Inside a Professional's Liquor Cabinet
in his own home, bartender favors high-quality, simple ingredients to mix classic drinks
Cody Maciosek, who has been bartending at The Lakely in Eau Claire for a little over a year, has five years of cocktail mixing under his belt and a dedication to quality of ingredients. Maciosek takes inspiration for his drinks from the seasons, from food, and, like many of us, from the contents of his liquor cabinet. Volume One got a peek inside that liquor cabinet, and sat down with Maciosek to discuss its contents and his cocktail-mixing methods.
Volume One: As a drink-mixer, are you more traditional or more experimental?
Cody Maciosek: I’m more traditional. I’m a purist when it comes to drinks. I prefer high-quality and simple over many ingredients and experimental.
What’s your favorite drink, and why?
Oh, God, that’s so dependent on the day. Today, right now, I’m feelin’ a Sazerac. That’s rye whiskey, cognac, absinthe rinse in the glass and some Peychaud’s Bitters. Part of why I love cocktails is the history of them, how they come about. This one has such a cool story, and it’s damn tasty. There used to be a drink in New Orleans called the flip, and it was a rye whiskey-based drink. And they’d send over lots of cognac, because in New Orleans cognac was also big. So they’d send over cognac and absinthe from France and in the ships they would also store the glasses that would come over from France. Sometimes a glass of absinthe would break on the voyage, and it would rinse these glasses – they had the glasses underneath the absinthe bottles – so somebody took one of those glasses and put a flip inside it and the absinthe rinse became its own thing, people tweaked it, and it became the Sazerac.
Do you make up your own drink ideas?
Definitely. You know, it’s very seasonally inspired. Right now, because it’s getting colder I have a lot of stronger, warm-flavored drinks. You find whatever you have in your cabinet and see what goes together and those similar flavors.
Do you try new things on your own, or do you prefer to experiment when you’re entertaining?
When it’s just me and my girlfriend having a drink, I usually just have something classic. But when we’ve got friends over they’ll bring something and we’ll experiment with what everybody has and kind of make it a competition. I was at a friend’s house the other night, and the secret ingredient that we had to use was red curry paste. Now it sounds weird, and some of them – most of them – weren’t good. But it’s fun to go outside the box, and see what you can come up with. Sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it’s bad.
What’s the most successful experiment you’ve tried?
I had a dessert that I loved at a restaurant. It was a pear that was poached in port. You make this port reduction out of the sauce that you poached it in, and then you had this vanilla ice cream. It was one of the best things I’ve ever had. I had pear brandy, and i had port, and I was like, “What if I could recreate this dessert in a drink?” So I took the pear brandy, and I mixed port and a little house-made vanilla syrup.
When you have a success like that, do you revisit it later, or do you prefer to keep it as a one-time experience?
I kind of make one and leave it, and go on to another one.
What ingredient could you not live without?
I love maple syrup. Maple syrup or lemon, or both, would be the two. Instead of simple syrup that goes into a lot of drinks, why not use local syrup or honey, which is practically the same thing. Lemon is hard to live without because acidity in cocktails is hard to come by.
What do you prioritize when you’re buying spirits and other drink ingredients?
Quality. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. … I don’t want a truckload of sugar. I can add sugar at home if I really need to. It goes back to, I’m a purist. Quality ingredients make a quality drink.
What's in Cody Maciosek's liquor cabinet?
A. Bundaberg Ginger Beer
“It’s the premier mixer. That and tonic is all I use if I just want an easy drink at the end of the night. It mixes well with vodka, it mixes well with bourbon, it mixes well with scotch, gin.”
B. Maple Syrup & Honey
“I use that to sweeten almost all my drinks. Real maple syrup, not the fake stuff.”
C. Dolan Sweet Vermouth
“It’s a nice sweet vermouth. There’s also dry vermouth, but I use sweet the most because it goes in Boulvardias, it goes in Manhattans, it can go in a lot of different things. You should always have a bottle of vermouth in your house if you’re liking to make cocktails – keep it in your fridge, though!”
D. Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Bitters
“When I make an old fashioned or any mixed drink, like a Gin & Tonic, just a few dashes of bitters sets it off and gives it some more uniqueness. I go through that probably more than anything else in my liquor stock. They’re made in New York. There are a lot of local bitter makers as well; the Bitter Cube makes some really good ones, but I like Fee Brothers.”
H. Jefferson’s Bourbon
“I like that because of its versatility. It’s a good ferment for a decent price. If I go higher end bourbons and whiskies, I just want to drink those neat, maybe with a couple drops of water or an ice cube. This one’s still good, it’s got great profile and balance, but it’s cheap enough where you can use it to mix. It’s great for a Manhattan.”
B. Maxwell Maples / Wisconsin Maple Syrup / Maiden Rock, WI
E. Lake Superior Vodka / Vikre Distillery / Duluth, MN
F. Black Malt Whiskey / Bent Paddle Brewing Co. / Duluth, MN
G. Single Malt Whiskey/ KOVAL Distillery / Chicago, IL