Creations with libations

Deirdre Heekin, author of “Libation, A Bitter Alchemy,’’ developed an interest in wines and cocktails after opening a restaurant in Woodstock, Vt., with her husband. Deirdre Heekin, author of “Libation, A Bitter Alchemy,’’ developed an interest in wines and cocktails after opening a restaurant in Woodstock, Vt., with her husband. (Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/File 2006)
By Doug Most
Globe Staff / July 22, 2009

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It’s Wednesday night and you just got news your company is cutting back. It’s Thursday night, you’re at a terrific Italian restaurant, but you have no idea what to order. Or maybe it’s Friday, the end of an exhausting week. Not everything calls for a drink, but when the occasion arises, Deirdre Heekin can help. She’s the author of the new memoir, “Libation: A Bitter Alchemy,’’ and co-owner with her husband of the wonderful restaurant Osteria Pane e Salute in Woodstock, Vt., so when she’s not sipping some tasty concoction, she’s making one.

Q. Do you remember your first sip of wine?

A. I remember my first drink; I was about 4. My parents were drinking their scotch. I said what is this all about? Why do we have cocktail hour? My father very generously, very smartly, said ‘Sure, have some.’ I thought it was the worst thing I ever had. To this day, I am still learning to be a scotch drinker.

Q. When did you first begin to appreciate “libations?’’ A. The real appreciation began when we opened our business and became interested in developing our wine list. Also through our time in Italy. They have such an interest in libation that we didn’t have here, including grappa, amaro, rosolio, vermouth. Q. What was it like tasting things you’d never had? A. Really curious. Seeing people in little coffee bars in Italy, particularly older gentlemen. At the time we didn’t know they were having amaro. They had a little shot and would stand at the bar in their tweed jacket and look very elegant and distinguished. Q. It’s Thursday night, you’re out for a nice dinner, what are you drinking? A. Depends what’s on the list. Q. Everything. A. I’d like to start with an aperitif. Champagne or kir. If the restaurant is known for mixology, I’d be interested in an original cocktail. I would move to wine with the meal, and search out things I had not tasted before. Q. Now it’s Friday night, after an exhausting week. A. At the moment, I’m sipping either a Campari with a splash of soda or lemon or lime, or Pimm’s. I’ve had a terrific interest in Pimm’s of late. Q. In your book, you talk about coming from a family of drinkers. A. There is some history of some bad drinking in my family, but I think the good thing is it heightened awareness for me about the role of alcohol in our lives. Q. Have you ever worried about crossing the line? A. Not for me personally. Q. At your restaurant, do you try to recommend drinks or let people choose? A. I have a very niche wine list, Italian wines. Some are almost extinct, not a lot of things most people will recognize. So I immediately make myself available to help somebody choose. But I won’t force that on them.

GET A TASTE Deirdre Heekin will be at the ICA on Friday at 6:30 p.m. with her chef/husband, Caleb Barber, pairing wines with hors d’oeuvres he prepares. The event is free with museum admission (