Mixology photography has become such a developed art form, that with certain photos, the artist’s touch is instantly recognizable. Demure lighting, vintage cocktails elegantly displayed on a classic tray, a sprig of nature contrasting the still darkness, sphinx cats posing like ancient statues: these cocktails could be none other than Three Sheets.
The mastermind behind the distinctive cocktails and photographs is Kate Swearingen, with her team of feline models, Oscar, Mumriken, and Berlin. Paste caught up with Kate and the cats to discuss, well, photographing cocktails with cats.
Paste: Your photos have such a unique style about them. What’s your background?
Kate Swearingen: I studied art and art history and am also an independent curator and arts organizer in Durham.
Paste: Tell me about the cats.
KS: Oscar (10), Mumriken (3) and Berlin (8) are professional models who are paid in treats. They collectively have 10 years of Instagram modeling experience.
Paste: What are your favorite ingredients to work with?
KS: I use local ingredients that are either grown by local farmers or foraged from the wilderness in Western North Carolina by my friend Nick Fox, who runs a company called Woodfruit. I also forage for ingredients in my urban neighborhood in Downtown Durham. I have crafted a NC persimmon infused brandy and a spice bush liqueur that were both incredible. I also love a good whiskey.
Paste: How does where you live influence your cocktails?
KS: We live in a part of the country that produces a wealth of delicious flavors: sassafras, Muscadine, kudzu blossom, prickly pear, and elderberries are just a few of the ingredients that we find growing wild in North Carolina. There are also a host of incredible distilleries and craft brewers and bitters makers that inspire me. Durham Distillery, Crude Bitters and Wicked Weed are all doing inspiring things in NC.
Paste: Your images are visually striking. Tell me more about your aesthetic.
KS: Visually, I am inspired by Victorian art and architecture, artists such as Nicomi Nix Turner, and traveling.
Paste: Where do you draw inspiration from for your cocktails?
KS: I draw inspiration from a host of places. Local bars who are doing creative things such as Marshall Davis at Gallo Pelon in Raleigh, who always has a break even bottle and who is starting a mezcal club that I am excited about. My travels have taken me to several different countries where I have been inspired by local spirits and ingredients. I brought back some honey raki from Greece and infused that with Spanish saffron, creating a cocktail that was inspired by my time in that country.
Try your hand at this Three Sheets recipe at home:
2 oz. Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky
0.75 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
0.75 oz. Fresh Bitter Orange Juice
0.25 oz. Lemon Pepper simple syrup
Directions: Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker, shake vigorously for 12 seconds, double strain into a high ball glass over a large ice cube.
Madina Papadopoulos is a New York-based freelance writer, author, and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her drink adventures on Instagram and Twitter.