For Aisha Tyler, hosting an awards ceremony at Tales of the Cocktail, the spirits-industry’s annual premier event held in New Orleans, was no big deal. After all, the actor-comedian is a veteran on television shows such as The Talk, Whose Line Is It Anyway, Criminal Minds and Archer.
The bigger deal: Tyler’s new line of bottled cocktails, called Courage + Stone, scheduled to launch this spring. The lineup includes whiskey- and gin-based Old Fashioneds, as well as a Black Manhattan laced with black cherry and chocolate flavors. We talked with Tyler about brewing, batching and how to avoid a hangover.
How did you get started in the cocktail world?
I travel a lot for work, and I guess I became a little bit of a food and cocktail tourist. You know, I’d go to a new town, I’d want to go to the most interesting places to eat and drink. The way a lot of people see chefs as artists, I think that way about drinks and great bartenders.
How did your cocktail business start?
I’d want to have a great drink at home, so I built a home bar. But even with all of the implements and the jiggers, I still didn’t want to make a drink, I just wanted to have one! So I started batching cocktails at home, and I’d keep them in my fridge. I’d be batching Manhattans and Negronis and Boulevardiers, and I said, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could just buy this stuff at the store?” And that’s the entire origin story of Courage + Stone.
I understand you’re also a home brewer.
I hadn’t homebrewed in a while—not for a lack of passion, but for a lack of time. It was really exciting to do a collaboration with Stone [Brewing Co.], because it was an opportunity to start brewing again, but [on] a much larger, more fantastical scale.
It must have been very different, the beer- vs. the cocktail-creation experience.
The beer was almost a culinary-driven kind of thing . . . that was really about innovating and coming up with a new flavor profile. With the cocktails, it was about trying to find delicious execution of a traditional experience. With Stone, we’d come up with a crazy idea . . . and we’d make it. Courage + Stone was over a year of doing prototype mixes at home, then tasting, then letting them sit on glass for a year, and tasting them again and adjusting.
Now that you’ve conquered beer and cocktails, will you try winemaking?
I don’t think so. I love wine, and I love drinking it, and I collected it for a long time. Plenty of people are making amazing wine, and I don’t think I can bring anything to it.
Do you have a favorite drinking buddy?
I love to keep my own company [laughs]. My friends make fun of me, because I’ll order a lot of drinks and only have a little bit. I’ll taste one and go on to the next one, which they all find very wasteful. But then again, I’m not about quantity, I’m about quality. I think it’s much better to enjoy the night and remember what you tasted, rather than wake up the next morning and have to call around to find out where you left your wallet. I don’t think you should drink more; I think you should drink better.