Creative Conversations: RANGE Leisure Expert Rachel Mae Furman

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Range Magazine Issue Four will be live soon and its limited-edition pages will feature artists, influencers and writers with a love of the natural world and a passion for sharing it. One of these creative souls is the unstoppable Rachel Mae Furman, a genius cocktail creator and stylist, as well as the driving force behind Smoke + Honey, a lifestyle blog and creative agency dedicated to the art of leisure.

Rachel is tremendously talented in all things leisure and loves connecting with nature, so naturally she’s worked with us on quite a few projects, including creating handcrafted cocktails with foraged ingredients in RANGE Magazine Issue Two and collaborating on community events. We had a chance to pick this ultimate hostess’s brain about her biz, leisure in the modern world, and of course, the outdoors!

Q. How would you describe your multi-faceted role as a leisure expert? And what does “the art of leisure” mean to you?

A. After over a decade of throwing events, building liquor brands, and traveling the country for work, I know how to entertain. I started focusing on the idea of leisure because I saw all of my peers (including myself) get so sucked into our lives of hustle that the idea of “free time” was almost a joke. Yet our brains and our bodies need down time in order to function properly, and be our most creative and inspired. I truly believe if we work less, we’ll work better, and we need to cut out a lot of the static that is collectively burning us out. So the art of leisure is not about NOT working, it’s about working better by taking care of ourselves, enjoying life and having some fun in between. It’s about treating our personal lives and our social lives with as much ambition as our work lives. Leisure is a necessity, not a luxury!

Q. With your passion for leisure comes your seriously beautiful and delicious cocktails. How did you begin handcrafting cocktails for events and editorials?

A. I was in the booze business for eight years, traveling constantly and getting to see what the best bartenders in the best craft cocktail bars were doing all over the country. While I don’t come from behind the bar myself, I’ve always had a love of cooking and entertaining, and cocktail culture is the new foodie culture, so I started playing with cocktails in the kitchen.

I’ve always been fascinated more by the “situation” of drinks rather than the recipe. Cocktails are moments to me. There is the perfect time, place and occasion to have a Manhattan or an ultimate Martini moment, so I love styling the perfect drink for the occasion, for events and photo shoots. Cocktails can help tell the whole story.

Q. What inspires you to develop new recipes or incorporate out-of-the-box ingredients?

A. The story of where we are is what inspires my recipes. What is the history of the town? What do people do there? What ingredients grow in the area? What is the vibe? Is it playful and fun, traditional and more serious, forward thinking and innovative?

I also like to think about different ways to physically present the drink. If you’d normally drop a few dashes of bitters in, why not put them in a spray bottle and spritz them over the top of the glass so you get that aroma and flavor every time you take a sip? If people have to interrupt their conversations to go up to the bar for another drink, why not bring them a refill in a tea pot and pour it right into their glass? Why not stick a lid on the mason jar and bring your cocktail in your purse with you? When it comes to the actual recipes, I don’t stray too far from classic recipe templates. Instead, I like to think of how to take the scenario to the next level.

Q. How do these carefully crafted creations connect to nature and your personal relationships?

A. Seasonal and local ingredients are what drive my recipes. Whatever flavors nature has to offer is what I want to incorporate into my drink. I like to think of this as “maximizing moments.” If I am in Ojai walking past a gorgeous orange grove, I want to pick an orange right off the tree and incorporate it into a cocktail. That way, I’m seeing, smelling and tasting Ojai all at once. Sharing this with friends and family is a little gift I can give to elevate their experience as well. Aside from the sensual experience, having a drink together makes you stop what you’re doing, sit down together, and connect until the glass is empty. It’s like a time out with a liquid hourglass.

Q. What makes a dynamic host/hostess?

A. The number one rule for being a good hostess is to make sure you’re having a good time, too. A stressed out hostess worried about perfection makes her guests uncomfortable, which is the opposite of hospitality. It’s not about “presenting” your food or drinks to an audience, it’s about enjoying them together.

The second most important rule is to bring something to the table other than your meal. What I mean by this is the importance of conversation. And to have something interesting to talk about, you need to go out and do things. See things. Experience things. Try new things. Read things. Write things. Draw things. Again, back to the importance of leisure. You can’t be interesting when all you do is work. Burnt out people suck the energy out of a room. Interesting people are magnetic, and that naturally attracts people and that’s how collaborations are made and business is built. A good hostess always has a good story to tell.

Q. How are you driven creatively by your connection to the outdoors?

A. Being out in nature is the source of everything for me. It is my religion. It is my breath. It is my inspiration. It is where I feel most alive. It is where I can do absolutely nothing and feel like I am doing something. But most of all, it makes me feel physically disconnected from the craze of the day-to-day, far from the hustle, away from the static. It’s the only place we can really be reminded of who we are without all that. Then we can step back into it being more our true selves, and that’s when things fall into place in our work lives. I truly believe we can’t succeed in our careers without stepping away for a leisurely dip into nature.

Q. You have been part of the RANGE  family since the very beginning, how has it helped combine your passion for adventure with entertaining?

A. RANGE brings together so many worlds for me. I used to feel like “outdoor life” was separate from fashion, culture and style. I thought camping was the anti-style — a time (when I didn’t care) about what I was wearing, if I had showered, or what I was eating. For me, RANGE has redefined the outdoors to be a place of cultural savvy, style and an extension of everyday city life. I was excited to combine camp life with hostess life in the same way.

Images via Rachel Mae Furman.

xx Arya