Okay, we’ll say it again: it’s our 40th anniversary. Woo hoo! So, let’s raise a glass to Hudson Valley magazine. There’s one problem, though: We couldn’t decide on the proper cocktail to toast this momentous occasion. So, we turned to our friends at Shadows on the Hudson to create a special drink just for us. Luckily, they quickly put renowned mixologist Kristen Schaefer to the task. A former Shadows employee-turned-hotshot Las Vegas bartender, Schaefer had an immediate thought: “Grapes,” she says. “Because of all the wineries here. But I didn’t want to do a wine-based drink.” Her answer? The Hudson Valley Punch — the magazine’s first signature cocktail.
“Punches are cutting-edge right now,” says Schaefer, who certainly knows a thing or two about drumming up a winning drink. After helping Shadows get off the ground in 2007, she headed to Sin City where, among other projects, she helped launch and run the famed Rhumbar at the Mirage. Along the way she also made it to the final four of the reality TV series On the Rocks: The Search for America’s Top Bartender, and in 2010 was named a “Most Inspired Bartender” by the United States Bartender Guild. Luckily for us, Schaefer still draws a lot of her inspiration from the banks of the Hudson. “When I come back here I feel so relaxed,” says the former army brat who has lived all around the globe. “It’s so nice to be home.”
Schaefer sure is passionate, and not only about punch. Like a crazed chemist, she loves to mix and match flavors — a twist here and a splash there — until she comes up with a one-of-a-kind concoction. She notes that top-of-the-line ingredients are key. “Just like a chef, I have to balance flavors,” she says. “They use fire to cook; I use ice.” Schaefer recently stopped by Arlington Wines & Liquors in Poughkeepsie and got a warm reception: “They said, ‘Oh, we remember you. You’re the one who used to buy all those weird things.’ I just love to experiment.” And she’ll do it anywhere. “I never travel without my flavor bible and my knife kit.”
So what’s in the Hudson Valley Punch? Absolut Grapevine (Absolut’s newest vodka with a white grape base and “notes of papaya and dragon fruit”), white grape juice, orange bitters, mint, and fresh fruit. It’s a bit like sangria on steroids: refreshing, not too sweet — like an ideal day in the Valley. It’s currently available exclusively at Shadows in Poughkeepsie, but Schaefer shares the secret recipe at www.hvmag.com/Recipes. Cheers!