Ever since the media first caught wind of PDT’s hotdog-hideaway, fans have been piling in from all over the world to sip old fashioneds and order kimchi-slathered Momofuku sausages from their secret Crif Dogs menu. As one of the innovators in the field of mixology in NYC, a field that has become notably over-crowded recently, it only makes sense that the folks over at PDT continue to blaze trails by breaking into the world of publishing. Although the recipes in this tome are, of course, excellent - it’s truly the innovative and whimsical animal-themed illustrations that make it worth purchasing.
Hand-blown by Swedish glass artisans in Reijmyre, this is not your average ABSOLUT bottle. Limited to a run of 800, the stylized crystal decanter comes with two matching pinstriped tumblers and is sure to skew towards the higher end of the iconic vodka brand’s price range. Design aside, this is a nice attempt by a vodka category to reclaim a classic bartop accessory normally reserved for the likes of single malts and vintage reds.
New from Israeli designer David Riesenberg comes a brilliantly nuanced piece of concept work concerning his own brand of imaginary rye whiskey. Despite the obvious aesthetic advantages to Mr. Riesenberg’s design, it yields a great deal of ethos as well. Suitable for small run premium batches, according to the designer, “the label is a piece of the actual barrel the whiskey was aged in. Following a process of drying, pressing and silk screening the label is attached to the bottle and can be removed to be used as a coaster or simply as a collectible once the bottle goes dry. Each piece is naturally unique, maintaining the black color from the charring process and slight aroma.” David’s concept includes some nifty OOH pieces as well including a branded coaster. Now if only it could get manufactured in reality!
New from Veuve Clicquot comes a brilliant little promotional piece in the form of an origami ice bucket. Constructed from fully foldable, water-resistant material, the bucket is the brainchild of the aesthetically-oriented champagne brand and Belgian designer Mathias van de Walle. Complete with instructions and a bottle of bubbly, this fully-foldable chilling device can be easily carried with the lucky recipient anywhere they go, just incase there’s a sparkling wine-related emergency.
British goth-chic designer Gareth Pugh has recently teamed up with ABSOLUT MODE EDITION to participate in a redesign of the iconic ABSOLUT bottle. Having served as a blank canvas for the likes of Andy Warhol, Kurt Wenner and Spike Lee, the Swedish brand’s bottle serves doubly as a container and a piece of art, especially when designed as special limited editions. For his turn at the trademark spirit, Pugh chose to evoke the realm of fashion by creating a bottle with twelve facets and wrapping it in a midnight blue silk cloth embroidered band. Available exclusively at Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, the distinctive ABSOLUT model is sure to be a collectors item for fashionistas and discerning drinkers alike.
New from urbancase comes a witty, tongue-in-cheek nod to the classic “emergency” first aid kit that every school, office and home has tucked away in a corner somewhere. Crafted completely out of a smooth, beautiful lacquered MDF and designed by Darin Montgomery, this emergency kit caters towards a different kind of crisis: the urgent need for a hand-crafted cocktail. Providing the ideal storage space for liquor, glassware, and tools - the “Emergency Cocktail Station” doesn’t come cheap. Retailing for $850, the sleek, stark and humorous design is available now through Design Public.
The ABSOLUT Vodka bottle’s kaleidoscopic range of iterations in print ads, short film pieces and throughout copious collaborations have made the liquor brand’s basic container a valuable asset and a veritable canvas for aspiring artists across the globe. Honing in on a marketing opportunity, ABSOLUT selected 18 creatives to get involved with ABSOLUT BLANK - a project that pretty self-explanatorily asks each participant to lend a visual makeover to a model of one of the brand’s standard, blank vodka bottles. The eclectic results include the intricate and surreal work of Good Wives and Warriors, energetic collage imagery from Mario Wagner, graphic design from Robert Mars and bright, geometric artwork from UVA, among others. Simply a great idea, ABSOLUT BLANK demonstrates how the venerable vodka brand has managed to once again leverage one of their most basic commodities - their bottle - as a trademark. It may not be tall, slender, glossy or frosted; but the ABSOLUT bottle makes for an ideal blank canvas for artists of all kinds. At the end of the day, that’s a lot more valuable than a luxurious or high-end perceived brand value. Art as commerce - Warhol would have been proud.
Hangar One Vodka has long been a favorite of mine. From their quirky, seasonal flavored offerings (Buddha’s Hand Citron, anyone?) to the eponymous vintage airplane hangar that serves as their headquarters in Alameda, California - Hangar One is not your run-of-the-mill liquor brand. As the company has purposely eschewed standard publicity tactics such as club partnerships and celebrity-laden party-throwing in favor of a craft cocktail series and creation of self-promoting, limited edition flavors such as Chipotle and Wasabi, it’s no surprise that their latest advertising stint is not exactly a party bus. The Hangar One Vodka Blimp Tour harkens back to the brand’s aerial origins by sending a fully-branded zeppelin on a twenty-city, cross-country journey, landing at planned destinations along the way in order to host bartender “mix offs” using their hand-crafted vodka as the key ingredient. Destined to land at home in California by the end of November, the 120’ long blimp’s promotional material includes some lovely commissioned drawings and a bottle of classic Hangar One alongside information on where and when to spot their flying brand ambassador and - why not? - a map and some stickers.
Imbibe responsibly and learn more about the Hangar One Vodka Blimp Tour here.
Redhook Brewery is an interesting case study in the ever-shifting world of craft beer and microbreweries. A bit of an anomaly, Redhook was not started in Brooklyn but rather Seattle. It’s a microbrew, historically, yet the brand is almost 30 years old and owned partly by Anheuser-Busch. So, what does a slightly corporatized, ever-expanding beer company with a history of local tradition do when it wants to rebrand its product? Well, according to Seattle agency Hornall Anderson, choose an aesthetic rarely embraced by beer drinkers of any kind. With it’s tapered bottle reminiscent of a sports drink, brightly colored flavor-differentiating labels and clean, stylized mountain logo re-imagined, Redhook’s new brand is certainly a success visually. The question is, however, in a market where stark and modern design is rarely seen used successfully - how will the brewery’s fans react to the change? Personally, I like the look but am still dubious about how it fits into a sea of competitors touting van Gogh-style emblems (Blue Moon), tattoo-inspired inscriptions (Rogue) and heritage-driven no nonsense marketing (Blue Point), just to name a few.
With the cocktail revolution in full force, it makes sense that a line of artisanal bitters would pop up. Hand-manufactured in - where else? - Brooklyn, Leopards + Lions is leagues ahead of the rest of the Angostura-imitators. Why? Because with a product like bitters it all comes down to quality and packing, and Leopards + Lions has got both. Bottled in authentic 19th century apothecary jars, the NYC-based range of cocktail accessories are individually crafted with organic fruits and flowers, fresh herbs and a slew of exotic spices. Available in the enticing Cherry Burdock (sounds tailor-made for an Old Fashioned), savory Orange Cardamom (marvelous for a Sazerac) and refreshing Dandelion Lemongrass (which the brand deems “perfect for summer” and would be sure to spice up any old G & T), the bitters are available now for $18 over at End of Century. Despite the relatively high price, this stuff is potent and a little bit will go a long way. Plus, when you’re done with the product, you’ve got a unique, vintage cork-topped bottle to use as you see fit. Well done!
Although Hennessy Cognac is best known for being commissioned by Napoleon himself, the great Emperor shouldn’t get all the credit for Revolutionary-era drinking. Bastille Day approaches rapidly and, although most Americans couldn’t care less, I am a bit of a closeted Francophile and feel the need to honor the beginning of the great, bloody proletariat Revolution (the bourgeois Revolution technically occurred earlier when the clergy defected to the Third Estate, allowing it to seize control of the Estates General). Created especially for Lillet, a quintessentially French apertif, mixologists Nicole Cloutier and Jacqueline Patterson have crafted this recipe for the Liberté Cocktail (hopefully Egalité and Fraternité are not far behind). It’s simple, incredibly refreshing and no doubt something similar to any concoction the noble classes would find themselves sipping on the Riviera or at Versailles just moments before being dragged off to the guillotine. Here’s what you’ll need:
3 ounces Lillet Blanc
1 ounce Hendrick’s gin
2 dashes orange bitters (or more to taste)
1 orange peel
Combine all wet ingredients in a shaker full of ice, stir gently but vigorously (despite James Bond’s inclinations, vermouth shouldn’t be shaken as it bruises the delicate spirit) and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist the orange rind to release some essential oils, drag along the glass’ rim and drop into the cocktail to garnish. Sip slowly while thoughtfully pondering whether you’d be more of a Jacobin or a Dantonist.
For those persnickety consumers who always wanted to serve champagne vertically but never had the proper glassware to build the glistening, bubbling towers of their dreams -designer Sebastian Bergne has finally offered a solution: The Column Glass. Tongue-in-cheek melodrama aside, these containers are actually quite innovative and equal parts aesthetically appealing and functionally applicable. Just imagine how stunning a centerpiece several columns of freshly-poured, ice-cold champagne would make at a party or event. Additionally, as far as I’m concerned, any excuse not to drink out of a stemmed glass (which is sure to lead to spillage, breakage and other unpleasantries) is worth taking. Plus, Bergne is no slouch - this July he will be exhibiting some of his latest works at the first ever Haute Cuisine exhibition in Paris, a “festival of the best in gastronomy fashion and food” set to take place at the Jardins du Palais Royal.
Designed by my favorite firm, Stranger & Stranger, and conceived as an entry-level offering for Compass Box Whisky Co. (whose "Lady Luck" product and packaging I featured back in February), Great King St. is a beautiful-looking, heritage-driven spirit brand that has been executed and launched onto the market flawlessly. The vintage typeface and color palette make the whisky look like a brand that might have been around for decades, while the Royal Tenenbaums-style doodle of the street, matte black top seal and brief description of the scotch’s tasting notes lend it a distinctly contemporary edge. I’d be interested to see how it tastes, considering it’s a more affordable line from a well-established purveyor of craft single malts and blended scotches - however, either way the packaging is dead-on. Here’s a little insight from Stranger about the brand conception process for Great King St.:
"It’s a kind of back to basics for them [Compass Box] so we thought the address of their very first Glaswegian office was appropriate and an unusual name for a whiskey. We got architects elevations done of the whole street so we can extend the range.”
As far as I know, Great King St. is only currently available in the United Kingdom - so if anyone has a chance to taste it let me know if the spirit lives up to the new brand.
Hendrick’s is no stranger to “curiously” quirky ad campaigns. Originally promoting their rose and cucumber-infused gin as “not for everyone” was a ballsy out-of-the-gate maneuver, but it worked wondrously. Now a globally-acknowledged luxury spirit brand with an esoteric sense of humor, Hendrick’s has poured more money into another funky form of publicity: the Gin Mobile. Customizing a 1961 Rover 80 model P4 with a tonic-dispensing bar, full gin-displaying panel and a specially-made steering wheel among other additions, the company has crafted quite a beautiful vintage vehicle. Tweed and leather interiors add to the unique brand-promoting experience. Currently zipping around Scotland - it will be interesting to see how far around the globe Hendrick’s Gin Mobile makes it before retirement.
Created by barbecue chef Adam Perry Lang and business partner Chuck Miller (a third generation moonshine distiller ), Original MOONSHINE represents a high-design, hipster-targeting take on a notoriously lowbrow product. The liquor is handcrafted from estate-grown corn and distilled four times in Prohibition-era copper pot stills rather than the spirit’s trademark bathtub. It will be interesting to see how mixologists, club owners and restauranteurs will react to the various moonshines being injected into the market these days - what kind of cocktails can be built off such an historic and potent liquor?
Nice brand identity for Seattle’s Still Liquor by NYC-based design director Javas Lehn. With the speakeasy trend essentially a given these days, Still offers a refreshing detour from dark, candle-lit enclaves full of crushed velvet, taxidermy and tassels. Instead, the space of the bar is open, airy and furnished in tarnished metals and wood. In order to complement the prohibition theme of the bar without losing its emphasis on contemporary design, Mr. Lehn took a modern route with the branding - leaving a lot of open space in the logo while utilizing only white, black & red. Furthermore, by depending fully on a single icon to signal what Still is all about (in this case, the graphic of a 1920s gangster-looking car), Javas managed to create a solid prohibition-era brand for the bar without sacrificing its individuality and edge.
1800 Tequila Essential Artists - Series 3 "Lucha Libre"
Although 1800 may be best known for their swivel-top design that doubles as a shot glass (and has been lauded by Michael Imperioli AKA Christopher from The Sopranos) - its also been engaging aspiring artists from around the world to design limited edition runs of its blanco tequila. By collaborating with contemporary and ethnic artists, 1800 emphasizes both its Mexican heritage and its modern brand philosophy. Only 1,800 of these limited-edition, collectible bottles are available so act now if the Mexican wrestling theme appeals to you.
Once again embracing design, music and the global fashion scene - Heineken has begun to roll out a limited edition set of cans pairing metropolitan skylines with instruments and equipment including an electric guitar, drums, headphone & a turntable. Cool stuff!
Hailing from Sweden (like one if its infamous counterparts, SVEDKA), Kanon Organic Vodka has launched itself onto the wine and spirits scene lately with a full-scale rebranding campaign, a new website and its very own Coachella party.
Organic vodkas have been around for awhile now, but they tend to position themselves as earthy and responsible rather than cool and modern. Kanon, on the other hand, has taken the latter approach by emphasizing their locally-sourced, multiple-distilled grain vodka’s apparently close ties with the fashion and music communities. Nowhere in their branding is there a message of guilt or fear of global warming - instead, Kanon stresses that organic vodka is, in fact, better-tasting and smoother due to the fresher ingredients and lack of chemicals present in their Swedish libation. Following up with a final interesting spin on their history, Kanon’s website also stresses how, since their distillery has been in operation since the 1500s, back in the ancient times there was no such things as non-organic vodka as chemicals and preservatives didn’t exist.
Heritage, quality and serious fashion cred make for a formidable trifecta for the new Kanon brand. In addition to making friends like Jeremy Scott, Phillip Lim & Lykke Li as well as throwing parties at Coachella and giving away concert tickets - the bottle’s not hard to look at either. By taking the modern hipster route rather than employing traditional environmentalist tactics, Kanon’s off to a good start of rebranding their product.
Provocateur, one of the most faux-notorious and exclusive Meatpacking destinations for young clubbers set on conspicuous consumption, is literally stirring up controversy with a new cocktail program that supposedly doubles as a day at the spa. Since the health merits of alcohol have been debated for centuries now - at once both supposedly curative (one glass of red wine a day) and toxic (tequila shots), it’s a fascinating branding perspective to attempt to spin liquor not as medicine, as it has been touted in ancient times, but as beauty product.
It won’t cure cancer, but mixologists at Provocateur claim that by mixing healthy ingredients such as fresh watermelon, kumquats, vitamins and minerals with high-quality liquor such as Hendrick’s Gin and Belvedere Vodka, patrons can improve their skin in a venue normally known for debilitating health effects. Scott-Vincent Borba, a former model and alchemist of sorts who creates crystalline edible beauty products packed with vitamins and fruit extracts, consulted on the new Summer cocktail menu.
Although Provocateur’s concept is blatant gimmick, it’s nonetheless an intriguing one. Mixing vitamins with alcohol can’t reduce the vitamins’ beneficial effects and, one has to admit, when given the option to select between a cocktail that might improve your health and a basic bender-fueling shot of god-knows-what, the choice becomes obvious.
Not a bad idea Provocateur - now let’s see if it’s successful. Either way, expect the leap from Acai Vodka to Vitamin B12 extract in your local desperately trendy bar to occur pretty soon.
With the world of mixology expanding to the point of no return, people of all tastes and persuasions are beginning to attempt to build finely-crafted cocktails at home. Much like how some famous Japanese chefs swear to their death that the key to perfect sushi is the rice, much time and attention has recently been spent discussing the importance of ice in a cocktail. While some bars have their ice custom-carved in a warehouse and delivered to them every morning, that’s really not necessary.
In fact, it’s easy to enhance your personal adventures in mixology with a few select ice trays. Here are two of my favorites, from the ultra-simple Japanese design retailer Muji:
The Silicone “Ice Ball” is ideal for scotch, whiskey or any straight-drinking liquor or cocktail that could use slight dilution and a chill, but not a heaping stack of ice.
The “Jewel” ice tray provides spectacle and function with ice cubes shaped like diamonds which also, by the way, melt more slowly than normal sized cubes and would be ideal for nouveau Old Fashioneds or even Margaritas.
Finally, here’s an entertaining “Battleship” tray from Kikkerland. Not only a fun way to tap your inner child, this tray also provides a wide array of ice shapes for any type of drink you may wish to concoct.
Despite a slightly hard to navigate website, Tempus Fugit is doing a great job in the cutting-edge field of importing newly legalized absinthes to the US. In addition to the fickle absinthe market, they’ve broken into the field of rare and exotic liqueurs as well, importing such peculiarities as the enticing Liqueur de Violettes pictured below and Gran Classico, a brand of bitters based out of Switzerland. Great old-school packaging design.
Going along with their brilliant “Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign concept, in order to celebrate Cinco de Mayo Dos Equis has launched a food truck in Manhattan that will be serving out some particularly interesting dishes all week. The truck serves free tacos filled with the likes of tongue, ostrich, veal brain and crickets created by Chef Domingo Garza to pair along with Dos Equis. The taco fillings are considered Mexican delicacies and kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, by bolstering the traditional Mexican heritage of the brand as well as promoting the Most Interesting Man campaign by linking the tacos with bravery. Smart promotion!
Pick up your tacos now through the 7th (this Saturday) if you’re in NYC.
Ryan Marx, the head of a design firm in New Zealand that specializes in branding and packaging, came up with these wines as a promotional piece in order to differentiate his company from the names of some other famous Marxes. A witty idea with a great execution - what client (or future client) wouldn’t love to receive a bottle of wine in the mail instead of a press packet.
Not sure how these taste, as pre-mixed alcoholic drinks tend to be fairly nasty. Nonetheless, the peelable bottles for Smirnoff Caipiroska (designed by JWT Brasil) sure are scene-stealers. I particularly like that they come packaged in a wooden crate like the lemons and limes they are imitating. Great idea!
I’ve been avoiding this recipe for a few reasons. First of all, everyone has their own way of making a Bloody Mary and is sure to take issue with almost everyone else’s recipe. Secondly, I’ve honestly only recently settled on what I think makes for the perfect Bloody and, finally, it’s one of my favorite cocktails - so I wanted to make sure I didn’t screw it up.
As Spring seems to be beginning to take root here on the East Coast, however, I think now is the perfect time to take on the endeavor of this mythic and potent drink, cultural artifact and fabled hangover cure. Without further adieu, you’ll need:
2 oz (a little over 1 jigger) premium vodka (Ketel One does nicely)
1/2 cup good tomato juice
The juice of 1 whole lemon
A liberal dashing of Worcestershire Sauce
2 spoonfuls (at least) of premium Horseradish
Hot sauce to taste
Celery, cocktail olives, salt, pepper and lemon wedges to garnish
Before I suggest how to assemble this cacophony of ingredients, a word on some of my reasoning. First of all, most recipes would call for less vodka - but with such strong and possibly overwhelming flavors going on in the Bloody Mary, I think it’s important to make sure that vodka “bite” is still at least slightly noticeable. Secondly, some people will yell and scream that Tabasco just has to be in a Bloody and no other type of hot sauce. This just isn’t true and, in fact, I prefer some other more smoky hot sauces to Tabasco. Finally, in my mind, the horseradish is the golden ticket here. Use a lot of it. Add some, taste the concoction, and do not hesitate to add more if you feel like it. Make sure to use fresh horseradish, none of that horseradish sauce stuff.
OK - onto assembly. I find the easiest way to make a Bloody is sloshing all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker (including the olives, and maybe even a little bit of their brine), mixing together diligently with a large spoon until the horseradish has dissolved and the liquid takes on that familiar red, speckled aesthetic of the classic Bloody Mary. Pour into a high ball glass piled with ice and garnished with a large sprig of celery (be dramatic here - make it big and fancy) and a wedge of lemon.
This recipe can be doubled, tripled, etc. and whipped up into a large pitcher for serving as well (which sounds good to me). Remember - this drink should be tangy, salty, spicy, smoky, a little bitter and everything in between. Indulge, enjoy and don’t fret if a flavor seems off - just keep adding more until the cocktail seems balanced. Or pour on the vodka and hope people get too drunk to notice.
Yes, Dan Aykroyd does co-own this vodka but, honestly, if he had any part in the design process then I have a newfound respect for the man. Crystal Head has been around for awhile now and is definitely in that category of ultrapremium vodkas that depend a lot more on image than they do on quality. As I have stated before, I really don’t think there’s any difference between most vodkas besides being ultrapremium or economy, so next time you’re looking for a Belvedere or Grey Goose-level spirit, consider swinging towards Crystal Head.
As with most expensive vodkas, the product is excellent and - more importantly - the bottle is absolutely stunning. For those of us who are more inclined towards the maccabre, once the liquor has been drained, the glass skull makes an excellent vase, case for spices, olive oil, coins, etc. It’s a little crazy to have as much brand affinity as to request Crystal Head when out at a restaurant or bar, however, when entertaining at home or merely looking for a luxury vodka for one’s own bar - Crystal Head certainly has that “wow” factor. Skull motifs have been popular for a few years and can certainly border on the tackier side of branding, however, this is an example of an excellent case of design.