I was able to grab a few minutes of Devin's time and learn about her love of the local food and agriculture industry, as well as why she loves being her own bartender.
Devin Kidner: Well hey there! I'm originally from North Carolina, but I hold dual citizenship with the U.K., too, which is why I spell things funny. I came to Chicago to pursue a Masters in Journalism at Northwestern where I was the arts, culture, and food writer, but I quickly fell in love with the food scene in Chicago, as well as the freezing temps and the Midwestern folks who are just the salt of the Earth. After 2009, I felt like Chicago was my home and I decided to put down roots in this city that's equal parts international and homegrown.
K: You recently won a national Slow Foods cocktail contest, which is so awesome! How did you start getting involved in the world of mixology?
DK: I was inspired to get into mixology from the Slow Food movement. When you work with incredible local food from farmers who care about the earth and the consumer as if they're family, incorporating their delicious products into mixology is a no-brainer. We consider it important to make food in sync with the seasons, so why not with cocktails, too? Mixology is fascinating: it's like baking and cooking had an alcoholic baby and the result is something part science and part jazz with alcohol. I mean, come on...who could resist?
K: You were recently in Italy for the Terra Madre Slow Food Festival. What were some of the best things you saw/ate/drank while you were there?
DK: Terra Madre was an incredible experience and I spent the majority of my time either in mixology workshops, hanging out with folks from all over the world, or stuffing my face with Doppia Panna Trapizzino, the delectable Roman pizza shaped like a triangle stuffed with burrata cheese and anchovies. It's insane!
K: You're running a series of cocktail classes at our distillery. Can you tell us a little bit about what to expect at these classes?
DK: KOVAL cocktail classes are part workshop, part tasting, and all about the folks who attend. It is my hope that people come to learn about the science behind mixing a great drink, whether we are focuing on temperature and dilution or the art of flavor pairing so that they can learn more about how a great drink is concocted. Then we play with drinks in class. What's a cocktail class if it's not fun? We try different KOVAL products, talk about what they might pair well with, have folks in the class try their hand at mixing, and try a bunch of different cocktail samples so they know what works for them and what doesn't. I want people to leave feeling empowered that they can make a great drink at home, and inspired to get creative with flavour.
K: We're always on the lookout for new bars and restaurants to try out. Any good cocktail bars in the area you can recommend?
DK: Chicago is an incredible drinking city, so I could name 10+ bars you should pop into for a drink, but I truly believe the best cocktails you can drink are ones you make at home. Cocktails are highly customizable--there are so many elements to play with! If you learn the basics behind the science of mixing, then approach a cocktail with curiosity and Julia Child-like conviction, you'll have a signature drink you will want to sip all the time, and even be better positioned to make awesome drinks for friends and family. Be your own bartender, I say!
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For more information on KOVAL cocktail classes, visit: http://www.koval-distillery.com/newsite/classes-tours/cocktail-classes