Forest Park resident and playwright in residence at The Actor’s Garden, 909 S. Lombard Ave. in Oak Park, Dave Hudson, turned his attention to cocktails during the pandemic. A cocktail enthusiast and historian, Hudson transformed his passion for mixology and storytelling into a miniature libation library. His most recent book, “The Alcohol ABC Book,” is a whimsical picture book for cocktail lovers — it joins “A Year of Magical Drinking: Cocktails in the Time of Covid” (co-authored with his wife Gigi Hudson, owner of the Actor’s Garden) and “A Year of Magical Drinking: Another Round” self-published in 2021 and 2022 respectively.
A writer of original musicals, Hudson put his wordsmithing to use when coming up with the playful alliterative text in “The ABC’s of Alcohol.” To illustrate the book, he turned to DALL-E, an innovative AI program that creates detailed art images based on natural language instructions. Hudson prompted the program to create pictures like “a unicorn drinking an unusual cocktail,” “A jackalope drinking some Jack Daniels” and “a penguin Drinking a Pimm’s Cup.” The resulting images are fanciful and fun making the book a whimsical addition to any bar cart.
Those looking to test out Hudson’s cocktail recipes should also grab copies of his “Year of Magical Drinking” books. Hudson’s first cocktail book, based on a year of Covid imbibing, enjoyed a week as the number one small cookbook on Amazon in December 2020. The second book (“Another Round”) takes Hudson’s love of spirit history further by focusing on specific distilleries and offering multiple price points for spirits used in his original recipes.
“The dirty secret no one wants to believe is that all vodka is the same,” said Hudson matter-of-factly. “It’s true. It’s all the same; you pay extra for branding. The same cannot be said for other spirits like whiskey, bourbon and gin.”
Hudson started out as a wine cooler drinker before graduating to craft beers and wine; in time he found his way to cocktails and began digging into the history behind the spirits he had grown to love. He is already working on his fourth book dedicated to gradually building a bar cart. It is a serious book as compared to The Alcohol ABC’s but reflects Hudson’s nuanced and thorough approach to his passion projects. He is quick to point out that cocktails are meant to be fun, but there is a meticulousness required when crafting them.
“There is truth in the statement that drinks are poured, and cocktails are measured,” said Hudson. “Serious cocktail makers always measure.”
On a recent afternoon, Hudson whipped up his Ruth Bader Gins-Burg cocktail while enthusiastically sharing tips for mixing a memorable drink. He pontificated about the value of using an angled measuring jigger and spoke about the benefits of holding a shaker horizontally when mixing a drink. He spoke confidently about the importance of using fresh fruit whenever possible as he cut and juiced a grapefruit for use in the gin and Aperol cocktail.
When asked to pick his perfect cocktail Hudson hesitated only briefly before naming an Old Fashioned as his drink of choice. He opts to use Evan Williams Bottled in Bond bourbon in his classic cocktail made with a smidge of simple syrup and garnished with an orange slice and a Luxardo cherry. Served up in a sturdy rocks glass the cocktail is an example of measured simplicity.
“Drinking has been a ritual since the dawn of time,” said Hudson. “For me it is about the ritual of gathering around the glass and what it means to share that experience. Our grandfathers told stories around these spirits.”
To contact Hudson to speak about the history behind popular cocktails or host an interactive cocktail conversation email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His books are available for purchase on Amazon.
Drink the Book
Ruth Bader Gins-Burg
Sip the drink Dave and Gigi crafted to represent September 2020 in “A Year of Magical Drinking: Cocktails in the Time of Covid.” According to Hudson, the addition of Aperol, an Italian aperitif, is a subtle nod to Ginsburg’s longtime friendship with fellow Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
- 1 ½ ounces London dry gin
- ¼ ounce sweet vermouth
- ½ ounce Aperol
- 1 ounce grapefruit juice
Shake over ice and pour into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lime twist. Serve on a 6-inch doily with a 4-inch circle of felt in the center.
Hudson’s tip: Take care to add the ingredients to the shaker before adding ice to prevent excess dilution. Hold the cocktail shaker horizontally when shaking to maximize contact with the ice.