Help me make the perfect cocktail.
July 8, 2010 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Help me make the perfect cocktail.

I am a fan of classic and pre-prohibition era cocktails. Anything from the late 1800's up to Mad Men. Every gentleman, for instance, should be capable of making a fantastic Negroni.

What, then, are your favorite old-school cocktails? The kind of cocktails that belie swank more than kitsch. My house list is presently consists of the following:
  • negroni
  • widow's kiss
  • corpse reviver no. 2
  • monkey gland
  • sazerac (I can make a mean sazerac)
  • Manhattan
  • aviation
  • Martini (the classic, more vermouth variety)
What other cocktails in similar vein should I seek out? Have you recipes?

I am also thinking of creating my own bitters and cocktail cherries. Any tips for such activity?

Any other suggestions that maybe I have not considered? What are your essential classic cocktails? What other things do you do to dress up your essential cocktails?
posted by kaseijin to Food & Drink (68 answers total) 83 users marked this as a favorite
A properly made gin and tonic. Proportions are important.
posted by me3dia at 8:37 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

French 75.
posted by Grither at 8:41 AM on July 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Gin and tonic with homemade tonic water.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:42 AM on July 8, 2010

... and then there's the London Tonic. One-shot gin, one-shot white rum. Tonic, ice, lime etc. Tastes exactly like a normal G+T. Just twice as strong.
posted by philip-random at 8:42 AM on July 8, 2010

Best answer: How 'bout a Side Car?
posted by .kobayashi. at 8:50 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Gimlets and gin fizzes.
posted by titus n. owl at 8:51 AM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

Don't overlook rum because of its association with fruity frozen daiquiris. Don't overlook daiquiris because of fruity frozen daiquiris.

Mix rum, lime juice, and sugar/simple syrup. Think about Hemmingway while you do it.
posted by oreofuchi at 8:51 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some good stuff in here about the Old Fashioned. They are fantastic.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:56 AM on July 8, 2010

I've been drinking a modified gin buck this summer. Damned refreshing.

"Old Buck"
1 1/2 oz. Ransom Old Tom
Juice from half a lemon
Good ginger ale (Vernor's, if you can get it)

Pour gin and lemon juice into an old-fashioned glass over ice. Top with ginger ale.
posted by Iridic at 8:58 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Fuck yeah, a Toronto! I have one almost every day. Simple and classy.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:59 AM on July 8, 2010

Best answer: Based on your tastes, you would almost certainly enjoy the Hemingway daiquiri (a great variant with grapefruit juice and Maraschino) and the Pegu Club cocktail (a fabulous bitters-heavy gin drink).
posted by neroli at 9:03 AM on July 8, 2010

The perfect summertime drink: a Seabreeze
posted by gaspode at 9:03 AM on July 8, 2010

I suggest the Old Fashioned. If you can learn to make one, you'll be the most popular person around. I've found approximately 3 bars in Dallas that can make one.
posted by SNWidget at 9:07 AM on July 8, 2010

Response by poster: I am a huge fan of the Old Fashioned. I suppose it is probably time to get off my laurels and learn how to properly construct one.

That Hemingway Daiquiri sounds fantastic, as well. Will have to give that a shot.

French 75's probably should have been added to the "house list," as they are the lady's absolute favorite cocktail -- but she has complete domain over the making of those.

Great suggestions, keep 'em coming!
posted by kaseijin at 9:12 AM on July 8, 2010

Tom Collins is my summer time fave, you've just got to seek out Old Tom gin. Cocktail cherries are a breeze - pit some cherries, stick them in a jar with sugar and booze, wait. I've got some going now with brandy, though a lot of people like maraschino liqueur (i.e. luxardo) instead. I'm not sure where you're located but if sour cherries are in season near you (the season is very short) they're better than the sweet varieties for this, I think.
posted by hungrybruno at 9:13 AM on July 8, 2010

The Deschler is a very nice cocktail. I use the Manhattan as the benchmark cocktail in any new establishment.
posted by jimfl at 9:17 AM on July 8, 2010

Best answer: A martinez, some believe it to be the predecessor to the martini. I can't link because I'm blocked from the site at work, but is pretty amazing for classic recipes.

I've had some amazing manhattans made with a nice 4 year aged rum instead of bourbon.

The Last Word is a phenomenal alternative to a Corpse Reviver, slightly more grown up flavors.

If you can master a Ramos Gin Fizz, I think you're in business. At the bar I used to work we shook the drink with a spring (and no ice) for a few minutes before removing the spring and shaking with ice to get the nice frothy egg white foam. (Also, add the soda water at the end, or you'll be breaking up the bubbles).

Finally, if you are going to make classic cocktails, it's worth researching the ingredients you're using. Carpano Antica sweet vermouth was pretty life changing for me when I was a Manhattan drinker. Punt e Mes is also phenomenal for a toned-down sweet vermouth profile. Ransom Old Tom gin was already mentioned, so I'll just 2nd it (great in the Martinez). I'm a huge pusher of Miller's for a London Dry Gin, it's a little less common than Plymouth, but worth seeking out.

Other resources: Ted Haigh, Dale DeGroff, Gary Regan and Dave Wondrich have all written and published extensively on the subject of classic cocktails. And you can't go wrong with The Savoy Cocktail Book.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 9:18 AM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh! I am also very fond of the sloe gin fizz, but it can be hard to find a decent sloe gin these days. (Personally I prefer Bols to De Kupyer.)
posted by titus n. owl at 9:19 AM on July 8, 2010

Seeing as this is Metafilter, and I haven't seen reference to it for a while: the official Mad Men cocktail guide.

I'm a fan of a Moscow Mule, although not in a copper pot. I also think a tiny dash of Angostura helps.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:19 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have you read Beachbum Berry's books? (The Remixed) are his two most famous books rolled into one).* He writes mostly about tiki cocktails but he is one of the most respected experts on pre-Prohibition cocktails and his schtick is relentlessly researching how, where and when famous cocktails were created. He also uses a lot of obscure liquors and has good advice on different techiniques for mixing, juicing and making your own bitters, syrups and more.

(If you think tiki drinks are fluffly or girly you do not know tiki drinks. Rum is nothing to trifle with and fresh juice makes almost every drink better. But I digress, as I'm sure you already know that.)

My cocktail knowledge has mainly been gleaned from raiding the books (cookbooks) sections at thrift and antique stores. I have an original official Trader Vic's bartender's manual and dozens of pre-Prohibition books on pre-Prohibition cocktails. A lot of these books explain the rational and rules behind certain drinks.

For example, my favorite drink is a daiquiri (original-style, shaken like a martini, not frozen). All it is is rum, lime and sugar. It follows the original ratio for a sour from "The Bible", 1948's The Fine Art Of Mixing Drinks (easy to find at thrift stores, a fortune to find online).

That ratio is 8:2:1, so 8 parts booze (2 oz), 2 parts sour (1/2 oz), 1 part sweet (1/4 oz). This makes a slightly more sour sour, but you can apply it across the board — use whiskey for a whiskey sour, add grenadine instead of simple syrup, add pisco and egg white for a Pisco sour.

The ratio/recipe is so simple the variations are endless. In the daiquiri family, some of my faves are the Hemingway Daiquiri (with grapefruit juice), the Royal Daiquiri (with parfait amour), the Derby Daiquiri (with oj).

From there you can build off into drinks like the Aviation (gin, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice) and to more complex cocktails, like the fizzes, which are a branch of the sour family (again, you have gin fizzes, rum fizzes, etc.), swizzles, and eddies.

The Williams Sonoma Bar Guide is actually pretty good too. Sorry for the length, but basically, I could ramble about a fine rum for hours.

• If you have an iphone Beachbum Berry's cocktail app is AWESOME to have on your person at all times. It's pricy at $5-ish but so worth it, as you can save favorite drinks, sort by booze and mixer types and by flavors and more.
posted by Brittanie at 9:23 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I really like the vermouth suggestions! That's a perfect sort of supplementary tip. Currently, I have Vya sweet and Noilly Pratt dry -- I'll see if I can round up some of those others. Texas, unfortunately has some pretty restrictive laws pertaining to the sale of alcohol, however, so not 100% sure what I can find locally.
posted by kaseijin at 9:25 AM on July 8, 2010

Make your own sour mix
Echoing the French 75 and The Old Fashioned
A simple Campari and soda with a lemon is classy as hell
I'm also a fan of weird booze: Herbsaint (makes the best sazerac), Amaro (specifically, Fernet-Branca), Pernod, etc.
posted by brand-gnu at 9:27 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mai Tai!
1 jigger each: Light Rum, Dark Rum, Triple Sec.
1/2 jigger each: Lime Juice, Orgeat Syrup.

Shake with ice, strain into iced highball glass. Garnish with pineapple or cherry if needed. If you want it a bit sweeter, you can drop some simple syrup or grenadine in there. The latter makes for a nice visual effect.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:30 AM on July 8, 2010

Also a huge fan of the Old Fashioned, made the old fashioned way -- i.e., no muddling fruit in the bottom of a glass (so fussy! so un-Old Fashioned!).

A proper Old Fashioned should consist of:
  • 2-3 oz. fine bourbon (Knob Creek is my preference)
  • 1-2 tbsp. sugar syrup
  • 3-6 dashes of bitters (I like 3 dashes each of Angostura and Peychaud, myself)
Add ingredients one at a time to an old fashioned glass (yes, that's why it's called an Old Fashioned) filled with ice, dump into a shaker to incorporate, and then pour back into your glass. Enjoy.
posted by devinemissk at 9:31 AM on July 8, 2010

Mojito! Perfect for a hot day. Muddled lime wedges, fresh mint, simple syrup. Hit that with light rum and top off with some club soda. Also, if you like the negroni, you might also like the americano.
posted by jquinby at 9:37 AM on July 8, 2010

Sidecars and Gimlets are both awesome.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 9:44 AM on July 8, 2010

robocop, you just brought back some sweet memories. I worked at a Mad Men sort-of company in the 1970s, and there was an upscale restaurant (The Stag & Hounds, how's that for a name that conjures up images of executives enjoying three-martini lunches?) nearby that served the best Mai Tais. And they served them in these fish-bowl sized snifters. They used five different types of rum, our server once told me, and when the boss took me out to lunch and was paying I often had two of three of those beauties. I wasn't much use the rest of the day, but no one seemed to care. I wasn't the only one who ever came back from lunch tipsy.

In answer to the OP, a cocktail I remember being popular with the men at company outings was a rusty nail.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:45 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you're anywhere in the world EXCEPT the USA, I recommend the gimlet. Easily my favorite cocktail. However, if you're in America, it's impossible to get proper Rose's Lime Cordial so in that case, don't bother. That HFC Lime Sweetener Coca Cola puts into Rose's bottles is the devil's piss.

My gimlets are 2 measures of Plymouth gin, 1 of Rose's Lime Cordial.
posted by dobbs at 9:46 AM on July 8, 2010

Oh, and this series of videos is worth watching.
posted by dobbs at 9:55 AM on July 8, 2010

A gimlet with high-quality ingredients can set your soul on fire.
posted by Hiker at 10:02 AM on July 8, 2010

The Caipirinha is my favorite cocktail. Finding cachaça can be challenging depending on where you live but most stores will order Pitu for you. It's my favorite cachaça to use. If you can't find that, it's still a great drink with vodka but very different tasting and then called a Caipiroska.
You can also experiment with using different fruits but I have a hard time leaving the lime.

I swear by the Baiana Caipirinha reciepe posted by MiguelCardoso years ago. It's the real deal and reminds me of São Paulo, Brasil with every sip. You also get to make quite a display by hand crafting this drink.

Here is what I do, which is his recipe from the linked post with some extra words thrown in.

1) Roll lime with your palm very hard and then wash.

2) Cut the ends of the lime off, then cut in half(length ways), slice out the pith, and then cut into about sixteen pieces.

2) Add lime into old fashioned glass, add at least at least a tablespoon of fine sugar and muddle until it's very mushy.

3) Pack the old fashioned glass with pulverized ice. I put the ice in a towel and then beat it with a meat tenderizer for extra love.

4) Pour cachaça until the glass is full.

5) Now find something that will allow you to shake it. It should fit over the old-fashioned glass perfectly and form a seal. I use (as does the Academia da Cachaça in Rio, where they allowed me to work for a few days) a sawed-off plastic flowerpot!

6) Shake the living daylights out of it.

7) Serve immediately while the sugar, the lime bits and everything are in a cloudy, icy suspension.

You can drink these very quickly on a hot day so be careful =]
posted by zephyr_words at 10:04 AM on July 8, 2010

Best answer: I'm no mixologist but as a resident of New Orleans I feel it's my civic duty to be able to make a mean Sazerac. However, there's one New Orleans cocktail I haven't mastered, haven't even come close: the Ramos Gin Fizz.

If you can make a good Ramos you'll have friends for life.
posted by komara at 10:04 AM on July 8, 2010

Best answer: Toby Maloney, superstar mixologist and owner of Chicago speakeasy The Violet Hour, posted a bunch of recipes on LTH Forums. They're the same formulas he gives his bartenders. Good luck replicating their house made bitters, though.

I'm more of an artisanal modern mixology sort of girl, you know, inventing flavored syrups from fresh ingredients and muddling cucumbers and such, so I'm not the person to ask about manly old school cocktails. But I can tell you that you should be making as many of the components in your drink at home as possible.

For example, and recipes for any of these can be easily googled up:

Grenadine should always be pomegranate juice sweetened and boiled down, and never poured out of a bottle of Rose's.

Maraschino cherries are simply cherries soaked in maraschino liqueur, hold the red dye.

Ginger beer (for Moscow Mules, Gin Gin Mules, Cilantro Mules and Cilantro Coolers, and Dark and Stormys) is super easy to make; I use this recipe and don't bother with carbonation/fermentation but you can always run it through a seltzer bottle. It's incredibly cheap, as well; a $1 hand of Ginger will make enough ginger beer to make at least 5 cocktails. 

If you can master bitters, you are a badass.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:06 AM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

(And sorry, I know this doesn't fit your criteria so well but I just think that cocktail is so great.)
posted by zephyr_words at 10:07 AM on July 8, 2010

Dude, you're in Texas? Come to Houston! I'll take you to Anvil!
posted by Brittanie at 10:26 AM on July 8, 2010

Old Fashioned - I use the method from Little sugar syrup in the glass, add couple dashes of bitters, add ice, peel off a big piece of orange peel while holding the orange over the glass (trying to aim the spray of oils into the glass). Twist the slice of peel to press the oils out, toss into glass. Add 2-3 oz bourbon, stir well.

Also, Mai Tais made from scratch (not a bottled mix that's full of high fructose corn syrup) are fabulous.

It sounds like you've got a great base of recipes, so I'd say what you can do to keep things interesting is start switching brands and ingredients. For example, my main drink is the Manhattan, and my standard ingredients are Maker's Mark, Noilly Prat rouge vermouth, and Angostura. But I love swapping any of those out for something else - my second fave bourbon is Buffalo Trace. Carpano Antica vermouth is out of this world - but pricey, so I don't get it often. Recently got some Punt e Mes - discovered I don't like it so much in a Manhattan, it adds too much bitter. (Love it in a Negroni, though!) And bitters - my collection has been growing now that my usual store has started stocking a variety of Fee Brothers bitters. I love their "old fashioned bitters" and "whiskey barrel aged" bitters. I got their cherry bitters too - I like adding a couple drops of those to a Manhattan in addition to the usual bitters. I find that by not making the same drink with the exact same ingredients all the time, I always appreciate the taste more. (I appreciate Maker's particular qualities more if the last couple times I used Buffalo Trace, for example.)

Also - if you can find some St. Germain, get some. It's not going to be called for in "classic" recipes because it's a recent ingredient, but it's marvelous stuff. I find it goes particularly well with gin. I use it in place of the vermouth in a martini, for example - which definitely wouldn't be for the "extra dry" martini person, but it transforms the drink wonderfully.
posted by dnash at 10:36 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

The list above is pretty darn good, so I'll just add in a few small suggestions.

1) For an alternative to the manhattan, try the boulevardier. 4:1:1 Rye:Sweet Vermouth:Campari, dash or two of orange bitters. It's a very similar drink, but the Campari makes it different enough to be a new drink if you're bored. Another manhattan alternative is the Red Hook, if you can get your hands on Punt e Mes (Carpano Antica would also probably work).

2) Try a bronx cocktail. You'll need to play around to figure out the exact recipe you like, but it's basically gin, sweet vermouth, maybe some dry vermouth (by taste), and then a small-ish amount of orange juice.

3) Vermouth and tonic. Pour three parts or so of sweet vermouth and one part tonic water over ice. Maybe toss in an orange slice. Fantastic for a hot summer day when you don't want something boozy. I highly recommend trying this with different vermouths, as the subtle differences really come out when thinned a bit by the tonic water. Cinzano is probably my favorite for this.
posted by Schismatic at 10:36 AM on July 8, 2010

Oh! See if you can't get a bottle of Laird's Applejack. You'll want the pure 100 proof bonded stuff, not the 80 proof which is applejack mixed with grain spirits. It's cheap, mixes well, and can be used rather similarly to bourbon in a lot of drinks to give them a slightly different flair.
posted by Schismatic at 10:40 AM on July 8, 2010

Oh wait, I just scanned the thread and see no one has mentioned the Pimm's Cup!

Pimm's No. 1 + sparkling lemonade, garnish with cucumber and strawberry. I'm told that originally this should be "British lemonade" which is sparkling, but not too sweet. The closest thing I've found to that here in the US is San Pellegrino Limonata. I hear many people use 7up or ginger ale. I haven't tried those - to me that sounds too sweet/syrupy, but your taste may vary. I made these for friends a few weeks ago, who'd never heard of Pimm's, and they all loved it.
posted by dnash at 10:43 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

The closest thing I've found to that here in the US is San Pellegrino Limonata

For what it's worth, my wife and I have totally fallen in love with Limonata as a mixer. My Official Drink of the summer of 2010 is an ounce of bourbon (pref. Maker's Mark) and 6 oz. of Limonata on ice (in house lingo, this is a "Viareggio"). My wife's poison is an ounce of decent vodka with 6 oz. of Limonata, again on ice (house lingo, a "La Spezia").
posted by COBRA! at 11:14 AM on July 8, 2010

Smitten Kitchen just posted about a lovely cocktail, a Porch Swing. It's a variant of dnash's Pimm's Cup. Sounds delish and so summery!

Please post some of your successes!
posted by killy willy at 11:15 AM on July 8, 2010

Best answer: Here are two books that you want: Straight Up or On the Rocks: The Story of the American Cocktail by William Grimes, and Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails : From the Alamagoozlum Cocktail to the Zombie, by Ted Haigh.
posted by trip and a half at 11:21 AM on July 8, 2010

Rum and Shrub: 1 part rum to 1-2 parts Shrub to taste. This is proper old, apparently dating back to rum smuggling days when they would sling the cask of smuggled rum into the sea if the excise men were heading for them and return for it later. The cask would have soaked up some seawater so the addition of Shrub was needed to mask the salt taste.
posted by biffa at 11:27 AM on July 8, 2010

Haven't seen it mentioned; if you like the taste of absinthe, you can't go wrong with a classic cocktail a la Louisiane.
posted by General Malaise at 11:35 AM on July 8, 2010

Response by poster: Why, yes! I do love the taste of absinthe!
posted by kaseijin at 11:42 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: (and that cocktail looks completely amazing!)
posted by kaseijin at 11:43 AM on July 8, 2010

Response by poster: I can see thus far that I am going to have to give the following drinks a try:

  • rusty nail
  • cocktail a la Louisiane
  • old fashioned (at least learn to make it well)
  • Pimm's cup
  • Ramos gin fizz
  • sidecar
  • Toronto
  • Hemingway daiquiri
  • last word

    Additionally, I'll start some cherries up this weekend. Does anybody have a reliable vermouth recipe? There are a few online, and I have been growing my own bitter herbs to use (which are ready now!)

    Thanks everybody for the fantastic replies! Keep 'em coming!

  • posted by kaseijin at 11:51 AM on July 8, 2010

    Best answer: For cocktail cherries - I buy Luxardo liqueur. First year I made them all I did was pit a pound or so of cherries, toss them in a big jar, cover with Luxardo, and stick in the fridge. I liked them, however some of my friends did not - too extraordinarily strong with booze taste.

    For the next batch, I re-used some of the leftover soaking liquid - which had turned dark red from the cherry juice (Luxardo itself is clear) and had also mellowed out as some of the water/juice from the cherries had mingled in. So I kept some of that in the jar, filled with fresh pitted cherries, and topped off with more Luxardo. These came out better - less strongly boozy tasting, more cherry flavor.

    This year, I've done the same thing as that second batch only this time I kept less of the leftover liquid, to add more Luxardo this time (trying to bring back a little more of the booze flavor on purpose) and also several glugs of Fee Brothers Cherry Bitters. They've been in the fridge a couple weeks - had one the other day, not bad but maybe need more time. I think the cherries I got this year were too bland in themselves, not much sweetness or flavor of their own.

    (I've never added sugar to these, btw. And I just keep the jar in the fridge, can take a year to go through it all, but I don't think there's any danger since it's pretty much all booze in the jar.)
    posted by dnash at 12:08 PM on July 8, 2010

    I love brandy Alexanders. Get a microplane and grate some fresh nutmeg on top right as you serve it and people will be very impressed. And by people, I mean me.
    posted by Fuego at 12:46 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

    Regarding dnash's comment on cherries, if you don't want them as strongly boozy, keep the cherries intact and don't pit them; it really makes a difference on how much booze they absorb and how quickly.

    I really love cherries soaked in bourbon, by the way. Mmm.
    posted by Juliet Banana at 12:51 PM on July 8, 2010

    It's berry season here in Oregon and with that is very cheap pick-your-own ($2 for 4 pints of raspberries!) that make great infusions. I've tried Rosemary, Raspberry, and Strawberry so far with the Rosemary making a really nice simple tonic and the Raspberry making an incredible Collins.

    The Strawberry didn't come out as great as the other two; to me tasted more cough syrup-y than I would like.
    posted by wcfields at 1:16 PM on July 8, 2010

    Best answer: The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks is my go to source for what you're asking for. His list of "must know cocktails" is online (scroll down a bit) and closely mirrors the table of contents of his book (he has written two books about cocktails but I prefer Essential Cocktail because it's very approachable). is good but has some questionable historical recipes in there, whereas something from Dale DeGroff, Gary Regan, or David Wondrich is likely to be tweaked and tested for modern palettes. Wondrich has a bunch of material available for free on Esquire magazine's web site. And the eGullet Spirits & Cocktails community has a ton of collective expertise from both professional bartenders and serious hobbyists (who've often turn into professional bartenders).

    The historical recipes on often call for "juice of 1/2 a lime" and don't take into account that modern eggs are much larger, modern grenadine is very different, modern cocktails are larger, and some historical recipes were, well, created to hide the taste of bad booze.

    But they can definitely be fun to flip through; I recommend purchasing the Drink-a-dex (formerly Cocktails+) application for iPhone/iPad for a mobile friendly version of that actually includes source information and multiple recipes for a particulat drink.

    The tiki-focused companion application Tiki+ which is mentioned above is also good and basically the tiki version of Drink-a-dex but not exactly what you're looking for, I think. But if you do find yourself making Mai Tais, here's Beachbum Berry's recipe. I prefer Trader Tiki brand orgeat (most orgeats are artificially flavored) and Senior Curacao brand curacao (a lot of the cheaper ones are pretty bad quality).

    While I like Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, the recipes are a little repetitive, use some obscure ingredients, and tend towards the spirit-forward, stirred drinks with 3-4 ingredients (I'm much more a fan of cocktails that are shaken & refreshing). It also really drives home the fact that they didn't have the wealth of ingredients that we have today.

    A friend of mine teaches a beginning cocktails class and I believe he covers the old fashioned, daiquiri, margarita, and martini as the building blocks for many other drinks. After all, a sidecar is just a margarita with cognac and lemon instead of tequila and lime. The list of classics he put together for his restaurant is here. And since you like Sazeracs, here's his perfect Sazerac recipe:

    1.5 oz Wild Turkey 101 Rye
    0.5 oz Old Overholt Rye
    0.25 oz Demerara sugar syrup, 2:1 proportions of sugar to water
    3 dashes Peychaud's bitters
    1 dash Angostura bitters

    Stir, strain. Add Pernod absinthe (not regular Pernod) misted at the end to simulate the rinse and a lemon twist

    Personally, I would add to the list you have already:
    blood & sand
    clover club
    dark & stormy
    jack rose
    mint julep
    pink lady
    pisco sour
    rob roy
    singapore sling
    tom collins
    vieux carre

    If you like the Last Word and find yourself with some St-Germain, try the Vieux Mot.

    If you end up liking the southside, sub tequila for the gin and muddle a cucumber and you've got a tequila east side.
    posted by kathryn at 2:10 PM on July 8, 2010

    Best answer: kathryn: I can't tell if you're advocating leaving out the twist or not on that Sazerac. I don't think you are, but I want to state that expressing the oil from the twist is vital. Dropping the twist in the drink, not so much.

    Likewise, I believe that a properly made Sazerac has to have the rinse. I use the original recipe Herbsaint though any absinthe will work (as will some substitutes such as the aforementioned Herbsaint). I have never seen anyone just mist the top of the drink. If it didn't take two glasses to make, I'm not sure I could consider it a real Sazerac.

    I am super opinionated about my Sazeracs, though. Anything else, make it how you like. Oh, and I totally agree about the use of Wild Turkey Rye - that's my personal favorite. Sometimes I do 1oz Wild Turkey Rye, 1oz Rittenhouse - but both those are 100/101 proof, so that could be construed as a little hot to some people.
    posted by komara at 2:22 PM on July 8, 2010

    Sweet vermouth or dry? I'll try to look when I'm not at work. Sweet vermouth is a little easier (from the homemade ones I've tried). I can't remember trying a homemade dry vermouth that was anywhere close to as lovely as Noilly Prat. Dolin Blanc is pretty phenomenal as well. You should be able to order these online.

    Also, someone upthread mentioned Amaro- they're a great alternative to many commonly found bitters. Amaro Nonino is my favorite. About 1/4 oz in a manhattan is really nice. Especially with a dash of Fee's Old Fashioned Bitters.
    posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 2:37 PM on July 8, 2010

    What we do is cut a circular piece of peel to express the oils onto the surface of the drink by pinching the circle, peel side down, and rubbing it in a circle folded against the rim of the glass. Then add the curly twist just for looks. :)

    In case it wasn't clear, I was saying the drink should be created and stirred in a mixing glass and then be strained into a separate, old-fashioned glass. And after straining, do the bit with the peel and misting.

    Apparently misting instead of rinsing is a big thing among bartenders in NYC because it wastes less liquor and you get more of the nose in the resulting drink. (Keep in mind, this isn't my recipe.)
    posted by kathryn at 2:38 PM on July 8, 2010

    Oh good! Glad to hear it. I thought that was the case with the lemon but I just needed to know for sure.

    All of my good bartenders down here (which, in New Orleans (a city known for volume consumption, not quality) are few and far between) fill a glass with ice and water while preparing the rest of the drink. Once it's stirred, they empty out the glass, mist the inside, roll it just in case, and then fill. A coated and cold glass, just the way I like it.

    I worry about misting the top because of too big a hit to the nose on the first sip, and not much integration into the drink. I want that absinthe to be subtle and lasting throughout.
    posted by komara at 2:44 PM on July 8, 2010

    You know, next time I go to Cure I'll ask 'em to make me a Sazerac with an absinthe mist on top, not in the empty glass. Then I'll know for sure if I'm being overly fussy. Thanks for helping me expand my Sazerac horizons.
    posted by komara at 2:45 PM on July 8, 2010

    Response by poster: After that discussion, I think I need a Sazerac tonight -- discussion of other soon-to-be-consumed cocktails be damned.

    Just the thing, as I have a sack of lemons and some very good absinthe!
    posted by kaseijin at 2:55 PM on July 8, 2010

    Best answer: The recipe for Regans' No. 5 Orange Bitters can be found here. I've had homemade bitters (from this recipe and others) before and personally couldn't tell much of a difference, so to me it's not worth the effort of making them myself, but I definitely see the appeal.

    I have had some amazing homemade vermouth but sadly couldn't tell you anything about making it.

    I do make my own cocktail cherries, several varieties. My favorites are sour cherries briefly candied in sugar syrup and then strained and packed in Luxardo maraschino liqueur (and the leftover syrup is great for drinks, too), but sweet cherries packed in brandy or bourbon are also fantastic.
    posted by rhiannonstone at 4:06 PM on July 8, 2010

    I'll pipe in here regarding the Martini. In another thread, another Metafilter user (I'm too lazy to look it up right now) pointed out the absurdity of using a shaker to prepare a Martini. I put the Gin, Martini glasses, and shot glasses in the freezer (-18 degrees C) and put the Vermouth and olives in the fridge (1 degree C). The result ends up much colder than messing about with a shaker and ice.
    posted by sockpup at 8:02 PM on July 8, 2010

    Great subject! I come from a New Orleans family.... home of Peychaud and the cocktail (especially the Sazerac)... seems like you're missing some good Rum cocktails and Bols Genever. Check out a classic cocktail site I run with a buddy of mine for classic drinks as well as some originals we invented including the Trafalgar and the VOC.

    Pusser's Rum:

    The Trafalgar:

    The VOC:

    There's also a great Sazerac recipe
    posted by Laaz2750 at 9:44 PM on July 8, 2010

    We also have a fantastic recipe for homemade Maraschino Cherries... though you may find some of the history horrifying! :-)
    posted by Laaz2750 at 9:46 PM on July 8, 2010

    So, for the record: Sazerac with an absinthe rinse? Awesome. Sazerac with an absinthe mist on top? Not as awesome. My opinion.
    posted by komara at 10:30 PM on July 8, 2010

    Also tonight I had a Sazerac, a Ramos Gin Fizz, and a whiskey sour made proper with egg white. It was a good night for classic cocktails.
    posted by komara at 10:31 PM on July 8, 2010

    Response by poster: I have had Sazeracs around here that rather noticeably had too much of the anise on the nose -- I wonder now they were made with the mist method? Would not surprise me. I also seem to encounter Sazeracs more often than not made with Pernod which, to me at least, is sub-optimal and results in some really cloying sweetness.

    I do understand, however, that it is an inexpensive and widely distributed ingredient for bar staff to rinse with. And they have to run a I don't fault them, and never say anything about it.
    posted by kaseijin at 5:48 AM on July 9, 2010

    Margaritas have gotten a very bad rap over the years. A proper one (tequila, Citronge, lime and maybe a bit of simple syrup) is a very good summer drink.
    posted by rtimmel at 12:28 PM on July 9, 2010

    It's also entirely possible that my notes are wrong and what they do is mist into an empty, chilled old-fashioned glass. Only one way to find out, make some Sazeracs!
    posted by kathryn at 1:59 PM on July 9, 2010

    Pimm's Cup's are great, but try a Pimm's Punch:

    1pt Pimm's
    1pt Citadelle gin
    4pt lemonade
    Sliced strawberries
    Mint leaves

    Great in an ice cold pitcher for a summer BBQ as long as you don't mind friends crashing at your place.
    posted by benzenedream at 10:49 PM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

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