Meet the Blue Apron of craft cocktails: Shaker & Spoon
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These days you can get almost anything delivered to your house, from meal kits to monthly outfits, workout gear and wine. So, why not cocktails?
It's exactly the question Shaker & Spoon co-founders Anna Gorovoy and Mike Milyavsky asked themselves before launching their company in fall of 2015.
"Meal kits were a really big deal at the time," says Anna Gorovoy. "So many people were getting those boxes and really using them as a way to learn how to cook for themselves. And we realized that we were in a similar situation in terms of cocktails. We were amateur bartenders, and we really wanted to learn more about how to make great cocktails at home.
"It's not something you really learn from your parents, and it's something so many people really want to learn how to do."
Inspired, they set out to create a cocktail subscription program that would fill what they saw as a dearth in the marketplace.
"We feature a different spirit every month," she explains. "So people get the opportunity to try a lot of different things ... from gin and whiskey to more unusual things like pisco and sake. And if there's something a subscriber knows they don't like, we also give them the option to skip the box if they'd like."
Gorovoy says interest in the boxes has grown significantly since their launch, and they're hearing more and more from people who really appreciate the opportunity to create and experience new things every month.
"Recently, someone in rural Alaska wrote to us and told us that we are their connection to the craft cocktail world," she says. "And that's the sort of thing that we really love to hear."
How does it work?
It's simple. Sign up for a subscription ($50 per month, three months or more for a discounted rate) and you'll receive a monthly box filled with just about everything you need to make four servings of three different cocktails. That includes ingredients (citrus fruits, syrups, juices, bitters and garnishes), recipes from some of the best bartenders in the country and tips and tricks to make your cocktails even better.
Shaker & Spoon was kind enough to send me a Death By Gin Box so that I could have the full experience. My box contained a bottle of spiced persimmon cordial, a small vial of Angostura bitters, a whole nutmeg, Drink More Good spiced chai syrup, Bittercube cherry bark vanilla bitters, a nickel bag of sea salt, a bottle of bergamot tea elixir, a jar of Filthy (cocktail) onions, three lemons and four limes. There were also cocktail picks, coasters, three recipes and a handy glossary outlining barware, glassware, techniques and terminology needed to follow the recipes.
It was everything that I needed to make three different gin-based cocktails, with the exception of the alcohol.
I actually loved that. It meant I was able to experiment a bit with the cocktail recipes, using different styles of gin (Twisted Path's new world style gin, a big box brand London Dry and Rehorst Barrel Reserve Gin). In fact, part of the the fun was seeing which versions made the best cocktails.
For instance, I made a really delicious version of "The Valet" – a riff on the Gibson created by bartenders Russell Davis and Danny Ronen of Acadamia in Austin – featuring the bergamot tea elixir (which had a hint of serrano pepper), Filthy onion brine and the Rehorst Barrel Reserve Gin. It was sweet and salty and pleasantly complex.
"It's easy for people to get a hold of the spirits they need for the recipes," says Gorovoy. "And they have the option of using their favorite brands and supporting their local liquor stores. On the other hand, the great bespoke ingredients, including the syrups and the bitters … those are things that aren't as easy to find. And we provide them in smaller portions that are just perfect for the number of cocktails in the box. It gives people the chance to try these really great products they might not otherwise find locally."
I definitely had a good time trying out the various syrups in my box. And I was impressed that at least one of the products – the Bittercube cherry bark vanilla bitters – was made right here in Milwaukee.
"Bittercube has been great to work with," says Gorovoy. "And they're an example of the great products that we're able to feature. We've used them for a number of our boxes already, and I think we're including them again in one of our boxes this spring. Their bitters are great, and we think everyone should have some Bittercube at home."
In addition to getting to try a host of new ingredients every month, one of the best things about the Shaker & Spoon boxes is that if you fall in love with one of the ingredients in a box, you can make a trip to the Shaker & Spoon online shop, where a good number of the syrups and ingredients (along with fun one-off boxes that would be perfect for gifting) are available for purchase.
In addition, if you want to learn more about the history and spirits featured in a box, you can just head over to their blog, where they share all sorts of insightful information (in my case, the Death by Gin box).
"Subscription boxes are so popular lately," says Gorovoy. "I get a number of them myself, and I love the fact that I can experience something new every month. It's really like a gift to yourself. And with our boxes, it's a chance to learn all sorts of new things from great bartenders across the nation."
For more information or to order a box, visit shakerandspoon.com.
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