Meet and Eat: NY

Conversations with chefs and food personalities in New York City.

Meet & Eat: Lindsey Johnson, 12 Second Cocktails

"The 12-second time limit makes choosing cocktails difficult."

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From left: Mike Ekey, Lindsey Johnson, and Leo Borovskiy; creators of 12 Second Cocktails.

Sure, it may seem easier to head to a bar and pay $13 for a fancy-pants cocktail, but really, it can be just as fun (and likely cheaper) to invite a few friends over, chip in for some key ingredients, and make some DIY cocktails at home. If you're at a loss for where to begin, try the team behind 12 Second Cocktails, a site that gives step-by-step guidance to making serious cocktails, so that even the novice home mixologist can impress his or her guests. Lindsey Johnson answered our questions over a few drinks (naturally).

Name: Lindsey Johnson
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Website: 12secondcocktails.tumblr.com

How did you come up with the idea for 12 Second Cocktails? When you search for cocktail recipes on the web, you end up with two kinds of results: a simple text recipe or a 10-minute long video teaching you the proper mechanics of the shake. We take the positive points of both and turn them into a digestible bite. It's really about demystifying cocktail culture. Anyone can make these drinks at home, and we want to show people how easy it is.

None of you currently tends bar, so what are your sources for cocktail knowledge? For recipes, we typically bust out the Savoy Cocktail Book, The Joy of Mixology, or The Essential Cocktail. Gary Regan's iPhone application is also a really great tool to quickly find a recipe and see how it's supposed to look. Ours never look as pretty as Gary's, but at least we have something to aspire to.

How do you decide which cocktails to feature? The 12-second time limit makes choosing cocktails difficult. We're limited to using four or fewer ingredients and whenever I add a cocktail with Angostura Bitters, Leo (our editor) flips out. But, time limits aside, we do like to focus on the classics and I've been known to take requests from my Twitter followers.

Have you made up any of your own cocktails? I doubt you'll see one of my original creations on 12SC, but since we have such a huge home bar, we like to get creative from time to time. But, I usually only subject my friends to my creations.

Any places you've had a great cocktail that Serious Eaters are unlikely to have been? I think the most underrated mixologist in NYC is Allan Katz who helms the bar at Fatty Crab and Cabrito. You go into those places expecting great food-that's a given-but, Allan delivers thoughtful, interesting, and, of course, tasty cocktails.

Any tips for someone who wants to stock a slammin' home bar?
1. Run, don't walk, away from any premixed cocktails. The margarita in a jug is not your friend! Make sure you have plenty of fresh fruit and juice to mix with your spirits.
2. A little simple syrup goes a long way in balancing a drink, and making it couldn't be easier.
3. Conversely, bitters add that extra complexity that elevate a good cocktail to a great one.
4. Make sure you keep your vermouth and other perishable spirits in the fridge. When it goes bad, it's very unpleasant.
5. Don't be afraid to ask for help in the liquor store. People like Stephanie from Astor Wines & Spirits can point you to versatile (and affordable) options for your home bar.
6. Buy (and drink) what you like. There are no wrong answers when it comes to cocktails.

Is fitting it into 12 seconds more about the speed of measuring and mixing, or the magic of editing? It's all in the editing. Leo is a wizard. On most of these drinks, you want to shake or stir for at least 12 seconds. So, the timing isn't exactly accurate. We're just trying to give you a feel for the process and a visual of the final product.

What's your all-time favorite cocktail? We're all big whiskey drinkers, but we all drink our whiskey in very different ways. Leo loves mint juleps, especially when they're mixed by Dale DeGroff. And, no matter how many amazing cocktail bars we go to, Mike still prefers Old Crow and Coke above all else. My favorite is the Sazerac, and the guys behind the bar at Weather Up make the best in the city.

Best pizza in the city? Leo is lucky enough to live a few minutes away from DiFara. So, before most of the shoots, we make him brave the lines and bring us a pie. I actually think Leo has a little crush on Dom.

Favorite burger? For burgers, we like to hang out in our neighborhood. James in Prospect Heights has this amazing happy hour special-you can get their incredible burger and drinks for half price. Mike and I are in there at least once a week.

Favorite bagel? [Editorial note: the official answer was "no comment," but there was a suggestion that Long Island bagels are better than those in NYC. No comment from us on that issue!]

Best late-night eats? Last night we swung into Crif Dogs for a very enjoyable post-drink meal. Watching people try to get into PDT was an added bonus.

Favorite late-night bar? Our favorite late-night bar is our roof deck, to be completely honest. There's nothing more enjoyable than watching the sun rise over a cocktail you just made.

Anything in your fridge or home bar that you're embarrassed to admit to us that you have? I have more booze than food in my fridge. Is that embarrassing?

Food you won't eat? (or spirit you won't drink?) We just can't drink premixed cocktails. Fresh juice is worth the effort.

Most memorable New York City meal? After one of our marathon 48-hour shoot days, my mom brought us a pot of her legendary meatballs. The five of us took down 40-plus meatballs in about ten minutes.

Everyone has a go-to person they call for restaurant recommendations. Who's yours? When I need a recommendation, I poll the Twitterati. I know that no matter what city I'm in, they'll point me in the right direction.

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