Jae Pickrell Teaches Us How To Drink Better

We ask restaurateur and tastemaker Jae Pickrell about the nuances that elevate her libation acquisitions.
Reading Time: 7 minutes

For those who love a fashionable take on wining and dining, Jae Pickrell is definitely a name that needs no introduction. As a former lifestyle magazine editor, this full-time restaurateur now spends most of her time supporting her husband, Bruce Ricketts, the celebrated chef behind Manila’s dining faves such as Mecha Uma, La Chinesca, and Sensei, or traveling the globe exploring new tastes and tipples, one destination at a time. 

If you’ve seen her exciting endeavors through her Instagram page (@jaepickrell), anyone can instantly notice how she enjoys devouring noteworthy novels and months-to-reserve tasting menus dressed impeccably in stylish looks all at once. This avid reader, traveler, eater, and drinker surely has a unique way of telling interesting stories about her discoveries on what she consumes, and it’s naturally exciting for her followers and friends to take a bite out of it. 

Jae enjoying a glass of Château d’Yquem

As we are in the thick of holiday celebrations, Jae takes time out of her busy schedule to share her insights on her personal preferences on drinks, how she carefully plans her travels, what she decides to hoard abroad to bring home, and what goes inside her bar cart when hosting at home.

What are your favorite drinks as a party guest, when you host friends, when you want to unwind at home, and when you want to let loose or have fun?

I’m happy to drink absolutely anything my host sets out, but I always carefully tailor drinks to my guests’ preferences when I host. For example, I recently had my best friend and her husband over at my husband’s restaurant, Mecha Uma. He likes whisky, so I brought a special bottling of Ichiro’s Malt, and I also served Kikka because my friend likes gin—both are artisanal Japanese brands, in keeping with the theme. I also like sharing my favorite wines with wine-obsessed friends. Otherwise, a G&T bar is my go-to for a group. 

Jae’s stock at home can easily win over any impromptu guests she decides to have over

For days when I just want to relax after a long day, I [serve myself] craft beer that I hoard during travels, [but for when I want to have fun,] these days it’s been grower Champagne.

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Whenever she wants to unwind, Jae goes for some cold craft beer

What is your most prized possession, liquor or glassware, in your bar cart?  

At the risk of sounding ridiculously bougie, it’s a toss-up between a bottle of Selosse that I scored from the estate when I met the legendary Anselme Selosse in Champagne last year, or a bottle of my birth-year Château d’Yquem, which was a present from my husband. That was the first wine I ever shared with him when we started dating, which is why it means a lot.

A bottle of Château d’Yquem 1986, which was a present from Jae’s husband, Bruce Ricketts.

For drinkware, I have these his-and-hers Nishihata Tadashi sake cups I bought recently from Robert Yellin, a renowned ceramic gallerist in Kyoto. 

Nishihata Tadashi sake cups—Jae’s latest addition to her growing collection from a trip to Kyoto

Are you a stickler for rules when it comes to using specific glasses with a particular drink or spirit? What’s a unique tip you can share when it comes to glassware?

I’m annoyingly persnickety about drinkware, especially when it comes to wine and tea. The vessel shape affects the flavor, nose, and temperature of your drink, and in the case of tea, the material of the cup can even interact with the chemical composition of the brew, changing its flavor. 

Asato Ikeda teaware are just some of Jae’s favorite drinkware.

For example, full-bodied red wines like Bordeaux do well in broad, wide-throated goblets, as they need the space to aerate and disperse their aroma, while rich red Burgundies do better in rounder-bottom glasses with tapered openings to better open up flavor-wise without losing any nuances of scent.

Japan-made Kimura stemware are just some of Jae’s go-to glasses

The finer points could get overwhelming, but the best thing to do is get a universal wine glass that could do double-duty for a broad selection of wines, like Gabriel-Glas’ StandArt, Grassl’s Liberté, or the Zalto Universal. These are such a pleasure to use, and I even use them for beer and cocktails.

Beer in Gabriel Glas-StandArt Wine Glass

What’s a versatile drink or spirit for you? Or a go-to drink you can enjoy by itself or mix to make a mean cocktail?

Gin, hands down. 

How do you elevate your holiday gatherings when it comes to the food and drinks you prepare when you host?

I try to serve something that can’t easily be found locally, whether it’s an artisanal spirit or a condiment bought from my travels. It also helps to be married to a chef who can whip up a pretty darn good menu anytime. 

Given that you love traveling and exploring new places—what do you usually procure when overseas, and what makes you hoard specific liquor from your travels? Which makes it worth lugging all the way home?

Scarcity makes me hoard! I went crazy—like balikbayan-box-crazy—stocking up on craft beer and artisanal spirits when I visited Copenhagen because they have a legendary beer-drinking culture, and they’re also home to Empirical, one of the coolest ‘flavor companies’ in the world. I once brought back a dozen-plus bottles of micro-batch mezcal from Oaxaca, and just recently, I went home with a glorious suitcase of sake from Japan after meeting a supplier with a wide selection of hard-to-find labels. I also hoard teas and… Bordier butter. I’ll never live down the time I went home with a grocery cart full of Bordier. LOL. My guiding principle is if it’s not widely available in Manila, then I’ll stock up.

Jae’s remarkable sake acquisition, which easily filled a suitcase from one of her travels to Japan

A cart-full of Bordier butter, which Jae hoards when she can

Jae’s haul of Scandinavian craft beer is just a few of what she brings home to enjoy

In addition to liquor and butter, teas are also what Jae enjoys spending her money on—here are a few she’s collected from Japan, Morocco, and Paris

I know all these examples make me sound utterly ridiculous, but stockpiling my home with these treasures that I can enjoy solo or with friends is truly such a pleasure.

As a serial travel planner, how do you decide on the wineries, vineyards, or distilleries to visit? What usually stands out when you finally zero in on making your way there?

A lot of research goes into my itineraries, and as with any destination, all the stops revolve around keen personal interests. My husband and I visited Champagne, Bordeaux, and Burgundy for the first time last year, and we were lucky enough to have our wine supplier arrange visits with the producers we like most. The rest, I arranged on my own, like that incredible visit with Anselme Selosse, the grandfather of grower Champagne. We also recently visited generations-old sake makers in Japan, and it’s so inspiring to see just how much the products reflect the personalities of their makers and to have a firsthand understanding of wines and spirits as personal expression. 

What do you think makes a drink unique? How do you make it remarkable or enjoy it the way you want to?

It boils down to personal preferences. We all have our own likes and dislikes, and I enjoy seeing how we all express ourselves through what we drink or serve, if not through the way we tweak cocktail recipes then through the glassware we use. I myself have a drinkware fetish and derive an inordinate amount of pleasure from beautiful cups and stemware, so I’ll even take the time on super hectic days to pour something as trivial as Red Bull into a nice glass. It’s a small luxury that’s absolutely worth the extra fedora. 

What are your non-negotiables when it comes to having a well-stocked bar cart?

Always have a selection of small-batch gin, a stash of good tonic water, and a bottle or so of excellent whisky. Round it out with soda and a big bottle of vodka, and you’ll find that that’s all you’ll really need for a cocktail party. You can do away with all the fussy liqueurs and recipes, and your guests can just help themselves, leaving you at ease to enjoy the company. Similarly, great Champagne and wine can eliminate all else—and never forget proper glassware. 

Sine Qua Non Mr. K Dessert Wine from California in a Kimura glass

What do you do to minimize the bloat or slosh-face aprés drinking? What do you sip on when you don’t want to get too drunk or something you’d nurse for a long night of debauchery?

If there were an actual remedy that worked, it would be universally known [laughs]. That said, I’m quite militant about offsetting a drink with water. When I’m on a strict one-drink-only limit, I tend to steer away from anything with ice since that will have diminishing flavor returns, so my move is a full-bodied red wine that will open up through the night and get more delicious.

What are you excited to enjoy this season? Here’s to drinking better, and making celebrations more memorable than ever.

Photographs courtesy of Jae Pickrell.

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