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In the last five years or so a renewed appreciation for vintage and made-to-order cocktails has somehow managed to gain a stable foothold in the distilled spirit arena. The appreciation for the artistry of the cocktail is at an all-time high. These are drinks that take time and love to produce—drinks with subtle ingredients that complement rather than dilute or hide the flavors of the liquor at their core.
Here’s how to make a few of the irrefutable classics:
The Old Fashioned
It’s hard to beat an Old Fashioned on any level. This bourbon- or rye-based cocktail is simple and elegant, with flavors that coalesce so beautifully it’s as if they originated from the same place. As the bitters tames the bourbon just enough to decrease its bite a bit, the sugar subtly sweetens the drink and enhances its flavor profile. Orange peel completes the bouquet by engaging the imbiber’s sense of smell while giving the whole cocktail an inviting orange glow.
1 sugar cube
1 splash of club soda
3 dashes of bitters
2 oz bourbon or rye
Place the sugar cube in an Old Fashioned or rocks glass and add the bitters in and around the sugar cube. Add a splash of club soda and muddle all the ingredients until they create a lining of syrup in the bottom of the glass. Add ice—if you have a large cube or sphere, use that. Pour in the bourbon and gently stir. Cut a small section of orange peel, leaving off as much of the white pith of the inner peel as possible. Twist the peel, rub the peel on the rim of the glass, and drop it in.
The Moscow Mule
While most classic cocktails feature whiskey or gin, the Moscow Mule uses an oft-disregarded spirit: vodka. The limited flavor of vodka is enhanced dramatically, however, by the inclusion of ginger beer. One would be hard pressed to find a cocktail with as unique a flavor as this one. Served in a copper mug, the Moscow Mule is refreshing with a warm, sweet ending. The lime, ginger beer, and vodka—perhaps surprisingly—work extraordinarily well together.
2 oz vodka
3-7 oz ginger beer
Squeeze the juice of the lime half into a mug—preferably a copper mug if you have one. Fill the mug with ice and add the vodka. Fill the remaining space in the mug with the ginger beer.
This classic New Orleans cocktail is widely recognized as one of the first original American cocktails, and it has survived due to its one-of-a kind flavor profile. There is a sweet spice to The Sazerac—thanks to the Absinthe and the bitters—that sets the drink apart from most other whiskey-based cocktails.
While there are many different ways to prepare a Sazerac, most begin with an Absinthe rinse. To rinse a glass means to either pour a bit of liquor into it and then twist and lean the glass in order to coat its walls with the liquid, or use a sprayer and spray the interior of the glass.
1 teaspoon/splash of Absinthe
1 teaspoon sugar
4 dashes of bitters
2 oz rye
splash of water
Combine the bitters in a large, ice-filled mixing glass with the sugar, rye, and water and stir for 20 seconds. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass, then twist and drop in a lemon peel.
The Negroni is sophisticated and simple. With only three equally distributed ingredients, it gets its unique flavor from the seamless interaction of these components. The end result is decidedly bitter—due to the Campari—and is not for everyone, but the cocktail still manages to feature full fruity undertones.
1oz dry gin
1oz sweet vermouth
To prepare a Negroni straight up, simply add all the liquid ingredients to a glass with ice to chill, stir, strain into a rocks or Old Fashioned glass, rub the orange peel along the rim, and then twist and add the orange peel. For a Negroni on the rocks, pour the liquid ingredients over ice in a rocks or Old Fashioned glass, stir, twist the orange peel, rub the peel on the rim of the glass, and drop it in.
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