Do What Tastes Good: A Q&A With Marlo Ramos, Rhine Hall Distillery

Chicago’s Rhine Hall Distillery is home to an impressive lineup of unique fruit brandies (otherwise known as eau-de-vies or schnapps), distilled primarily from local Midwest-grown fruits including apples, plums, pears, and cherries. They also produce a handful of spirits distilled from more exotic fruits that - unfortunately - don’t grow locally, including a Mango Brandy that Rhine Hall’s Brand Specialist, Marlo Ramos, used to create a tropical-inspired cocktail for us live on Highballs at High Noon. Watch our conversation with Marlo here and be sure to visit the distillery next time you’re in Chicago.

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Q: What was it that first got you into cocktails?

Marlo Ramos: The origin starts more with my fascination with combining flavors than specifically cocktails. I always loved to try new things.

Q: What new cocktail discoveries are you exploring right now?

MR: Right now I'm trying to take a step towards simplifying my cocktails. The more I learned about spirits, the more I would add a dash of this and a half ounce of infused that and make a shrub and throw sherry and 7 bitters in a drink. It was designed to play for my own palette but it's also so important to reduce. What is the simplest way to make a component shine? To me it's like art - I can be in awe of an elaborately technical painting 8 feet tall, but I can be equally enamored with the precision and expression of a passionate line drawing.

Q: Why do you think people at home might be intimidated by making cocktails?

MR: They shouldn't be! If you're making drinks at home, do what tastes good to you. If you think it's too sweet, add citrus. If it's too strong, add more mixer! Maybe people are used to going out to a bar where many ingredients are foriegn concepts - not everyone knows what falernum and aquavit are and that's totally fine.

Q: What are some of your favorite cocktails to make at home?

MR: Honestly- I love a highball! I love the ease and showcasing the spirits I drink. If I'm feeling fancy I'll add some bitters or muddle some basil, but really there's no need.

Q: What do you take to a party?

MR: I take La Normande. I like to bring something fun that most people aren't super familiar with. It is a cocktail in a glass straight out of the bottle - or if you're feeling fancy you can add a splash of sparkling wine and a twist. It's a lower ABV so you don't have to be too worried.

Q: Where do you think the cocktail and bar industry is headed?

MR: With how hard COVID hit bars and restaurants I think there will be a lot of change, and already is. A lot of people that had been bartenders for years left the industry to pursue new ideas. That made room for a new group of people to learn and expand crafting cocktails. I think people are also working more and more as a community to address issues such as inequality and mental health.

Q: What has the pandemic taught you?

MR: The pandemic taught me that it's ok to not give all of yourself to work. To give yourself time. To take time to talk to the people you love.

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