Talking Vodka, Bacon Bloody Marys and Beyond with Reyka Vodka's Daniel Brancusi

By: 
A.J. Rathbun
Reyka Vodka's Daniel Brancusi

If you didn’t know it, Seattle and Reykjavik, Iceland, are sister cities. Recently, in a bit of sibling communing, Daniel Brancusi, who is the brand ambassador for Iceland’s Reyka vodka, came to town to promote the city connection, as well as to talk about the vodka. He even made some Seahawks drinks on local TV – realizing that to really be sibling cities, the Icelandic folks needed to back our local heroes. While he was here, I had a chance to sit down and talk to him about the two cities, vodka, a few great drink recipes and more.

Seattle and Reykjavik are sister cities – how do you think they’re alike and different?

Seattle and Reykjavik are alike in their affinity for locally sourced ingredients.  Additionally, they’re both very close to the water and fishing plays a major role in both cities’ economies. Cocktail culture is also very strong in both cities. I’d argue that the landscapes are also quite similar; Seattle with Mt. Rainer as a backdrop and Reykjavik with numerous glaciers, some that contain the water we use in Reyka vodka.

How does Reykjavik influence Reyka vodka?

Reyka is the country in a bottle: from the glacier water we use to bring the spirit to proof to the lava rocks we use to filter the vodka. We are making our very own range of bitters from native plants and herbs designed to bring out the delicate and subtle Icelandic flavors distinctive to Reyka. 

You’ve spent a fair amount of time in Seattle. And Reykjavík. Does Reykjavík have as serious a cocktail culture as we do here? 

Iceland’s cocktail scene is booming!  Much like Seattle, Reykjavik is extremely proud of its cocktail culture. Bars such as Harbor Bar are pushing boundaries with inventive styles and delicious drinks. Reyka is a brand that these bars are all extremely passionate about and use frequently in their cocktails.

Brancusi suggests trying out this cocktail recipe from his good friend and cocktail superstar Asgeir Mar Bjornsson of Slippbarinn (Harbor Bar).

Black Dog

1.5 ounces Reyka Vodka
1.0 ounces fresh red grape juice
0.3 ounces Fernando De Castilla “Antique Fino“ sherry
0.3 ounces 4:1 agave syrup
0.3 ounces fresh lime juice
Black Lava Salt (From Saltverk, Iceland)

1. Rim a chilled Champagne coupe glass with the Black Lava Salt and sprinkle a little on the belly.

2. Shake everything except the salt and then double strain it into the glass. 

I know you recently made some great Seahawks cocktails. Have you made any other event cocktails using Reyka vodka? Please don’t say you also made Broncos cocktails.

There’s no better inspiration for creating new cocktails than an event. I try to let the theme inspire me when it comes to creating drinks and Reyka is such a great backbone for cocktails and punches that I can showcase a wide range of ingredients or styles of cocktail for my guests. As an example, for my brunch parties I like to have bacon not only with my eggs but also with my drink:

Bacon Bloody Mary

2 ounce Bacon infused Reyka
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
5 ounces Bloody Mary mix

1. Roll drink with ice until cold and pour into chilled pint glass.

2. Garnish with 2 olives and a lemon wedge on a pick.

For bacon-infused Reyka:

Add 2 ounce hot bacon fat (from a very smoky bacon such as Benton’s) to 750 ml of Reyka in a non-reactive container. Allow to sit at room temperature for 2-4 hours. Freeze and remove solidified bacon fat. Strain Reyka through cheesecloth to remove any remaining sediment. Bottle and refrigerate.

For the Bloody Mary mix:

6 cups tomato juice
1 tablespoon crushed capers
6 ounces Worcestershire sauce
4 ounces fresh lemon juice
2 ounces olive brine
1 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons crushed black pepper
2 teaspoons Tobasco sauce
8 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish

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