A Chef Walked into a Distillery
Bartenders aren't the only spirit-creators these days. Chef John des Rosiers, proprietor of North Shore Chicago restaurants Inovasi and Moderno, has worked with North Shore Distillery, to create No Drama Gin, a high-proof spirit now used in his restaurants and for sale at retail. We check in with de Rosiers to see what's behind the latest culinary spirit venture.
Mix: We're getting accustomed to bartender's crafting spirits, but a chef? This is unusual - what inspired you?
John des Rosiers: Chefs spend a lot of time drinking and we like a lot of stuff bartenders are doing and there is no reason we can’t start working with cocktails and spirits, too. I wanted a gin that had a more modern style and a balance of flavors and aromatics.
Mix: I'm assuming that you were attracted to gin because you drink it and also its culinary qualities - true?
des Rosiers: Yes. I love gin because it’s not vodka. Vodka is meant to be plain and basic and that’s the opposite of what chefs do. Gin is supposed to be complex and have aromas and flavors. As chefs we don’t make food that tastes like nothing so why would I make a drink that tastes like nothing.
Mix: Describe the aromatic and flavor qualities of No Drama that set it apart from what's in the market already.
des Rosiers: The amount of aroma is much more intensified than other gins. It shows aromas of fresh thyme, orange peel and some small notes of Asian spices. It’s overproofed but smooth in balance so it’s great for making cocktails because it doesn’t water down your cocktail. It’s great with a really high-quality tonic.
Mix: What was the most interesting part of crafting your own spirit? Hardest part?
des Rosiers: The hardest part was the labeling and approval from the government. The most interesting part was that creating gin at a higher proof made it smoother and more elegant and softer, which was the opposite of most liquors.
Mix: Will you use "No Drama" in your kitchen as well? How so?
des Rosiers: Yes, we use it to make bacon at Moderno and we use it to poach a foie gras torchon.
Mix: Now that you've tried this once, are you thinking about any other spirit ventures?
des Rosiers: Yes, in January we’re going to start producing our own limoncello and espresso liqueur featuring La Colombe espresso. It will be the only liqueur with 100% real brewed espresso and it will be aged in bourbon barrels.
Mix: What's your favorite drink right now?
des Rosiers: I’m really enjoying the Tennessee Cavallo, one of the drinks at Moderno. It’s made with Dickel Tennessee Whiskey, orange liqueur, raw sugar and lemon.