Maureen Petrosky on Becoming an At-Home Mixologist, Essential Barware & Her New Book The Cocktail Club

Author Interview

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Maureen Petrosky — the writer of our Friday afternoon 10 Minute Happy Hour series — has just come out with a new gem of a book! It's called The Cocktail Club, and it covers 12 whole months of cocktail lessons, tasty sips, and satisfying nibbles, all meant to be shared with your closest cocktail-loving buds. Maureen, you're speaking my language!

This week, we're celebrating Maureen and the launch of The Cocktail Club, starting with a Q&A with the author herself.

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The Cocktail Club is out now! Find Maureen's book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: The Cocktail Club by Maureen Christian-Petrosky

→ Read more about The Cocktail Club on Maureen's website Eat Drink Make with Maureen

Talk to me about Cocktail Clubs! How did you come up with the idea for this book?

My first book, The Wine Club, had me involved in several local wine clubs. On the night my friend Amy was hosting hers, she called and asked if I had any easy cocktail ideas she could serve as guests arrived. Immediately, I thought of the Aperol Fizz. It's such a simple cocktail, and since it already had Prosecco, I knew it would be a good fit for a wine-loving crowd.

That was it — the gateway cocktail. Then friends and family started asking me more about cocktails and I thought what better way to teach and to learn than to do it with your friends and in the comfort of your own home. So I traded in my decanter for a shaker and got started.

How can people start their own cocktail club?

It's so simple. On your way home from work tonight, pick up a bottle of gin, some vermouth, and some tonic. Call some friends and start sipping. While the book is set to the calendar year, you can jump in wherever you like. There are no hard and fast rules.

The idea is that you learn about cocktails on your terms and have fun doing it with your friends. You can gather more staple ingredients and gadgets along the way, but if you want to set up for a year of cocktail club meetings, I go through the initial investment and suggest some ingredients and glassware that is great to get you started.

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Do I need to be a cocktail expert before I start a cocktail club? What do I need to know?

I wasn't! In fact people ask me all the time if I'm a mixologist and I reply with a resounding "No!" Not everyone wants or needs to be an expert, hosting a cocktail club lets you learn what you like and what you don't, and that's all the expertise you need. It's not a competition; it's a fun way to really indulge in the cocktail culture and have some good food along with it.

You become an at-home mixologist as you play with ingredients and tastes, mixing it up to suit your style. You need to know you will be tasting all categories of spirits — even if you think you don't like them. For instance, I was never really into brown spirits until I started researching for the book. Now I'm a total whiskey girl. When you taste cocktails in every category you are sure to find new things you'll like. So know you will have to be tasting out of your comfort zone and of course you'll have to host once or twice. That's it — everything else you'll learn as you go.

What bar or liquor cabinet essentials do I need to host a cocktail night?

The great thing about Cocktail Club is that you can share the cost of the spirits with everyone in the club. If you want to stock up on some essentials, here's my list: bitters (Angostura, to get started), club soda or seltzer, some fresh fruits like lemons and limes, simple syrup, both Vermouths (sweet and dry), and some basic mixers like ginger ale and cranberry juice. Also, be sure to have ice on-hand.

Beyond that have a shaker, a pitcher, and lots of glasses!

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How important is glassware? If I only invest in one kind of cocktail glass, what should I get?

Great questions. For Cocktail Club you are only tasting small portions, so you can do that out of shot glasses, juice glasses, even wine glasses. Then, once you find your favorite cocktails, you can tailor your glassware to suit it. For now, just make sure it's glass you're sipping from — no mugs or plastic, preferably.

Let's talk about snacks! Do you have a good rule of thumb for pairing cocktails with snacks and appetizers?

My rule of thumb: simple and sophisticated. Delicious and impressive food does not have to come from a chef. Anyone can make the recipes in this book and impress their guests. For Cocktail Club, I aim for bite-sized snacks since you'll have a drink in one hand already. The snacks should be easy to make, easily portable, and easy to eat. Pairings can be tricky, follow the same rules you do with wine: complement, contrast or bridge (use the ingredients from the cocktail in snack).

What is something unexpected or surprising that you learned while working on this book?

That I love whiskey — all kinds! I spent my entire life avoiding brown spirits. I thought they would be too strong or nuanced for me. But when it comes to cocktails, whiskey-based sips now tend to be my first pick. I would have missed out on so many delicious drinks if I stayed so close minded.

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What's your favorite everyday drink to make at the end of a long day? Why?

There are so many I like, but for me it's a Negroni — no doubt. Some drinks only work for me in the summer or the winter, but this I could drink all year long. They are icy cold for hot days, but rich and round on chilly nights. They are also super-easy to make after a long day. I adore the rich color and clink of its ice cubes. It's just the perfect fit for me.

What cocktail would you make for a fun spring dinner party?

I like anything in a mason jar. It works as a shaker and a drinking vessel all in one, and for spring it just screams, "Get outdoors." I pre-batch all the ingredients and leave chilled bottles of club soda (for guests who don't like their drinks too strong) and ice buckets next to the table for guests to finish off their own drinks. It can be pisco sours, homemade sun tea with tequila, or mint juleps, as long as I can pre-batch it and they can finish it off, it works for spring!

Thanks, Maureen!

(Image credits: Thayer Allyson Gowdy)