We’re still surfing the giant wave caused by mail-order drinks clubs, RTD cocktails, to-go Old Fashioned’s, and more. Having tried many options within these categories, I’m often left feeling a bit nostalgic for the “before times.” Do I want to return to crowded bars for my favorite riff on a Boulevardier? Not at all. I’m too psychologically damaged for that. But I do want a damn good drink that I can prepare at home. Bonus points if it sheds some new light on a specific spirit or style of imbibing.
Shaker & Spoon occupies a certain niche, and quite deftly. While some services do all the work for you, this outfit lays out a bar program that requires a bit of assembly. That said, it’s an ideal route for all of the wannabe barkeeps out there. If fixing a drink at home is your thing—and I do mean fix, as you’ll likely embark on hammering ice, shaking tins, and double-straining—Shaker & Spoon could be the ticket to improving your inner mixologist.
Everything You Need Besides the Alcohol
This is a monthly club that sets you up with the ingredients to make some complex drinks dreamed up by brand ambassadors and bartenders from all over. You can simply sign up for a month or set yourself up with a string of consecutive months (three, six, or 12), saving as you go. What arrives in the mail isn’t the entire picture, as there are video tutorials on the website that show you how to make that month’s cocktails. There’s also a list of spirits the team suggests you choose from to collect as you’re waiting for your box.
Shipping and Cancellation
Because there’s no booze in the box, you don’t technically have to be around to receive it (an unexpected perk). The cocktail recipes are specifically engineered by industry types for the program, so you’re pretty unlikely to stumble into anything like it, even at your preferred maximalist cocktail establishment. You can cancel whenever, or even skip shipments if the theme is not your cup of tea.
I signed up for the Summer Scotch 2 installment, which set me up with three cocktails framing the iconic whisky. All three were all wildly unique and called on some pretty intriguing ingredients. The best of the bunch was the simplest, at least in terms of what all went into it. The drink was called A Worn Path and blended Scotch with strawberry cordial and an IPA tincture. The berry flavors embraced the Scotch fully (I opted for a more floral Scotch in Glenfiddich 14-Year) and the tincture added a hoppy, grassy element, making the whole thing feel something akin to garden-fresh. The fact that the cordial included pink peppercorn and orange peel only added more complementary depth to the drink. It’s the kind of drink you make sneakily in the kitchen and present to your friends, cooly mentioning that you are its brainchild.
It should be known that I only sampled a single box, but I did look through past shipments pretty thoroughly to come away with a good feel for membership. The pros outweigh the cons with this club. It’s certainly built for somebody already interested in the craft. Those without much in the way of bar tools will struggle to pull off a lot of these drinks. Then again, you could use membership as leverage to get your domestic watering hole in working order.
Pros and Cons
The cons? While the club makes wise suggestions for spirits, they are not included in the delivery. Again, that’s less of an issue for somebody with an established bar but for the weekend warriors who collect provisions only when needed, it’s a bit of an inconvenience. Also, some of the asks are a bit much. I was a bit surprised to find I would be making my own crushed ice for one of the drinks in the batch. Those who really want to be involved, from picking out the precise liquor to making things from the ground up, could argue that these are positives. Oh, there’s also a lot of text to wade through. Hats off to the team as it’s mostly well-written and useful for somebody like me who appreciates context (perhaps to a fault). Yet, it could almost surely be distilled a bit.
The pros? The resulting drinks. There’s real quality in what ends up in the glass. More importantly, there’s a shot at a new mindset. I’ve always seen Scotch whisky as a more versatile drink than most make it out to be but I never thought I might be hitting it with a hoppy IPA tincture or grapefruit-elderflower barmalade. These are the kind of
Another advantage is having some leftover juices, bitters, nectars, etc. to mess around with for a while after your first crack at some of these drinks. You can keep them in your fridge and give it another go if your first attempt let you down. Or, try them out on different variations (sub in different spirit options) of the
While we recommend it, Shaker & Spoon could be a bit intimidating for those just wetting their toes in craft mixology. But for those want to take their game to the next level, give it a go.
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