We love creative mixologists who know their history but aren’t afraid to try new things in pursuit of excellent cocktails. We sat down with Henri Schock from Bottlehouse to get the inside scoop on mixing cocktails without spirits, crafting low-ABV drinks, and building your own collection of amaros and aperitifs.
You're getting really creative with wine. What gave you the idea to make an Old Fashioned without the key ingredient (whiskey)?
When my wife and I first came up with the concept of Bottlehouse, we wanted to stay pure with European wine bar concept, which meant being a spiritless bar. We also had a passion for amaros, digestifs, and aperitifs. Being someone who enjoys a good Old Fashioned, but sometimes wants something lighter spirited, I developed our Bottlehouse Old Fashioned. Cardamaro is an amazing wine-based aperitif that blends cardoon and thistles, which then gets aged in oak barrels. The result is a dark caramel and very viscous product that, when matched with barrel-aged bitters, has a bourbon-like profile.
What’s your philosophy behind Bottlehouse? How do you curate your selection?
Bottlehouse started as a neighborhood gathering space, wine bar, and retail shoppe. Our curation of wine has, and will always be, a balance between Pacific Northwest and Old World, focusing on smaller producers that practice minimal intervention production (also labeled as Natural, Biodynamic, and/or Organic). We created Bottlehouse out of necessity, as there wasn't anything that existed in Seattle prior. Our focus on wine and food education (specifically cheese and local products) has been paramount to our success, and we share that knowledge with our guests every day. We are an approachable, non-pretentious space that feels like going to a friends house—a friend who has great taste in design, wine and food.
How does your cocktail menu and wine list change seasonally?
Seasonality is synonymous with Bottlehouse. We celebrate the seasons with great passion and regularity by carefully curating our food, wines, and cocktails monthly. Our wine shop offerings rotate nearly weekly, and we're constantly bringing in new and exciting bottles we've discovered from our incredible producers.
How do you think the wine industry has changed in recent years?
The obvious and most talked about is the recent trend of natural wines. We have always had a minimal intervention focus, and it has been great to see the natural wine movement really grow, especially in younger demographics. What has been most evident (natural wine aside) is the wine consumer is getting younger and more knowledgeable about what they are drinking. This is a huge plus for us in the wine industry, as the more people who are educated about wine, the more wine drinkers we have out in the world.
What’s your go-to drink on a night out?
Depends on what we are eating. But generally speaking, Champagne—duh! Followed by a nice bottle of Burgundy or Barolo.
Do you have any tips for home bartenders who are experimenting with inventing their own wine-based cocktails?
When building any bar, it’s really important to build a nice baseline of ingredients to work and get comfortable with. Wine-based cocktails can be a little tricky, as unique amaros, aperitifs and digestives are less ubiquitous than most spirits. Do a little research, ask your local wine/spirits shop what is fun and unique, and start building an arsenal. The fun thing about wine-based cocktails is they can be as simple as 2-3 ingredients—an amaro/aperitif/digestif and bubbly water/wine. We call these spritz, and we often serve these as the first round of drinks to our guests.