Nick Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz: Mixology Magicians-The Five Questions
December 29, 2010
In the modern world of Mixology, there are new ways of making classic drinks. One of these new ways involve the use of aromatic and flavor packed cocktail bitters. These are not your bitters of yore, but revolutionary techniques using culinary creativity in the applications for Nick and Ira’s handcrafted cocktail bitters.
Bittercube uses flavors and techniques that are firmly grounded in classic culinary methods. I love their little blue bottles fitted with medicine droppers.
They are to be carefully metered out, one drop at a time!
Nick and Ira truly have created their own signature that reads, according to their website: Cocktail Metamorphosis!
1. When did you catch the cocktail bug? How old were you? What was your first mixed drink that you made yourself?
Nick: I caught the cocktail bug while working at the Town Talk Diner in Minneapolis, MN in 2006. I was 26 and my cocktail whisperer was Aaron Johnson, who taught me how to think outside of the box while still maintaining speed and efficiency. Together we concocted and combined many unique flavors and built a well executed cocktail program using a plethora of house made products. I think Aaron’s Kentucky Cousin was the first cocktail that really got me interested in the craft. Jim Beam Bourbon, Cherry Herring, simple syrup, lemon, mint and a splash of iced tea is a unique and easily executable riff on a few different classics.
Ira: I worked at a number of bars in Boston in 2005 and 2006 that had cocktail menus. This is when I was first introduced to fresh juices and house-made syrups. I became friends with the chef at one restaurant in particular, Upstairs on the Square, and he would always throw me interesting seasonal ingredients to work with. As a special, I created a rosemary-rhubarb syrup and utilized it in a Gimlet style cocktail to great avail. This was probably the first “craft cocktail” I created. But it wasn’t until after traveling in Latin America for 6 months when I moved back to Chicago in 2007 and took a job bartending at The Violet Hour that I truly caught the cocktail bug. I was 27. For months I focused on learning the methodology behind balancing a cocktail for before I started crafting my own cocktails.
2. Do you cook? If so, who taught you about food? Mother, father, grandparents, cookbooks, tv cooking chefs?
Nick: As often as possible. I was the oldest of four children in my family and took care of my siblings during summer breaks while my parents worked so I’ve been using the stove since I was in junior high. I definitely learned a lot from my mother in my early years learning our family’s recipes. Since joining the brigade of restaurant workers 10 years ago I’ve always had a passion for good food and enjoy cooking for friends and family.
It wasn’t really until I started working at Town Talk Diner under Aaron Johnson that I really got the bug for cooking good food. We’d work all day and night and certain evenings around 3am Aaron would raid the walk in and he would create some amazing dishes. Some of my most memorable meals have been eaten at three in the morning.
Ira: I love to cook! I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family of cooks. I was exposed to a number of interesting dishes like homemade falafel and cous cous, for instance, at a very young age. My parents never bought frozen or canned foods either. Having traveled to 5 continents, I’ve been exposed to cuisine all over the world, which has inspired me to cook using various techniques. When I moved to Chicago in 2003, I got a job as a food runner at a restaurant in Wicker Park. I spent many hours watching chefs and line cooks put out inspired contemporary American cuisine. I asked a lot of (probably too many!) questions and took mental notes of a number of techniques. This is definitely when I became a “creative” cook, combining recipes and techniques and creating meals without following recipes.
3. Tell me about your company Bittercube? Why bitters?
Nick and Ira: Bittercube is a company devoted to the craft cocktail and has two sides; one being a consulting company, the other, a bitters company. For over a year now Bittercube has consulted with restaurants and bars throughout the Midwest, developing cocktail menus, training staff, and curating spirit lists. We focus our training programs on the history of the cocktail and educating bartenders on how to properly balance cocktails.
We have been making bitters individually for three years now and started honing six recipes about a year ago. Bitters are an integral part of the cocktail renaissance and the history of the cocktail movement. Bitters have a unique ability to add depth and character to cocktails and we pride ourselves on hand-crafting a unique line of artisanal bitters.
4. Is there anything that you drink that brings a tear to your eye when you enjoy it? Why?
Nick: I always get excited when anything super special is on the table. Recently I had a sip of Old Overholt that was over 70 years old! It’s the same cracking into a new bottle of Chartreuse V.E.P. or a great bottle of wine. Another one that comes to mind is Deus, the Belgian beer aged in the caves of Dom Perignon.
Ira: Recently, I was fortunate enough to taste O.F.C. (Old Fired Copper) Bourbon that was put in casks before prohibition and promptly bottled after repeal. The bottle was an unopened bottle when we cracked it and was one of the finest Whiskies I’ve tasted. But what was so amazing and encouraging is that O.F.C made me realize that great Bourbon’s are being produced today. Though the flavor was exquisite, it shared similarities with fine Bourbon’s of today. As far as things on the market, I would have to say that Pappy Van Winkle 15 yr. Bourbon and Black Maple Hill 23 yr. Rye are both very, very special Whiskies, that when I am able to imbibe, definitely bring a tear to my eye!
5. Social Networking brought us together. You use Twitter and Facebook? Do you have a Social Networking strategy?
Nick and Ira: We use Twitter and Facebook to connect with our friends, industry folk, Speakeasy regulars, and cocktail nerds because we don’t work behind one conventional bar. We spend our time throughout the Midwest and create events in various types of venues. Our followers on Facebook and Twitter get first cracks at signing up for classes or invitations to Speakeasies. GO, Air Tran’s monthly magazine recently wrote about Bittercube being not really “where” to party but “who” and proceeded to tell it’s readers to follow us on Twitter or Facebookto find out what we’re up to.
Proprietor: Bittercube, LLC
Proprietor – Bittercube, LLC
Thank you gentlemen for your place on my cocktail bar. I refer back to your bitters often. One drop at a time. Using bitters in a cocktail is not just the creation of a cocktail. Bitters enhance the experience I believe is essential in the enjoyment of a cocktail. Here is a creation of my own invention that utilizes Bittercube in the preparation. Cheers! wb
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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