No holiday elicits the strong ambivalence that Valentine’s Day does — people seem to either love it or hate it. No matter what your personal bias, why not use the sugarcoated day for lovers as an excuse to imbibe in a delicious love potion concocted by local professional mixologist Angie Jackson?
Jackson, known as The Traveling Elixir Fixer, has been perfecting her craft for almost 20 years, since she began as a bartender in 1996. Jackson has created custom cocktails for numerous distillers, distributors, bars, restaurants and events in Chicago and Southwest Michigan. She taught mixology at Chicago’s Kendall College in 2009 and 2010 and was the resident mixologist at Cooking Fools, in Wicker Park (a Chicago neighborhood), and Flavour Cooking School, in Forest Park, Ill.
“This profession picked me,” says Jackson, adding that she can’t believe she’s makes a living doing something she enjoys so much. “I never thought I would be doing this the rest of my life.”
Now Jackson travels to local neighborhood bars like O’Duffy’s or Old Dog Tavern, events and private parties with a vintage black medical bag containing an antique Friedman silver shaker, classic glassware (coups, flutes and cocktail glasses), exotic vials, tubes and equipment for pouring and mixing. She makes her own “Elixir Mixers,” like her secret-recipe blueberry lavender syrup, which she is hoping to bottle and sell sometime in the near future.
Jackson takes her craft very seriously — she won’t use premade mixers and she doesn’t call anything a “tini.” She takes her inspiration from a time when cocktails were an art that everyone knew how to partake in.
“I grew up in the ‘70s, when people knew how to entertain and have a good party and make a good drink,” she says. “After the ‘80s, we had the grab-and-go drinks, like Zima, and we kind of got lost and forgot how to entertain and how to do cocktails and in what succession — an aperitif, long, tall, short cocktails, a digestive and a cordial after dinner.”
Jackson says consumers’ growing interest in handcrafted wares and locally sourced ingredients and products has fueled a revival of the craft cocktail market — just what Jackson specializes in.
A panel of Encore tasters personally tested a few of Jackson’s complex cocktail concoctions by inviting ourselves over to her place — she had us come to her parents’ (Sharon and John Jackson) beautiful home instead — where she made three drinks for our panel: The Marc Antony and Cleopatra (a champagne cocktail), The Duke and the Divorcee (a gin-based cocktail) and An American in Paris (a creative take on a Manhattan).
The tasters’ verdict was unanimous — all the cocktails were amazing.
“All of the drinks were so good,” said one of the tasters. “I could drink The Duke and The Divorcee at every bar. I love it.”
Most of the panel’s tasters gravitated toward The Duke and The Divorcee, a refreshing drink with complex citrusy flavors that aren’t too sweet or overpowering.
“I could drink it in one sitting, in front of a warm fire,” one taster said, promptly sitting down to do just that.
Our Valentine’s gift to you, dear readers, is to let you try Jackson’s signature drinks for yourself. The recipe for The Duke and The Divorcee is below, complete with where to buy ingredients, and tips and tricks. The recipes for the other two cocktails, An American in Paris and Marc Antony and Cleopatra, are available online at EncoreKalamazoo.com.
To book Angie Jackson for an event or to find out where she’s visiting next, find the Traveling Elixir Fixer on Facebook.