It seems that, by pure chance I might add, I have fallen into cocktail bartending at just the right time. With the cocktail ‘dark ages’ of the 70’s, 80’s and most of the 90’s being a shadow of a hangover that seemed to stick around way to long, a revival of carefully constructed drinks focussing on characteristics of artisan spirits is in full swing. Throughout the naughties and this decade we behind the stick have been revisiting the tomes of drink mixing gifted to us by bartenders of eras gone by.
Sadly this has led to many a bartender falling by the wayside as they abide admirably to these recipes from another time. These drinks are of an age of lower quality liquor and stiffer palates and blindly following everything written by the legends of yesteryear will inevitably leave your customers or party guests with a bad taste in their mouth.
Happily though several of these classic concoctions have stood the test of time plus the evolving palate of society and can still be made today. So without further ado here are five of my favourite classic cocktails that you should be drinking!
#1 : Corpse Reviver No. 2
- 20ml London Dry Gin
- 20ml Lillet
- 20ml Cointreau
- 20ml Fresh Lemon Juice
Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker full of ice and shake for 15 seconds. Fine strain into an absinthe rinsed cocktail coupe. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.
This is one of my favourite drinks to make as it’s all about equilibrium. The simplicity of adding equal measures of the ingredients together and producing a concoction that is brilliantly balanced just seems to please me. The first recorded mention of this particular version of the Corpse Reviver is in Harry Craddock’s 1930 cocktail manual, “The Savoy Cocktail Book”. Craddock is widely quoted as saying “Four taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.”
If you enjoy this particular drink I suggest looking in to another equal measures classic, The Last Word. Trust me when I say that these drinks are aptly named and that due caution should be taken when thinking of consuming multiple of them.
#2 : Manhattan
- 60ml Rye Whiskey
- 15ml Sweet Vermouth
- 2 Dashes of Angostura bitters
Add ingredients into cold mixing glass. Stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail coupe. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.
Like an Old-Fashioned but with added complexity. The history of the Manhattan is shrouded in mystery with some sources stating it came from the Manhattan club in New York (which sat across from the now built Empire State Building). The first written record of this cocktail was in O.H. Bryan’s 1884 book, “The Modern Bartenders Guide”.
I like to add 5ml of simple syrup and 5ml of Pedro Ximenez Sherry to my Manhattans. I find that a little sugar syrup helps to bind the flavours together and the PX adds some subtle dried fruit flavours that complement the Christmas Spices of Rye Whiskey while providing a little viscosity to give the drink a richer body.
#3 : Sidecar
- 60ml Cognac
- 30ml Fresh Lemon Juice
- 20ml Cointreau
Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake for 15 seconds and fine strain into a sugar rimmed cocktail coupe.
The classic formula of roughly 3:2:1 booze-sour-sweet is served well in this drink. The combination of the dried fruits flavours from the Cognac plays well with the lively citrus zing of the lemon juice and the candied orange hint of the Cointreau.
An evolution of the Brandy Crusta, this drink is the perfect demonstration of how drinks change over time and once you recognise one cocktail is just another but with maybe a different base spirit, it makes learning them easy. I prefer to pay homage to the Sidecar’s predecessor by including a sugar rim. The ratio that the above recipe is based on was also published in Craddock’s 1930 book, “The Savoy Cocktail Book”.
#4 : Blood and Sand
- 30ml Blended Scotch
- 30ml Orange Juice
- 30ml Cherry Heering
- 30ml Sweet Vermouth
Add all ingredients to ice filled cocktail shaker and shake for 15 seconds. Fine strain into cocktail coupe and garnish with maraschino cherry.
Hailed as the scotch drink for non-scotch drinkers the Blood and Sand (named for the 1922 Rudolph Valentino movie of the same title) has a depth of flavour that only an aged spirit can give a drink. The combination of scotch, Cherry Herring (a cherry brandy) and sweet vermouth gives the drink great complexion while the fresh orange juice lifts the drink and takes it into the realm of an alcoholic Jaffa Cake. Try adding a dash of orange bitters to really give it a citrus zing finish.
#5 : Aviation
- 50ml London Dry Gin
- 20ml Fresh Lemon Juice
- 15ml Luxardo
- 10ml Crème de Viollete
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker, ice and shake for 15 seconds. Fine strain into a cocktail coup and garnish with a maraschino cherry.
Traditionally severed without the Viollete (a purple liquor that I always say taste like how you’d think the colour should), I find the inclusion of it helps tame the tang from the lemon juice. Make no mistake though this drink isn’t by any means sweet. It is crisp and refreshing and I suggest maybe trying one before a large meal. First published in Hugo R. Ennslin’s “Recipes for Mixed Drinks”, 1916.
There you have it my top five classic cocktails you should be trying and remember that sometimes the best items aren’t the ones on the menu so always ask consult your bartender.
Happy drinking and see you at the bar!