Liquor Nerd: Art Boozel Finds Jennifer Croll Paying Homage To Modern Art Giants With Truly Bold Cocktail Creations

If the giants of modern art like Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono and Banksy have taught us anything, it is that there are no rules except those that we make for ourselves.

The importance of challenging audiences fuels performance artist Marina Abramović, photographer Diane Arbus and bad boy Robert Mapplethorpe. If you’re looking for a connection between the works of Spanish icon Salvador Dalí, sex-obsessed Jeff Koons, and independent Pacific Northwest Queen Miranda July, humor is in order. An appreciation for the beautiful and the vibrant in a sometimes gray and ugly world binds renegades David Hockney, Gustav Klimt and Sonia Delaunay.

If all of the above wildly adventurous iconoclasts have one thing in common, it’s that they surface in Jennifer Croll’s new book. Art Boozel.

Subtitle Cocktails inspired by modern and contemporary artists, the 144-page illustrated output works on several levels.
Croll offers 59 mini-profiles of rock stars in the art world – you’ll know a lot (Diego Rivera, Georgia O’Keeffe, HR Giger) and a lot you’ll learn something if you don’t (Patricia Piccinini, Petra Collins , and David Shrigley). Each pocket profile / story lesson comes with an original Croll cocktail recipe, inspired by the work, style and personality of the subjects in question. The set is completed with original pop-culture-cool illustrations of each artist by New York artist Kelly Shami.

In an interview with the Law, Vancouver Croll says she started working on Art Boozel after the 2018 glowing review Free the Tipple: Kickass cocktails inspired by iconic women. The decision to draw inspiration from Jenny Holzer and Louise Bourgeois, as opposed to Rembrandt and Vincent Van Gogh, has been carefully considered.

“I focused on modern and contemporary art because I find it more interesting,” Croll says. “It’s alive and in the present moment. Modern and contemporary art also helps bring a little more depth and diversity to the people you write about. If you were like “Here is a book on the canon of historical art” it would be just a bunch of old dead white people. The variety of art was not the same at the time. Like, I write about sound artists. It wasn’t really a thing in 1770.

The first step was to narrow down the list of renegades, pioneers and visionaries.

“I want people to work well as a collection,” Croll suggests. “With Free the drink, I mentioned the guest list for your dream dinner. You want a mix of personalities, you don’t want everyone to be exactly the same. With this one I already knew most of the people in the book, but there were a few new findings that I added to the list.

“I was looking for a mix of different types of artists,” she continues. “I didn’t want painters, I wanted a variety of art to be represented. And I also wanted people from different walks of life and different countries, different genders and different racial backgrounds. I didn’t want it to be this book with a bunch of white dudes. There is therefore a diversity of artists, their practices and their personalities.

This variety proved to be invaluable when Croll moved on to the other great part of Art Boozel: create the drinks that pay homage to each artist. Noting that she is neither a trained nor professional bartender, the author enjoys the art of mixology. Laughing, she reveals that her first stabbing in beverage making was using the blender at house parties.

Soon enough, she began to understand basic rules like the importance of balancing ingredients, using cold ice, and when to shake and when to stir. And from there she started to get creative, which eventually led to Free the drink creations like The Lucille Ball (frozen rosé cubes, strawberry syrup, vodka and fresh lemon juice) and The Margaret Atwood (light rum, maraschino liqueur, pomegranate juice, lime and apple juice, and a garnish snapdragon.)

Art Boozel increase the adventure.

The Takashi Murakami begins by soaking 30 Skittles in 8 ounces of sake for four hours, then, after carefully filtering things through a coffee filter, mixed with Gifford Ginger of the Indies liqueur and fresh lime. Don’t forget the octopus gummy filling, which is a nod to the anime-obsessed Tokyo artist’s favorite animal.

Takashi Murakami, illustrated by Kelly Shami for Art Boozel.
Kelly shami

Activated charcoal is the main weapon of the Lee Bul. After using the toxin-absorbing powder (usually made from peat, coconut husks, and sawdust) to make a black ice cube, you drop it at the bottom of a highball glass. Shake the vodka, fresh lemon juice, anise syrup and a bar spoon of activated charcoal over cool ice, and filter through the cube. The silver sugar (check the baking aisle) on the rim of the glass pays an already dramatic tribute to South Korean sculptor Bul.

Assuming you’re not already a paid professional at Keefer, L’Abattoir, or Chickadee Room, you’ll improve your home mixology game with Art Boozel. And we’re not talking about tweaking a Margarita with a basil leaf, or adding a pinch of chili powder to a Daiquiri.

Using everything from sumac to soju and sesame oil, from pink chewing gum to persimmon and prickly pears, the drinks in the book are as colorful as the artists who inspire them.

“One thing I’m looking for is to have a wide variety of types of cocktails,” Croll says. “I didn’t want them all to be the same, so having a very diverse group of artists helped me because I take inspiration from their work and their lives when I make these drinks.”

As any mixologist, amateur or not, knows, creating the perfect cocktail takes a lot of trial and error. It’s good when you have a team working at the bar, but not so much when you’re a one-woman show experimenting at home.

With a day job to get up (she is a writer at Greystone Books) and limited time to write at night and on weekends, Croll has learned that nothing will happen if she drinks three or four cocktails a night, including the inevitable mistakes that are part of the creative process.

“Every time I’m writing a book, you kind of have to drink on weeknights,” she admits. “But over time I got better at eliminating some of the drinks that didn’t work. If it’s Tuesday night and I’m making five iterations of a particular drink, I’m not going to sit there and drink all five. I’m going to pick the best one, drink that one and run the others.

“Because I’m writing at the same time I’m making the drinks, I have to stay focused,” Croll continues. “The other thing that keeps me on track, as much as it creates pressure, is having a day job that I have to stand up for. I cannot stand and drink cocktails and experiment with them until two in the morning.

However, that doesn’t stop you, in the minds of Kehinde Wiley, Tarsila do Amaral, and Richard Prince, from making your own rules while making your way through. Art Boozel.

The beauty of the book is that it is both educational and inspiring. After a few Matthew Barneys, Barbara Kruger, and Tracey Emin, you might just find yourself releasing your interior painter, sculptor, or videographer at 3 a.m. Art Boozel drink and lean into the present moment, bearing in mind that Andy Warhol would agree that there are worse reasons to be sick for work.

You can buy Art Boozel here.

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