This post published last Wednesday in the midst of technical difficulties that lasted more than a week. We are deeply proud of this collaboration, adore all things Jack Rudy, and want to be sure that everyone gets a chance to meet Brooks up-close (or at least closer). Here we re-publish the story, giving the Pink Gin it’s due. Besides, it’s a good week for everything we (heart):
Since we’re celebrating Valentine’s Day, it’s only natural to throw a cocktail in the mix. And so, in keeping with the season’s color palette, I’m drinking a Pink Gin and Tonic made with Jack Rudy Handmade Tonic.
Alabama Chanin loves Jack Rudy and we have used it in several cocktails, from a rosemary-infused Vodka & Jack Rudy to our Handmade Cocktail made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka. We collaborated with Brooks Reitz, one of the creators of Jack Rudy, to design a hand-stitched 100% organic cotton French Terry bar towel especially for Jack Rudy enthusiasts. Our Jack Rudy-inspired bar towels are available on our website, and you can also choose to bundle them with a bottle of Jack Rudy Handmade Tonic (bring your own gin).
Brooks suggested we try this rose hued cocktail, a classic English recipe made with a few splashes of dark bitters (which gives the drink its pink tint) and topped off with Jack Rudy. See the recipe below, but first a little Q&A with Brooks.
AC: We know that Jack Rudy Handmade Tonic is named for your great grandfather, Jack Rudy, and that he was a bit of a wild man and a bon vivant. How is Jack Rudy’s spirit instilled in the tonic itself, and in turn, in the cocktails we make with it?
BR: The tonic itself is a great example of looking at something that we take for granted – in this case, a very simple bar mixer – and thinking about how it can be done in a better way. For me, that’s what Jack Rudy represents. What I know of him I only know through stories from my grandmother and great-grandmother, but they were always quick to remind my brothers and me that Jack was thoughtful, intelligent, and took pride in everything he did. In this way, I’ve applied many of those values in my approach to making better bar products for a customer with the same values.
As far as the cocktails – all I can say is that Jack and booze got along famously, and he’d surely be proud as hell to have his name associated with such fun.
AC: Other than your great grandfather, what inspired you to make a tonic, rather than, say, a bitters, or even a liquor?
BR: First and foremost, I love gin, and a Gin & Tonic was such a simple cocktail, but one that really had room to be improved. At the time I began, there was a huge glut of bitters producers, and most of them were doing a fine job. I didn’t really know how to make bitters, had no interest in making bitters, and can’t say I felt like it meshed (at the time) with the goal of this start-up. As far as liquor goes – that business is a much larger ocean, and there are a lot of great brands with a lot more money than I have; however, that has always been the end goal, and I truly hope to craft and bottle a gin of my own one day. I’ve got a great idea for a very Southern liqueur, as well, but I can’t give that away just yet!
AC: Your company is based in Charleston, SC and Lexington, KY. How does running a small business in two different cities work?
BR: The business is primarily run from Charleston, but it’s certainly informed by Kentucky because Jack Rudy was from Kentucky, I’m from Kentucky, and my partner, Taylor Huber, still lives in Kentucky. For us, we think of Charleston as the brain of the business, but Kentucky is the heart.
AC: We heard you have a new handmade grenadine in the works. What else can we expect to see from Jack Rudy?
BR: That’s correct. We are actually launching the Grenadine in February, and it should be available on our website by the end of the month. We are also launching our Small Batch Lime Cordial this year, as that is an ingredient that is wildly overlooked, and there’s really only one option, and it’s just plain bad. With any new product, it just takes us time to ensure it’s perfect. Then, near the end of the year, you should expect to see our Bourbon Barrel Cherries, for Manhattans, etc.
Generally speaking, you can expect us to continue to pinpoint those bar staples that you might have found in Jack Rudy’s liquor cabinet, but we are remaking them for modern drinkers with wholesome, real ingredients that we can get behind.
AC: We are excited to be collaborating with you on the bar towel collection. How does overall design and accessorizing a bar fit into your vision for Jack Rudy’s?
BR: We believe that the home drinker is really our biggest market. For us, I am hoping to make products that are accessible and easy to use. There are plenty of products or techniques being used at cocktail bars across the states that aren’t realistic to the home bar, but we want to make something great enough for those bars, but also easy enough to use at home. Within that vision, bar tools certainly fit the bill. It’s surely years away, but we would like to be THE resource for well-crafted bar accessories. And down the line, we would like to begin selling products from other companies, as well, that mesh with our own vision, and are examples of where the American bar is headed.
AC: Let’s say that I am building a bar for you and you are allowed 10 tools behind the bar besides the bottles of liquor, mixers, ice, and glasses. What are they?
BR: First of all, let me say that it’s very nice for you to offer to build a bar for me.
That being said, I think I could get away with 9 tools: A great stirring spoon (it matters, truly), a hefty, reliable mixing glass, a weighted shaker tin, a Hawthorne strainer, a tea strainer, a handheld juicer, a jigger, a peeler, and one great ice mold.
PINK GIN AND JACK RUDY HANDMADE TONIC
The classic recipe calls to be served on ice or straight up (I prefer ice) and Brooks recommends using a wine glass. It’s shown here in Heath Ceramics wine glass. Brooks also recommends Greylock Gin, distilled in Massachusetts, Sipsmith or Plymouth, both English dry gins, but use what you have available locally.
3 splashes Angostura Bitters
2 oz Gin
4 oz Jack Rudy Handmade Tonic
Lemon twist to garnish
Coat wine glass with bitters and empty any excess from the glass, add ice and gin, then top with tonic. Garnish and enjoy.