Could drinking be the key to staying married? It helps Payton Cosell Turner and Brian Kaspr, the husband-and-wife duo behind Flat Vernacular, a popular design studio that specializes in original wallpapers, fabrics and interiors. (In case “popular” needs an explanation, they just finished a custom head-to-toe job for Lena Dunham’s Brooklyn apartment.)
“A cocktail forces you to slow down and focus on tasting something together,” says Turner. “We work together, we live together and we’re married, so taking the time to have a drink together is important for us. It’s fun!”
They have their own gigs on the side: Turner is also an illustrator, and her coloring book for adults, Every Little Thing: A Flat Vernacular Coloring Book, was released in November. Kaspr is also a calligrapher who does hand lettering for companies such as American Express and Ray Ban. And as if they weren’t busy enough already, Turner and Kaspr launched a second company called Department of Decoration last year, which designs objects for the home.
Here are some more thoughts on cocktails and Chardonnay shame from this creative couple.
Kaspr: Drinking can play a really good role as a host, for lack of a better word. Going for a drink can become a reason to show someone a new place. For example, I love taking people to Ramona in our neighborhood if they don’t come here often. And I love exploring a city’s take on cocktails when traveling.
Cosell Turner: When we were in Atlanta we went on a cocktail tour, exploring new neighborhoods through their cocktail bars. Our car was towed during that time, but it was worth it! We found a great place called The Lawrence, which serves a rum Old Fashioned.
What’s your drink of choice?
Kaspr: For me, it’s either cocktails or regional beer. I’m a domestic beer drinker.
I rarely drink imported beers, since there are so many good breweries in the States. And cocktails are a representation of local people’s tastes. If you order an Old Fashioned in Milwaukee, it’s going to be made with brandy, and there are going to be cherries and orange slices muddled with sugar and bitters before the spirits go in. When you go to New Orleans and order their spin on a Manhattan, it’s going to be a little different than one you get in Manhattan. It’s up to the tastes of each region.
My go-to order is usually a Bourbon Manhattan on the rocks, but I wish the go-to could be a Sazerac. There just aren’t lot of people who make good Sazeracs.
Cosell Turner: I tend to stick to wine because of my dietary restrictions. I have Crohn’s disease, so I have to avoid all grain-based liquor, essentially. If I have a cocktail, I’ll have one made with tequila, rum, brandy or potato vodka, but I like exploring different wines from different places. I’ve gotten into this Australian Chardonnay recently. I try not to judge myself for wanting to drink Chardonnay! I felt like a way-cool girl when I was drinking bourbon and whiskey, and I miss it. When I order Chardonnay I fear bartenders think I’m the girl who doesn’t know what to order, so I choose Chardonnay, but oh well. You gotta own it. I do like that these restrictions have been put on me, in a way, because it makes me explore certain things I might not have otherwise. Work with what you got! My default is usually a Champagne Cocktail or a Kir Royale. I’ve also discovered I love rum Old Fashioneds.
Kaspr: It’s unfortunate that the grain-free thing has become such a trend, because we get a lot of eye-rolling from bartenders when we’re exploring drink options for her. But it’s a filter for good bartenders; if we’re made to feel so uncomfortable that we want to explain why we’re ordering grain-free drinks, then that server isn’t a good one.
How about your home bar?
Cosell Turner: At home, we keep a bar stocked with good vermouth, good bitters and we try to have our two spirits that we use frequently. Mine is Tito’s Vodka and Brian’s is Bulleit Bourbon. Maybe we’ll add some Lillet or Campari. Going through the act of figuring out what each of us feels like drinking and making it for one another is an easy conversation starter, and over the course of drinking it, you feel relaxed.
Kaspr: I consider drinking at home like a wind-down. It puts a period at the end of the day. I’m never drinking when I’m stressed or when I’m working. I might have a beer in the studio from time to time, but only if I’m working on a side project. Drinking signifies, “Alright, it’s relax time.”
And when you entertain?
Kaspr: If someone’s just popping over, they’ll end up getting a Manhattan or something we already have, but if we’re planning a dinner party, I’ll usually conjure up some sort of special cocktail. It’s a good excuse to buy something new. One time we made something with blue curaçao. I had wanted to make an Aviation, but I couldn’t find Crème de Violette, and the blue bottle caught my eye. We used so little of it, though, now we have this blue bottle lying around.
Cosell Turner: I’ll use it! I want to throw a girls’ dinner and serve tropical drinks! The ladies also love the Pear-adise, which comes from Bemelmans Bar. It involves pear vodka, prosecco and a little slice of pear.
Kaspr: I love a good coupe glass.
Cosell Turner: I prefer to use our Moser rocks glasses, which were wedding gifts. They have such a weight in your hands, you feel like you’re physically involved with the drink. I use old Bonne Maman jam jars to drink wine while I’m in the tub. All of our wine glasses have broken. It was probably the cats.
Any plans to expand your businesses to include a bar?
Kaspr: I do have a secret desire to open a small cocktail bar. I wouldn’t want to get into this fussy, let’s call it “Brooklyn” way of thinking about it, but I would want to help people understand the basics of what a good cocktail is. It would have one bartender and maybe twelve seats with a little bit of standing room. I see it with dark colors like oxblood, black and dark blue.
Cosell Turner: But it would have a warming, welcoming feeling. The attitude would be: “Come in and catch a story, but not an education (unless you want it).”
Kaspr: Yeah, that’s a good way to put it. And sexy.