Madame Fromage delves into the world of craft cocktails

Photo by Jason Varney, courtesy of Running Press

Photo by Jason Varney, courtesy of Running Press

Spirited Away

by Emily Kovach

Tenaya Darlington is known for her work in cheese: She is the author of Di Bruno Brothers’ “House of Cheese” and writes the blog Madame Fromage, an online curd chronicle. Darlington, a Fishtown resident, has just released a drinks book, “The New Cocktail Hour: The Essential Guide to Hand-Crafted Drinks” (Running Press, 2016), written in collaboration with her brother André Darlington, a food writer based in Madison, Wisconsin. This ambitious recipe book covers all things shaken, stirred and strained with clear instructions, beautiful photos and copious tasting notes to boot. We caught up with Darlington the morning before she was to depart for a press tour to promote the new book.

How did this project come about?
We’ve always liked writing together—as kids we co-wrote a family newspaper on a typewriter. So this felt like a long time coming. We first pitched a cheese guide with wine, beer and spirits pairings to Running Press, but what they wanted was a cocktail bible. We are cocktail enthusiasts, so we spent the next year working together via Skype or Google Hangouts.

Were there challenges collaborating with a sibling?
I expected there to be more challenges, but we really relished the experience. From years of reading and writing together, we developed a shared voice. When we look over passages, we can’t remember who wrote what.

It seems like a fun project to, you know, “research.”
We read as many cocktail books as we could, going back to early editions, like “The Savoy Cocktail Book” from the Savoy Hotel in London. We wanted to know the history. Then we drank our way through 500 recipes! I had to get over the idea that I was sending a lot of spirits down the drain… sometimes the recipes just weren’t right.

Did you have any revelations while writing the book?
One revelation was how good tiki drinks are. I don’t like sweet drinks, and I’d always thought of them as something in a hotel bar with a plastic umbrella. You throw eight ingredients into a shaker and think, “This can’t taste good.” But what you pour is complex, aromatic and wonderful. That really made my head spin.

Any advice on how to build a home bar on a budget?
We put a spread in the book about how to host a party with three bottles: gin, bourbon and Campari. That can be your whole summer. I also love having a bottle of absinthe. Crème de violette is something else I’ve had fun with, as is chartreuse. I think of the bar as a library, where you’re slowly collecting things.

Guinness Punch
Serves 4

  • 12 ounces (335 ml) Guinness or other stout
  • 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240 ml) ice
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish
  • Cinnamon, for garnish

In a blender, combine stout, milk, condensed milk, and vanilla and ice and pulse for 10 to 15 seconds, or until well combined. Serve in chilled rocks glasses, garnished with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Boulevardier
Makes 1

  • 2 ounces (60 ml) bourbon (Buffalo Trace or Four Roses)
  • 1 ounce (30 ml) Campari
  • 1 ounce (30 ml) sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica)
  • Orange twist, for garnish

Stir the ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled coupe glass if you’d like it up, and in a rocks glass if not. Garnish with an orange twist.