Editor's Note: Want to make your own Irish cream? Your own tonic water or sweet vermouth? Marcia Simmons is here to tell you how to go about it. And today's the day to learn a bit more about our resident DIYer. Got questions for Marcia? A homemade booze project to request? Leave a note in the comments!
When did you first get interested in spirits and cocktails?
Around 2005, a couple of friends had me over to taste whiskeys side-by-side. That was a fun way to discover what I really liked without the pressure of being at a bar or paying for something I might not like. That inspired a lot of research and experimentation.
How did you get interested in DIY cocktail ingredients?
When I worked in an office, a co-worker and I would chat cocktails since I was into them and he ran the website Drink of the Week. Eventually I started posting on his site. After doing that for a while, I got more confident about trying DIY projects and realized it wasn't as complicated as I thought. To make it fun and get another creative brain's input, I would go hang out with my friend who has the Savvy Housekeeping blog and we would experiment with cocktail ingredients together and then drink and post the results. We did some fun cocktails with teas, fresh juices, homemade syrups, and muddled fruits and herbs—that were the start of it all.
What is in your liquor cabinet right now?
I amassed so many spirits and liqueurs while doing research for my book, and the collection keeps growing. I wouldn't be surprised if I had 100 bottles in my liquor cabinet. My current favorites: Black Maple Hill bourbon, Aberlour A'Bunadh scotch, Brugal 1888 rum, Michter's Rye, Tru2 organic gin, Nolet's Silver gin, St Germain, Vya extra dry vermouth, DIY ginger liqueur, DIY chamomile-infused gin, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, Campari, and Winters & Rothman creme de violette. (I have more favorites, but I forced myself to narrow it down.) I use the cherry bitters I made for the book all the time, and I just made a big batch of orange bitters I'm excited about. My kitchen table is full of eight different projects that I plan to post about here on Serious Eats when they're done.
What's your favorite winter cocktail?
I'll take a Sazerac any time of the year, but my favorite winter cocktail ingredient is fresh pears. I like to muddle them with Meyer lemons and add ginger liqueur and bourbon.
KFC original recipe wings.
Describe your perfect meal.
I actually got to have my perfect meal a couple years ago in Paris at a place called Restaurant Derrière. It was a combination of traditional French cuisine served in courses and experimental foods. So from 8pm until 2 am, the waiter just kept filling our table with food and wine including braised ox cheeks, souffles, rabbit cassoulet, fancy cheeses, and miniature desserts. Someone much more in the know than me did the ordering, so all I had to do was eat!
What food won't you eat?
Tofu: I am allergic to it, and as it turns out, that is OK with me.
What drink won't you drink?
I just don't think Kombucha tastes good!
What would you like to try but haven't yet?
What do your family and friends think of your food and drink obsessions?
Most of my friends are equally obsessed, so every outing involves great food and drink. (Plus, there are lots of in-depth IM conversations about gin, whiskey, foie gras, and where we're eating next.) My family has always been food-obsessed, particularly with Asian food, but never really drank wine or cocktails when I was growing up. But they're game for trying new things, and now surprise me by mixing a cocktail for me when I come over.
Do you ever cook? What's the best dish you make?
I go out to eat a lot more than most, but I do cook at home. I would say lasagna is my best, but my mom would insist it's a tie between my Vietnamese summer rolls and roasted chicken.