Interview With Camper English of Alcademics
Camper English is a San Francisco-based freelance writer who is also the voice behind the cocktail blog Alcademics. Aside from writing about booze for magazines such as Every Day With Rachael Ray and Fine Cooking, English is a "cocktail and spirits trend consultant." He was nice enough to answer some of our burning questions. Everything you ever wanted to know about hooch-writing, English' favorite types of liquor and the smartest hangover cures below.
So which came first: bartending or writing?
Though I'm thoroughly over-trained in mixology, I don't bartend except for the occasional special event. I'm a big fan of being in bars, though, which is why I ended up writing about them recreationally and then professionally.
How did you decide to get into writing about drinks? How do you go from Physics to drinking for a living?
With my physics degree, I was doing brain imaging research, which mostly translated into data analysis. To become better at that, I went to grad school for computer science but quit school to work at a dot-com as a programmer. In 2001 I was laid-off like everyone else, so I started supplementing unemployment by writing bar and club reviews. Eventually I realized I liked happy hour more than the after-hours. I started focusing on the cocktails, which were really starting to get interesting again at the time. Or maybe I just have a short attention span.
How exactly does one become a "cocktail and spirits trend consultant"?
As a journalist you're always looking for the latest trends to report on, so it's a natural extension of what I'm doing anyway.
If you could give advice to any drinking noobs, what would it be?
The best drinks don't try to cover up the alcohol; they celebrate it.
Do you have any good hangover cures?
Prevent getting them! Drink quality booze (not only does it cause less problems, it costs more so you won't have as much), drink tons of water, and eat before you drink rather than after.
Do you have a favorite type of liquor or drink?
At cocktail bars I order the most interesting drink on the menu. If it has vinegar or celery or mushroom-infused syrup in it, that's the one I'm going to try. At home I love tequila and single-malt scotch.
Do you have a certain drink that you always order as a barometer to gauge a bartender's talent?
You can tell a lot about the bar and bartender before they take your drink order. The selection of spirits and mixers on the back bar, the tools the bartender is using, and how he or she greets you will usually be enough information to determine whether or not to opt for a beer rather than risk a lousy cocktail. I don't have a test-the-bartender drink, though I think the Sazerac is a good one for that.
Honesty time: is there anything bad about being a beverage writer (besides the inevitable hangovers)?
Writing is a lousy way to pay the rent these days.