What's Cookin'?

Kara Newman, B.A.’92

A Spirited Writer

By Carol Olechowski

Kara Newman launched her career by writing about one of her passions: food. “After a couple of years, I realized that this was not just a hobby, and it began to consume more of my attention. Food writing evolved into wine and spirits, and I realized that was what I loved best. Now, it’s my full-time job,” says the Wine Enthusiast magazine spirits reviewer.

Kara Newman

hen Newman entered college, “I hadn’t yet settled on a career path, and I took some eclectic courses – Cartography, Sociology, Introduction to French – freshman year to try to figure that out. By sophomore year, I’d settled on an English major and an art minor. I still didn’t have a career picked out, but I knew I wanted to write.” To that end, she took the sole journalism course UAlbany then offered and wrote for the ASP “now and then.”

Later, “I went straight from college to graduate school at NYU Journalism, where I rode out the early-’90s recession and earned a master’s degree.” Newman’s first media positions ranged from an unpaid internship at New York Magazine to “some odd part-time, paying gigs – writing book-jacket copy for trashy romance novels, editing crossword puzzles, copy-editing for a financial weekly. My first full-time job was as associate editor for Traders Magazine, and I spent several years in financial journalism.”

In her current career, Newman most enjoys “the opportunity to taste such a vast array of spirits and cocktails – and to meet the people behind them, the distillers and bartenders. It still amazes me that I get paid to taste spirits and then write about what I think,” marvels Newman, who blogs at karanewman.wordpress.com and also discusses wine and spirits regularly on radio and television and at seminars.

Newman’s first book, Spice & Ice, written while she was a columnist for Chile Pepper magazine, came about when “I realized I had more great recipes and stories than I could ever shoehorn into the column.” Currently, the Manhattan resident is working on two others: The Secret Financial Life of Food, “about agricultural commodities like pork bellies, but from a culinary perspective,” and a cocktail cookbook for which she and her publisher will develop an app.

Sparkling Ginger Daisy

Newman employs “a pretty seasonal approach” to recipe development. “I’ll start with whatever feels right for the season – lighter spirits for spring, for example – and then I’ll think about the produce and herbs or spices that are available. After that, it’s a matter of adding citrus, sweeteners, and bitter elements that enhance and balance out the combination. And after that I think about presentation – what kind of ice, glassware, garnishes to use.”

If a recipe doesn’t work, “I tweak it or scrap it. P.S., I usually don’t have a shortage of recipe testers for cocktail ideas!” observes Newman, who shares the following recipe with UAlbany readers. Recipe: Sparkling Ginger Daisy