IN THE SPIRIT FEATURING: ELANA LEPKOWSKI, STIR AND STRAIN

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF:

My name is Elana and I run StirAndStrain.com out of my home bar in Los Angeles. I've been mixing drinks for years and started the website in 2011 as a way to document my favorites. In 2014 I left my decade long career as a creative director to pursue the site full-time and it's been SO much fun! The Stir and Strain blog is a go-to creative resource for cocktail enthusiasts, and a regular source of inspiration for design and style readers. The blog features original cocktail recipes as well as variations on classics, plus a look at what’s cool in the bar world and must have accessories for the home bar. Stir and Strain promotes cocktail pantry DIY, and offers readers approachable recipes for syrups, bitters, and tinctures, with an emphasis on seasonal, classic, and tiki cocktails.

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR MOST RECENT PROJECTS?

I'm finally taking a breather after all the fun holiday posts! On the site, we've just wrapped up all the boozy gift guides and bar cart style posts for the holidays. We had some over-the-top decadent drinks on the site and January is looking towards more lighter options. I also work for brands outside of the website too! I just concluded a drink AND bar food project for House of Angostura. And sadly, I finished up the last of the cocktail photos I've been working on for APM's The Dinner Party Download since 2014. Such a bummer the show is coming to an end!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE RECIPE YOU HAVE COME UP WITH USING AN AJC PRODUCT? WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND IT? 

The Clean Slate Cocktail using the Lady Lychee is amazing! It's fresh and light with a perfectly balanced sweet-tartness. I developed it wanting to use Pisco in a cocktail. The fruity and floral notes from the Lady Lychee were a great match and with the addition of dehydrated strawberries and a touch of orange bitters it all came together.
Clean Slate Cocktail
1 oz Lady Lychee
3g (1 heaping tablespoon) dehydrated strawberries
 1-1/2 oz Pisco
3 dashes orange bitters, like Angostura Orange bitters
1-1/2 to 2 oz Perrier L'Orange
Build the cocktail: in the bottom of a rocks glass, add dehydrated strawberries and Lady Lychee syrup. Muddle until strawberries have been saturated. Fill glass 2/3 with ice and pour in pisco, add dashes of orange bitters, and top with Perrier L'Orange. Stir gently to combine.

WHEN YOU ARE COMING UP WITH NEW DISHES OR DRINKS, DO YOU HAVE A SOURCE(S) FOR INSPIRATION?

Many of my drinks are inspired by culinary trends I try out in restaurants or see in some of my favorite food magazines. Also, Instagram! Although it can sometimes be overwhelming scrolling through it all, you CAN find some gems that make one have an "A-HA!" moment. I keep a running list of everything I see or am inspired by and reference that when I need a new idea.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE RESTAURANT OR BAR, WHAT DAY OF THE WEEK DO YOU RECOMMEND IT, AND WHAT KIND OF EXPERIENCE CAN A VISITOR EXPECT?

There are a lot of amazing places in Los Angeles depending on your mood and the day of the week. If I were bringing someone from out of town I'd take them to The Tonga Hut. A tiki bar might raise an eyebrow but the drinks are solid, the rum collection is superb, and everyone makes you feel at home. And the decor is pretty awesome too. If you want to avoid the crowds, get there on the early side (before 8) and even better if you can make it Monday-Wednesday.

WHAT INFO ABOUT COCKTAILS DO MOST PEOPLE MAKING DRINKS AT HOME NOT KNOW THAT WOULD BE HELPFUL TO THEM?

What are your 3 favorite drinks? Get the ingredients to make those and chances are you can make riffs on other cocktails with just those ingredients. Also, pro tip: you can stir a cocktail with your finger sometimes. It's OK.

FAVORITE AJC FLAVOR?

ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?

Thanks for taking a moment to learn more about me and Stir and Strain! Let me know if you make this cocktail, or any of the cocktails from the site by leaving us a note online. It's the readers who make this worth it!

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