If there are cocktails in your bar that are known as the workhorses of the industry, they are most certainly the cocktail classics.
You know, the Cape-Codder (if it’s Summer), or perhaps a Rum Punch if it’s the day that you celebrate all the bottles that are left over day, time to make punch day! If you need direction and/or advice, I suggest The Art of the Drink, by my friend Gaz (Gary) Regan. It’s exactly the book for you because it teaches you everything that you need to know without sugar-coating the results. It’s an education in each sip, and I guarantee you that if you read the entire book, cover to cover, it will make you want to do better. Not just do enough to get by, but to truly “Raise the Bar” by using more with more. Now, let’s take a look at how to make some of the cocktail classics:
Gaz Regan taught me what I know about the cocktail classics with his book on the Negroni. It is said that he is known to ‘finger-stir’ his. I don’t recommend that in front of your guests, please, don’t tell them I said it’s ok. The Negroni is a simple enough drink. According to Gaz, it’s a combination of three things: Beefeater’s Gin, Campari, and Sweet Vermouth. I could spend an hour on the Vermouth alone. Do you refrigerate yours? If not, start over with a fresh bottle, why? Because Vermouth is no more than lightly fortified wine, with herbs added. If it’s not fresh, throw it out. The drink will be ruined.
- 1-part (I do 1.5 oz. per part) Beefeater’s Gin
- 1-part Campari
- 1-part Sweet Vermouth, (I use Carpano Antica)
- Mix together over ice, DO NOT SHAKE THIS DRINK
- Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass
- Garnish with a twist of lemon or orange that you cut with a knife, NOT a peeler
- 1 Qt. Each, Orange and Pineapple Juices
- 1 pt. Lime Juice
- ¼ pt. Lemon Juice
- 1 bottle (750ml) total of liquor ends, or light Rhum Agricole
- 1 bottle Ginger Beer (750ml)
- 1 bottle Cava or Prosecco
Mix together in a bowl; except for the ginger beer and the Cava, they go in last in a tea cup
Another of the forgotten Cocktail Classics is the Old Fashioned. I like to make mine the truly old-fashioned way. But I twist it up a bit by using a Demerara Sugar cube instead of a white sugar cube. I also use fruit in mine, some would scoff at that, but I raise the bar by dehydrating the fruit and coaxing out flavor with a bit of balsamic vinegar over the top… It’s pretty amazing actually and completely unexpected.
Old, Old Fashioned (Re-imagined)
- 3 oz. Rye Whisky
- 1 Demerara Sugar Cube
- 5 splashes Angostura Orange Bitters
- 1 dehydrated orange pinwheel
- Muddle the dehydrated orange pinwheel with the Demerara cube and the Angostura Orange Bitters
- Add the Rye
- Serve in your long gone, grand pappy’s favorite glass
Another of the cocktail classics that is usually ruined by frozen concoctions and worst of all, the bottled sour mix is the Margarita. If you are using bottled sour mix, you fail. Easy as that. Don’t show up to a USBG (United States Bartending Guild) competition with bottled sour mix. Bad idea.
The Margarita is the drink that I would like to bring to your attention. It’s pretty simple, and I offer you some alternatives to the basics. First of all, you can roast some grapefruits and oranges in the oven, halved for an hour at 300 degrees with sugar and Angostura sprinkled over the top. Let them cool and juice the roasted fruits. Use this roasted fruit juice along with your always freshly squeezed lemon juice (Lemon? Yes, it’s always perfect. Lime varies in flavor seasonally) and the beforementioned lime juice. I use both. You can raise the bar by using Mezcal. May I suggest using one that is a ‘single’ village? You’ll know what that is by the price. They are the ones that cost much, much more.
Hand shaken Mezcal Margaritas for a crowd
- 6 oz. Mezcal
- 4 oz. Agave syrup
- 3 oz. Grand Marnier Liqueur
- Crushed ice and regular ice
- Orange Bitters
- 4 oz. Fresh lime, and Lemon juices
- 2 oz. Roasted Orange and Grapefruit juices
- Combine all the ingredients in shakers
- Add bar ice
- Cap and Shake hard for one minute
- Pour over crushed ice
- Dot with orange bitters
- Serve with chunks of grapefruit and orange