Cocktail blogging is an unlikely path for Katie Stryjewski, a former ornithologist (if you’re not super familiar with the branches of zoology, that’s someone who studies birds), but the scientist couldn’t resist the call of craft beverages and repositioned her path to follow her passion. On both her blog — Garnish — and her Instagram account — Garnish Girl — you’ll find her sharing her love for spirits through recipes and beautiful photography. Stryjewski took a break from stirring drinks to reveal the restaurant that inspired her blogging career, the five must-try cocktails around Boston and the best place for post-work sippers.
Tell us a little about yourself. How’d you end up in Boston, and what inspired you to create your Instagram account?
I grew up near New Orleans, Louisiana. I came to Boston for graduate school – I did a Ph.D in Evolutionary Biology at Boston University. My first year in Boston, I found out I got a big fellowship and my husband and I went out to Eastern Standard to celebrate because I had heard they had good cocktails. I had an Aviation and I swear it changed my life. I’d never had a drink like that.
From then on I was really interested in craft cocktails but we couldn’t afford to go out a lot so I started building up my home bar instead, and I used a lot of blogs and websites to find recipes. I thought it would be fun to start my own to keep track of the drinks I was trying and improve my photography skills. When we finally moved to an apartment with actual windows and good light for photos, I started my blog, Garnish. But no one really paid attention until I joined Instagram. There’s a huge community of cocktail lovers on there who share photos and recipes, and my following grew incredibly fast. It’s been a great way to connect with people and an endless source of inspiration.
Name the top five cocktails on your Boston bucket list.
I love this question! A lot of my favorite spots change up their menus too often to have a drink on this list but here are some great ones that you can order right now:
1. The Innocents Abroad at SRV – I love this drink so much that I asked the bartender for the recipe. I didn’t own three of the four ingredients (Kina L’Aero d’Or, Gran Classico, and Amaro Nonino – the fourth is Fighting Cock bourbon) so I went out and bought them just so I could make it at home. The recipe is on my blog if you want to do the same! This is one of those drinks where the ingredients blend so interestingly and seamlessly that it’s much more than the sum of its parts.
2. Pika at ArtScience Café and Culture Lab – This drink is particularly special since it was created by Tenzin Samdo, the beloved bar manager of ArtScience Café and Culture Lab who passed away earlier this year. It was one of the first he developed for the bar and it remains on the menu for a reason. It’s served in a small bowl with a large, clear ice cube in the center, and different garnishes are arranged on top of a lychee foam (along with a rice paper hummingbird) so that wherever you sip, you get a slightly different flavor and aroma until the foam dissolves and it all melds together. It’s beautiful and delicious, and it’s a true experience to drink.
3. Gloria at Blossom Bar – This cocktail by Will Isaza was one of ten worldwide finalists in the Bacardi Legacy competition this year, which is a huge deal. The unexpected addition of a barspoon of marscapone cheese makes it wonderfully creamy.
4. 1919 at Earl’s Cocktail Lab and Craigie on Main – This spirit-forward cocktail made with rum and rye whiskey was created at Drink (where I’m sure you can still order one as well), and it has become a modern Boston classic. With Punt e Mes, Benedictine, and bitters, it’s reminiscent of a Vieux Carre or a Manhattan. Last I checked it was on the menu at both Craigie on Main and the Earl’s Cocktail Lab in the Prudential Center.
5. Maximillian Affair at Drink – Drink famously has no menu, but they will absolutely be able to whip up this cocktail for you, which is the best mezcal drink I can think of. It was created by Misty Kalkofen when she was at Green Street Tavern, and she brought it over to Drink. Smoky mezcal and floral St. Germain are an incredible combo with Punt e Mes and lime juice. Absolutely a must-try!
What do you think the next big trend is for restaurants?
I’m quite happy to say that I think it’s a focus on sustainability. Ditching straws was only the beginning. We’re seeing all kinds of efforts to use local ingredients and reduce waste, and it often results in some really creative dishes and cocktails. ArtScience Café and Culture Lab freeze-dries its citrus peels and grinds them into powders to use in cocktails. Shore Leave makes use of leftover egg yolks to make their frozen strawberry daiquiri extra creamy. The Longfellow Bar designed its menu to be eaten without silverware to conserve water and energy from washing. Forage, which already focuses on local ingredients, has started hosting “Eat Your Invasives” dinners where they serve a menu full of invasive plants that pose a threat to local species. Hopefully things like this will move from the realm of fun gimmicks to everyday practices.
Which bartenders/mixologists are your favorite to follow on Instagram and why?
Instagram is definitely a very visual medium, so I love accounts with bright and beautiful photos of well-crafted cocktails. Some of my favorites are @drinkingwithchickens, @craftandcocktails, @thesocialsipper, @arseniclace, @stirandstrain, and @moodymixologist. Also @cheerstohappyhour, @highproofpreacher, and @bon_vivantito for their gorgeous shots of bartenders and drinks at the bars themselves. And I’d be remiss not to mention Boston-based bartender Fred Yarm (editor’s note: check out our Q & A with him here), whose blog (www.cocktailvirgin.blogspot.com) and Instagram (@fredericyarm) I’ve been following since I first got into cocktails. He has an incredible encyclopedic knowledge of cocktails and posts recipes daily.
Beyond bartenders/mixologists, what are your top three favorite Instagram accounts to follow?
Describe Boston’s beverage scene in three words.
Historic, innovative, underrated!
Which restaurants haven’t you been to but you’re eager to try?
I’m really excited to check out the Davis Square location of Gustazo this weekend, not least of all because Sam Treadway (of Backbar) consulted on their bar program (editor’s note: read all about that process here). I also can’t wait to go to Chickadee and Sarma.
What’s your photography philosophy, and can you share your top tips for taking awesome photos?
This is such a good question, because I feel like I have so much to learn in this area and I love hearing tips. My philosophy at this point is still “take a million shots and one of them is bound to look good.” But I’m trying to get more into the technical side of things. My best tips are:
– You don’t need an expensive camera. A cheap, used SLR will get you really far. And so will your phone!
– It’s impossible to beat natural light so take advantage of it whenever you can. When shooting cocktails, sometimes this means day drinking. What can I say, we all suffer for our art.
– If you’re shooting food or drinks at home, buy some tiles and faux wood boards from Home Depot or some photography backdrops and surfaces from Etsy. They give you more options and also allow you to move wherever the good light is.
– Use white boards to bounce light and reduce shadows.
– A lot of the magic happens in editing. Try apps like VSCO, Snapseed, and Lightroom. Even the built-in editors in Instagram and Apple Photos can work wonders.
– Practice as much as possible, and pay attention to what works!
A Few Of Your Favorite Things:
Favorite brunch spot: Probably Little Donkey. Such a diverse, interesting menu and everything is fantastic.
Favorite new restaurant: Fox and the Knife in Southie. The food is amazing – I’d go for the fried chickpeas alone! They have a whole menu of Spritzes and aperitivi, as well as an Amaro cart they’ll bring around for dessert.
Favorite place for post-work drinks : I love the vibe at Fool’s Errand in Fenway. No chairs, you just lean at the bar and order some snacks and drinks. It’s a great spot to pop in after work.
Favorite joint for tiki cocktails: If your answer to this question isn’t Shore Leave, then you are wrong.
Favorite mimosa flights: I don’t think I’ve ever had a mimosa flight. Excuse me while I find one immediately.
Favorite Bloody Mary bar: I haven’t been yet, but the Bloody Mary Bar at MET Back Bay looks insane. I’m going to check it out ASAP.