Monthly Archive for June, 2013

An Interview with Allison Evanow, Founder & CEO of Square One Organic Vodka

allison_e_headshotUsing locally sourced, sustainable, and/or organic products is a growing factor in how consumers choose their foods today. But what about changing the way we imbibe? Meet Allison Evanow, a pioneer of the organic spirit industry and member of the Food Mavericks Panel at Sun Valley Harvest Festival, 2013. Allison founded Square One Organic Spirits, and in doing so introduced the world to its first USDA Certified Organic Rye Vodka. Knowing that I’d be able to meet the woman who changed the way we define “artisanal cocktails,” I had a few questions to ask before she arrives here in Foodie Heaven this fall.

SVHF: What inspired your first “culinary cocktail”?

AE: Back in 2006, one of Square One’s first customers was a restaurant in San Francisco that became known for their Basil Gimlet cocktail, using Square One Organic Vodka, lime, simple syrup, fresh basil and fresh thyme as the garnish. The freshness of that cocktail and its incredible ability to be consumed with food without throwing the palate off-balance inspired the foodie side of me. The cocktail affirmed for me the idea of culinary cocktails, in which fresh produce and produce-driven flavor profiles (such as the garden botanicals in our spirits) are the key influences in the cocktail.

From my point of view, culinary-style cocktails have added another facet to cocktail development. Traditionally, cocktails consisted of spirit-forward drinks (i.e. Manhattan, Negronis, etc) or simple combinations of spirits with singular mixers (i.e. rum and coke, vodka orange juice, etc.) Even though there are punch style recipes available as well, the familiar cocktail formula was dominated either by the taste of the spirit or sweetness added to offset the booze factor. With culinary-style cocktails, the introduction of fresh citrus and produce brings along the layering of flavors, like in cooking, to create cocktails that are complex and satisfying on their own and that pair well with food.

SVHF: What made you choose organic rye for the base of your vodkas?

AE: I personally like rye grain for vodka, which is probably influenced by my love of rye whiskey. But more than personal preference, Rye was the original grain fermented for Russian vodka (before potato, wheat, corn etc.) and it is traditionally considered a connoisseurs grain for vodka. Rye is one of nature’s densest and most flavorful grains and when grown organically, rye’s natural qualities are allowed their full expression. Rye is the foundation for all of our spirits. For Square One Organic Vodka and all of our spirits, the rich, nutty taste and luscious roundness of character on the palate is the direct result of our choice of a high quality grain and organic distillation.

SVHF:  Where do you find your inspiration for your artisanal flavors profiles?

AE: I enjoy the creativity of layering flavors and textures in food and in cocktails. I get ideas for new spirits by thinking about how the spirit can be presented in a cocktail. Not just one or two drink recipes. Rather, I want to create spirits that will mix well with a wide range of spirits, complementers, and fresh ingredients for cocktail creativity. For example, Square One Botanical is beautiful simply mixed or you can build on the taste profile of the spirit by including in the cocktail recipe a fresh version of one of the botanicals that are in the spirit.  Square One Basil balances sweetness and gives savory complexity to cocktails in the same way as fresh basil does with food.  Even before I started Square One, I knew the subtle, refreshing qualities of cucumber in food and I knew that I wanted to create Square One Cucumber for cocktails. (by the way, it’s harder than you would think. It took us 3 years to perfect Square One Cucumber).

SVHF: Any future plans for new vodka flavors? Or have you ever considered breaking into a new type of alcohol?

AE: We have this discussion all the time here at the office of Square One.  There are so many cool ideas and new categories we would love to jump into, both because we love exploring new taste profiles and ideas, and we know we have the knowledge and expertise to continue to deliver outstanding spirits to the market.  However, we’ve held back because there’s so much opportunity to build more with our current spirits. We don’t want to muddle the message (pardon the pun!) by adding too many spirits to the portfolio.

For example, Square One Botanical and Square One Basil have been extremely well-received in the by bars and restaurants that quickly understand the versatility of our spirits and that we bridge the gap between traditional flavored vodkas and juniper-driven gins.  But these are still new ideas for most people, so we’re busy helping our distributors (and their sales teams) understand our approach to cocktails so they can present new cocktail ideas to bars and restaurants that are just beginning to incorporate culinary cocktails on their menu. And there’s room to build Square One’s line of spirits in many major cities that are just now gaining momentum with culinary cocktails. So for now, we hold back on our aspirations and ambitions and continue to hit the street to introduce Square One Organic Spirits, one cocktail at a time.

SVHF:  What makes the perfect refreshing summer cocktail?

AE: Muddled fresh fruits with a bit of herb can be an easy winner. As peach season is coming up, – here’s a recipe that’s perfect for that over-ripe and bruised peach in your fruit basket:

Peaches & Herb
Lots of ice and ripe peach make this the perfect smash cocktail for a warm summer’s eve.

2 oz. Square One BotanicalPeaches & Herb

3 lemon verbena leaves (or mint leaves)

1 thick slice of ripe white peach

1/4 oz. lemon juice

1/4 oz. agave nectar

1 thin slice of peach and 1 lemon verbena leaf for garnish

Muddle lemon verbena and peach in rocks glass.  Add lemon juice and agave nectar and top with lots of crushed ice.  Pour Square One Botanical over crushed ice and stir well with a bar spoon.  Garnish with a thin peach slice and lemon verbena leaf.

Look for Allison at our first annual Food Mavericks Panel, and her Square One Organic Vodkas at the Martini & Caviar Party on Saturday night at Roundhouse Restaurant!


Foodtrainers Bridge the Gap Between What We Know and What We Consume

headshot-laurenLauren Slayton MS RD is a self-proclaimed foodie who believes good taste and healthy eating need not be mutually exclusive. In fact, her career at Foodtrainers is based on helping her clients look and feel their best without sacrificing delicious meals. Lauren says, “Often clients come to me saying ‘I love food, it’s a problem’ but I enjoy showing them that whether they’re training for a triathlon or trying to lose weight, being a foodie is an asset, provided they make the right choices.” Being a foodie can be an asset? Obviously, we can’t wait to hear more.

Ms. Slayton’s upbringing contributes to her passion for helping her clients make good decisions and her ability to create food plans to fit their lifestyles. Lauren was raised in a very “food-centric family,” with a mother “who worked full time but still cooked every night and my Italian father [who] instilled an appreciation of food (and long meals) in me.” Growing up without exposure to processed foods and awareness of a need for balance in one’s diet ultimately led her to complete a Masters in Clinical Nutrition at New York University. Through her work as a private consultant to clients she helps to “bridge the gap between what we know we should be eating and what we actually consume.”

As a participant of our Food Trends panel, Ms. Slayton will be involved in a discussion about current food topics like juicing, gluten-free, coconut water, and pickling. As a “Foodtrainer,” her job consists of consulting 40-50 savvy clients a week, and she says staying on top of these trends is a must. For example, Lauren wrote a recent blog about the explosion and relatively new “coolness” of Kale, comparing it to the Kardashians. We really look forward to hearing more about these foodie hot-topics from her perspective!