September #VaSpiritsMonth Tastemaker: Patrick Evans-Hylton of Virginia Eats + Drinks Magazine, Virginia Beach

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Patrick Evans-Hylton of Virginia Eats + Drinks Magazine, and Chris Richeson of Chesapeake Bay Distillery

by: Amy Ciarametaro

Patrick Evans-Hylton is a trained chef and award-winning food journalist, covering our foodways through print, radio, television and more since 1995. Or as he likes to say, CEO (“Chief Eating Officer”) at patrickevanshylton.com. Not one to stay idle, Patrick stays busy by sharing unique stories of food and beverage culture, most recently as Senior Editor of Food & Wine at Coastal Virginia Magazine, and now as publisher and founder of his own statewide food, beer, spirit and wine publication, Virginia Eats + Drinks Magazine. In addition, he is resident foodie for WHRO Public Media, and expressed his love to the Commonwealth with the Dishing Up Virginia cookbook. There is much more; see a list a full list of his recent projects below.

I’ve had the good fortune of knowing Patrick for many years. He’s a wealth of knowledge (that’s an understatement) and a consummate professional. Furthermore, he’s just downright delightful. The world needs more people like Patrick. His thirst for food and beverage knowledge is unparalleled, and he’s generous with sharing what he learns.

If you can’t tell by now, I’m a big fan of Patrick’s and I’m clearly not alone. The folks at Croc’s 19th Street Bistro in Virginia Beach have a drink named after him, the “Patrick-tini!” Comprised of raspberry-infused Blue Ridge Vodka from Chesapeake Bay Distillery, a splash of cranberry juice, and topped off with sparkling wine. It’s tasty!

Patrick with the "Patrick-tini" at Croc’s 19th Street Bistro in Virginia Beach
Patrick with the “Patrick-tini” at Croc’s 19th Street Bistro in Virginia Beach

Patrick didn’t initially walk down the path of all things delicious. His career first started out in finance, working in commercial banks and for a large mutual funds group. “As I was approaching age 30, I realized that I wanted to do something different and I thought about what I enjoyed in life, and that was entertaining: gatherings from small cocktail parties to large outdoor barbecue and beer bashes,” says Patrick. At the time, there was Johnson & Wales University campus in Norfolk (now named the Culinary Institute of Virginia) and Patrick decided to attend.

As his formal training in hospitality progressed, Patrick realized how much food and beverage were intertwined, and how both sides of the culinary coin needed dedicated and trained professionals to produce quality products. The rest is history.

Speaking of history, I would be remiss not to mention how much Patrick loves history! While at Johnson & Wales, he became aware of all the wonderful food and beverage heritage we have here in Virginia. A trip to an antique store led him to purchase some small nut bowls originally issued by Planters Peanuts and emblazoned with Mr. Peanut. After researching Planters and finding out that it was based in Suffolk and Mr. Peanut was been drawn by a Suffolk high school student, Patrick started looking for other culinary and historic pieces. Today he has around 30,000 items in his collection, from the 1600s to mid-20th century that chronicles the way Virginians eat and drink. These include menus, postcards, oyster knives, deviled egg plates, crab pots, cookbooks and more. Some of the collection looks at the long-standing history of Virginia spirits, and helps put in perspective our rightful place at the bar.

Patrick respects #VASpirits’ past just as much as the presence. As Patrick describes with a sense of pride, “For me, supporting Virginia spirits is simply that it’s the right thing to do. These products reflect my state, and I am proud of that! ‘Local’ often means better quality. These are handcrafted, in smaller batches. Also, keeping more money within Virginia is better for our state’s economy and that translates to good news for us all.” Patrick goes on further to say, “I’ve always felt it was important to root for the home team; from the folks out there cooking in our local restaurants, crafting our local specialty foods, brewing our local beer, fermenting our local wine, and distilling our local spirits are our family, our friends, our neighbors.

Patrick, you are a true #VaSpirits Tastemaker and we appreciate you! Patrick shared his below recipe Appalachian Cocktail with Moonshine Cherries from Dishing Up Virginia to help us celebrate September #VaSpiritsMonth. Enjoy!


Appalachian Cocktail with Moonshine Cherries, by Patrick Evans-Hylton

#VaSpirits History 101: People have always made distilled spirits from whatever grains were available. In Virginia, corn was a common crop. When home distillation without taxation became illegal in the late-18th century, this mountain dew was secretly made deep in mountain hollers. During Prohibition, Franklin County was known as the ”Moonshine Capital of the World“ with an estimated 99 out of every 100 residents somehow involved in the trade.

Moonshine was often used to preserve fruit, which is the inspiration for this take on the classic Manhattan cocktail. These days you can buy a clear corn whiskey, a nod to the original hooch, without fearing a raid from the Feds. The saturated cherries can also be eaten a la carte, served over cake or ice cream, or used to embellish other concoctions.

Moonshine Cherries Ingredients:
1 pound cherries, pitted (Bing are great)
1 orange peel, cut into thick strips
1 pint clear Virginia corn whiskey/Virginia moonshine

Combine the cherries and orange peel in a pint jar. Pour the whiskey over the top to completely cover the cherries. Seal and shake slightly; allow the cherries to steep at room temperature for at least 24 hours before using. (Stored in a sealed jar in the refrigerator, the cherries will keep for up to 3 months.)

Cocktail Ingredients:
2 1⁄2 oz. Virginia bourbon 
or other Virginia whiskey
3⁄4 oz. sweet vermouth
1 dash Angostura bitters
1⁄2 tsp. juice from the drunken cherries
1 drunken cherry
Orange peel
NOTE: You can substitute Virginia bourbon for Virginia corn whiskey to marinate the cherries.

Combine the bourbon, vermouth, bitters, and juice from the drunken cherries, and crushed ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass, preferably a martini glass, and add a drunken cherry. Rub the orange peel around the rim of the glass and twist it over the cocktail to release its oils. Add the twist to the glass and serve immediately.


*Rapid Fire with Patrick Evans-Hylton*

#VaSpirits: Where were you born?

Patrick: I was born in north Georgia and raised in metropolitan Atlanta, but I’ve lived in Virginia since I was 25 years old, and have been visiting the state since I was six. I joke that I am a Virginian by way of Georgia; my mother’s side of the family first arrived here during the Second Supply at Jamestown in October 1608. Some stayed, but my more direct lineage went north for land grants from Lord Fairfax, and later down the Wagon Road in the Shenandoah as the west opened up, settling in lower Appalachia where I was born.

#VaSpirits: Tell us about some of your hobbies and what you like to do for fun!

Patrick: I love travel and to me eats and drinks are an integral part of exploring a new place, near or far. You can tell so much about a destination by what foods and foodways – and by those terms I also include imbibes – either originated there or are popular there. That’s why what is happening in Virginia now is so important, we are being defined as a destination through our comestibles. I applaud the push to have Virginia spirits take its rightful place among the other great culinary calling cards of the Commonwealth.

#VaSpirits: Share some fun tidbits about your daily routines with us!

Patrick: I love to start the day with a jolt of java at a local coffeehouse, and wind down in the afternoon with either a cocktail I shake and stir at home with Virginia spirits, or imbibe with friends at a local watering hole.
My day is always filled with love and fun with my four-year-old, nine-pound chihuahua Pico de Gallo (who has her own Facebook page) by my side.

In between the coffee and the cocktail, I eat and write about eating and take strolls along the beach, which is just three blocks from my house. Life is good.

#VaSpirits: When you’re not drinking Virginia, what do you drink?

Patrick: I always try to eat and drink Virginia first, so favorite imbibes also include beer, cider and wine from the Commonwealth. If not, I try to seek out smaller productions of beer, cider, spirits and wine, crafted from folks who are passionate about their work.

#VaSpirits: To wrap things up, give us a few of your favorite PG-13 jokes!

Patrick: What did the bartender say after Charles Dickens ordered a martini? Olive or twist?

Where do chimpanzees go for a cocktail? The Monkey Bar

What’s a ghost’s favorite drink? Boos


Patrick Evans-Hylton’s Vitae
Founder, Publisher | Virginia Eats + Drinks Magazine
Dining Columnist | The Virginian-Pilot
Culinary Advisor | Norfolk FestEvents
Resident Foodie | WHRO Public Media
Culinary Travel Guide | Taste Tidewater Tours
Food & Wine Educator | Chefs Table, Bottles and Bites at Taste
Sensible Seafood Coordinator | SSP at Virginia Aquarium
Tuesday Taste Presenter | The Hampton Roads Show on WAVY TV 10
Culinary Contributor | hrScene blog from WAVY TV 10
Instructor | Food Writing Classes at The Muse Writers Center

Author | Dishing Up Virginia | Popcorn | Nuts | The Suffolk Peanut Fest

Media Awards Judge | The James Beard Foundation

Member | James Beard Foundation | American Culinary Federation |
Southern Foodways Alliance | International Association of Culinary Professionals
Commonwealth of Virginia LGBT Tourism Task Force | The Daily Meal Council of Culinary Advisors

Founder | The Mid-Atlantic Food Writers Symposium | Virginia Food & Wine Festival | Norfolk Culinary Arts District | Coastal Virginia James Beard Dinner


For more information on Patrick Evans-Hylton, follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

Photo credit: Jay Paul