Cocktails, like wine, are essential on the road to happiness. Have you ever rushed through a great drink? No, you sip, you taste, you wonder. Conversations can come from great cocktails and a secret rendezvous is always in order for the right drink. Some spirits are sexy while others are harsh but the chemistry between the ingredients in a proper drink make for a memorable experience. Finding the right cocktail bar is another challenge, but as long as you know what you want, you should be fine.
I walked into a bar recently and the bartender was raving about her ability to make a great cocktail. She boasted about making all the classics. She was confident. She was proud. She was pompous. I was excited. A great cocktail bar right under my nose and I had failed to find it until right that moment?
So, naturally I asked her for my litmus test of cocktails. “Can you make me a Hemingway Daiquiri?”
“Oh, we don’t make slushy drinks because we don’t have a blender”
Such is life, you think you find a real bar that knows classic cocktails and you realize that a good cocktail program is either really hard to find or plenty of people are just giving lip service to the art of a great cocktail.
Naturally, I decided to help the friendly bartender and I told her I would come up with 25 essential cocktails. (5 are below and in the coming days we will whet your appetite with a new drink each week. Well,… classic, not new) There are no surprises here, just great cocktails that have lasted for decades because they are truly great drinks.
- The Sidecar
Cockatils are memories from my youth. I remember a postcard of a motorcycle with a sidecar at a restaurant that my father would take me to. We would sit down and he would always start with a beer. I would read the menu and look at this sidecar and wonder about how much fun it would be to ride around on that thing. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to enjoy Cognac and this cocktail brought that feeling of riding alongside the road full circle.
- 1 1/2 oz Remy Martin VSOP
- 3/4oz Cointreau
- 1 1/2oz fresh Lemon
- 1 bar spoon of super fine sugar
- Garnish with lemon
Shake all the ingredients with cracked ice and then strain into cocktail glass and garnish with lemon.
Get the recipe from Esquire.com
- The Aviation
To be quite honest this drink always made me think of a Blue Hawaiian because of its color and the fact that I ordered for the first time at a bar near Los Angeles International Airport. Outside the window airplane took off and landed and the bartender loved to say, “Why not have an Aviation when your so close to an airplane?” It meant little but I heard him say it so often that it stuck. I still have it in airport bars whenever I find a bartender who knows his stuff.
- 2 oz Gin
- .5 oz Maraschino liqueur
- .25 oz Crème de violette
- .1 oz fresh lemon juice
Shake all the ingredients with cracked ice and then strain into cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.
Get the recipe from Liqour.com
- Hemingway Daiquiri
This is the cocktail that the writer in me cherishes. I can see Ernest Hemingway sitting at the end of the bar taking down drink after drink. Hisa version actually had more ice just because the climate in the Caribbean requires a bit more chill to fend off the heat and humidity. This is a classic and it always feels like summer when you drink it.
- 2 oz white rum (Havana Club if you got it)
- 3/4 oz fresh grapefruit juice
- 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
- 1/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
- 1/4 oz simple syrup 1:1
- Garnish with a grapefruit twist
Shake all ingredients except the garnish and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.
Get the recipe from PostProhibition.com
This is the cocktail that makes me feel grown up. After all of these years and countless drinks, the Manhattan still makes me think about being an adult who knows how to order a good drink. Sure the brown spirits do that but I think the straightforward taste and ingredients make you pause and ponder.
- Dash Angostura Bitters
- Dash orange bitters
- 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) sweet vermouth
- 5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) rye whiskey
- 1 cup ice
- 1 (1/2-inch-thick) strip orange peel
- 1 non-maraschino cherry*
- 1 (4- to 5-inch) wooden skewer
In a chilled cocktail shaker or pint glass, combine Angostura and orange bitters, vermouth, and rye whiskey. Add ice and stir until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into chilled martini or coupe glass. Squeeze orange peel over drink, making sure oils fall into glass, then discard peel. Thread cherry onto skewer, place in drink, and serve.
My bartender friends made me a Negroni lover because they realized there were times when I was forced to be in a spot where a good cocktail was not easy to find and with the simple ingredients I could get a strong drink at virtually any bar. As long as the bar has Campari this drink will do you a solid and help you unwind even in a simple open bar with well drinks.
- 2 tablespoons gin
- 2 tablespoons Campari
- 2 tablespoons sweet vermouth
- 1 orange twist
- Prosecco (optional)
Combine gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth in an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass; stir gently and garnish with an orange twist.
Get the recipe