For Kyle Ford, spirits guru and Cointreau’s cocktail expert, summer is best served with a Rickey in hand. Meet the guy who just might have the coolest job in the industry.
What inspired your love of spirits?
Cocktails. Another lifetime ago, I was working in finance in my hometown of Sacramento and traveling to San Francisco almost every weekend with my wife. I became enamored with the cocktail renaissance going on there and truly admired the talented individuals on the front line resurrecting a time-honored craft. I was searching for a creative outlet and I had found it. I quit my job, moved to SF, and landed my first bartending position three weeks later.
What was the first proper drink you ever tasted?
I have a pretty vivid memory of being served a Reviver No. 2 early in my San Francisco days. It was the first cocktail I ever had that really highlighted the importance of precise proportions. In this case, equal parts gin, Cointreau, Lillet, and fresh lemon juice. Oh, yeah, and a dash or two of absinthe. Mmm.
How did you end up with Cointreau?
I’d have to thank Steve Schneider of Employees Only. Someone from the company had just done a Cointreau training at EO and mentioned to the staff that they were looking to hire a mixologist. I received a text from Steve that I should apply. Three and a half years later, I’d say it worked out. I had always said I wasn’t going to step out from behind the bar to represent a brand until the right brand had an opening. Cointreau has always held a special place in my mind, since it is at the heart of so many classic cocktails.
What about its taste and texture appeals to you?
It’s a clean and crisp orange flavor-bomb. Cointreau’s neutral spirit base makes it incredibly versatile for use in cocktails. Of all the orange liqueurs out there, it has the highest level of natural essential oils from bitter and sweet orange peels. The high concentration of essential oils can be seen if you add Cointreau to ice water. The contact with ice turns the Cointreau into an opalescent color. In cocktails, Cointreau has a viscosity that helps bring all of the ingredients together. This was precisely the goal of Edouard Cointreau when he introduced the now-iconic spirit in 1875.
What about the heritage interests you most?
Edouard Cointreau’s vision. The man was a marketing genius, pioneering the use of film, mascots, the automobile, famous artist-commissioned posters, pop-up bars, and more for the promotion of his brand long before these types of concepts were popular. We now have a treasure trove of archival pieces that speak to Cointreau’s incredible brand history.
What is your favorite way to drink it?
I love Cointreau paired with gin. The classic White Lady, just gin, Cointreau, and fresh lemon juice, is what you will find in my hand most often. But the Cointreau Rickey, made with three simple ingredients—Cointreau, lime and soda—is my go-to for an easy summer drink that is great for entertaining.
What are the essential components of a Rickey?
Quality ingredients. Two ounces of Cointreau serves a perfect base, with its prominent citrus notes. One ounce of fresh lime juice is a must, as a cocktail is only as good as its ingredients. I then prefer to top with a sparkling water, like Perrier. You can easily customize this template by muddling some fresh fruit and herbs first. I love it with strawberry and basil.
Where is your favorite place to enjoy one?
Great cocktails are always best in great company. So, obviously, a Rickey is best enjoyed with friends. In the Summer, there is nowhere better than on a rooftop or patio—or pool or beachside, if you are that lucky.
Your wife is also in the spirits world. Who makes a better cocktail?
Are you trying to get me in trouble? Well, I like to say that the bartender’s intention is a vital, yet overlooked, ingredient in a cocktail. For me, there is no better cocktail, not even by my own hands, than when my wife takes the time to carefully craft something for me.