When I took over Health Happy Hour in early May, I decided to take a fresher, healthier, seasonally-inspired spin on cocktails, infusing fresh ingredients into traditional cocktails, or taking already good for you ingredients and making them happy hour ready.
The book, “Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails” has inspired many beautiful and delicious drinks, so I wanted to know where the authors got their inspiration. Eric Prum, one half of the authors of Shake, took a moment to share a few goodies with me.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves and how Shake came to be.
Josh and I were first-year college roommates. When I walked into our dorm room, he had a stack of cookbooks by his bed. It took me by surprise. What college guy has a stack of cookbooks beside his bed? But then he took 2 years off to go to culinary school in Italy, and when he returned we started a catering company. Peach-infused bourbon in mason jars became our trademark. People loved seeing the infusions in the mason jars, and it wasn’t long before the mason shaker came along. We’ve since developed a line of barware for West Elm, written this book, and are now selling a homemade DIY gin kit.
The tagline of your book is, “a new perspective on cocktails”. What does that mean to you?
Cocktails should be simple, social, and fun. And making a drink should be as fun and interesting as making any other seasonal dish: relevant to the time of year, delicious, and easy, not mysterious or overly complex. Cocktails are an equally important component to a meal or social gathering.
What’s your take on our idea of a “Healthy Happy Hour”?
That’s a huge part of our book. We include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and try to focus on drinks that don’t use simple syrups or sodas. Instead, we use natural ingredients to derive sweetness (like fruit, honey, raw demerara sugar) as opposed to sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup that are typically found in store-bought drinks. People tend to try to mask the flavour of alcohol with sweetness. We try to create drinks where you can taste all of the ingredients. If the cocktail has 4 components, for example, then you should taste all 4.
You find seasonal inspiration in your approach to making cocktails. Why is that important to you?
We throw a dinner or cocktail party every weekend and we use ingredients that are fresh because they taste the best. It’s the same thing when it comes to drinks. We think that you should drink the same way that you eat.
What seasonal ingredients do you tend to put into your drinks?
In the summer, most fruit is pretty good, but selection changes by region. In New York, peaches and berries are in season in the summer. Vegetables like cucumbers and celery are also abundant and can be incredibly interesting to incorporate into cocktails. In the winter, you can’t get really fresh fruit or vegetables as easily, so we recommend trying something else that tends to show up in your market that time of year, like a good maple syrup. Overall, we suggest checking out what’s good in your market throughout the year and being a little adventurous. For example, we just made a farmers market-inspired cocktail with avocado in it.
If you only had $100, what essentials would you put in your home bar?
A good bourbon, vodka, gin, and rum—it doesn’t need to be the highest end, but it should be non-abrasive and well-balanced.
What can we expect from you guys in the coming year?
We developed an infuser for a mason jar for things like flash-infused spirits and infused vinegars. We’re also working on a second book on infusions in food and spirits, which will be published in Spring 2015.
What’s a favourite summer recipe that you could share with us?
Makes Two Drinks
1. Add the cane sugar cube, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries to the shaker. Muddle the ingredients in the bottom of the shaker until thoroughly crushed.
2. Add the rosé, Cointreau, and ice to above the level of the liquid, and shake briefly for 3 seconds.
3. Strain the mixture into tumblers containing large cubes of ice and garnish with remaining berries.