The leading cocktail historian and director of the Exposition Universelle des Vins et Spiritueux, which opens its priceless spirits archive to the public in July, talks about life as one half of the industry’s most dynamic duo
“When my wife Anistatia [Miller] and I launched www.martiniplace.com in 1995 I figured we’d get 10 hits in the first month, but we got 10,000 hits, as well as 2,500 emails – most of them saying, ‘that’s not how you make a martini’. Since then we’ve published 28 books and over 500 articles. ”
“My first inspiration was in 1990, when I was working as a waiter at the Rainbow Rooms and a bartender said, ‘hey do you want to know how to flame a lemon zest?’ It was Dale de Groff. ”
“Before we got into drinks writing, Anistatia worked in book design and with cat mummies at the Chicago Museum of Egyptology. Then she got into music and her band opened for REM on their
first tour. ”
“Quite a few bartenders originally aspired to the stage – but I always say you can make it all the way to Broadway but however good you are, you just get applause. But if you’re good in a bar, then they’ll put down a tip. ”
“We fell madly in love with Vancouver – you can be skiing in 90minutes and sailing in the same day. One time we went up a glacier and tried shaking a proper martini with glacier ice to see if it was blue. It wasn’t – but it tasted fantastic anyway. ”
“Our relationship is characterised by friendly competition – we’re always trying to out-do each other.”
“I’m 42, or 43 – I’d have to check the dates on that.”
“One of my favourite bars is the Pegu Club in New York – I’ll steal a line from Hemingway: ‘It makes me feel civilised’. ”
“We bought a house in Ealing (in London) in March 2007, but we’ve only spent three weeks in it since we bought it. I’d love to be able to go home but the schedule doesn’t allow. ”
“My favourite thing from the EUVS collection is a series of four herbal wines, or elixirs, from the late 1800s/early 1900s. They are virtually unknown now but at one time they were so popular you even had two Popes appearing in advertisements for them! ”
“My advice is use the best ingredients, and you can’t go wrong. There’s no spirit that’s too precious to use in a cocktail – you drive a Ferrari down a city street so why not use Krug in a cocktail? ”
“A reverse martini, made with five parts vermouth to one part vodka, is much better with fish than many white wines. The problem with vermouth is most people don’t understand it. It’s a wine and needs to be treated as such. ”
“An expensive ice machine is one of the best things you can spend your money on – get a Hazaki or a Kold Draft. ”
“Big glassware drives me nuts – I’m glad to see the trend move away from New York-style, 1990s, 12oz martini glasses – unless you’ve had a really bad day you won’t get through half of it before it’s room temperature. ”
How i got to where i am:
· Working as a bartender inspired me to set up the website in 1995 with my wife to spread the word about quality cocktail making and its history.
· The success of the website encouraged us to publish our first book Shaken not Stirred: A Celebration of the Martini in 1996 followed by Champagne Cocktails in 1999.
· 2004 was a big year for us. We co-founded the Museum of the American Cocktail and established the annual publication Mixologist: The Journal of the American Cocktail.
· We also developed our own spirits in the late 1990s, including the gold medal-winning Heavy Water Vodka.
· We love to cook, travel and, of course, drink!
Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – January / February 2008