The Five Questions: Trudy Thomas (Mixologist Supreme) Jordan Silbert (QTonic Founder)
September 8, 2010
Trudy Thomas is the Director of Beverages at the Camelback Inn, a JW Marriott Resort and Spa. It is located in Phoenix, Arizona.
Trudy has a quiet and calm demeanor on the telephone. She speaks slowly, carefully and with clarity. She has one of those lovely, airy Southern accents, it immediately put me at ease. We spoke for about a 1/2 an hour about everything from Cast Iron Pan cooking to her favorite brand of Bourbon- which she did not mention in the interview for obvious reasons which she gently tried to explain to me.
1. When did you get bitten by the cocktail bug? How old were you? What was your first mixed cocktail?
“I grew up in South Central Kentucky. There were lots of places where liquor is made. Can’t tell you about them, though, these places are secret. I’ve always had a fascination with spirits. I got this passion from my grandfather. He liked to drink brown liquors. I suppose I was four or five at the time when I noticed this. When I was in my twenties I got a job in bar tending. I always wanted to learn to bar tending. What was my first mixed cocktail? That’s easy, it was an either one of the two from that time, the classic Long Island Iced Tea. Everyone wanted to do shots of Sex on the Beach. They are pretty simple cocktails to make. I still remember the first time that I made them. Things are much more creative now.”
2. When creating a cocktail do you do cost analysis to determine the price you charge for that drink?
“Of course we do cost analysis. We figure out the ingredients on paper and refine them in the bar. We have to keep our cocktails in a certain price point. You know pretty quickly what they should cost and what the competition charges. I’m running several restaurants with bars simultaneously and we charge according to the quality of liquors used. Cocktails are much more than they were, say- 10 years ago. That’s where my career turned.”
The Camelback property in Phoenix, Arizona has three full service restaurants going at all hours.
3. Who taught you to cook? Mother? Father? Grandparents?
“I can cook, but I don’t cook very often, I work around the clock at the resort. At home in Kentucky, mom was always in the kitchen. Cooking was just there, especially in rural Kentucky. Mom cooked everyday for all of us. Our cast iron pans are still in use today. These are really beautiful pieces for cooking foods over an open fire. My great grandmother made lye soap in her cast iron pot specifically for that recipe.”
*Recipe for lye soap attached.
Trudy and I started to talk about the passion for cast iron cooking. That conversation led to her family recipe for soap.
Did your family dine together?
“Yes. Sunday dinners were a ritual. Every holiday we would get up for breakfast at 5 am. Just filled us with all the things from the farm. We made our own salt cured hams; they’d hang all winter out in the barn. Drink wine at dinner? There was no wine or Bourbon at dinner in the Bible belt.”
4. Who taught you to cook? Do you have something that you prepare that brings a tear to your eye when you make it? Why? Was it because of a person? Who?
“My mom made chicken n’ dumplings from scratch, its my go/to comfort food. You can never make a small batch, it always had to created in large portions. We cured our own ham on our farm. It was Smithfield- type- salt cured.” Do you cook? ‘My own culinary inspiration came from Wolfgang Puck. He would always say that simple is better. He would tell me to never add more than 3 ingredients in any drink. This was his instruction. I worked from 2000-2004 with Wolfgang Puck.”
5. If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would that be and what kind of cocktail would you drink as soon as you could?
“Home in Kentucky during race season. When I’m home I just want to drink bourbon on the rocks.”
(Trudy’s favorite brand of Bourbon was never mentioned!)
Trudy sent me an email for the soap recipe: “Here is the lye soap recipe – I also found our families Kettle Hominy recipe when I was searching through old recipes written by hand, it may not fit your project but I thought it was fun so I put it at the end too!” ~ Trudy
My Grandfather’s mother was named Ollie Thomas. This is her recipe that is made outside in a cast Iron kettle over an open flame on our family’s farm is South Central Kentucky.
Have ready Hickory Lye strong enough to bear and egg. (Float an Egg) get your lye from your ash hopper.
3 lbs of Clean Fat after being melted
2 gallons lye
Bit of Lime the size of a walnut
Boil Fat & stir frequently
After an hour stir in 2 gallons of lye
Continue to stir often and always-in one direction
After several hours of boiling take out a spoonful and cool on a plate if it does not jelly add a little more water if it then jellies add water to that in the Kettle.
Stir very quickly with water and continue till you see it “Rope on the Stick” or it becomes heavy = called Jelly Soup or “Sauce Soft “by some.
To make it hard stir in 1 Quart of Salt & let boil 10 minutes longer
Set it out to Cool
Next cut soap out of the Kettle
Clarify by melting over – add water barely enough to cover it.
Let it come to a boil & set it away.
When soap is perfectly cool & firm tumble it out and cut it in pieces.
Then place it on boards to harden.
If you want the soap for toilet purposes
It is only necessary to cut it into thin shavings and place it in a very nice tin pan.
Add a little water scarcely enough to cover shavings. Set it on some embers, stir and heat with a nice spoon until it becomes a smooth jelly.
Take off the coals and add oil of Lavender, Sassafras or any other oil that you like.
A farm dish made from dried corn, water & a little lye made the way our great grand parents did.
Start with dried corn, shell & wash it
(Our family used the 8-row sweet corn)
In a large cast iron kettle
Add corn and fill with water, then add enough hickory lye ashes to cover it
Build a fire under kettle and bring to a boil cooking until the lye releases the husk on the corn then let it set until cool enough to touch
Rinse several times in hot water to rinse off husks and lye then in cool water until the hominy is cool enough to touch
Rub off remaining husks and put corn in clean water, boil then wash again
Continue repeating until the corn is tender enough to be eaten and all the husks have been removed
This process can take an entire day
Old-fashioned hominy cooked fresh is served straight from the kettle with salt & pepper or other seasoning of your choice. Fresh Hominy can also be frozen or canned. When cooked the corn swells which means one gallon of dried corn will yield approx two gallons of cooked hominy
Hominy when ground into small pieces can be made into
5 parts water
1 part hominy grits
1 Tbsp Butter
Bring water to a rapid boil
Add grits and stir often
Reduce heat & add butter stirring
Cook until water is absorbed
Grits may be sweetened with choice of honey, sugar or molasses or served with cheese, ham or bacon.
Thanks Trudy- I appreciate your time with me today. wb
Trudy can be found on Twitter@ INNtoxic8ing
Q Tonic Water– Jordan Silbert Owner/Founder
I first came across Jordan Silbert a few years ago at the Fancy Food Show in NYC. He’s a friendly guy, with an easy smile and outgoing personality. His product attracted my attention because of the clean packaging that reveals the clarity of his tonic water. The flavor of his product reminded me of tonic water I enjoyed years prior in the Ivory Coast of Africa, where you drank quinine water to stave off Malaria. Of course you drank Gin along with your tonic to take the edge off of 100 degree temperatures and 100 % humidity. Lime juice would add a spark to the drink. A few too many in the relentless heat and humidity and you’d have to go to sleep.
1. Where did you grow up? Did you always find a natural affinity to the beverage business?
“I grew up in New York City. I didn’t have a particular affinity for the beverage business, but growing up we did get deliveries of those old fashioned glass seltzer bottles. I’d always mix different concoctions with different juices and the seltzer.”
2. Who taught you to cook? Do you cook? Mother, father, grandparents? Television? Do you cook at home?
“I do cook, and I really like cooking, but I don’t do it nearly enough these days because I’m working so much on Q Tonic. But my favorite time of every week is cooking dinner with my girlfriend on Sunday nights. It’s the one immovable event on our calendar. When we’re home in Brooklyn we buy whatever fresh fish and vegetables catch our eye at the farmers market in Grand Army Plaza on Saturday morning and then cook something fantastic up on Sunday night. I learned to cook from my Mom. She always told me that anyone who is a good eater can be a good cook. If you know what you like and you use fresh, high quality ingredients, it’s not that hard to make it if you just pay attention and don’t over cook anything.”
3. Do you prepare anything that brings a tear to your eye when you prepare it? Who does it remind you of?
“A tear to my eye is a little much, but it doesn’t get much better than chopped heirloom tomatoes with a sprinkle of vinegar and a dash of salt. My mother grows tomatoes in a garden she’s been working for almost 40 years. Just about the best ones anywhere. So that makes me think of her.”
4. Do you have a favorite bar-tender and where is he/she located? What drink do they prepare that you just adore?
“These days my favorite bar is the Beast, a bar/restaurant a couple of blocks away from my house in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. My girlfriend and I will go there on a Friday night, after a long week at the tonic mines. Jonathan is the bartender and he knows how I like it: a glass of straight gin, shaken, and then served on the rocks with a twist.”
5. How did you get interested in manufacturing a gourmet product like Q tonic water? What was your inspiration? Are you culinary trained?
“When I think about it, I think my interest in making Q Tonic stems from making my own wine in Sonoma County. When I graduated college, I headed out to California seeking fame, fortune, and more than anything, sun. I ended up in the hills between Santa Rosa and Calistoga, living in the guest cabin of an unbelievable guy who lived the good life. Among other things, he made his own wine. So I got to go through that process with him – picking the grapes, crushing them, and then barreling and bottling the wine. So when I had that gin-induced moment of inspiration that the world needed a better tonic water, I knew I could make something that tasted great.
Thank you Jordan for enlightening me with your delicious concoction. I’ll see you at the Fancy Food Show again next Summer. It’s nice to see you become (more) successful withWilliams Sonoma stores selling your fantastic Q Tonic water.
Warren Bobrow is a mixologist, chef, and writer known as the Cocktail Whisperer. In 2010, Bobrow founded “Wild Table” for Wild River Review and serves as the master mixologist for several brands of liquor, including the Busted Barrel rum produced by New Jersey’s first licensed distillery since Prohibition.
Bobrow has published three books on mixology and written articles for Saveur magazine, Voda magazine, Whole Foods-Dark Rye, Distiller, Beverage Media, DrinkupNY and other periodicals. He writes the “On Whiskey” column for Okra Magazine at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and has written restaurant reviews for New Jersey Monthly.
His first book Apothecary Cocktails, was published in September 2013; and immediately went into a second printing. In 2014, he published Whiskey Cocktails. He was born and raised in Morristown, NJ, on a Biodynamic farm.
Warren Bobrow in this Edition
COCKTAIL WHISPERER, Editor
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