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Amanda Freitag Wants to Make Cooking and Cocktails Easier

The celebrity chef from many Food Network shows has launched a line of bottled cocktails and spice blends including a Negroni and a Jersey Italian spice mix, which she discusses in this Appetito interview.

Amanda Freitag

Celebrity chef Amanda Freitag now has a line of bottle cocktails and a collection of spice blends made in collaboration with La Boîte, a respected NYC spice company. Photo by Kedzie Teller.

Amanda Freitag is an almost constant presence on the Food Network, whether judging other people’s cooking on Chopped or competing against Bobby Flay and other celebrity chefs in the kitchen. 

A Jersey girl who spent her twenties and early thirties cooking in notable kitchens across Manhattan, including stints with Sara Jenkins at Il Buco and Tom Valenti at ‘Cesca, and at erstwhile West Village hot spot Gusto, Freitag left the restaurant world behind for TV and other projects. Among those endeavors are two new ones, her just-launched Freitag Chef’s Cocktails line, and a collaboration with beloved NYC spice manufacturer La Boîte, whose founder is chef turned entrepreneur ​​Lior Lev Sercarz.

Freitag cocktails, 3 bottles
The launch of Freitag Cocktails features bottled Negronis, Manhattans, and Margaritas.

It should also be noted that Freitag isn’t just milking her celebrity to hawk products, nor is she luxuriating in free time. She’s a longtime supporter of the organization God’s Love We Deliver, since 2009, she says, helping make and deliver food to New Yorkers who are homebound and suffering from illnesses. She also fundraises for the organization on television and with a specially created apron for sale on her website.

Amanda Freitag spices
Amanda Freitag's collaboration with La Boîte features five spice blends.

Freitag’s cocktails, available via her website for $24.99 per 375 ml bottle, are marked with the hashtag #BoozyAF. The spices, available via La Boîte’s website, include five variations including the Jersey Italian and a Mediterranean Lemon, and are available for $16 per jar or $75 for a package featuring all five.

She tells Appetito more about both products in this Q&A, which has been edited for length and clarity.

First, tell me about the logo on your website and on the Freitag Cocktails bottles, Easy AF, a play on your initials.

Yeah, it took me a long time and a young marketing manager to point that out: My initials are cool!

Freitag Cocktails has launched with a Negroni, Margarita, and Manhattan. Why did you want to start a line of bottle cocktails?

I love to mix cocktails. At the onset of all these bottled cocktails that were starting to hit the market, I tried every one of them and I thought they were terrible. I had somebody who's a distiller in San Diego reach out to me about doing bottled cocktails and I was like, Wow, this couldn't be better timing. 

Why was the Negroni in the first three that you wanted to make?

The Negroni is the one thing that I always wanted to do because it's three bottles for one drink and I always just thought that would be brilliant to put it inside of one bottle. Obviously I wasn’t the only one who thought that, right? Most of the bottle cocktails that I see that are even decent out there are Negronis. So then we started with the Negroni; a margarita, which to me still needs a little tweaking, but it's good; and then a Manhattan, and the Manhattan is delicious. If you're a Manhattan drinker, you're gonna love it. And they're all like, you know, high alcohol. [Laughs.] I just thought that the ones in the market also had way too much sugar and not enough alcohol to make a cocktail. With mine, you can get four solid cocktails out of a bottle. 

The bottled cocktails seem in line with your persona as a chef who wants to make life easier for those cooking—and now making cocktails—at home. Is that accurate?

Yes, that's the whole thing. It's from soup to nuts. It's like, okay, you're making a cocktail, here's the bottle; you want to make some food, here's the video. I'm gonna help you do it all. People want to be a good chef or a good entertainer, and they don't always have the skills. So why not give them a little AF in their homes? 

Amanda Freitag posts videos on her YouTube channel meant to help make kitchen prep and cooking easier.

What else can you tell us about the distillery you’re working with for Freitag Cocktails?

I've come to find that I love doing these collaborations because if somebody is an expert at what they're doing, and I'm not, I know well enough to leave it alone. Like, this guy's an expert at distilling, leave it to him. If Lior is the spice man, then that's Lior. I trust and know that they're doing high quality products. So with the distiller, I went to San Diego and we made the formulas together. I love everything they do, because everything is an infusion. Everything's natural — there's no sugar additives, there's no syrups, everything is done from scratch. 

That’s not exactly easy, right?

For the margarita, obviously, the hardest thing is the fresh lime. So we make a lime distillate, which is super cool. I've also learned a lot about how to put those flavors together without having fresh citrus. We need something shelf stable. So I learned a lot about those formulas and what goes into them and how to tweak the flavors. Of course, that's what I want to do as I keep going into my career, to learn more about food and beverage.

Sounds like you're playing with science a little bit.

I love science! I'm a science geek. I mean, it's so cool to go into the distillery and have this roto vape thing spinning around and then we get this little tiny amount of delicious lime distillate. 

Was it hard to pick which types of cocktails you wanted to do? 

It wasn't hard at all. I mean, I think the challenge was I really wanted to do a margarita and that was probably the most difficult one to do. Not being a bourbon or brown liquor drinker, I saw the Manhattan as a sort of segue drink. Because it has a lot of cherry notes, I enjoyed it, and it was something that was a little out of my comfort zone. But I'm also a New York City Girl and I've lived in Manhattan for a very long time, so it had meaning for me. But the Negroni was the first thing I really wanted to do.

Are you content with having these three or do you see further ones down the line?

I would love to do more. And then I'd really like to try a few mocktails. NA bottled drinks are huge but we couldn't do them at the distillery because it is zoned for alcohol production. The beverage world is vast, and there's a lot out there, but I also think there's always room for more. Don't you think a dirty martini in a bottle would be good?

Yes.

You know, lots of olive juice. You throw that thing in the freezer and you're good to go. So I'm thinking about it. I feel like they've made a comeback. I like it.

Alright, so let's talk about the La Boîte collaboration, starting with the Jersey Italian mix.

I love that one. Well, first of all, I have to shout out to Lior because he's the master of all things spices, and if you ever get an opportunity to visit his warehouse, you must do it. Everything is so fresh and vibrant. The world of spices in the home cook’s kitchen is so sad. It was something that got me really excited, and the Jersey Italian came from a place of where I grew up and wanting to continue with the easy AF vibe. You can take the spice blend that has tomato, parmesan, oregano, garlic, and add it to some red wine vinegar and  olive oil and you have that quintessential pizzeria vinaigrette. [Laughs.] Which I know it sounds cheesy, but honestly, it's so damn delicious. And I knew I won when my mom used the Jersey Italian in her meatballs. So it's really great for so many things but I had that typical pizzeria style vinaigrette in mind and it's obviously a notch above, but putting all of those things in one spice blend was really fun. 

What were the inspirations behind the different blends?

So many things, just from my travels to, obviously, Jersey Italian coming from where I grew up. Chica Adobo is like a take on Sazòn Goya. The Sweet Baking spice is coffee and cardamom, which in Israel and Jordan, they drink so much coffee with cardamom infused into it. And I put cardamom in my coffee, so I thought it'd be a great way to get it into a spice blend. You can put it in banana bread, put it in your chocolate chip cookies. I'm having fun with it. I definitely want to do more with Lior. We will make some new recipes for the new year. 

I have cooked with the La Boîte blends they made with Eric Ripert and enjoyed the flavors they created. A chef's palate can really make an impact.

Yeah. And it's all about curation, too. I think that's a big deal, and something that should be talked about, which is that the home cook is cooking with spices that are dead. They're old, you know. I mean, yeah, they're dried, but they are dead. And Lior uses dried spices that are almost fresh. It is a big difference. Not just wanting my product to be in your kitchen. It's really delicious. It's totally, totally mind blowing. When you could put two things side by side, take some of my Lior spices and put them with some grocery store spices, it's a world of difference, even just the aroma.

And the Mediterranean Lemon seems like it would be a great one for all kinds of fish and vegetable dishes.

They're really fun to play around with. And you know, for the home cook that has chicken four nights a week. This is the best spice to change up your chicken dish.

So what’s next for you? Do you have to travel to LA much to film your TV appearances?

A lot of the filming stuff that's happening right now is here in New York. Chopped is here. I've been getting a couple of Beat Bobby Flays under my belt. You will see me competing in Tournament of Champions this year. And then we got the festival circuit kicking off with South Beach Wine and Food Festival, and I'm really excited to go to Charleston this year for the first time ever for Charleston Wine + Food. We're bringing Freitag Cocktails with us and we're gonna have a really good time. 

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