Before we face new challenges, sometimes, it’s nice to master something simple. As we enter this new year, I have to remind myself that it doesn’t mean it’s time to reinvent the wheel. I thought it would be nice to pass along some of the inspirational recipes that have held their own and stand as pillars in the bartending community.
These cocktails are all meant to be simple and, above all, balanced. Mastering these drinks, despite how uncomplicated they are, takes time and practice. Once you’ve nailed them, try taking out an ingredient and replacing it with something in the same family but with a different flavor profile. A lot of our favorite drinks stem from these very basic recipes.
This is also a great lesson in stocking a bar. There is no need to run out and get every ingredient for every cocktail on this list. Trying pulling together a collection one cocktail at a time. Trust me, booze shopping is dangerous (especially for someone like me), so go in knowing what you’re looking for.
1.5 oz Plymouth gin
.75 oz simple syrup
1 oz lemon
3 dashes Angostura bitters
The most basic of these recipes, the Fitzgerald is no more than a “gin sour” with a few dashes of Angostura bitters. As the story goes, “King Cocktail” Dale Degroff made this drink and called it the “gin thing.” When a guest insisted on a classier name, he decided to pay homage to F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is a prime example of how to use bitters as a “seasoning,” as they have been likened to.
The addition of Angostura pulls out and rounds out the gin’s botanical structure. It’s no secret that gin and Angostura make a pretty pair. The Royal Navy popularized “pink gin” when trying to fight off seasickness, using Angostura bitters. The gin they had was Plymouth gin, which is a little on the sweet side and added to the Angostura. After all, a spoonful of gin is what helps make the medicine go down, right?
This Prohibition-era cocktail was first created at the Detroit Athletic Club but has been revived in recent years by Murray Stenson of the Zig Zag Café in Seattle. It has since inspired many spin-offs, including the the final ward. The last word is vibrant, herbaceous, slightly sweet and sour.
.75 oz gin
.75 oz green chartreuse
.75 oz maraschino liqueur (I suggest Luxardo)
.75 oz lime juice
The last word is picking up intensity as many bartenders and patrons support Murray in benefits across the country to aid him in paying his hospital bills for a heart surgery to replace a defective valve. Tennessee is having one of its own on Sunday, Jan. 20 at the Listening Room in Nashville. Drinks are $5; there will be a silent auction and a donation booth. I’ll be there with Chattanooga Whiskey in tow, ready to make some cocktails for a great cause.
.75 oz gin
.75 oz Cointreau
.75 oz Lillet Blanc (or Cocchi Americano)
.75 oz lemon juice
Few dashes of Absinthe
Corpse reviver No. 2
Belonging to the family of “corpse reviver” cocktails, this is meant to be had in the morning as a remedy for a hangover. Needless to say, I made quite a few of these on New Year’s Day. The cocktail itself is vibrant and robust, much like the last word, but even more complex. I think this drink greatly exemplifies the idea that a cocktail should be greater than the sum of its parts. It fits the bill for many styles of cocktail drinkers and is definitely refreshing and eye-opening.
The drink originated in the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London, where bartender Harry Craddock concocted this particular family of recipes. The family has continually grown since then as modern bartenders take their hand at creating something in the same vein as the original. This was the first classic cocktail I ever really experimented with and was thrilled with the results. I first found the recipe in "Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails," which I highly recommend for anyone looking to recreate old cocktails at home.
Have fun with these at home, and I look forward to hearing about the results. Cheers to a happy New Year's, and thank you for all your support in 2012. I am excited to see what 2013 holds!
Laura Kelton is a recent graduate of UTC and currently runs the bar program at Easy Bistro & Bar. Feel free to reach out to her by email with any questions, comments or requests. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.