While you might be more familiar with Alison and Alex, their older brother Nik clearly has the family’s creative genes as he took on this new aperitif project! Nik took some time to chat with us about his adventures into the world of this herbaceous liquor.
What inspired you to create an aperitif?
I had two original concepts that I was interested in creating. One that was very easy to drink, summery – like Lillet but a bit more interesting hopefully, and a separate one that was a more bitter red. I had been drinking amaros and other fortified wines increasingly over the past 15 years and was getting more and more interested in them. I did a bunch of research and thought it would be something worth trying.
How do you make an aperitif and what was the most challenging part?
I started by finding a recipe and making a homemade batch in my basement – I had ordered a bunch of botanicals, including a range of traditional bittering agents. I also ordered a range of things that were more native/local. I macerated them all individually and tried each to understand their flavors, with and without some simple sugar added. I made a couple concoctions and shared with some neighbors.
I found that a bunch of the things I wanted to use – items that grew locally like dandelion root, nettle leaves, hops — did not have a flavor profile that fit what I was looking for with these first aperitifs. I also really wanted to harvest Queen Anne’s lace from the property and use it, but then realized that it was not approved by the FDA so had to ditch that idea.
Eventually we found someone to not only make the brandy for us, but to actually help consult in taking my idea and basement chemistry experiment into an actual product (Lynsee Sardell from Big Wild Spirits). She was a fantastic help.
We ended up with a mix that had some locally sourced ingredients, particularly the fresh red cherries in the red, and the local flowers used in the infusion in the white, and other ingredients from around the world that helped deliver the flavor profile we wanted (lemon peel, pomegranate seeds, bergamot, etc.).
Coming up with the aperitifs we liked was really fun. Actually, making a larger quantity and then bottling it was more challenging, because we couldn’t use many of the normal tools, we use to make wine, including our filters and the bottling line we use for wine. So, we ended up doing everything in the first batch by hand.
How would you describe the Red and White if they were each a person?
Red: Sophisticated and witty, they are just as comfortable sharing their thoughtful opinions on college football conferences as on the latest edition of the Paris Review literary journal. A bit bitter at first, their personality has an unusual draw that increases with time.
White: Immediately attractive and excellent at small talk, you realize over time that there’s more depth to them than the easygoing persona they express up front.
What is your favorite way to enjoy each aperitif?
Red: On the rocks, around 5pm, while I’m starting to make dinner.
White: On the rocks or with some sparkling wine, when the suns out.