Thursday, March 31, 2016

Campari America Women Cocktail & Spirits Writer Interview Series - Prairie Rose of Bit By a Fox

Today I am kicking off an exciting interview series in partnership with Campari America!  I am interviewing a handful of my favorite female cocktail and spirits writers on the scene, all ladies who know their libations and are as passionate about the spirits world as I am.

Prairie Rose from Bit by a Fox and the Boozy Babes is first up on deck, not only because she is the  OG Boozy Babe, but also because I miss her terribly (she just moved to LA).  Gone are the days of catching up in the back of taxi cabs zipping from one event to the next, at least until I get out to LA myself for a visit.

Prairie Rose of Bit By a Fox - Photo by Shannon Carpenter
Let me set the scene for today's interview: just imagine us in the back of a taxi, catching up like old times...

Gastronomista: I know you used to be an actress, how did you get involved with the Spirits Industry?

Prairie Rose:  Well, as an actress in NYC I wasn't very successful because I spent a lot of my time waiting tables and working in restaurants! But, because of that, I was introduced to fine wine - my introduction into spirits. When I left the restaurant industry, I studied to be a sommelier and actually wanted to pursue a Masters in Wine, but I got sidetracked with the spirits industry. Around 2007 state liquor laws were starting to change for the first time since Prohibition, allowing for small batch spirits production to flourish. People were also starting to get more sophisticated about what they were drinking when they were going out and what they were making at home. It was an exciting time to dip my toes into that world. When my plans to open a cocktail bar in Brooklyn didn't pan out, I tried to leverage the two years I had worked on that project and all of the cocktail recipes I created for it into the Bit by a Fox blog, started nearly three years ago now!

Gastronomista:  What inspires your cocktail recipes?

Prairie Rose:  Seasons are a big part of my inspiration. I'm a seasonal drinker and I always get excited about what ingredients are readily available and how they can be incorporated into a cocktail. I'm also inspired by the classics - Sazeracs, Old Fashioneds, Negronis, Daquiris...and while I like to drink pretty simply, I do love to see how I can put my own spin on something that's been made before.
Gastronomista:  What other cocktail writers inspire you and why?

Prairie Rose:  David Wondrich was the first cocktail writer I truly obsessed over. Imbibe is a must read for all aspiring cocktail nerds. And his cocktail column in Esquire is a go to. I love that he's a Cocktail Historian. But he's also just flat out, a great writer. I also love reading Jim Meehan's writing about cocktails and spirits. As a bartender, bar owner and veteran in the industry, he's been able to report from the front lines of the cocktail revolution with a lot of authority.  Jeffrey Morgenthaler is similar in that way but has a slightly different take. You get the feeling from his writing that he gets a lot of joy from the work that he does. And he's pretty hilarious. But there are SO many amazing writers in this industry. Kara Newman is truly an inspiration. She's the spirits editor for Wine Enthusiast, has published multiple cocktail books, is a sought after spirits journalist and still finds time to globe trot and develop cocktails for brands and publications. And because I'm a blogger, I find endless inspiration from the other bloggers in this community. I'm really inspired by the small handful of people who have chosen this little niche to focus on. They're so incredibly inventive and passionate and are super nerds. I'm honored to be a part of that group.

Gastronomista:  There’s been a big increase in interest for bitter flavors & amaro over the past few years. Where do you fall on the bitter spectrum and what do you think is next for this exciting category?

Prairie Rose:  I'm a HUGE fan of amaro and bitter liqueurs. But it's taken me a little while to get there. I don't think our culture incorporates enough bitter flavors into our cuisine and so we're not as used to it as the Italians. But that's starting to change. The rise in popularity of the Negroni and Aperol Spritz has been huge these last few years. I predict it will only go more in that direction. I think more people will discover drinking these spirits on their own before and after meals. I also predict Cynar will finally get its due in the mainstream drinking culture in the near future. I'm excited to see what the next cocktail craze will be to incorporate bitter liqueurs.

Gastronomista:  You just moved to LA, what are your new favorite cocktail haunts? What has most surprised you about the cocktail scene there?

Prairie Rose:  It will be two months tomorrow! That hasn't really been enough time for me to speak to the cocktail scene with any sort of authority, but I have noticed some things.... There is a TON of excitement around cocktails here. In a way that feels reminiscent to New York about 5 years ago. There's a lot of innovation going on and consumers are very much into it. Uber has pretty much changed how people go out and drink now. The bar scene especially downtown LA and the Arts District is flourishing. But there are still a bunch of places that surprisingly haven't gotten the memo, and their cocktail programs are hardly a consideration. That also feels a little behind in some ways. But, their Tiki scene is on point! LA has always led the way in this category. And now that Tiki is especially hot right now, a lot of these places are getting revisited and first timers are experiencing the magic of Tiki. Tiki Ti is one of my new favorites. And Good Luck Bar is just magical. The Coconut Club is a monthly supper club in town and they are doing truly inventive (and tasty!) tiki cocktails and cuisine. And the experience is so much fun!

Gastronomista:  What city do you think has the most exciting cocktail scene right now and why?
Prairie Rose:  Man, that's a really tough question. Last year alone I spent time in Reykjavik, London, Rome, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Miami, New York and Los Angeles and in each of those cities there is so much exciting stuff going on and so many passionate people behind it. New Orleans is special in that it is the birth place of the cocktail in a lot of ways and you are hard pressed to get a bad cocktail in that town unless you are drinking Hurricanes the entire time. But London blew me away. Between Bar Termini - a tiny Italian themed bar in Soho devoted to the Negroni, to Artesian, a hotel bar that specializes in cocktail theatrics to White Lyan, one of the most innovative cocktail lists I've ever seen...that translates into some of the most delicious cocktails I've ever tasted.

Gastronomista:  What's two great pieces of advice you have for someone interested in starting a spirits blog?  

Prairie Rose:  I'd say, if you are starting any kind of blog to read and follow as much as you can about that industry first. And then dive in! Don't worry about how it looks or being perfect because you'll never get started. The spirits industry is a tight community. Reach out! Make friends online. It's important to connect and share ideas and commiserate about this little world. It's a great one!
Gastronomista:  Campari America is sponsoring this series on women writers in the spirits industry.  Can you recommend a great recipe with some of their products?

Prairie Rose:  My New Year's cocktail the Piña Sparkler with Cynar 70 was SO yummy. And so easy to make. I highly recommend it!

The Piña Sparkler - Photo by Gastronomista

The Piña Sparkler 
Created by Prairie Rose of Bit By a Fox

Makes 3-4 cocktails

2 ounces Espolòn Añejo Tequila
2 ounces unsweetened pineapple juice
1 ounce Cynar 70
1/2 lime juice
Champagne split (1/4 regular sized bottle)

Add the tequila, Cynar 70 and juices to an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake until chilled. Strain even amounts into coupe glasses and top with Champagne.


The Piña Sparkler - Photo by Gastronomista
The Piña Sparkler - Photo by Gastronomista

The Piña Sparkler - Photo by Gastronomista

Styling Notes
Mixology Coupes - Waterford
Seamless Gold Jigger - Parched Penguin

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