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It has been a (good) crazy couple of weeks for me in terms of projects and collaborations. As I mentioned in my previous post, I collaborated with Igee Okafor & Erik Parpar (The Dapper Method) to bring to life three cocktails which could be re-created in any household for New Years Eve (and any other time for that matter). I mostly talked about the cocktails but I felt it was important to also highlight the collaboration itself because it was one of my favorites so far.
Shooting with these guys was an absolute pleasure. It was my first time collaborating with individuals who are primarily lifestyle/fashion-focused so I learned a lot about their scene and what life looks like for them as influencers / figures within the space. Not only did we have some fantastic conversation about the landscapes within which we work, share thoughts, opinions, and ideas, but also we drank some tasty cocktails while we were doing it. The key takeaway from our conversations was that yes, this life can be fun, exciting, a bit glamorous, and filled with personal-passions which makes "work" easier...but the time and effort it takes to maintain / update content (while also paying those NYC bills) is not as light as it looks. These are incredibly hard-working individuals who push themselves to be their best while also staying authentic to who they are which is so important. It is easy to get caught up and lose yourself in the process, but these gentlemen are as real and authentic as they come which made this collaboration such a pleasurable experience overall.
FAVORITE MOMENTS OF THE COLLABORATION
Honestly, there were so many. For me, it was great being behind the bar at Porchlight getting to mix up some drinks. The guys behind the bar were extremely welcoming and accommodating which made everything smooth and exciting. They easily could have been like "who the hell is this random dude behind the bar making drinks...?" but they were genuinely hospitable which only further strengthens my affinity for Porchlight as a business, bar, restaurant - they are all around outstanding.
Outside of mixing drinks, I would say the funniest moment was when Igee decided that he needed to have / wear the bartender's apron and begin mixing drinks himself. Very ambitious from the fashionisto, but definitely not surprising. The General Manager, Mike Shain, was kind enough to "suit" Igee up with the stylish apron and the staff gave him a quick "How to Make a Margarita" tutorial. Myself and Erik watched (and photographed / recorded) as Igee did his best impression at tending bar. For a first timer, he looked to be a natural...other than shaking the tin with just the strainer covering the top. (Good thing there was only ice left - although a Margarita shower doesn't sound all bad). At this point we had enjoyed a couple early afternoon cocktails and were thoroughly enjoying ourselves while bonding with the Porchlight staff. Life was blissful. Afterwards, we finished up the shoot, grabbed some of their amazing Chicken & Waffles, reflected on our experiences, and parted ways after an indulgent afternoon. It really doesn't get much better than that.
GETTING TO KNOW IGEE OKAFOR: Q&A
Q: Currently, what is your favorite cocktail (generally speaking). And, in addition, what was your favorite cocktail from the three NYE cocktails I conjured up for the shoot?
A: My favorite cocktail is actually a signature from Beauty & Essex. It's called the Emerald Gimlet. It's a mixture of premium vodka, basil, lemon nectar, and fresh lime. I tend to be on the more sour/sweet side of things when it comes to my cocktails and they do it perfectly everytime. I also really enjoyed your take on the French 75. I believe my first time trying one was with you. It was fabulous! The champagne flute intrigued me as I tend to gravitate towards classic presentation and its taste hit the nail on the head. I mean, talk about a mixture of everything I enjoy when I have a drink - Sweet with a sour undertone, and champagne! Splendid.
Q: What was your favorite moment of the collaboration? And why?
A: My favorite moment of the entire photoshoot with Bon Vivantito and Erik Parapar had to be the opportunity I was kindly given by the gentleman at Porchlight to make my own cocktail. It was my first time ever using any equipment and actually making an alcoholic drink so I was honored. Haha!
Q: What do you love about cocktail culture?
A: What do I love about cocktail culture? Perhaps the enthusiasm it gives people in terms of its design, taste palate and function. There is a refined creativity and thoughtfulness that goes into creating a quality cocktail and that aspect makes it interesting for me.
Q: Now for a fun one! (haha) If you were to open your own bar, what would it be named and why?
A: If I were to open a bar, I would call it Dikeoma's. It's my father's first name and he was the first man in my life whom I associate with fine taste and appreciation for drinks. It would be an homage to him. I want everything I put my stamp on to celebrate the love I have for my family and African culture.
As many of you are aware from my Instagram posts, I love mezcal. The team from Montelobos sent me a bottle of their Mezcal Joven to taste and play around with as I continue to explore and learn about new mezcals. I capitalized on the NYC's first snowy weather of the season to take some photos in a setting that I felt would best portray the brand with my man Marcel Howard. I will speak about the spirit on its own, what it is like in a cocktail, and the overall experience with shooting for, and tasting, the brand's product.
Montelobos | The Spirit
Montelobos, which means mountain of wolves (per the wolf on their beautiful bottle), Joven is an unaged mezcal produced from the espadin agave varietal. Montelobos Joven is light and crisp on the palate with slight notes of citrus, herbs, and saline with burnt agave and grass on the nose. This varietal is the most common mezcal exported to the US. Espadins are great entry-level mezcals for anybody looking to get their feet wet with this sweet / herbaceous (and inherently) smoky spirit. Not only is this varietal great to sip on (preferably in a open-mouthed vessel like a copita…or a wine glass will do), it is also lovely in a cocktail (more to come on that ). Espadins are, relatively speaking, consistent in their flavor profiles which is why most bars will mix with them as opposed to a more complex varietal which should be sipped on its own like a tobala or tepeztate - whose bottles typically get up there in price. Although most espadins are similar in flavor, terroir, time, production methods, and other influential factors will always make each brand’s product unique in its own way.
Montelobos | The Cocktail
Mezcal in a cocktail is one of my favorite things to sip on, hands-down. Not only is it a fantastic base spirit, it is also one of my favorite modifiers. I find that, in a cocktail, Mezcal adds that extra layer of flavor that gives the imbiber something to really ponder over. When chilled, mezcal adds smoke, and an umami-sweetness which is always identifiable in a cocktail, no matter what the proportion. If you don’t like it, no worries! Just slide it my way.
Now, for my cocktail, I decided to go with something a bit Spirit-forward but still hitting on those wintery flavors to keep ya warm on those chillier days ️. Im calling this one the Sled Dog . Note: Vandermint mint chocolate liqueur is a rarity so feel free to sub it out for creme de cacao.
Sled Dog (pictured above):
1 oz Montelobos Mezcal
1/2 oz Bourbon
1/4 oz California Fernet (Check out their product here)
1/4 oz Vandermint Mint Chocolate Liqueur
1/4 oz Demerara
2 Dashes Aromatic Bitters
Mix | Stir |Strain | Sip
Model: Marcel Howard
Montelobos | The Experience
It's really easy to fall into a cycle of the familiar and the easy / convenient. Deciding to create this short content series was a refreshing change of pace for me because it allowed me to experience the drink culture I am passionate about in a different way & generate some different content that was on-brand because of it.
From end to end, I thoroughly learned about Montelobos as a brand and product which is what tasting mezcal is all about. It's more than just a spirit. It's deep rooted in culture, ancestry, and authenticity and every time I drink it I do my best to honor the hard-work and passion that was put into it. The shoot definitely embodied that and it was a pretty fun, hot-mess of a time haha. My inner wolf was thrilled, my human hands were numb, but being in the cold, snowy weather made everything a bit more exciting and I didn't feel like I was just moving through the motions. I promised myself that if things that are supposed to be fun ever feel like a chore then I shouldn't be doing them. Having experiences like the one I had to create this content excite me and motivate me to keep trying new things and innovate whenever possible.
All in all, I'm excited to continue my mezcal-tasting journey and I have some more mezcal content on the horizon for ya. Salud!