Turning a marshmallow into a shot glass (and other tricks from 'Camp Cocktails')
DULUTH — When it comes to camping, the marshmallow has a specific role: to be toasted and then squashed, with chocolate, between graham crackers. Emily Vikre, co-owner of Vikre Distillery in Duluth, gives the fluffy puff a promotion to shot glass in her soon-to-be-released recipe book.
She offers specific campfire treatment — from how deep to place the skewer to the preferred post-fire shade. Let it cool and cave “like a molten sugar crater.” Then fill it, shoot it, eat it.
“In the realm of usefulness,” she writes in “Camp Cocktails: Easy, Fun and Delicious Drinks for the Great Outdoors,” which will be released by Harvard Common Press on Feb. 25, “I’d classify being able to make a marshmallow shot glass as approximately on par with being double-jointed. By no means is it a necessary skill set, but it sure is fun to break out at parties!”
Vikre’s book — her first, but something she said she’s secretly dreamed of since she was a kid — is a collection of travel-ready drink recipes for outdoorsy sorts ranging from backpackers to glampers to foragers, scaled to single servings, flasks, water bottles and, of course, the marshmallow-as-vessel.
'Culinary interests and fancy'
Vikre Distillery, Duluth's first of its kind since Prohibition, released its inaugural line of boreal gins in 2014. Soon after, legislation changed, and they were able to add a cocktail bar on site.
Everything would be made in-house: syrups, bitters, liqueurs, botanicals. Then self-described as a wine person, Vikre dove into researching cocktail recipes and history, as well as having conversations with bartenders.
“That just tickled all of my culinary interests and fancy,” she said.
This is not off-brand. Vikre has a Ph.D. in food policy and has written for Food52 and Lucky Peach magazine.
Years later, a visitor to the distillery might walk in on staff snacking on, say, the candied lilacs Vikre had foraged.
“There is always crazy stuff going on in the kitchen,” she said.
Vikre’s first interest in cocktails was born of Campari, a golden red bitter liqueur most famous for its role in a Negroni.
“I love that complexity,” she said. “I love that flavor, and it transports me to hanging out on the rocks at the cabin in Norway.”
Cut to the Palabra Ultima, a cocktail with black currant syrup and Vikre’s own take on her favorite, faux-pari.
Marshmallows and more
Vikre, who grew up in Duluth and spent summers in Norway, had planned to write a book about Aquavit but was rerouted by her publisher, which has also published "The New Camp Cookbook" and "The Backyard Fire Cookbook" by Linda Ly.
Associate publisher Erik Gilg said she is someone whose business, writing and branding were a good fit for the series. Also, he said, he is a huge fan of their spirits.
"Emily's book lives in this informal series: fun, modern-looking books that could easily live on Instagram, though have solid content with a story in them," Gilg said.
Chelsy Whittington has tested many of Vikre's creations and said her friend and former employer is the perfect person to write a book that combines camping and cocktails.
"A lot of the vibe of Vikre is Northwoods and getting outside," she said, and: "She makes the best cocktails.
This is a timely publication, according to James Norton, food editor at The Growler magazine, author of "Lake Superior Flavors" and "Minnesota Lunch." In recent years, he has co-created Chef Camp, which combines the wilderness and gourmet feasts.
"The Upper Midwest is a region that has been trying (to figure out), 'What is our perspective, our voice, our take on food and drink?'" Norton said. "The key is going to be the woods and water and campfires and communion with the outdoors."
Vikre considered her own camping experiences, as well as those favored by her friends — ranging from the hardcore backpackers to a more laid-back style.
She skewed toward outdoor-themed spins on traditional drinks. The spiked apple cider has rosemary. Her version of the age-old scaffa mixes spicy rye, menthol and chocolate flavors; her sangria features grilled oranges — emphasis on the grill marks.
And the marshmallow isn’t just for shooting Fernet-Branca. Vikre’s Marshmallow Mule, made with toasted marshmallow and ginger syrup and garnished with a marshmallow, started out as a joke.
"The Marshmallow Mule is a cocktail I created when I was being super goofy with vodka," she said. "I was just trying to take this idea that vodka can be a little trashy, and it can go in trashy drinks, or you can use it in complex drinks. It's a high-brow, low-brow mix."
Author: Emily Vikre
Publisher: Harvard Common Press