Column: Cocktails for Kittens — how Quinn Cummings stirred up a boozy lockdown fundraiser
Stanley Tucci may be lifting people’s isolated spirits with his “how to make a perfect Negroni” video on Instagram, but if you live in the Atwater Village area, Quinn Cummings will deliver one to your house.
And raise money for abandoned kittens while doing it.
Many of us have been baking our way through the COVID-19 lockdown, but Cummings prefers cocktails. Making them, not drinking them — or rather, making more of them than she would/could/should drink herself or foist upon her partner (to whom she refers as the Consort).
Many people know all about the Consort already. Oscar-nominated child star Cummings (“The Goodbye Girl,” “Family”) is now an author (“The Year of Learning Dangerously,” “Pet Sounds”), comedy ghostwriter, podcaster (“Quinn Cummings Gives Bad Advice”) and Twitter raconteur (her “small stories” are also on Patreon.)
Possessing, as I can affirm having served with her as a parent-volunteer for our church’s children’s choir, an overwhelming amount of energy, Cummings also has a lot of outside interests. Including fostering kittens — you may follow the progress of her latest, Owen Meany, on her Twitter feed — and making cocktails.
“I have weird hobbies,” she says, “like making people drinks. I love it because it is a small problem I can solve — like a puzzle — and then you have a beautiful cocktail.”
This aperol spritz recipe uses sparkling rose wine instead of plain prosecco and includes fresh citrus juice for a refreshing bubbly pink cocktail.
It’s a lot like cooking, she says, an activity she is not as crazy about. “I admire people who love to cook but I never got it. But I think I get the same satisfaction out of mixing a drink well.” Last summer, she decided to pursue the craft more rigorously, taking a weekend class offered by the Mixology Master Method. “I was the only one with a spit jar,” she says. “I don’t really like feeling drunk.”
Unless it’s on the wide array of bitters available at a nearby bartending supply store. “I stand in front of that shelf cooing,” she says.
But when you are stuck at home with a daughter (known to Cummings’ 74,000 followers as the Kid) who has returned from college but is not yet 20 and a partner who, as Cummings says, “does not want to become a falling-down drunk,” you need to find more customers.
So Cummings put a couple of cocktails in Ball jars and left them on the front porch of friends sheltering at home nearby. They relished every sip and Cummings was so gratified that she offered, via Twitter, to mix up custom cocktails for anyone living within a reasonable driving distance of her Atwater home. (She wears gloves and now a mask while making and delivering the cocktails, which she leaves outside people’s homes.)
Not surprisingly, the response was bigger than she had expected — and when one of her friends expressed her gratitude by making a donation to Cummings’ local cat rescue, a lightbulb went off.
Animal shelters and rescue organization offices are closed because of coronavirus concerns. But you can still adopt a dog or cat.
Or maybe it was a Lemon Drop. Either way, Cummings began offering artisanal drinks to anyone (again, within reasonable distance) who makes any type of donation to Santé D’Or Foundation. In just a few days of mixing Negronis, Lemon Drops and something called Don’t Give Up the Ship, she generated more than $1,000.
Christy Keefe, executive director of Santé D’Or (translation: “golden health”; one of the founders was French), had no idea this was happening until a staff member noticed the bump in donations. “She said, ‘What is Quinn doing?’” Keefe recalls with a laugh.
For the small Atwater rescue, which arranges about 365 cat (and a few dog) adoptions a year, the donations could not have come at a better time.
“It’s kitten season,” says Keefe, “and animals have no idea that [COVID-19] is happening so the kittens are still coming.”
Like many rescues, Keefe’s has pared down the ranks of its volunteers due to social distancing concerns, which means three full-timers and one part-timer are doing most of the work. On the day she learned of the cocktail-generated windfall, she had formally postponed the organization’s biggest annual fundraiser, which normally occurs in June and is called — wait for it — Cocktails for Critters.
“We are just so grateful,” she says, “because while an increase in adoptions has meant that even some of the rescue’s longtime residents are finding homes, abandoned kittens and cats continue to appear.”
Kittens and cats that need to be medicated, spayed and neutered, that need to find homes for fostering and adoption. Cummings, along with her daughter, is a longtime volunteer and regular foster parent. During the lockdown, fostering Owen Meany serves two purposes — to help save a cat and to distract her daughter (“My daughter is home from college, and she loves college”) — just as her at-home bartending does.
“It’s something to do, a little way to help,” she says. “I try to make the drinks fancy because it’s not about drinking, it’s about providing a small, special moment. People send me pictures of the drinks and they’re pretty and for a minute we all feel festive.”
It has also led to an occasional goods exchange more often associated with small-town life. “One woman gave me a bunch of great jars and another reached out to say she had 35 bags of cat litter if the rescue wanted that,” Cummings says. “So now I’m a cocktail and goods delivery service.”
Quinn Cummings’ Mezcal Negroni
1 part mezcal, 1 part sweet vermouth, 1 part Campari
Put in mixing glass with ice, stir for about 15 seconds, strain and serve.
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