Gastronomistais run by Emily Arden Wells, architect by day, writer and avid drinker by night. Emily was named an “Epic Imbiber and Bon Vivant” in Ms. Lesley M.M. Blume’s ode to the cocktail, Let’s Bring Back: The Cocktail Edition.Emily seeks inspiration everywhere she goes, and finds fodder in everything she sees – on the streets and plates of foreign lands, the inked limbs of subway-riding compatriots, or shaking up cocktails in her own kitchen.Gastronomista has been a finalist for the “Saveur Best Cocktail Blog” category in 2013 and 2014, named “Best Drinks and Beverage Blog” by Friends Eat in 2013, and one of the “8 Best Booze Blogs” by The Savory in 2014.
We had a quick chat with Emily to ask her a few questions and find out a bit more about Gastronomista.
So Emily, where did you grow up?
I grew up splitting my time between Denver and Vail, Colorado.I was a ski racer growing up, so much of my time was spent on the road bouncing from ski area to ski area or training in Vail. Today I live in New York, a city I love for completely different reasons. I love the history of New York, the creativity and the sense of urgency that comes with city life, but I miss the mountains and being outside every day.
How did you find your way to architecture and then wine and spirits?
I have always been a creative person – drawing, creative projects, and wanting to see my work out in the world.In college at the University of Pennsylvania I found Architecture, and fell in love with it immediately. After graduation I moved to New York, and it was at that time when I had my first bourbon (Wild Turkey), and really fell for whiskey. When I was working towards my graduate degree at the Yale School of Architecture, I traveled to Kentucky during spring break to learn more about whiskey. I was hooked. I fell in love with the process of distilling, bourbon, and wanted to learn everything I could about whiskey.
Gastronomista started in 2009 as a food blog and slowly transitioned into a cocktail blog as I began to learn more about the burgeoning cocktail scene that has exploded in the last 5 years.I learned about different types of spirits, started talking to some of New York’s finest bartenders, and began experimenting and testing recipes in my tiny apartment after work. And let’s be honest, after a stressful and battering day in the office, there’s nothing better than a cocktail made exactly how your like it in the comfort of your own home.
It is often said that the best design is developed under constraints, and Architects are always working within many rules and regulations. Client wishes, city regulations, building codes, construction methods, budgets, etc. Similarly, cocktails have proper ratios that one must acknowledge to make a well balanced drink. Classic cocktails are an excellent scaffold to use when creating new cocktails –one ingredient modification can make a drink taste completely different!
What are some of the challenges of running Gastronomista?
Time. I would give anything for 4 extra hours every day. And an assistant.
What are a few interesting things going on in the spirits world? What’s on your radar at the moment?
The cocktail and spirits world is better than it’s ever been!We are seeing many creative and delicious products coming to the market, the resurgence of historical recipes, and today’s bartenders are more creative and forward thinking than ever before.
Seasonal cocktails made with local spirits is the biggest trend in cocktails right now.I really enjoy locally sourced spirits that have a “sense of place”. For instance, Caorunn Gin is a Scottish Gin distilled with Rowan Berry, Heather, Bog Myrtle, Dandelion, and Coul Blush Apple – all ingredients found in the Highlands of Scotland. Another is Stump Coastal Forest Gin made with Juniper, Cascade Hops, Grand Fir, Bay Laurel, Coriander, and Lavender, and is reminiscent of a walk through the forests of British Columbia after the rain.
Corsair Distillery in Tennessee is innovating with non-traditional grains, a trend that I believe could have massive impacts on the whiskey industry as well as the farmers who produce grains for distillers. I was completely blown away by their Quinoa Whiskey and their Citra Double IPA American malt whiskey distilled with Citra Hops. The Grainiac 9 Grain Bourbon is perhaps the most extreme example of their grain experimentation – made with corn, barley, rye, wheat, oats, quinoa, triticale, spelt, and buckwheat. In the next few years we are going to be seeing more grain experimentation from larger distilleries using heritage and non-conventional grains.
Another big trend is savory cocktails. As restaurants continue to develop their bar programs, cocktails are becoming more culinary based and have conceptual ties to a restaurant’s food menu.One trend that I’ve seen really blow up in the last year is the use of salt to adjust the balance of a cocktail and make certain flavors stand out. Vegetal ingredients are becoming more prevalent with ingredients such as celery bitters, Amaros, small batch vermouth, pine liqueurs and syrups, and the integration of fresh vegetables such as carrots, peppers, beets, or even parsnips.
The drinking vessel came into the spotlight this last year, and is being designed to heighten the imbibing experience.Copper Pineapple cocktails by Absolut Elyx caused a fever-like stir at Tales of the Cocktail and Art Basel. The Artesian in London uses a gold version of the pineapple, and has created their own custom drinking vessels that artistically display ethereal ingredients such as smoke or fresh herbs. The Aviary in Chicago is serving a log-stump “punch bowl” that has been hollowed out and had holes drilled into the side for straws!
Where do you find inspiration for your writing and articles?
There are so many great cocktail resources these days. Online, I use social media to follow my favorite media outlets, but I am most inspired when I am out trying different spirits and cocktails! When I am developing recipes, I am often inspired by what is in season in the grocery store. I like to use integrate produce using a sous vide, allowing the fresh flavors to come through in my cocktails. One of my favorite cocktails I created recently was the Artichoke Negroni. I wanted to create a drink that was “3 ways Artichoke”, and so I created my own Artichoke Gin and mixed it with Cynar and Cardamaro, a fortified wine made from a plant that is in the artichoke family.
What are FOUR spirits/wines that you always keep handy?
I have to admit, I have significantly more than four bottles in my home bar! That said, I always have 3 bottles stocked no matter what: London Dry Gin, Campari, and Sweet Vermouth. A Negroni is always satisfying, and the more challenging the day, the better it tastes! I love my Negronis with a lemon twist, and I prefer the cannonical 1:1:1 ratio. I always have a bottle of champagne chilling in the refrigerator – you never know when life will give reason to celebrate!
Watch FOUR Online for Gastronomista’s cocktail and sprits articles, coming soon!