table on a ceramic pillow, as a nod to Cinderella’s slipper. It was so opulent and ridiculous at the same time, that I instantly fell in love. I dare you not to drop those little potato bombs in your mouth with an elaborate drag queen/salt bae finish. It’s impossible to resist. Hot manager friend told me that they take multiple days to make, and I believed him. They were super yummy and really special, and in the end I think they really earned the right to be served on a pillow like Miss Piggy arriving to a party in a Cleopatra wig.
As for the drinks, the frozen sangria wasn’t nearly as good as the unfrozen sangria (it was the clear front runner). It had way more flavor than its icy counterpart and it even looked cuter for the ‘Gram. Do with that as you will.
We lingered at Jaleo a little longer than we had planned, as the AC and view were just perfect, and there was a notable (and welcome) absence of kids and young families. Not that there’s anything wrong with kids in public places, but I don’t need to hear them screaming while I’m lifting fancy tater tots off of pillows and into my mouth and living my best fancy Spanish-inspired happy hour life.
The surprise cornucopia of food that had greeted us at Jaleo should have registered as a foreshadowing of what was to come when we finally found our way into our last destination.
As we made our way into the dining room past discarded Britney Spears tracksuits and framed nerdy Star Trek uniforms into the large projection battle dome that is Planet Hollywood’s dining room, I was confronted with the possibility that I may be going home with leftovers.
Planet Hollywood is known for serving their food with a little bit of excess; their sample platter comes out in a Ferris wheel of fried foods, including nachos, chicken wings, and more. The milkshakes are like the crustacean-ridden faces of the sailors from “Pirates of the Caribbean,” but instead of barnacles, they’re encrusted with sprinkles and marshmallows and the hopes and dreams of a younger me that wasn’t so full of sugar, and sangria, and pizza, and old-fashioned cocktails. They even come topped with slices of cake, making them ideal for special occasions and birthdays. Which the table next to us from Wisconsin happened to be celebrating so we quickly offloaded them on their table with a knowing wink and some finger guns to say, “We’re influencing,” and “You’re getting free stuff because you’re cool.” We tried a little bit of everything at Planet Hollywood, including their decadent prime rib, a must-try!
The drink menu is insane. Just like the milkshakes and Ferris wheel of Fried Doom, the cocktails are also a celebration of gleeful gluttony. The VIP Celebrity Margarita comes out in a stemmed 36-ounce fish bowl and if you look into it long and intently enough, you can see your future laid out before you. A future where you’re curled up on a couch watching Netflix, full of yummy calories you raked up on your Disney Springs adventure of excess. Those Wisconsinites had no idea they’d be getting four free cocktails, three milkshakes, Twice-Cooked Buffalo Wings, and a Nachos Grande plate for free when they chose Planet Hollywood for a late lunch.
I had to take some time to walk all of that off before driving home, and my friend Mike may have had a nap in his car that afternoon, but we both left with a smile on our faces and ten pounds heavier than we were before.