Meredith Erickson is an award-winning food and travel writer who has coauthored 10 recipe books. Her first, The Art of Living According to Joe Beef, tells the story of one of Montreal’s most celebrated restaurants, with a groundbreaking mix of recipes (foie gras breakfast sandwich, or strip loin steak 10 ways, anyone?), spirited storytelling, and lush photographs. Her next globe-spanning, genre-defying books focused on a truly eclectic range of topics. She told the storied history of London’s Claridge’s Hotel in Claridge’s: The Cookbookand has brought to life the famous kitchens of chefs such as Kristen Kish and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson.

These days, she can be found living in Milan with her Italian husband and young sons. Milan has proved the perfect home base for Erickson to explore one of her greatest loves: the Alps. She began exploring the mountain range in her 20s. Despite a fear of heights and an initial lack of skiing abilities, she quickly became fascinated with the multigenerational-run restaurants that peppered the slopes and served up some of the best meals she’d ever tasted. So, in 2019, she released her first solo book, Alpine Cooking, a travelogue-cum-cookbook featuring recipes from some of the farthest-flung corners of the Alps. She is currently working on a hotly anticipated follow-up, Alta Italia.

After gaining legendary status in the world of food and travel writing, Erickson is headed in a new direction: a foray into the world of high-end spirits. Having spent years enjoying aperitivo hour (think Campari or Aperol in a glass beaded with condensation, a tiny dish of local olives on the side) in her adopted homeland, she decided to create a natural spin on the classic aperitivo.

Where the idea came from

In my most recent book, Alpine Cooking, I featured a recipe for a cocktail called a rhubarb elixir, made from rhubarb puree, a neutral spirit, and elderflower cordial. Right after publication, I started to receive emails from readers saying how delicious it was and how much they loved it.

The initial goal

After coauthoring so many cookbooks, I felt ready for something different. I live in Milan, Italy, and everyday at aperitivo hour, I could never find the drink that I was craving—I’m more of a white wine or Champagne lover than an Aperol or Campari drinker. I thought, What if I can make the drink that I’m craving? I wanted to make a really elevated aperitivo to lift the whole experience.

First steps

I knew of Richard Betts from my days in hospitality, and he’d gone on to found Casa Komos Brands Group with Joe Marchese. Richard also happens to be a master sommelier. I said, “Look, I want to make a really fresh rhubarb aperitivo, inspired by the Italian Alps.” He said, “Sign this NDA. Let’s start this business together.” We have a winemaker friend named Jean-Marc Roulot who connected us with a distillery in Burgundy—it happens to be one of the best distilleries in the world.

Perfecting the drink

We got to work experimenting. It was a fun process: I described how I wanted the drink to taste, and then we prepared multiple batches with different ratios and ingredients—one would be a little too acidic, another too round. We tried adding in celery, then experimented with plum. We kept creating liquids like that until we found one we loved—number 34 ended up being the one for us.

Finishing touches

Designing the bottle was time-consuming. There was a lot of problem-solving at this point, as the pandemic had created a global glass shortage. Then we made the name up! We came up with Doladira, a combination of the Dolomite Mountains and enrosadira, which is a local word for when the sun hits the minerality of the mountains and turns everything a beautiful fuchsia. It roughly translates as “alpenglow.”

Once we had perfected the drink, we experimented with different cocktails. Dola Spritz is two ounces of Doladira and a splash of soda, garnished with a strawberry. Or a really delicious way to drink it is with a wild peach bellini mix—this gives a really nice hit of sweetness.

The hardest moment

If you’re ambitious, I think every other day feels like the hardest day. We’re still very much in the infancy of Doladira. But we love what we’re doing, and other people love it, too. Worst-case scenario, we have a stock of 50,000 cases that we have to drink for the rest of our lives.

The moment you thought this just might work

The moment Richard said, “Let’s do this!” I never had a doubt about the drink itself. I believe that there’s a purpose to this all, and there’s a reason for its existence. It’s the only aperitivo co-owned by a woman; it has 60 percent less sugar than the leading guys; it has no additives; it’s just fruits and vegetables; and it’s accidentally vegan. I haven’t ever really thought for a moment it wouldn’t work—but “work” for me means that I like it, people around me like it, and it starts to build. I don’t need to be the next Casamigos [the popular tequila brand cofounded by George Clooney and Rande Gerber].

On switching careers

I think what comes into play from my old life as a writer, you have to be endlessly curious. With Doladira, I’m still who I am, I’m endlessly curious, but now it’s a fascination with different details about creating a spirit. What I love about this process is I’m always learning something new—whether that’s what an EU label looks like or what the limitations on liquid marketing are.

Am I done with writing? I wish I had the answer. I’ve been working on a follow-up to Alpine Cooking since 2021. It’s called Alta (which means “upper,” “taller,” “higher”) Italia, and it’s about the food, wine, and cultures of seven northern regions of Italy. This book is gargantuan! I thought that it would be simpler, but it’s kind of like writing seven mini books in one.

The results

I had the dream of making this drink in 2020; it became a reality and came to market in fall of 2023. We’re now in 14 states and every single Whole Foods. By the end of this year, we aim to be in 18 or 20 states. In Europe, we’re in France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and the U.K. But we’re not trying to be everything to everyone all at once—I really believe in steady growth.

You know, there are loads of people who go into the spirits world from tech, or the investment side of things. But I didn’t start Doladira because I had a number in my head of what I wanted to sell or make. I just love what I’m doing, and I love being able to hire smart people to do it with.

Read the full article at HERE.