We asked Emily Arden Wells of Gastronomista (winner of Saveur Magazine Readers’ Choice Best Cocktail Blog of 2015) to create signature cocktails inspired by each of our cities – Miami, NYC, Toronto, Chicago, London, Playa Del Carmen, and Cabo San Lucas. Playing into local flavors and ingredients, each recipe is as unique and beautiful as the cities their inspired by and our hotels that reside in them. Now you too can create these impressive and delicious beverages at home, and transport to any city of your choosing. We caught up with Emily on all things “cocktail”, what inspires her, some of her favorite kitchen tools and ingredients, and more.
Where are you from?
Where do you live now?
What is your earliest memory of recipe making?
I have never been much of a recipe person. I always take them as a “suggestion” and add my own flair to the recipe. That said, learning about cocktails has made me much more disciplined when it comes to recipes, because if a drink is off by ¼ oz it becomes a different cocktail all together. I respect the recipe more these days. My first cocktail recipes were unmemorable, but I was trying and more importantly, having fun! The recipes that I am the most proud of are my Artichoke Negroni, Cherry Vodka Old Fashioned, Clear Bloody Mary, and the Isfahan Rose, a pistachio and rose water cocktail inspired by a trip to Iran.
Have you always known this is what you want to do?
Goodness, no. I fell into the drinks world! It has been a slow progression, one drink at a time.
When did creating cocktails become a career?
I am an Architect by day, and a Drinks Writer by night. Somehow the two suit each other well – both Mixology and Architecture require discipline, an understanding of hierarchy and proportions, and lots of creativity.
What inspires the flavors and ingredients of your cocktails?
Inspiration comes from lots of different places: fresh produce at the market, historical recipes, culinary dishes, or places I have traveled to. Sometimes my recipes are more concept driven and are about the look of the drink like the Clear Bloody Mary for instance, and sometimes it’s about playing with the ingredients and the proportions. The Artichoke Negroni was based on the idea of trying to make a 3-ways artichoke cocktail with homemade artichoke gin, Cynar, and Cardamaro, a fortified wine made from a variation of the artichoke plant.
What was the creative process for this assignment with Thompson Hotels?
This collaboration has been loads of fun. I loved researching all of the Thompson Hotel properties, which are all beautiful, and loved designing cocktails to pair with each of the locations. All 7 cocktails tell a story about the history of each location, the local ingredients, and I hope, give the reader a sense of place.
Cocktails have an amazing ability to take imbibers on a journey – if it be a tropical tiki drink that whisks you away to a palm tree covered island despite the snow falling outside, or a perfectly stirred martini that takes you to a candle lit Art Deco bar in New York City. It’s a powerful thing. I hope that when people make these cocktails at home they feel like they are on a mini-vacation!
Negroni – 1 oz London Dry Gin, 1 oz Campari, 1 oz Carpano Antica – Lemon Twist.
Favorite bar in Brooklyn?
Long Island Bar, my local.
What is your most proud accomplishment?
That’s a tough question! I’m incredibly proud of everything I’ve done to get to this point. It has been a lot of hard work and sleepless nights, but hard work is always rewarding. I have been incredibly lucky that I am able to do what I love, see the world, and create. That said, I also feel like I’m just getting started!
Favorite place in Manhattan to grab a drink?
There are too many great places to pick just one! I love The Daily, Campbell Apartment tucked away in Grand Central Station, Middle Branch, Amor y Amargo, Mother of Pearl, The Happiest Hour, the 21 Club…I could go on and on…
Describe NYC in three words.
Hustle. Play. Pizza.
Share something not many people may know about you.
I may live in New York City, but I’m a mountain girl at heart. I spent a lot of my youth in Vail, Colorado where I ski raced until I went to college. The Rockies will always be a special place for me.
Favorite kitchen tool?
My Grandmother’s silver punch bowl and silver punch cups. She was a woman who knew how to entertain.
If you only had three ingredients for making a cocktail for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Campari, Plymouth Gin, and Carpano Antica. And a Lemon.
What is an easy go-to cocktail recipe that is delicious and impressive?
Vermouth on the rocks with a citrus twist! This is one of my party tricks, because no one realizes how delicious vermouth is by itself. One of my favorites is Cocchi Americano Rosa with a grapefruit twist – it’s a perfect libation in the heat of the summer.
Pro Tip: Make sure you keep your vermouth in the refrigerator to keep it from spoiling!
What is a typical workday like for you?
It completely depends on what’s going on, every day is so different. I try to get to the gym first thing so I get it out of the way, and then I’m off to job site to check on construction for an architecture project, followed by meeting with clients, or setting up a photo shoot in my apartment for some new recipes. Sometimes there’s lunch with a master distiller or a winemaker, and I carve out time to write or draw or catch up on emails. In the evenings, I’m either hopping from one event to the next checking out new bar openings and cocktail events or I’m at home with my husband making dinner and trying out new cocktail recipes. My days (and nights) are never boring!
Any dream collaborations or projects you’d love to do someday?
There are so many! I would love to have the opportunity to visit all of the Thompson Group Hotels, this project gave me major wanderlust! First on my list? The Cape! I’m also anxiously awaiting the renovation of the Beekman in Lower Manhattan, it’s a dramatic historical building and I can’t wait to see how it is transformed!
Emily Arden Wells is the Editor and Founder of the cocktail and travel blog Gastronomista. Follow her at @xxGastronomista.