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Contemporary craft cocktails and art combine in Sheila Evans’ mixology sequel

Ruins bartender Crystal Bertholic created this gin-based MI6 for Sheila Evans’ new cocktail book. The book release party takes place Friday night at Mizuna in downtown Spokane. The MI6 is a twist on the Vesper, with a lemon twist and Cocchi Americano. (ADRIANA JANOVICH
Ruins bartender Crystal Bertholic created this gin-based MI6 for Sheila Evans’ new cocktail book. The book release party takes place Friday night at Mizuna in downtown Spokane. The MI6 is a twist on the Vesper, with a lemon twist and Cocchi Americano. (ADRIANA JANOVICH

Let’s have a drink with artist Sheila Evans, who’s about to release her second art-cocktail-recipe book, “Mixology with a Twist.”

It follows “Mixology: The Art of Classic Cocktails,” and features more than 30 modern libations from local and regional bars and bartenders.

One of them, the MI6, named for Britain’s secret intelligence service and served up, was created by Crystal Bertholic, bartender at Spokane’s Ruins. So let’s meet there, in a booth by a window, and give it a try.

“I loved that it was clean but complex (and featured) the addition of floral notes but not sweetness,” Evans said, noting the MI6 is “not as dry as a Vesper but still dry” – another plus.

Her hope is that cocktail enthusiasts in the Inland Northwest and beyond will seek out the beverages in the book when they’re in Spokane or Seattle, Portland and Eugene. And, perhaps even better still, experiment with the recipes and mix their own at home.

Like her first book, the sequel marries three of Evans’ passions. Her mixology-art blog describes them this way: “painting, drinking, hoarding barware.” She started working on the sequel last year, before the release of her first book.

Like that one, the new edition features a series of still lifes and drink recipes. But this time, the focus is on contemporary cocktails, particularly original creations from some of Evans’ favorite bartenders at a few of her favorite bars.

“I started with bartenders I knew,” said Evans, 49, who also sought recommendations from friends and bartenders whom she didn’t personally know. “Sometimes I would stumble into a place, sometimes literally. The whole process of getting the recipes was quite crazy. I suddenly had more recipes than I could use.”

At Ruins, Bertholic concocted five recipes for the project. Evans included one, her favorite.

The MI6 involves what Bertholic calls “quintessential British ingredients”: tea and gin. Chamomile liqueur and a lemon twist add depth and brightness.

“It’s a twist on the Vesper, the James Bond drink,” Bertholic said.

The Vesper, in turn, is a variation of the classic gin martini. But, instead of the dry vermouth of the martini or Lillet Blanc of a Vesper, Bertholic uses Cocchi Americano in her creation.

“It has a lot more complexity,” she said.

Bertholic also uses Sibona Liquore Camomilla, chamomile-infused grappa from Italy, not England. But, she said, “You could definitely infuse your own (alcohol with tea).”

Vodka and Angostura bitters round out the flavor profile.

Another favorite: the spicy scotch sip Juan Connery from Bend, Oregon’s Dogwood Cocktail Cabin, which also offers a beverage called the Rye-an-Gosling.

Like the first book, each recipe is accompanied by a print of an original painting.

“Each painting shows an actual drink. It does show the drink how it’s supposed to look,” Evans said. “The paintings have a lot more modern feel to them. The funky angles and crops are more contemporary. There’s a lot more variety to the look of them.”

Evans owns Spokane’s Iron Goat Brewing with her husband and another couple. She loves beer. But she loves cocktails more.

Inspired by the recent resurgence of classic cocktails and innovative craft concoctions, Evans began collecting vintage barware, researching recipes, inviting bartenders to submit drinks and enlisting friends to help with taste testing.

The first recipe she tracked down was the fall-spiced, stout-topped, whiskey cocktail November Rain, created in November 2014 by Curtis Day of Casper Fry. “Within hours (of learning about the cocktail in The Spokesman-Review), I was at Casper Fry requesting the drink,” Evans wrote.

In May, she made a special trip to Waitsburg, Washington, with friends – 10 people in all – to the popular and now-closed Jimgermanbar to collect the recipe for Siesta, created by bartender Audra Wint.

Local contributors include Kristi Gamble of Durkin’s Liquor Bar, Kristy White and Cameron Walls of Clover, Kelly Green of Ruins, Suzie Bertholic (Crystal Bertholic’s sister) of Ruins and Boots Bakery and Lounge, Camrin Costello of Casper Fry and Evans’ friends Beth McRae, Richard Vander Wende and Tom Musselwhite.

Other recipes come from Liberty, Spur Gastropub, Canon, Brouwers Café and Sun Liquor in Seattle, Pepe le Moko and Pok Pok in Portland, and Izakaya Meiji in Eugene.

“Each recipe has a story,” said Evans, who scrambled to make the deadline she set for herself. She wanted to release the book a year after the first one: the first Friday in November.

The self-published volume features nearly twice the recipes and images as the first book, which had 19.

“It’s a lot bigger. There’s a lot more content,” said Evans, who grew up in Spokane and earned an art degree from Gonzaga University. In the 27 years since, she’s become known for her large paintings of foliage and, now, smaller paintings of cocktails.

Alison Collins of Boots created the herbal-sour cherry Sheila’s Medicine for the book. Look, also, for the cayenne- and lime-laced El Corazón from Sherrece Scott at Spokane’s Mizuna, which will offer drink specials using recipes from the book during the launch party.

Books and original artwork will also be for sale, and Evans will be on hand to greet guests and, perhaps, have a couple of cocktails.