Saturday, April 30, 2016

Campari America Women Cocktail & Spirits Writer Interview Series - Carey Jones

My second interview in my Campari America Women Spirits Writer series is with Carey Jones, a devastatingly intelligent woman I have been lucky enough to travel with and toast many cocktails with over the years.  Her writing is always surprising and speaks to the cocktail zeitgeist - she has a keen eye for trends (and awesomely delicious drinks).  This year she is releasing her first book called Brooklyn Bartender, a book that highlights innovative cocktails made in Brooklyn at the height of the borough's popularity, and yes, you should buy it.

Photo by Lucy Schaeffer

Gastronomista:  You have what many would call a dream job - you travel the world, drink amazing things, and then you get paid to write about it.  How did you get started writing about travel and cocktails?
Carey Jones:  I began freelance journalism straight out of college -- I'd known for a while I wanted to write, so I moved to New York and tried to make it happen. It was a struggle -- I don't know why anyone let me write for them at age 22, and I got about one response (usually a "no") per 50 pitch letters. But the magical thing about starting out in this world is that every article you write, you've had to pitch yourself -- so you realize pretty quickly what you're interested in. "Oh, every idea I've had has been restaurants, cocktails, or travel. Hmm."

I eventually took a full-time job at the food site Serious Eats, where my days were filled with cheeseburgers and sandwiches -- less wine, fewer cocktails. But even within the world of food writing, I always leaned toward drinks and travel. When I went freelance again three years ago, I was thrilled to get to explore these subjects more deeply.

Gastronomista:  What have been some of your favorite places to visit and why?
Carey Jones:  Cuba. I've been twice in the last year. It's become a cliché to rave about how transportive and gorgeous and singular Cuba is. And to some extent, everything you hear is true -- the '57 Chevys, the Havana Club and cigars. But it's not an easy place to travel. It's a complicated place to be a tourist, logistically, ethically -- we go nuts over the crumbling colonial buildings and antique cars, but those are visible signs of poverty; tourists want Cuba to be "frozen in time," but Havana is not Epcot Center. People aren't driving old cars because they're vintage -- it's necessity. Traveling there, your brain is in overdrive. If the idea of travel is to explore a world unlike your own, Cuba over delivers. 

And there's tasty, cheap rum everywhere! From a cocktail perspective, it's hard to tire of Havana Club. I probably had frozen daiquiris at 20 different bars, and they're all quite good -- somewhere between a Hemingway and a normal daiquiri, with rum, lime, sugar, and maraschino liqueur (not Luxardo, sadly). Not too heavy on the sugar, always fresh lime juice -- what's not to love?

Gastronomista:  Where do you want to travel to next?
Carey Jones:  Japan -- and I'm lucky enough to be going in May. I've been there once before, but on a four-day whirlwind; I only spent 12 hours in Tokyo and that was on one long izakaya crawl that I barely remember. I can't wait to tour the Nikka whisky distilleries and get a better sense of what Japanese whisky is about.

Gastronomista:  Bitters and Amaro are a booming trend, how have you seen this trend change the way people drink?
Carey Jones:  The amazing thing about amari is that each one contains such complex, nuanced flavors in a single bottle, so in a lot of ways, they lend themselves to simple cocktails. A Campari and soda, a Cynar and soda with a grapefruit wedge -- these are sophisticated drinks in their own right, as straightforward as they are. I think drinkers have been shifting away from 17-ingredient drinks and back to more focused cocktails; who can argue that an Aperol Spritz is a perfect drink as-is?

Gastronomista: What other cocktail writers inspire you and why?
Carey Jones:  Is it silly to say Dave Wondrich? I don't care. Hearing him talk about cocktails -- and he writes the way he speaks, which is an incredible thing -- and you get absolutely lost in his stories. Like that history professor in college who could make lectures fly by. He has such a sense of storytelling, such an ear for compelling details, and it helps that he probably knows more about cocktails than anyone alive....

Gastronomista: You have a new book coming out called Brooklyn Bartender, what was the best cocktail tip or trick you learned while writing your book?
Carey Jones:  St. John Frizell over at Fort Defiance makes a legendary Irish coffee, but it's actually the technique I love, even more than the drink itself. He calls it the "double boiler" technique -- he fills a mug half-full with boiling water to warm the mug, and then nestles a shaking tin right in the mug and mixes the ingredients in that tin -- so you're heating the mug and the drink in one go. Pretty brilliant.

Gastronomista:  What is your favorite bar in New York City, and favorite bars around the world?
Carey Jones:I can't get enough of Extra Fancy, in Brooklyn -- their frozen sherry cobblers (!), their off-the-wall drink names, their patty melts. It has such a welcoming, addictive energy. No matter who's bartending, whether you know anyone on staff or not, you'll all be friends by the end of the night.

Around the world... oh boy. Bowe's Lounge in Dublin -- they pour a perfect Guinness, their whiskey selection is unreal, and they couldn't be more charming. El Cocinero in Havana, a gorgeous privately-owned rooftop lounge of a kind that didn't exist in Cuba a few years ago. Bus Bar in Chiang Mai, Thailand -- you buy a bottle of rum and ice and Coke out of an actual bus, and then sit at their picnic tables on the water and pour your own drinks all night. Bodega 1900, the vermouth bar in Barcelona. Actually, any vermouth bar in Barcelona. The Lebowski Bar in Reykjavik -- with an entire menu of White Russians. And I can't say no to a perfect martini at The Savoy in London...

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?

Carey Jones:  My fiancé John McCarthy is a mixologist (we now team up on a weekly Food & Wine online column and a bimonthly Saveur video) and I actually met him when I did an article on a cocktail list he'd done. He had a drink called the Presbyterian's Revenge that I'll never forget -- Scotch plus Cynar plus grapefruit is just perfect. I make these at home on the regular.

Photo by Gastronomista

Presbyterian's Revenge
Created by John McCarthy

2 oz Blended Scotch
3/4 oz Cynar
1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Simple Syrup
1 Dash Grapefruit Bitters

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well-chilled and strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Top with a little splash (half an ounce) of club soda. Garnish with a huge grapefruit twist.

Photo by Gastronomista

Styling Notes
Old Fashioned Glass - Baccarat Harmonie Tumbler No. 4
Seamless Gold Jigger - Parched Penguin
Cocktail Shaker - Parched Penguin
Cocktail Picks - Parched Penguin
Gold Tray - Target

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