Last year at Tales of the Cocktail, a large convention held each summer in New Orleans, the bartender Jamie Boudreau of Seattle began a presentation with a slide that read, “That Damn Eric Seed!” This seemed a little random. But Boudreau, an accomplished maker of obscure and antique cocktail ingredients, explained that he was a little aggravated with Seed for making some long-lost historic spirits commercially available, but not others, and generally complicating the cocktail enthusiast’s delicate ecosystem, which is now coping with the equivalent of an invasive species and accelerated evolution all at once.
Eric Seed doesn’t seem like someone who would intentionally disrupt anyone’s world. He’s a soft-spoken 39-year-old who, four years ago, founded a company called Haus Alpenz, which imports liquors that are difficult to find unless you travel great distances abroad or have a time machine. The first product Seed imported was a pine-flavored liqueur he got in the Austrian Alps and sold to upmarket bars in Colorado ski country. He has since added an Austrian walnut liqueur, two apricot-based spirits, and a French vermouth made precisely as it was in 1821. Sometimes importing is not enough—if he detects demand for a lost ingredient among cocktail aficionados but discovers the original is available only in a debased form, he’ll commission distillers to re-create it from old recipes, using improved ingredients and processes. That’s what he did with pimento dram, a Jamaican allspice liqueur that had been unavailable in the United States for years but is now made for him in Europe. It’s proved especially popular in exotic cocktails (also called “tiki drinks”), including the vastly rewarding Nui Nui.