When Ashley North Compton isn't busy as a graphic designer or psychology graduate student, she is making homemade bitters and herbal infusions in her Marfa home. Compton's interest in homemade bitters and infusions is really a secret cover for her love of herbs.
"Herbs have really amazing restorative properties and many also happen to go really well with different liquors," says Compton. And she'll be sharing her love and knowledge of herbs, infusions and cocktails at two separate Dallas events this weekend as part of a partnership with Oil and Cotton, Oak Cliff's favorite collaborative creative space.
Compton's interest in botanicals began when she planted an herb garden in an effort to support her backyard beekeeping. From there she began deconstructing the smells and tastes found in European liquors, which contain anywhere from 13-26 different herbs and also learning how to incorporate a variety of herbs in food and drink. She soon found herself making signature drinks for art galleries and sharing her knowledge and love of infusions through workshops.
Compton, along with fiancé Andy Stack of the band Wye Oak, will be creating a multi-sensory experience at the Perot Museum for the sold-out Social Science Night tonight. "We want to pull people away from the museum setting, even if it is only for three minutes, and create a space where they can explore all five senses and see how sound, color and smell affect taste," she says.
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For Compton, the Perot event is a culmination of her work to date. "What I am really interested in is the language of the senses and how people use those senses to communicate, often without even knowing it," she says. "This kind of work aligns my interests in art, taste and transforming materials with my hands. It also makes me feel a little bit like a witch, and that is pretty fun."
Compton sees herself an alchemist rather than a mixologist because instead of teaching students how to make a particular drink she prefers to help people discover what type of flavors they enjoy and then teach them how to bring different herbs and liquors together to make a particular profile happen. "I want people to follow their own intuition when it comes to mixing drinks because I think that is something that is inside all people," she says.
Compton will be guiding people to this end at an Oil and Cotton workshop tomorrow. Participants will learn about the history of cocktail making as well as how to make homemade vermouth, which in case you didn't know is a botanically-infused wine used in a variety of cocktails or served as an aperitif. In other words, Compton will be teaching participants how to endear themselves to everyone they have ever met or will ever meet and increase their usefulness as a human significantly. An added bonus is that many of the drinks Compton makes have anti-inflammatory properties, which sounds boring, but it really means a cocktail that helps ward off the ill affects of alcohol and leaves you less likely to have a hangover come morning.
She's a magician; Go see her.