Life is hard. Sometimes, though, it can be easy. For example, subscription cooking services, like Blue Apron, can take away some of that stress. Why not focus on the cooking of a meal, rather than the gathering and schlepping of it, if you can? I am lazy and tire easily: If the kitchen were a place where I spent much time, I would use this.
I do spend time, however, at bars. I enjoy sipping lip-smacking cocktails. But if I had access to all the ingredients that bartenders have, I would consider making my own at home. Yes, I know I can buy bottles of bitters and liqueurs, but it gets expensive to buy full bottles of that stuff when you’re only using a few drops at a time and don’t even know for sure if you’re going to like it. Which is why I was so excited to hear about a new subscription service called Shaker & Spoon, the Blue Apron of cocktail making. Last night, I tried it out; service journalism at its finest.
Shaker & Spoon was started by two Brooklyn designers, Mike Milyavsky and Anna Gorovoy, who share a love of cocktails; drinking them, yes, but also experimenting with new recipes on their own. But they, too, felt that purchasing all of the alcohol, bitters, mixers, and garnishes required to make interesting ones was too expensive, and that the ingredients are not always easy to find. Even if you do hunt them down, it could take a good year to work through it all. It’s a lot of money spent on something you need very little of at a time.
And so Milyavsky and Gorovoy said to themselves: let’s make it easier on cocktail lovers to make three recipes (of 12 drinks total) at home, every month, by assembling and shipping out little boxes that contain every ingredient, measured precisely, and the recipes needed to make them.
Each box is themed around one base spirit, and you do have to purchase that separately. But have you seen New York? Liquor stores are as common as stuffed subway cars. Just stop inside one on your way home and pick up the appointed variety—go low- or high-end, both work. I selected a bottle of Cazadores Tequila Blanco for the tequila-based cocktails I would be making for my romantic Latin night at home. Alone. Tequila and Shaker & Spoon box in hand, I turned on Buena Vista Social Club and got to work. (Here’s some photographic evidence that this really happened.)
Historically, I am no recipe-follower; I prefer to wing stuff. Yet, when I have no idea what I’m doing—like I don’t when it comes to mixing drinks—clear instructions are helpful. And these recipe cards, were just that: three nicely-designed sheets, each containing a brief history about the drink and its ingredients, a recipe list, and step-by-step instructions; a breeze to work through, even for this recipe nincompoop.
Two additional cards provide histories of the liquor you work with, and a glossary of terms, techniques, and terminologies: if you need to muddle something, you know how to do that; if you need to cut a “swath” of fruit (that’s “a small slice of citrus zest,” often lemon or grapefruit, for the record) you can pull that off, too. All told, you’ve got recipes and a little cocktail education in one.
It would be helpful to have on hand a double strainer, a shaker, and a jigger for measuring liquids. Full disclosure, I had none—and they say you don’t need any of them. Indeed, the drinks still worked. There was an Old Oaxaca, which is a variation on the old fashioned, stirred with agave syrup, mole bitters, and hellfire tincture; a Burro Buck, a number that is muddled and shaken with lime, Mexican spice syrup, and ginger beer (this was my favorite, so refreshing!); and a Jefe Del Pepino, also muddled and shaken with simple syrup, lime, cucumber, chili pepper, and a rim of Tajin.
I thought the Tajin would be a little much. But the extra, measly effort required to juice the edge of my glass and stick on some of the tangy spice ended up being the key to the drink’s success. The endeavor was worth it, and I would never have done it without the friendly hand-holding I got from my recipe card (recall earlier statement about being lazy). Fancy Tajin-rimmed Tequila drink in hand, made by myself, I sat down and perused social media while Buena Vista Social Club toasted my success. Yes: Shaker & Spoon and I had a heck of a night.
Shaker and Spoon subscriptions are $40 per monthly box, or $110 for three months. Find out more here.