With bars, expert mixologists and small-batch spirits on the rise, there’s never been a better time for cocktails. But recently, Eric Prum and Josh Williams looked around and realized that there was one place good drinks weren’t being made: at home with friends.
Eric and Josh, the creators of the Mason Shaker, believe cocktails should be fun, simple and social — and in their new book Shake, they aim to prove it. The duo shares recipes for every season, occasion and spirit, leaving out any hard-to-find ingredients or intimidating processes. (In fact, they believe the ingredient list for a cocktail should include no more than five ingredients!) You’ll also find their tips for stocking a bar, serving drinks, and using the right glassware.
Here, we ask Eric and Josh all about the book, including their best tips for beginners, and what they’re drinking tonight. Read on — then scroll to the bottom of this post to join us for a book signing at your local Williams-Sonoma store and meet Eric and Josh in person!
Tell us about your backgrounds. How did you become interested in cocktails?
We met on our first day of college at the University of Virginia when we were randomly paired as first-year roommates. Josh always had a passion for everything food- and drink-related and he ended up taking time off from college to attend culinary school. When he returned, we started a catering company together and ended up doing a lot of cocktail events and discovered our love for creating drink recipes and sharing those creations with others. After school we both moved to New York City and eventually combined Josh’s passion in the culinary world with Eric’s design background to create the Mason Shaker and our book Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails.
What’s the story behind The Mason Shaker?
The concept for the Mason Shaker originated during our college years. We were always entertaining and hosting events, either via our catering company or on our own, and we often ended up using regular mason jars to shake cocktails and we thought that it would be a really great idea to design a cocktail shaker based on the iconic mason jar. It was one of those ideas that we would always talk about and one day we decided to stop talking about it and actually make it!
What’s unique or special about your products?
We design our products to help real people make delicious cocktails at home. We try to take a step back for each product we create and get down to the essence of how people actually use bar tools at home. We then take that core functionality and try to create a beautiful (and fun!) product around it.
What inspired you to write Shake?
After the initial launch of the Mason Shaker, we realized that, while cocktail bars had sprouted up across the world, good drinks still couldn’t be found in the place where we had always mixed them: at home with friends. So we set out from our workshop in Brooklyn to come up with a solution. What resulted is our book Shake, which is best described as one part instructional recipe book, one part photo journey through our year of cocktail crafting, and one part inspirational pep talk.
How do you hope people use the book at home?
Shake is a cocktail book that expresses our seasonal and straightforward approach to drinks and entertaining, and it reminds us that mixing cocktails should be fun, simple and social. Our hope is that this book will inspire readers to take delicious cocktails out of the bar and into their hands, and help them do just that.
How do you come up with new cocktail combinations? What’s your inspiration?
We find inspiration in a variety of sources. Oftentimes our cocktail recipes are inspired by a specific flavor combination, be it a cocktail we try from an inventive bartender, seasonal ingredients we taste at a market or even a memory of a drink we had years ago. We then try to take that flavor combination and use that as inspiration for a cocktail recipe that is easily made at home.
What are the most important ingredients to have on hand for mixing?
Good turbinado or Demerara sugar (for simple syrup or muddling in cocktails), citrus (lemons, limes and oranges), and fresh ice (throw out that frost-bitten mass in your freezer and start from scratch).
What are your top mixing tips for beginners?
Pick up a copy of our book, Shake!
Seriously though, our best advice for those starting to mix cocktails is to start with basic recipes and then begin to explore variations on those basic recipes to see how the flavors change. For example, try your hand at a classic Old Fashioned, using bourbon whiskey, sugar, aromatic bitters and a strip of orange zest. Once you are comfortable with that recipe, try switching in different items for the ingredients (Rye Whiskey for the Bourbon Whiskey, Spiced Bitters for the Aromatic Bitters, etc). Once you know the basics, the variations can be as limitless as your creativity.
How can people recreate the bar experience at home?
You can recreate many of the great things about being in a cocktail bar at home with a few simple steps. First, stock your bar with the basic cocktail hardware you need to make most recipes (namely a cocktail shaker, jigger, muddler and bar spoon). Second, always use fresh ingredients in your cocktails (i.e. throw away that dusty bottle of vermouth). Finally, make sure you have the appropriate cocktail glassware at home to serve your guests.
Any go-to drinks for everyday get-togethers?
For get-togethers in warmer weather we like to shake up the Montauk Mule, one of the cocktails that we include in our book. It’s a combination of vodka, cane sugar, mint and lime juice, all topped off with a splash of Prosecco.
How do you serve cocktails at home? Any fun or creative ideas you can share?
When we are serving cocktails at home we like to use the Mason Shaker to mix up a large batch of a cocktail and then actually set the shaker out for guests to help themselves. The Mason Shaker has an extra large 32-oz. capacity to pour out multiple servings, and the glass body of the shaker creates a striking visual of the cocktail, especially when using fresh ingredients.
What are you drinking tonight?
Josh: A Rye Old Fashioned, my go-to drink of choice.
Eric: A Tecate with the works (with lime, salt and hot sauce on the rim of the can). Trust me, it’s awesome.
The Spicy Mezcalita
We like our Margaritas spicy, smoky and not too sweet and this “Mezcalita” delivers just that. Mezcal is made by smoking the agave plant that’s usually boiled to produce tequila. That distinct smokiness combined with some jalapeno heat and just a touch of sweetness makes this Mezcalita a regular in our cocktail rotation.
2 shots tequila
1 shot mezcal
1 1/2 shots Cointreau
1 1/2 shots fresh lime juice
2 slices of fresh jalapeno (plus 2 slices to garnish)
2 slices of fresh lime (to garnish)
Combine the tequila, mezcal, Cointreau, lime juice and 2 slices of jalapeno in the shaker.
Add ice to above the level of the liquid and shake vigorously for 15 seconds.
Strain the mixture into chilled rocks glasses containing large cubes of ice and garnish with remaining lime and jalapeno slices. Makes 2 drinks.
The Watermelon Daiquiri
This daiquiri gets a seasonal kick from one of our favorite foods of the summer: sweet, juicy watermelon. We like to combine it with some all-American rum distilled just a few blocks from our workshop. What could be better for your next Fourth of July BBQ? Or, you know, any time at all. ‘MURICA.
4 shots light rum
2 cubes cane sugar
2 shots fresh lime juice
2 wedges of fresh watermelon (rind removed)
2 slices of fresh lime (for garnish)
2 slices of fresh watermelon (for garnish)
Add the cane sugar cubes, lime juice and watermelon wedges to the shaker.
Muddle the ingredients in the bottom of the shaker until thoroughly crushed and the sugar has mostly dissolved.
Add the rum and ice to above the level of the liquid and shake vigorously for 10 seconds.
Strain mixture into rocks glasses containing large cubes of ice and garnish with lime and watermelon slices. Makes 2 drinks.
Join us at your local Williams-Sonoma store for a special book signing with Eric and Josh! They will be signing copies of their new book, Shake. Please note: Eric and Josh will only be signing copies of Shake purchased at the Williams-Sonoma store where the event is being held. Proof of purchase required.
Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 6:00pm
110 7th Avenue, New York, NY 10011
Friday, May 2, 2014 at 6:00pm
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019
Shops at Stonefield
Friday, May 16, 2014 at 6:00pm
2030 Bond Street Suite 180, Charlottesville, VA 22901
Saturday, May 31, 2014 at 1:00pm
1200 Morris Turnpike, Short Hills, NJ 07078
Saturday, May 31, 2014 at 3:30pm
125 Westchester Avenue, White Plains, NY 10601