In Aquavit - Private Reserve, Cocktail Adventures, Life of a Distiller

Drink Sign at James Beard AwardsWe had the honor of serving cocktails at the James Beard Awards in Chicago last week. For those who aren’t already aware, this award ceremony is often called the “Oscars of the Food World” and they were held in Chicago for the first time ever this year (this is the first time they have been held outside of New York). At least 1,800 people attended the event, which included an extensive awards ceremony as well as a robust after party and gala (which is where we came in).

Drink Development & Partnership

Our friends over at Nielsen-Massey approached us a couple of months ago about partnering with them on a drink for the event, and we were intrigued at the opportunity. We talked about what we were hoping to achieve with our drink, what we wanted to do with regard to decor and appearance for our table, and how we would plan out and serve the drinks. And, of course, we got together to taste and discuss possible drink recipes.

We settled on a combination of our Aquavit – Private Reserve and two of their amazing extracts – the Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract and the Orange Extract. Because we wanted the ingredients to speak for themselves and shine in the drink, we kept the rest of the drink simple – we added some fresh lemon juice for brightness, and cardamom simple syrup for depth of flavor and balance.  To accentuate the beauty of their extracts, we also made a perfume for our cocktail garnish with their extracts. We called our cocktail The Chicago Standard – you can find the full recipe here.

Serving up Drinks100’s of Cocktails

We served around 250 cocktails or so in about 90 minutes at the event – the ceremony ran long, so when it finally ended around 9:45, we had throngs of thirsty, hungry people heading our way. It was a mad dash of activity at our station, as we shook up and served cocktails as quickly as we could. People seemed to really love our cocktail, and we had a few folks who came back for seconds (and thirds), which we took as a huge compliment. Unfortunately, we were in a corner of the room, so once it got jammed it was a bit hard for people to find their way to us. And, there were tons of other amazing things to eat and drink in the room – what a party!

Along the way, we saw a number of chefs we only know from seeing them on television, and got to meet some folks in the industry that we really admire (like Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head, who was nominated for a James Beard Award this year). We got to share a toast with some award winners, as well as some nominees, and there was a tremendous energy in the event space all night.

All in all, it was a great experience, and we appreciated the opportunity to showcase our company and our spirits, along with our friends at Nielsen-Massey, at such a prestigious event! Here are a few more photos from the event:

Beard Event Station 2
The Team at the Beard Awards


The Scene at the James Beard Awards part 2
The Scene at the James Beard Awards