The business model of a curated box of stuff that shows up at your door—whether it’s dinner ingredients, video games, or your fall wardrobe—seems like it’s here to stay.
Because you’re on this website, you probably already sense where this is going: that’s right, a monthly curated cocktail box. Called Shaker & Spoon, this outfit even bills itself as “the Blue Apron of cocktails.”
Every month, they drop a box at your door based around a certain spirit, or a certain theme (a recent Austin, Texas–based box, for example, featured recipes that would work equally well with bourbon or tequila). Before your box ships, they send you an email suggesting what liquor would work best and what tools you should have on hand—usually nothing more than a shaker and a muddler. Each shipment contains enough ingredients to make four pours of three different cocktails.
Being that we were on the cusp of summer, I ordered up a rum-themed box, which contained 10 ingredients, a few cocktail umbrellas, and three recipe cards, which give some background on the drinks and suggest glassware, in addition to listing ingredients and giving easy-to-follow instructions.
I was pleasantly surprised that these weren’t just simple Daiquiris and Mai Tais we were shaking up, but rather unique, original creations, from bartenders at places like Cleveland’s Tiki Room and New York City’s Chicha.
Take the T.G.I.S., which combined rum, pineapple juice, raspberry preserves, and the unexpected acidic touch of apple cider vinegar. The Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow called not only for pineapple and coconut cream, but also chocolate bitters and Shaker & Spoon’s own blood orange-chili juice. Their house-made ingredients, in fact, are one of the program’s highlights—unique syrups, cordials, and shrubs that you may not want to make yourself, or may not have ever even thought of (we’re looking at you, chai-palm sugar grenadine).
The final recipe in my box, however, a Hemingway Daiquiri variation called the En Nica, underscored one of the service’s shortcomings—namely, that you supply a base spirit and only a base spirit. Don’t get me wrong: I understand why they don’t include booze. You can’t ship it to every state, and it jacks up the price. And it’s not that I had to run out and buy a bottle; I have plenty of rum lying around, as I would guess most of their potential subscribers do.
My quibble is that to keep things simple, none of the recipes call for a second, modifying spirit. And removing the likes of Chartreuse, Benedictine, and Campari from the equation just feels, well, limiting.
Not that the En Nica wasn’t good. Its tiki bitters, lime juice, and naranja agria-grapefruit syrup delivered a letter perfect summer drink. It merely left me wondering where the maraschino liqueur had gotten to.
But this is, as I said, a quibble. These boxes are great for a Thursday or Friday night, when you find yourself wanting to stir up something new at home, without running out to the store or leafing through a cocktail book.