Interview with Matt Pietrek – Mastermind behind The Cocktail Wonk

Matt Pietrek

Mastermind behind The Cocktail Wonk

1) Bucket List items for this year.

  1. Visit the Pierre Ferrand facility in Cognac to see their elevage process and rum reserves from around the world. While in France, dive further into the Cognac and Calvados worlds.
  2. Talk my way into as many distilleries as I can in Jamaica, Cuba and Martinique.
  3. Hunt down and acquire exotic rums unavailable in the U.S., share them with my friends.
  4. Radically up my Cachaça game.
  5. Rum Renaissance and Tales of the Cocktail were amazing for me this year. Do them again in 2016!

2) What is the biggest achievement you personally feel you have accomplish for the rum industry

I’m still relatively new to the rum world, but I learn quickly and burrow deep into the how and why. My blog is where I’ve had my biggest impact. I’ve written extensively about the Lost Spirits Distillery and how they’re using mad science to bring something unique to the rum category and shake up people’s expectations. I’m also proud of my work to highlight newer, high quality rums that don’t yet have the marketing dollars or awareness like the big players do. I’m particularly proud of my Denizen posts in this regard.

3) Favorite Drink + Recipe

I have way too many favorites, but am currently enamored with swizzles that incorporate agricole and strong fruit flavors. Here’s my spin on a recipe originally given to me by Jason Alexander of Tacoma Cabana:

6 dashes grapefruit bitters
1 oz orange juice
0.75 oz lime juice
0.25 oz orgeat
0.25 oz falernum
0.5 oz apricot liqueur
1 oz Wray & Nephew overproof rum
1 oz agricole blanc rum

Build in Collins-style glass, swizzle with crushed ice. Garnish with mint sprig and spent lime shell

4) Where do you see the rum industry today and in the next 5 years?

Richard Seale makes a very good point when he talks at conferences: Rum is at a crossroads. The category is growing and evolving past the common perception that rum is solely for pirates and mixing with Coke. However, we’re starting to see brands focused more on imagery and the perception of quality, rather than traditionally made, honestly labeled rums.

In the U.S., I’m seeing a steady uptick in the availability of quality rums made in relative small. The Mezan and Denizen lines are good examples. The question is, will good, honest rums be able to convey their story, so that consumers demand them? Or will mass produced, adulterated rums crowd them out?

I know a lot of people in the rum community who are doing everything in their power to educate people so that they can make informed decisions about what they drink. My hope is that more people learn about what quality rum is about, and start appreciating it the way fine whisk(e)y is.

I’m also very excited to see what American craft distilleries bring to the rum category – Can they equal or exceed the great rums coming from the Caribbean and Central America?

5) Share some (2-3) of your mentors and how they have helped you.

Bryan Davis of Lost Spirits has been incredibly gracious in spending countless hours with me explaining the science behind rum flavor. Esters and aldehydes, oxidation, dunder pits, yeast stressing, rectification – you name it, we’ve talked about it.

Josh Miller (Inu a Kena) and Peter Holland (The Floating Rum Shack) blazed a rummy path ahead of me in the blog world, showing what rum blogs were capable of. There’s no manual on how to be a spirits/cocktail blogger, and they both were kind enough to answer all sorts of questions as I began to navigate in deeper waters.

I geek out almost daily with Jason Alexander of Tacoma Cabana about new releases and the latest rum news. He’s unfailingly honest in his assessment and always generous with his vast, well curated collection. The crew at Rumba in Seattle have also been kindred spirits over the past three years.

6) Any last words?

Tiki! Tiki! Tiki!

7) About The Cocktail Wonk?

Matt Pietrek is a Seattle-based cocktail and spirits blogger, and home bar enthusiast. Although Matt enjoys nearly all spirits, rum is the undisputed backbone of his blog and home bar. Not surprisingly, he’s a Tiki enthusiast. He travels extensively and left to his own devices would plan every trip around bars and distillery visits. His blog, detailing his spirited adventures is, and his Instagram handle is @cocktailwonk.

Author: Fede

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