Ringing in the New Year with Beverages for Everyone

Eating at a Meeting Podcast Episode 113

Smiling woman wearing glasses and holding a cocktail in each hand

Cocktails are Cultures in a Glass

What are the cocktail (alcoholic and non!) ingredients that everyone should know about to make excellent beverages? Grab a glass and tune in for the last Eating at a Meeting LIVE show of 2021 to learn from cocktail editor, coach and mixologist, Erin R. Petrey about how cocktails are made, why they are made the way they are, and the history behind what’s in the glass.

Learn what to serve for your New Year celebrations and events in 2022, including non-alcoholic spirits and cocktails.

What do safe, inclusive & sustainable food and beverage experiences look like to you?

To me, inclusivity means that there is something for everyone and no one feels “left out.” As someone who adopted a pescatarian diet a few years ago, it’s amazing how difficult it can be to have good choices at many restaurants, especially when traveling. Sustainability is a vast subject, but at its heart, it’s about making thoughtful, deliberate decisions about what you serve, how you serve it, how you source it, and how you dispose of it.

Do you have an example of a situation that negatively effected you and/or other individuals or groups’ food and beverage experience?

I won’t go too in-depth on this one, but I was harassed very badly by an executive at a bourbon company whose product I gave a less-than-stellar review of. Funny part is that a male writer co-wrote the article with me and provided his own tasting notes which expressed my same distaste for the whiskey. I was the one who was threatened with litigation, called names, and harassed – he was not. That incident was – and continues to be – traumatic for me and has completely ruined the brand for me.

What is a best practice you use/or have seen to create safe, sustainable, and inclusive F&B experiences?

Admittedly, I am a purist when it comes to cocktails, and when folks ask me “what can I substitute for xyz?” it can rub me the wrong way because I like to first explain WHY an ingredient or preparation is the way it is. But, at the end of the day, whatever drink you are making should be enjoyable for you and fit into your lifestyle. I have spent so much time learning and testing sugar substitutes, including new and interesting produce in drinks, testing new liquors, experimenting with non-alcoholic spirit substitutes, and more to ensure I am well-prepared to help my students and readers make something that is going to delight them. I love it when folks tell me they don’t like a certain drink or spirit, because it provides me an opportunity and challenge to show them they may actually like it, they just need to find the right brand or preparation.

Safety is a completely separate topic and one I have given much consideration to over the past few months. Whiskey – and bourbon specifically – is an arena that is very white, male dominated. The amount of monumental women making waves in the industry has grown significantly in the past decade, but the vestiges of toxic masculinity and straight up bullying and harassment are still commonplace.

To me, it is most important to speak out: if you see something wrong, call it out. It may be uncomfortable, you may be harassed yourself, but if you don’t say anything, don’t expect someone else to. I am heartened by the incredible number of male allies in the bourbon world who rally behind the women (like myself!) who have been severely bullied and harassed. We have a long way to go, but we have a lot of the right people saying the right things.

To all of the brands out there: you need to do better, as well. No more hiring shot girls, using female bodies to push liquor, using outdated language (like calling whiskey “masculine”), or being racially exclusive. We must continue to push towards being as inclusive to all as possible because as Jackie Zykan, the Master Taster for Old Forester, said: “bourbon is a liquid – it doesn’t have a gender.” To build upon that, it also has no race, socio-economic status, sexuality, or other box we like to put people into. Whiskey is a liquid, let’s just enjoy it safely, responsibly, and with good people.

What do you wish people knew about what you do?

I REALLY care about cocktails: how they are made, why they are made the way they are, and the history behind what’s in the glass. To me, cocktails are cultures in a glass and require thoughtfulness, care, and passion. Similarly, bourbon means a great deal to me because they are an intrinsic part of my personal history as a Kentuckian. If you are interested in learning more about bourbon, I am thrilled to teach you! But please don’t ask a bourbon person about Pappy; it’s only going to make us roll our eyes.

Just for fun…What is your favorite food and your favorite drink?

I really hate picking one food or beverage. But my favorite non-alcoholic drink is black coffee – I cannot survive a single day without it. As for food, I used to be the absolute pickiest eater as a kid; today, I will try anything once but we all have our comfort foods. For me, pasta is the greatest, most perfect food on the planet. If I am feeling off and want a simple, delicious meal, I make what my fiancé calls the “Erin Special,” which is just capellini in an olive oil based sauce that always includes garlic, shallots, capers, parmesan cheese, and whatever veggies we have in the fridge.


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Eating at a Meeting is part of the Nitty Grits Podcasts network