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Thirsty Crowd

Punch Editor Talia Baiocchi on Cocktail Lit and Her At-Home Test Bar

Punch's editor in chief, Talia Baiocchi (right) and deputy editor Leslie Pariseau.

Punch's editor in chief, Talia Baiocchi (right) and deputy editor Leslie Pariseau. © Daniel Krieger/Courtesy of Punch

For a woman whose apartment has essentially been transformed into the best bar in Brooklyn, it’s a true miracle that Talia Baiocchi is able to get anything done at all. But the fact is, she’s found a way to be super-productive despite all the bottles of sherry that surround her and the daily 3 o’clock beer she has while writing. Baiocchi, the former wine editor for Eater and a writer for numerous publications including the San Francisco Chronicle, is in the midst of writing a book all about sherry (called Sherry, in fact, and scheduled to be published next fall by Ten Speed Press). And today she launched Punch, a website devoted to exploring the world of cocktails, spirits and wine, through the eyes of talented writers, photographers, videographers and bartenders. Here, the plan for Punch.

What’s the big idea behind Punch? From the beginning, the conversation Leslie Pariseau (Punch’s deputy editor) and I have been having is that there were all these super-creative, interesting publications happening around food that were so exciting, like Swallow and Lucky Peach, but the same things weren’t happening with the same sort of energy around drinks. What’s happening in wine, cocktails and spirits—particularly in America—is so exciting. I also believe that as wine is a generational thing to a degree, I think that the younger generations—if they’re interested in cocktails and they’re interested in wine—it’s not one or the other. These two things are finding a place of convergence that was never there before in a way that never really seemed to be there before. People want a little more thought applied to cocktail writing. And wine writing’s been a little bit heavy. I think people want to bring it down a little. We can find a little more energy in talking about all those things. We’re planning to put out 40 or 50 pieces a month.

Who’s Punch intended for? I know it sounds like a cop out, but I think the reader is someone, obviously, who’s interested in going out to bars and drinking. But I think it’s also people who are interested in food and dining out. And I think it’s for someone who is curious and to wants to learn a little bit more. We’ve put together a great group of writers that includes great drinks writers but also people from outside that world. I want it to be the kind of place where if you landed on Punch, you would feel like it was something you could read even if you didn’t have a certain amount of knowledge. For example, we’re looking at not just how tequila is made, but we’re looking at how these things affect people’s lives in different ways.

What are some of the upcoming stories you’re excited about? There are a couple stories that represent the range. That tequila story, a photo essay, is a great example of the format and the way we’re approaching this stuff. The story is timely and hasn’t been written about before. This idea of terroir and spirits is something that we want to continue exploring. And I think tequila as an agricultural product is really important and seeing it—you have to see it to understand what this is. And so the photo essay thing—you’ll see a lot of that on Punch. And with the tequila, the photographers Peden + Munk are incredibly talented photographers and did an amazing job.

And then there’s a Brad Thomas Parson piece about Legos. I love that; those two are on opposite ends of the spectrum.

And Jordan Mackay is working on a story about West Coast cocktails and how there was this moment that happened in San Francisco—this local, organic movement that came to apply to cocktails and then it kind of ended up fizzling out.

And then there’s a story about the Haslegrave brothers and how they think about designing spaces where people are going to drink. So, from a design perspective, what is important and how the relationship between the places where we eat and drink are merging.

Who are the artists you’re looking forward to working with? Our illustrator, Emily Robertson, is completely awesome. And we’re working with Daniel Krieger, a photographer who I know from my Eater days; and photographer Eric Wolfinger and Ed Anderson, who shot my book.

Will there be a lot of cocktail recipes on the site? There is a massive recipe database and all of the recipes are tested by us. We’ve got bartenders as well that have helped us with this process and have vetted everything. They’ll all have headnotes that we’ve researched. We’re thinking about classics and how to adjust them for the modern palate. I think we’re launching with 250 recipes and that continues to grow every day. It’s a combination of classics, modern updates on classics and recipes from bartenders around the world.

At home, do you mix the same drinks over and over again? Or do you keep trying your hand at new stuff? We built a test bar in my apartment over the summer and we do all of the testing here. And since doing that, I obviously drink a lot more cocktails because in testing hundreds of drinks, you fall in love with some and end up drinking them with more frequency.

I have my drinks that are like my house drinks. I drink more Hemingway Daiquiris than I should and I drink a lot of Americanos. And I’m gonna tell you, I love a Rob Roy and I love an Old Pal. I have a ton of sherry in the house for the book and I love an Adonis. I drink my fair share of Adonises as well.

Are you sick of sherry yet? I’m not! And I wonder if it’s ever gonna happen! And I go through periods where I even forget what red wine tastes like! I’m writing this book and all I want to do is be in Spain.

Related: Fantastic Fall Cocktails
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