Orlando, FL – If you get on your tipsy toes and peer beyond those mouse ears Central Florida is most known for, you will see an alternate wonderland teeming with vibrant culture.
Flowing in and around all the locally grown charm is a Wonka-caliber river of spirits. We love our drink here and we’re home to a fine batch of bartender royalty.
Eric Foster is well known for his sorcery in that liquid spirit world. He’s gone home a winner of many a local competition including the Regional Woodford Reserve Manhattan contest, the Fernet Branca competition where he took home a 2nd place prize for an original cocktail and most recently, the Ivanhoe Village Cocktail Challenge.
He’s a master of crafting exactly what you didn’t know you wanted until you take your first sip and discover you’re precisely where you need to be: sitting at his bar. Every concoction is two parts pure class with two parts of the backyard humility embraced here in the south. But, no matter what he’s shaking or stirring, the glass is always brimming with heart.
Foster is a huge supporter of local art, local business and ALL animals. He’s a professional who owns his craft in the Orlando beverage scene. Which is why, when he decided to hold a fundraiser for a lucky animal-centric organization combining all of the above, no one who knows him was surprised. But, when we found out he had selected HeARTs Speak as the beneficiary, we were over the moon!
Through the month of November, Eric Foster slung his way through a series of cocktails using Fernet Branca (an Italian herbal aperitif) as the required ingredient. For each Fernet cocktail ordered, patrons were eligible to purchase a raffle ticket for a chance to win a custom Fernet bicycle. It’s a pretty rad pair of wheels and you can’t just go pick one up anywhere. The money raised from ticket sales went straight to HeARTs Speak.
We love this idea because it truly benefits all involved without putting a strain on any one party (from the local bar and bartenders to their product vendors) all while raising money for HeARTs Speak, which prides itself on that win-win approach for everyone.
I sat down with Eric Foster on an eighty-degree Sunday in December to talk to him about his dogs, his drinks and his support of HeARTs Speak.
You have two dogs and a cat that wiggled their way into your heart, accidentally-on-purpose. Tell us about them.
My cat Lucky showed up at my door over 10 years ago. Hungry, grumpy, and meowing. Not much has changed since then. Perhaps a little more grumpy in his old age. Lucky is filled with mystery and I will never truly understand him.
Rainy is my pride and joy! As a puppy she was attacked and in real bad shape. I am so thankful for the vets who patched her up and made sure she found a home. She loves dogs, cats, and people equally and is the definition of loyal. Whenever I go swimming, she jumps in and pulls me to the shallow end to make sure I don't drown.
Mr. Biscuit came into my life recently. When he was a puppy somebody threw him out of car on the side of the road.I am so lucky that I had a friend witness this and took him in and fostered him. I wasn't really looking for a new dog, but sometimes when you see theright picture at the right time, something clicks. Me and Mr. Biscuit became fast friends and there is nothing like a young pup to breathe new energy into my old Rainy.
If Rainy and Mr. Biscuit were sitting at your bar (and were of legal drinking species) what would each of them order?
I think about this all the time. You can tell a lot about a person by their drink choice. Rainy is for sure a beach-themed cocktail girl. Probably a fresh margarita or daiquiri. Mr. Biscuit is into the classics. Rye Manhattan, for sure.
Mixing a proper drink is most definitely an art. Describe your style.
I really enjoy making the classics. In most cases a great cocktail isn't about crazy and expensive ingredients. I like to take simple spirits and use proper technique and build clean and approachable drinks.
Speaking of mixes, your dogs are comprised of several different ingredients. Without guessing breeds, describe what they look like.
Rainy is a short-haired brown dog with goofy floppy ears and white paws. She has the black eyebrows that make her look like she put on mascara. Mr. Biscuit is also a golden brown dog. Lean, with these yellowish eyes. He reminds me of a biscuit.
Do you own any art inspired by your animals?
Of course! One of my favorite artists, Brice Stephens painted the most amazing painting of Rainy in his signature style. He uses old windows and doors and creates the most impressive works of art.
That, and I have the photo that [Photohound Dog Photography] took of Rainy put on canvas and used as the centerpiece of my house. I can honestly say that those are two of my most prized possessions.
The core of HeARTs Speak’s mission is to fund services, provided by our artist members, that benefit and beautify their local animal welfare communities. How important do you feel the role of art, photography and design can play in engaging the community and saving the lives of animals?
When I first heard of HeART Speak’s Perfect Exposure Project it made so much sense. I browse our local animal shelters website all the time, and to see the potential rescues photographed and looking their best greatly increases the chance of adoption.
The Animal Care and Control Team in Philly has the best designed shirts I have ever seen! People notice that. So when talented artists get together to bring awareness with art, good things happen.
Time for a toast. Some of us are relaxing in the backyard with Christmas lights hung on our palm trees, while the dogs roll in the dirt. Others are gathered around the fireplace, letting the cat steal their favorite chair to gaze at the blanket of snow outside. What's the anywhere-holiday-cocktail that you’re mixing for us this New Year’s Eve?
I think a classic Tom Collins is the most underrated drink. When properly made, it is delightful and can be enjoyed anytime:
CLASSIC TOM COLLINS
2 oz. Gin (your choice, I like Beefeater)
1 oz. of fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 oz. Simple Syrup (equal parts fine sugar and water)
Add all ingredients (except Seltzer) to a mixing tin with ice and shake.
Strain over a rocks-filled Collins glass and top with Seltzer.
Garnish with an orange slice and cherry.
A very special thanks to host bar, The Matador (Orlando’s best-told secret and where Foster reigns as Manager and Spirits Director) for hosting this unique “twist” on the promotional fundraiser.
Eric, we raise our glass to you and the rest of the talented staff at the Matador for helping artists help animals this holiday!
The Matador is located in the Virginia/Mills district on the hem of downtown Orlando @ 724 Virginia Dr. Orlando, FL 32803. Pop inside, have a beverage and tell them you think they’re pretty neat.
Want to support artists who give back in Central Florida? Book your next photo session with one of these HeARTs Speak members: