Kelley Lilien, aka Mrs. Lilien, has been shaking cocktails since before she learned to tie her shoes. “I would often fix up my mom and grandma’s drinks,” she says. “Which is when I discovered the creativity in it. Years later, I drew the same discovery from cooking.” As an adult Kelley has parlayed these cocktail-mixing and entertaining skills into a career as a graphic designer, influential tastemaker, and author of two brilliant books. Her first book, Mrs. Lilien’s Cocktail Swatchbook, boasts 50 classic cocktails for colorful entertaining and her second book, Mrs. Lilien’s Dessert Cocktail Swatchbook, dives deeper into the sweeter libations such as Gin & Tonic Sorbet and Frozen Watermelon Poptails. (Both books undoubtedly include a couple recipes for Granny’s favorite drinks!) Online, she celebrates the art of turning the mundane into the magnificent with the readers of MrsLilien.com and as the head of Mrs. Lilien, a multi-faceted, lifestyle brand. “Basically,” she jokes, “my job is to pawn off every deeply fabulous ladylike obsession onto my readers on a daily (or weekly) basis.”
When cooking delicious dinners to pair with her favorite cocktails, Mrs. Lilien never follows a recipe. And you’ll never find her whipping up a cake either. “I don’t like fussiness, so I don’t bake,” she says. “I don’t like to babysit, and when you have 3 kids you have enough babysitting to do.” Instead, she prefers to prepare simple foods from the earth, like high quality meats. “The perfect meal would boast massive, beautiful, caught day-of scallops or a really, super amazing flank steak. Practically, anything so fresh it is still halfway in the ground or has a heartbeat.” Mrs. Lilien keeps it fresh at home by hitting the market often – usually 4 times a week. Her go-to dinner is one that is vibrant in color and taste, like exotic greens dressed with homemade salad dressing (really good salt and olive oil are key!) paired with a perfectly prepared protein like salmon or steak. And of course, she adds, “I drink my dessert. Always.” It’s happy hour somewhere, so go ahead and fix yourself a drink and a steak and consider stocking some of these items Mrs. Lilien always has on hand.
1. Kettle Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips – I know they’ll never go out of stock on my watch. P.S. there are ones out there that really suck and totally spoil it for potential salt + vinny lovers, so remember, Kettle is IT!
2. Meyer Lemons – Absolutely, without a doubt. I’m known to put lemon in everything I make and meyers always do the trick.
3. Olive Oil – In my world, really good olive oil is worth a pretty penny. It makes a world of a difference and you can totally taste it.
4. Honey Nut Cheerios – I could have it for every meal of the day. I have been and will be…forever obsessed.
5. Whole Milk – I can’t have anything else. No one drinks it, but it’s amazing to have for cooking. Cooking with 2% milk is just not happening – your eggs, frittatas and all the rest will NEVER taste their best.
6. David’s Kosher Salt (look for the star of david) – I’m a salt snob. I will NEVER have, use, or touch, unkoshered salt. David’s sits in my salt-cellar and is good for your everyday, general cooking.
8. LaCroix – I drink like 6 a day. I get them by the truckload. My favorite is grapefruit and the lime is runner-up.
9. Endless 28 oz. Cans of San Marzano Tomatoes – I never do jarred sauces. These are seriously the best for any sauces, soups, chilis…they come straight from San Marzano, Italy and taste like it too!