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By Devin Kidner, Winner of Slow Food Speakeasy Competition, founder of Hollow Leg

While at Terra Madre, I had the pleasure of taking five different mixology workshops led by some of the most intrepid and innovative mixologists from around the world. The experience was incredible, and I was excited that what led me to Terra Madre, what led these other incredible mixologists to Terra Madre was a product created in the United States of America: Cocktails.

That’s right! Cocktails are an American creation, born out of the ice trade of the 19th century and masterminded by a New York barman, Jerry Thomas in the same century. Their popularity kept growing from there, and now we can proudly say that among Friends reruns and Jerry Springer, cocktails are one of our most popular cultural exports!

When it was time to present at the American Speakeasy Workshop, the three other Slow Food USA Ark of Taste Cocktail competition winners and I had the opportunity to represent the United States in all of its expansive and diverse cocktail culture. We had representation from Florida (Irene Jade), North Carolina (Jay Dunbar), New York (Nata Traub), and Chicago (me), and we were excited to share our Ark of Taste products as well as the history behind the drinks we created.

Thank you to everyone who voted during the contest, and of course, to Slow Food USA and Ark of Taste, without whom, this opportunity for all of us would not have been possible. Thank you.

During the presentation, I channeled my inner-Carlo Petrini to let the folks in the audience know that creating a cocktail is not just for those with the educational background in mixology or for those with a pedigree at fine bars/restaurants. Nay!

A fantastic cocktail can be concocted in the lab you call your kitchen and executed with the same flair as any award-winning bartender as long as you have three things: Curiosity, ingenuity, and some basic knowledge of the ingredients with which you’re working. As a matter of fact, the best cocktails are made at home: tailored to your palate and made with the liquors you love. For our workshop, we had the pleasure of introducing American Ark of Taste products (shrub, pawpaws, Newtown Pippin, and American Rye), which for some reason, were not featured in any other mixology course I attended. It was our hope that through presenting cocktails using Ark of Taste, attendees would be inspired to seek out similar products in their area and create delicious, beautiful, Slow cocktails.

{{ image(3107, {“class”: “flor round”, “width”: “200”, “height”: “300”}) }}It was interesting to hear the other winners talk about their specific cocktail history and trends in their respective regions, and the audience was able to sample the cocktails, after watching them be prepared on the spot.

It’s important that we look to good, clean, and fair products for more than just food. And being that cocktails are growing in popularity worldwide, and given their firm hold in American culture, they can also function as a powerful tool to bring more people into the Slow Food/Ark of Taste conversation.

After it was all said and done, I hope to see more American cocktails and a focus on American distillers at Terra Madre 2016. We still have so many interesting things to say, so much more to contribute, and so many good, clean and fair products to show the world.

In the meantime, I’ll be here in Chicago, slinging drinks and seeking out more Ark of Taste products that mix beautifully with local liquor.