The Nordic Blues of Spring

Pantone may feel that ‘Greenery’ is the color for 2017 but fashion and retail continue their foray into the Blue Spectrum.

Sandy Chilewich, who started Hue Hosiery (she sold it in 1991) has continued with her eponymous brand of woven vinyl tabletop and flooring, releasing new colorways and pattern collections in the Spring and Fall. Chilewich recently introduced two new patterns, Mosaic and Wave, which feature a jacquard construction.

Mosaic and Wave use Chilewich’s signature bi-color yarns, with each strand containing two different colors. These specific yarns are woven in such a unique way that one of the colors seems to appear and disappear, breaking up the distinct diamond pattern in Mosaic and the undulating line of Wave. The main color, however, is a warm blue.  According to Sandy, “Each pattern evokes a Nordic design sensibility which feels both warm and cool at the same time.”


Finnish glass company Iittala has introduced Ultramarine Blue as a signature color for 2017.  Scandinavian design is generally immersed in natural themes and materials; think of the classic Danish design furniture of the 1960s. Finland has blue skies and oodles of lakes with blues to match; the color has vitality and vibrancy. It isn’t a coincidence that the color also celebrates Finland’s 100th Anniversary of independence from Russia.
Surround yourself with some warm blues this season.
Available at Amusespot.

Drinking in (Almost) Perfect Three Part Harmony: The Suntory Toki Highball

“Thanks for coming early,” Johnnie Mundell said, handing us two NEAT glasses with amber whiskey.  Hibiki 17 year old from Suntory of Japan. Hibiki means ‘Harmony’ in Japanese, and the 17 year old is arguably the finest offering from the 93 year old firm.


SeongHa Lee

Harmony, indeed. Mundell, along with Mixologist SeongHa Lee, was presenting a seminar on the latest from Suntory, Whisky Toki, made with a blending process that represents the Suntory organization in an exceptional (and harmonious) product.  Toki is blended from whiskys produced in three of Suntory’s distilleries: Hakushu, Chita and Yamazaki. Each distillery’s offering was sampled before the Toki was tasted.  Hakushu, aged in American White Oak, represent the floral and fruity notes in the blend.  Chita adds viscous filler, while two Yamazaki malts with red oak aging add the bottom spice. Toki is quite different from the more traditional Suntory whiskys, which are generally dependent on Yamazaki ingredients.

Toki is designed primarily for Highball use. Highballs are extremely popular in Japan and generally consist of 3 ingredients: spirit, mixer, and ice.  The term is generally thought to be train related, as ‘highballing’ may be related to steam output or an early railroad signal concerning clear tracks ahead.  Whatever the case, Highballs are generally light and refreshing, and excellent to serve at cocktail parties or meals. Think of drinking and hydrating at the same time.

The Japanese have a strong belief in the beauty of imperfection, or wabi-sabi. The pursuit of perfection is therefore something that is innate in the culture. The presentation from SeongHa Lee exemplified such a pursuit of perfection, allowing participants to make their own Toki-based Highballs using different mixers and ice. The making of a highball changed from bartending to ceremony in an instant.

Ninja Highball

Making a Proper Toki Highball

The ingredients for the presentation were as follows:

Highball Glass
Ice- Regular Ice vs. Slow Freeze Clear Ice
Mixer- Canada Dry Club Soda vs. Fever-Tree Club Soda

Results: As usual, the maxim of using the best quality ingredients applies.  Maintaining the carbonation of the club soda is directly related to the flavor of the Highball. Better club soda=Better carbonation. Smoother ice-Less loss of carbonation. All of the highballs were quite enjoyable- but the premium highball (clear ice & Fever-Tree Club Soda) was an eye opener. Refreshing, cold, and full-bodied.

A few general rules:

  1. Use a highball glass. Make sure all glassware is super clean. Soap residue ruins Highballs.
  2. Chill the glass with ice.  Keeping the glass cold reduces loss of carbonation.
  3. Remove ice. Add clear ice. Allow the ice to warm slightly at room temperature to reduce roughness; bubbles form on rough surfaces resulting in a loss of carbonation.  Ice should fill 25% of the glass.
  4. Add 1.5 oz Toki Whisky (or to taste). Stir 12.5 times. Stirring 13 times will result in disqualification. Maybe.
  5. Add three times spirits volume of mixer (~4.5 oz)  down the side of the glass. Pouring over the ice will result in a loss of carbonation. Stir 2.5 more times.
  6. Enjoy.

Adding a bit more intrigue to the ceremony/process, two styles of Highballs were described. Once again, the emphasis is on maintaining the carbonation of the drink.

KOBE STYLE: No ice used.  All ingredients are chilled and mixed in a chilled glass.
NINJA STYLE: Uses clear ice cubes.  Why ninja? Because the ice is invisible in the glass when mixer is poured.

As Mundell states, “Suntory will spend their entire life in pursuit of perfection.”  Enjoy your pursuit.

Want a proper Highball but can’t measure liquids? Momofuku in Las Vegas has proper Suntory Highballs on draft.  I would suggest picking up your own bottle ($36.99 at Total Wine) and do some experimentation. A highball in summertime sounds fantastic.  But why wait?

The Suntory event was part of Xania Woodman’s Now Drink This LIVE!, a series of events where hand-selected industry experts immerse attendees in all bottled things great and wonderful. Stay tuned for the announcement of the 2017 schedule.

Tippleman’s Barrel Smoked Maple Syrup- Luscious Sweetness in a Bottle

Tippleman’s is the latest concept from Marielena & Joe Raya. Owners of The Gin Joint in Charleston, South Carolina.  The Gin Joint is known as one of the best bars in the States, with a focus on fresh ingredients, changing menus, and innovative events.

The Rayas were one of the earliest manufacturers/retailers of higher end specialty cocktail mixers, marketed as Bittermilk (also available at Amusespot).  The Tippleman’s line is their foray into syrups and is a diverse range including falernum, barrel aged cola, and ginger honey.

Like the Bittermilk series, Tippleman’s is exceptional not only in flavor, but also in nuance.  Although manufactured specifically for the professional mixology and bar trade, both the mixers and the syrups can easily be used outside of pairing with alcohol.

Tippleman's Barrel Smoked Maple Syrup

Perhaps the most versatile of the Tippleman’s series is the Barrel Smoked Maple Syrup, which uses Willett’s bourbon barrel pieces for smoking Grade A Vermont Maple Syrup.  The result is a complete knockout- smoky sweetness filled with buttery vanilla. Excellent on ice cream, in a barbecue glaze, or an old fashioned.

Here’s a quick recipe for an old fashioned from Tippleman’s.  We would suggest using a nice rye, which will be ‘hotter’ and less sweet than a bourbon.

Old Fashioned Tippleman's

2 oz Rye Whiskey
1/4 oz. Tippleman’s Barrel Smoked Maple Syrup (to Taste)
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir with Ice, Strain into iced Double Old Fashioned Glass
Garnish with Orange Peel and/or Cherry

Available at Amusespot.


A Tale of 5 Cities: 2016 Bird and the City Collection by Oiva Toikka, Part One

Oiva Toikka isn’t known as one of the ‘super designers’; most people in the design community probably have never heard of him. They should. Toikka came to Ann Arbor while I was in Grad School, visiting a small gift shop down on State Street. I inquired as to whether he was giving a lecture at the Art School.  He was not. Disappointment. Such is life as one of the world’s great artist/designers, I suppose.  I was even more disappointed to find I missed speaking with him due to being stuck in the lab (yet again). One of the design greats coming to the heartland of modern industrial design and art and no one noticed. Not even those in ivory towers.

Who is Oiva Toikka?


Oiva Toikka

Oiva Toikka is one of iconic Scandinavian designers working during the MCM/post MCM period to the present (active 1960s-present). Think Sarpaneva, Wirkkala, Still, Franck & Cyren- yes, I am missing a few… Although the majority of the iconic Nordic designs from this period were strictly influenced by nature, Toikka had a quirky side that pushed the envelope of Scandinavian design into pop iconography- and pushed glass as a material into new realms.

Originally trained in ceramics, Toikka’s foray into glass came into play alongside a burgeoning studio art glass movement in the United States. While other Finnish glass designers tended to place emphasis on form derived from nature, Toikka investigated techniques on one hand while also using glass as a template for patterns on the other.

For example, on one hand there is Kastehelmi (Dewdrop) (1964) series that represented more of a stylized decorative approach to functional design than his contemporaries (still in production; available

Kastehelmi or Dewdrop by Oiva Toikka for Iittala

In contrast, here’s Kartio by Kaj Franck, produced just 6 years earlier (also available

Kartio by Kaj Franck for Iittala

Meanwhile, on the other hand, Toikka played with pop flowers and hot glasswork.

Combining these two sensibilities into the Flora series for Nuutajarvi:

Flora Glassware by Oiva Toikka for Iittala

In 1972 Toikka began designing and producing a series of birds with Nuutajarvi glassworks (later merged with Iittala).  Although certainly not the first art glass birds made (I’m assuming sandcast birds exist from thousands of years ago), they have proven popular with over 500 different birds produced over 40+ years- all designed with an emphasis on glass technique.

Birds by Oiva Toikka

Recently Toikka began to design birds with specific cities in mind.  The birds are a canvas for both city and inhabitant; influenced by collaborators who reside in the specific locale.

Up Next: Part Two

2016 Art Glass Bird and the City Collection by Oiva Toikka, Part Two

The 2016 Bird and the City Collection has five cities: Seoul, Hong Kong, Kyoto, Washington D.C. and Minneapolis. Although the birds are generally only released in the cities or countries where their inspiration resides, Amusespot has a complete set of 5 City Birds with matching numbers available- only 30 sets were available worldwide.

The US-based birds, Minneapolis & Washington, DC are also available separately.

The complete (current) Birds by Oiva Toikka Collection is available at Amusespot, here.

Kyoto Japan

The inspiration for the Kyoto bird came from Ryuko Kida, Elle Deco Branding Director

´People have lived in Kyoto with nature from season to season for a thousand years. But at the same time, they love new things. Because they place importance on history and tradition, they can create avant-garde things. I think the fun of the contrast is Kyoto-likeness.’- Ryuko Kida.

Hong Kong

Singer-songwriter Ivana Wong is the source of inspiration for the Hong Kong bird.

‘This city is vibrant; full of energy, the soul is fed on wildest dreams; it carries scars, and it’s wounded now, yet it’s still bravely presenting itself with pride and hopes.’ – Ivana Wong

Seoul, Korea

‘Driving through Seoul is always exciting. I can enjoy beautifully aged architecture from Chosun dynasty standing right next to modern skyscrapers. We can find the heritage spirit along with contemporary.’ – Julie Kim, founder of Dansk.

Washington, DC

Showing the planned grid of the city- and much of the virtually ubiquitous government architecture.

‘Washington, D.C. inspires me for many reasons. As the capital of the United States, this city represents the battles, movements, and accomplishments of what a democratic society can accomplish. On every corner you can see a monument, building, park, or memorial dedicated to the great men and women who helped shape our country.’ – Derrik West

Minneapolis, MN.

Bird in the City Minneapolis by Oiva Toikka for Iittala

The green swath on the bird’s back represents the mighty Mississippi which cuts the city.

‘In Minneapolis I’ve found that I can go on an adventure and go back home every day. There are always new places and events to explore, but cozy communities to return to. There are iconic spots like the Spoonbridge and Cherry to bring visiting friends and family to, but also quiet nooks like Lake Calhoun at sunset to bring your thoughts to.’ – Megan Milkowski

The complete (current) Birds by Oiva Toikka Collection is available at, here.

The Circus Collection by Marcel Wanders for Alessi

Marcel Wanders has been intrigued by the Circus since he was very young.  His company’s name, Wanders Wonders, suggests a sense of awe like the circus. Many of his designs have a strong graphic sensibility in combination with humor- as well as featuring an uncanny ability to look beyond trends and into the world of ironic anachronism.

Fatman Folding Cake Stand by Marcel Wanders for Alessi

Fatman, Marcel’s first foray into circus imagery and characters, was introduced a number of years ago. A take on the traditional folding cake stand, the piece opens into tiers with the face being the image of Wanders himself, the clown. This personal ‘clown’ design is fundamentally a logo of Wanders’ work, and is seen everywhere from details on Alessi cookware to his favicon. Oh, and his picture at the top of this post.

Wanders has a strong relationship with Alessi, and has designed everything from an extensive tabletop collection to a series of Christmas-related products.  The most brilliant and daring collaboration with the firm is the Circus Collection.

According to Wanders:

“Since its beginning, Alessi has been the standard for excellence in the area of kitchenware, particularly with stainless steel. Alessi is a company that creates with integrity. They have been know to make prototype after prototype until they perfectly express the vision of designer. I wanted to collaborate with them in the deepest roots of their company, but do so in a way that brings an innovative approach to stainless steel while taking it to another level of creativity. Knowing this we explored how we could merge color and stainless steel in fun, unexpected and unique ways. We were very inspired by the challenge of combining the functionality of kitchenware with the imagination and pageantry of the circus.”
Drawings by Marcel Wanders for the Circus Collection by Alessi
“With the concept of the circus, and the surprising display it’s known for, we were able to bring colorful delight and energy to what Alessi has built its reputation upon. This circus is a sensory experience that never leaves you. It’s magical. It’s mystical. It’s larger than life. That’s what we capture in this collection – that one-of-a-kind spectacle. The concept throughout the pieces borrows from the historical, unexpected symbols from the circus universe resonating an experience of wonder and amusement. In addition to this, our goal was to create collectible heirlooms – these are not just plates and mugs and bowls. The character group includes a set of a five distinct classical kitchen tools as specially-made sculptures. Each has its own fantastical personality and purpose.”

The Circus Collection is comprised of kitchen, barware, and serveware, along with a number of limited edition characters.

The complete Circus Collection is available at here.

Many Americans have never seen a properly extended collapsible cake stand.
Here you go:

Fat Man Extending Cakestand by Marcel Wanders for Alessi

An Interview with Alberto Gozzi: The Sottsass/Gozzi Bar Accessories and Shakers

In 1979 Alessi of Italy introduced a series of professional barware designed by Ettore Sottsass and Alberto Gozzi. Part of this series was the introduction of the first European Boston Shaker, now available in a gold-plated version at Amusespot.  Amusespot is publishing articles on the Programma, original materials, and a new interview with Mr. Gozzi, shown here.

Why did you feel that Barware needed to be re-evaluated from a design standpoint?

Before to answer this question, a short introduction is needed.

Alessi, founded in 1921 by Giovanni Alessi and producing high quality metal household objects, introduces design in its catalogue since the 30s with the son Carlo who designed many pieces for the catalogue (as for example the famous Bombé tea and coffee set) and the other son Ettore besides being the great technical expert,  started in the 50s’ the first external design collaboration. By the way, design definitely enters  the catalogue in the first 70s’ with Alberto Alessi (now President and Responsible of the Design Management) joining the company.

Since the beginning, in fact, Alberto feels the need to open the company to external collaborations with the main aim to add new languages to the collection and, in particular for product typologies (ex: baskets, trays ect) which were in the catalogue since many years and need to be re-interpreted through new approaches and different point of views. Since that time Alessi consciously goes in the ‘design’ direction starting a new chapter of its history.

Besides that, I have to highlight that, an other important and typical practice of this company is the one to ask the consultancy of the best experts to realise many of the projects. There’s a continuous research and discussion among designer, expert  and the company, to get the best possible result.

A great example of the above mentioned collaborations is represented by the series of objects for the bar designed by Ettore Sottsass with my consultancy.

In the 60s, I had in fact the opportunity to discover the ‘Boston’ shaker in the United States and, besides its perfect functionality features, after a research, I could find out that it was known neither in Italy nor in Europe.

So, this is the first reason why this kind of shaker needed to be redesigned.

Legend has it that it was created towards the end of the 19th Century by an unknown barman on board of a transatlantic liner sailing between Boston and Europe.

Since the barware has always been an important area in the Alessi production, I told of that shaker to Alberto Alessi who, finding the topic very interesting, thought to propose a briefing to Ettore Sottsass.

Since the very beginning Architect Sottsass accepted the difficulties of that project, understanding very well the importance of the functionality of this piece, a feature that could not be modified at all. So, without changing the functional features of it, he had the great ability to add a beautiful design to it. For the first time in Europe, a Boston shaker was realized functional and beautiful.

Besides that, Ettore Sottsass understood the importance to ‘complete’ this shaker with the necessary accessories: a strainer, a stirrer, a tray and ice bucket with togs creating a complete series.

The Alessi ‘5050’ or Boston shaker still today is considered the most professional type of shaker.

Gold Plated Ettore Sottsass Barware

Gold Plated Bar Set by Sottsass & Gozzi. At Amusespot.

What was the interaction between yourself and Sottsass during the development process. What were the primary concerns and disagreements during the process?

Working with Ettore Sottsass was an extremely precious experience and wonderful collaboration to me.

Our meeting and work on the ‘Boston’ shaker and its related accessories highlighted two distinct aspects of us: all what concerns functionality and details from my side and all what concerns design and beauty from Sottsass’. He has been able to design a beautiful object recognized on an international level both from a design standpoint and the professional one.

High recognition came in fact from I.B.A. (International Bartenders Association) and from A.I.B.E.S. (Italian Associazione Italiana Barman and Sostenitori) making the Alessi ‘Boston’ shaker protagonist of several events throughout the years.

Ettore Sottsass definitely brought a great added value: a true design maestro who easily accepted all the difficulties of that project bringing a new breath of inspirational performance into an area after all characterised by antique formalism.

Still today in every great and professional bar , the Alessi ‘Boston’shaker can’t miss at all!

Ettore Sottsass circa 1978
Ettore Sottsass, circa 1978.

Are there any regrets concerning the designs 30 years on? Anything missing? The lack of a proper muddler or cobbler shaker, perhaps?

No doubt on what it has done: 30 years ago, with the design of the bar series with high functional qualities, Alessi realised something that, at those times, was at the forefront.

I think that the problem today is linked to the fact that there is a lack of core values linked to the historic memory of what was and is the ‘Bar’. A dialogue between the bartender and the guests in the field is more and more missing today.

It would be interesting to do conduct a survey on American customers (like bars, discos, hotels…) and on the base of the new features collected realise a briefings which give a target to the company . On the base of the experience of 30 years ago and knowing the current development of globalisation, they could for sure realise something which goes one step forward.

After the ‘Boston’ shaker, and taking always for granted that in each bar this kind of shaker can’t miss, Alessi realised other beautiful shakers, with the collaboration other designers (as for example Ron Arad, Matteo Thun or Marc Newson); an evolution has been done in fact, through the research of something new but keeping fixed all the ‘Boston’ functional features.

The Uber Bar Tools Event at Amusespot

Another fun event at Amusespot as we celebrated the election and the debut of Uber Bar Tools from Australia. The full line of Uber Bar Tools is now available at Amusespot and online here. Take 10% off with the code UBERDUBER for a limited time.
Uber Bar Tools are a professional and complete line of bar tools comprising everything from shakers to ice picks.
Food by the Chefery
Catering was done by The Chefery, Culinary Institute of America graduate chefs who produce and deliver gourmet meals,
Cocktails for the End of the World
Election-themed cocktails were presented by Vin Sauvage’s Portfolio Ambassador and Chief Mixologist Tony DeMaria featuring High West Whiskey and Cimmaron Tequila.
Recipes are here.
UBer Gold Bar Tools
The full line of Uber Bar Tools is now available at Amusespot and online here.
Take 10% off with the code UBERDUBER for a limited time.
Event photos by Hannah Sheerin.

Cocktails for the End of the World (or Just Another Election)

Here’s to you, America.  We have collectively suffered through the worst election process in recent (and, perhaps not-so-recent) memory. Time is running out.  Time to make a decision.

What to do?


We’re having a great event at the store.

Billed as the  “WHAT A BUNCH OF (bar) TOOLS” event, Amusespot is debuting the Uber Bar Tools line, imported all of the way from Australia. It’s on election eve.

In an effort to be as non-partisan as possible we present 3 beverages.

For Adults Only (You Know Who You Are).

The Wall

A variation of the classic Harvey Wallbanger, this one needs to be tweaked for the right color.

1 oz. Blanco Tequila (make it a good one!)
.5 oz Galliano
.5 oz Chambord
Orange Juice
Cherry for garnish
Serve in a Uge Glass, if desired.

The Rodham

2 oz Bourbon Whiskey (That’s American, folks!)
Sweet Tea to taste
Garnish with Floated Orange Slice and Rose Petal

The Run For The Border (Any Border)

1 oz Canadian Whisky (we would suggest an aged one)
.5 oz Tequila (or more to taste)
Ginger Beer

A raffle will be held during the event.  Your entry is your vote for your favorite cocktail!

Current polling suggests that The Wall is ahead of the pack for entertainment purposes. Those a bit more serious about their choices have been flocking to The Rodham.

Hang in there, Baby! Maybe we should re-state that as “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!”

The Event is Monday, November 7th from 5-7PM.
Please RSVP at

2016 Novello Olive Oil by Lucero of California

Novello olive oil is an unfiltered virgin olive oil taken from the first harvest of the season. Think of it Beaujolais for olives.

Novello is generally fresh and fruity- the 2016 oil is happiness for your mouth.

Novello Olive Oil by Lucero

Made using Arbequina and Favolosa extra virgin olive oils. The taste profile is a bit on the fruitier side, slight green apple and a bit floral, light bitterness with a nice lingering pungent finish.

Use it for dipping or for general use. Limited stock available. Celebrate the season.

Available here.