Risa Weaver-Enion, Risa James Photography

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF:

I'm a professional cocktail photographer and wedding planner in Sacramento, California. As the owner of two creative small businesses, I get to use the left and right halves of my brain daily. I used to be an attorney, but what I do now is way more fun! My husband and I have been wine collectors and cocktail connoisseurs for years, and I fell into cocktail photography when a friend who co-owns a rum brand asked me to make cocktails and take photos for their social media and website. As more companies started reaching out to me, I decided to make cocktails my niche. I have no formal bartender or mixologist training, so I've learned through experimentation and by reading cocktail books and interacting with the cocktail community on Instagram.
 

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR MOST RECENT PROJECTS?

I work mostly with small brands and distilleries, primarily in the U.S. Most of my clients want to encourage customers to make cocktails at home, so the challenge is to come up with recipes that don't use too many ingredients and are reasonably easy to make at home. People love a nice three- or four-ingredient cocktail! My clients also love to have timely material for holidays, so I've made cocktails themed around the Olympics, Valentine's Day, Fourth of July, Pride Month, and of course, the end-of-year holidays. I love the rich flavors of maple syrup and allspice dram, so holiday cocktail recipes are some of my favorites to create.

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

I draw inspiration from a lot of different places. If I'm creating something for a specific holiday or season, I think about relevant flavors or colors and build from there. If I'm working with a company that makes a flavored mixer, like a syrup, I start with flavors and branch out into complementary flavors or botanicals. And sometimes I just throw together whatever I have on hand and make it work!

WHAT'S IN THE BOX?

SEND AN OWL
1.5 oz. white rum
4 oz. Owl’s Brew Darjeeling & Hibiscus boozy tea
1 lime juice
Gold sugar rim
Sugar cube
Lime wheel
Rim the lip of a rocks glass with lime juice, then dip in gold sugar. Place sugar cube in the bottom of the prepared glass. Add rum (or tequila) and muddle the sugar cube until it dissolves. Fill the glass with small ice cubes. Add boozy tea and lime juice, then stir gently. Garnish with a dehydrated (or fresh) lime wheel. Enjoy!

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?

Hotel bars are a hidden gem in most cities, even mid-size cities. They're not usually very crowded, so you can get attentive service from the bartender. If you're a visitor to that city, the bartender can make recommendations, but hotel bars in the city where you live can also be a fun night out. The hotel bars in Washington DC are some of the best in the country.

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

It can be as hard or as easy as you want it to be! The right tools make a difference, but even with a modest bar cabinet, there are a lot of cocktails you can make at home. Most techniques are not difficult, and YouTube videos can teach someone almost anything they need to know about how to properly mix cocktails at home. A lot of what people see on Instagram can be intimidating - people lighting cocktails on fire, or recipes with 14 ingredients. But you can make good cocktails at home with a handful of ingredients, and without lighting anything on fire. 

ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE? 

Low-ABV and no-ABV drinks are becoming more popular, whether people want to limit their alcohol for health reasons or lifestyle reasons. Most of my recipes are the opposite of that, lol. I prefer stirred drinks (no juices) that are spirit-forward. A dry martini (made with gin, of course) is my ideal cocktail. It's about as high-ABV as they come!
You can follow me on Instagram @risajamesphotography. Later this year I will also be publishing a book of cocktail photos and recipes aimed at beginner home bartenders.