Don’t buy an n-piece bar set, they’re all overpriced, have things you don’t need at home (speed pours, shallow jiggers, another damned wine key) and are missing things you do need (juicers, peelers).
No Amazon link here; go to your local restaurant supply store and ask for rim-tempered 16 oz. pint glasses. Do not buy the 14 oz. “cheater pints”, but take a look at the difference so you know which bars would rather treat you like an idiot than charge a little bit more for a beer.
You now also have a shitload of great, everyday beer and cider glasses. Keep a few in the fridge. Give some away. Change the world.
Most of the Cocktail Kingdom stuff also comes in more expensive, copper-, silver-, or gold-plated/rimmed versions, if you really want to show off, but be warned: they will develop scratches no matter what you do, and can only by hand-washed.
|Metal graduated jigger||$7||Deep conical jiggers||$8 + $9|
|Boston shaker||$6||Koriko tin shaker set||$17|
|Pint glasses (2 doz.)||$18.50 (@77¢ ea.)||Wide mixing glass||About $40 (or $8)|
|OXO Hawthorne strainer||$7||♔ Hawthorne strainer||$15|
|7.5 oz. coupe glasses (6)||$42 (@$7 ea.)||6 oz. coupe glasses (6)||$34 (@$5.66 ea.)|
|15 oz. double rocks (4)||$24 (@$6 ea.)|
|Rubber bar mats||~$15 ea.|
|.1g precision scale||$18|
Keep it basic. You are probably way too enthusiastic about craft cocktails right now and want to buy some akvavit. Big problem: you are not used to akvavit. You probably aren’t even all that acclimated to caraway, and none of your friends will want to try that akvavit bloody mary you saw on the internet.
You also don’t want to throw money away on an expensive spirit in a cocktail, since at about drink number two or three discernment goes right out the window anyway. (If this is not the case for you and are not very large individual, consider toning down your drinking.)
You should have both clear and aged spirits, at the least vodka, gin, bourbon, and rye. If you’re balking at the vodka requirement, consider:
Both are widely available and inexpensive, great-tasting, with distinctive, attractive bottles.
Alternatives: A slight step down are the bar well staples Evan Williams black label (86 proof) and white label (100 proof). Also try the high-rye Old Grand-Dad bonded (100 proof), and Elijah Craig Small Batch (94 proof).
Avoid: Jim Beam, Old Crow (literally the stuff that’s not good enough to be Jim Beam), Jack Daniel’s (not a bourbon, but close enough). You may recall that the bastards at Brown–Forman watered it down. Don’t drink Woodford Reserve, either. Refer to the “and Coke” rule.
Rye whiskey is a working man’s whiskey. The subject of Appalachian folk music telling of ruin and degradation. It is not supposed to be expensive. It is not supposed to be subtle.
Rittenhouse is inexpensive, It used to be cheap. Sigh. spicy, clove-y, and bottled in bond. It stands up to strong flavors of mixers like Campari, and makes itself known in the middling Manhattans and Old-Fashioneds assembled by apathetic bartenders. It’s the backbone of thousands of trite, seven-ingredient house cocktails. It will not be the best whiskey you ever drink, but it is the best whiskey for mixing drinks.
Alternatives: Bulleit Rye (95 proof) or Old Overholt (80 proof) are workhorses, less bold than Rittenhouse and accessible to a wider range of palates. In the other direction, the new Pikesville (110 proof) is Rittenhouse Plus: same distiller and mash bill, higher proof and aged longer.
Avoid: any rye from a “craft” distillery that doesn’t readily disclose its origins (which will be MGP). Templeton, e.g., is made from the same MGP rye as Bulleit (but is 50% more expensive).
Easy picks: they are the right proof, the right flavor profile (a classic gin cocktail should taste of juniper, goddamn it!), and the right price.
Alternatives: American tonic is way too sweet; pair Bruichladdich Botanist (92 proof) with Fever Tree Naturally Light tonic for the only G&T worth drinking. Also try Plymouth Gin (82 proof).
Avoid: Bombay Sapphire, which is so lightly flavored it should be considered bad vodka.
Yes, yes, vodka is flavorless, it’s all marketing, there are all those dumb flavors, cosmos suck, Sex & the City sucked, okay, whatever. Get it out of your system. Besides, Belvedere is not completely neutral. We (poorly) conducted an informal, N=2, single-blind study; Belvedere was the only vodka the subjects could identify. Taste losers: Ketel, Smirnoff.
You should also have a 80 or 100-proof neutral vodka sitting around for other purposes (your basic-ass friends that only drink vodka sodas, making Vespers, and the odd pie crust or pasta sauce).
When you make simple syrup, do it by weight, not by volume: 1g (or mL) water for every 1g of sugar. You can easily make a small amount in a couple minutes with warm water and agitation (and you have a shaker now, don’t you?). Be careful, cf. dry shake, below. You won’t ever need anything other than 1:1 simple. Put it in a cheap squirt bottle. It will last about a month in the fridge.
Standard 4g sugar cubes are fine in a pinch, though, and are roughly equivalent to ⅛ oz. 1:1 simple. (Our bar napkin math shows that the latter is about 8.5g sugar.)
These few bitters will get you through almost the whole gamut of cocktails.
The Barbancourt is Haitian agricole rum, made with sugarcane juice instead of molasses, and has a fresh, grassy flavor. The Mount Gay is always good for a couple blue jokes.
Alternatives: Wray & Nephew Overproof (126 proof) for making punches and lighting things on fire.
Delicious, slightly funky, and inexpensive aged Jamaican rum.
Alternatives: Smith & Cross Navy Strength (114 proof, tastes like bananas), and the relatively pricey Ron Zacapa Sistema Solera 23 (80 proof). soleras are blends; the age statement reflects only the oldest component.
You can’t really win with a blackstrap rum. It’s for mixing ginger beer into. Gosling’s is the default.
As for ginger beer, we can recommend nothing other than Cock & Bull, with Bundaberg as a runner-up.
Alternatives: the Brown-Forman-owned (sigh) El Jimador Blanco (80 proof). Both are 100% agave and great for tequila cocktails. If you want to go upmarket, any blanco you like should be fine if it has a NOM identifier.
Avoid: Sauza Blanco, Cuervo, anything else not 100% agave.
Alternatives: Wahaka Espadin (80 proof). If you want a sipping mezcal, try El Jolgorio Nuestra Soledad (90.6 proof).
We struggle to think of anything nice to say about everyday cognacs. Pierre Ferrand 1840 is (supposedly) close to the style of higher-proof brandy used in the original Sazerac, in the 1800s. We happen to like the flavor, too.
Often paired with acidic juice (in drinks like the Margarita, Sidecar, and, yes, the Cosmo).
Alternatives: the less pricey Combier (80 proof) is as good as Cointreau, but harder to find.
Avoid: DeKuyper, Bols, &c; you know, trashy, low-proof ones used for Long Island Iced Teas. Also, the cognac-based Grand Marnier is used as a triple sec substitute, but its flavor more often than not clashes with whatever else is in the glass.
The San Francisco Treat. Bartender’s Mouthwash. &c. A bracing, bitter mint liqueur almost as strong as most as liquor (78 proof). Try it by itself as a digestif. Some crazy people mix this 1:1 with Campari and sip it. We’re still trying to figure that one out.
All right. You want absinthe. We like the St. George Absinthe (120 proof), not only for its flavor, but for its status (first post-“thujone-free” American absinthe) and the manifest passion of the man who made it. Thujone has never been present in absinthe at clinically significant concentrations; bohemians were, unsurprisingly, getting drunk. What cleared absinthe for sale was defining “thujone-free” as <10ppm. Available in 200ml bottles if you just want to use it for Sazeracs. Other absinthes and substitutes (Herbsaint, but not Pernod) can work. To be honest we’re not all that big on anise, you should seek out true fans.
It’s also expensive and not frequently used. Génépy des Alpes works as a cheaper substitute in a pinch. Its cousin Yellow Chartreuse (80 proof) is much less intense and sweeter still. Both also come in VEP versions, oak-aged and doubly expensive.
110 proof, herbal as fuck, drinks like a scratchy wool scarf that has cough syrup spilled on it— Andrew Bohrer
Obscure or rarely used booze and other ingredients that will either become standbys or become white elephant gifts. Be careful.
Cut in half. Place cut side down in the press, and, well, press. It will come out the holes and eventually the sides, hold it at an angle and let the juice run down at that point. Repeat.
Most every cocktail with citrus will be fine strained after shaking. If you are opting not to fine strain after the shake or are juicing a batch of fruit, you can fine strain pulp before use.
Assemble ingredients with tempered ice in mixing glass or tin; use freezer-cold ice if you would like to make separation impossible. push the other component on it at an angle, and give it a solid bump with your fist or palm to seal it. The assembled shaker should be flush on one side. Pick up and shake vigorously, glass (or small tin) side toward you, keeping people out of the line of shaking. This shatters the ice, and will chill the drink faster, so eight to ten seconds are enough.
Disassembly can be tricky, especially with glass-on-tin, since only one component can flex. The large vessel should be pointing down, flush side toward you. If squeezing the large tin doesn’t break the seal, hold it in one hand, thumb pressing on the upper tin or glass, and open palm slam the gap just to the left or right of the flush section to let air in. This is hard to express in text. Watch a video, or better yet, ask a bartender to demo. (You can practice this maneuver with an empty shaker first, and then by shaking with ice and a few ounces of water.) If you do it quickly, some of the drink will still be clinging to the upper tin. Let it run down into the larger vessel.
Actually a shake without ice, used mostly with raw egg white. Be careful, since without chilling you will have the opposite of a separation problem; use both hands. Remember middle school physics? With constant volume, the pressure of a gas is proportional to temperature. Shaking the ice lowers the temperature in the shaker, thus the pressure, so atmospheric pressure helps hold it together.
You can pop the spring off of the cocktail strainer and drop it in to speed up integration, but stopping to rinse off raw egg goop and reassemble isn’t great. Best to shake quite hard for twenty seconds.
The interplay between all the ingredients you put in a cocktail is not rocket science. These aren’t hard-and-fast rules, but something to keep in mind as you make drinks for yourself and others.
The stated measures and ratios are to our preference, not yours. Try building the cocktails at various ratios (2:1, 8:3, 3:1, 4:1…) and note the differences. Finding your preference is key, but be sure to play with it often (a foolish consistency &c).
Measurements are in God-fearing, flag-waving, coal-rolling U.S. fluid ounces. For those of you blessed by the metric system, one fluid ounce is very nearly 30ml. Egg sizing varies by country so go check Wikipedia for that shit.
Finally, stated measures in the recipes are geared toward an average, healthy, U.S. adult male consuming two or maybe three cocktails in an evening.
You think a drink with a mere three ingredients and a garnish would be hard to fuck up. At bars we often clarify our order with “very little vermouth.” (“Like what, a half ounce?”)
Anyone who cares about cocktails has a “bad Manhattan” story: you go to an unfamiliar restaurant, order a bourbon or rye Manhattan, and get back a sickly-red sugar bomb with a heavy hit of maraschino cherry syrup and a faint aftertaste of whiskey. You switch to beer for the remainder of your stay, and hope that the food, at least, is not stuck in 1985.
- 2 oz. whiskey (bourbon or rye)
- ½ to ¾ oz. sweet vermouth
- Dash or two Angostura bitters
Stir; strain into chilled cocktail glass; add cherry.
Variations: ¼ oz. dry ¼ oz. sweet vermouth (Manhattan Perfect); ½ oz. dry vermouth (Manhattan Dry; best with bourbon). Use orange twist instead of cherry with both.
This is a place where you should play with the ratios and amount of bitters. Our preferences land here; 5:1 and beyond seem like chilled whiskey in a glass, 2:1 like chilled vermouth. People also like to throw a shitton of bitters in the thing, but we think it should blush, not bleed.
A martini without vermouth is not a martini. A martini with too much vermouth is not a martini. A martini with olive brine is just gross.
- 2 oz. gin or vodka
- ¼ to ½ oz. dry vermouth
- One dash orange bitters (optional)
Stir, or shake; strain into chilled cocktail glass (use fine strain if shaken); add olive or two.
Variations: all in the garnish: lemon twist, lemon peel, cocktail onion (the Gibson). You can throw a pinch of salt in and shake for someone that wants a dirty martini. Also interesting, the Coudal ‘Perfect’ ‘martini’, linked above, goes for a slush effect with extensive shaking, though their vermouth aversion is silly. If you are also averse to vermouth, go straight to the Fitty-Fitty.
A cocktail nearly obliterated by the end of the 20th century, turned into a blenderful of sugar and shame along with the margarita. If a daiquiri served up goes warm, you’re not drinking it fast enough.
- 2 oz. silver rum
- 1 oz. lime juice
- ½ oz. simple syrup
Shake, fine strain into chilled cocktail glass, garnish with lime wedge.
Variations: the drier Hemingway Daiquiri subs grapefruit juice and Maraschino for the simple syrup and is exquisite. Use a half ounce of each instead of the simple, and drop the lime to ¾ oz. (8:3:2:2).
A Gimlet is made with gin or vodka instead of rum. (And Rose’s sweetened lime juice, not fresh juice and simple, but, ugh.)
You can push the lime and sugar down further if you want, but not much.
Amari can be unsubtle. A traditional equal-parts negroni mostly tastes like Campari to us, increasing the proportion of base spirit rounds out the drink. You’re also replacing sugar-calories with alcohol-calories, always a win.
- 1½ oz. gin
- ¾ oz. Campari
- ¾ oz. sweet vermouth
Stir, strain into chilled cocktail glass or rocks glass (with one big rock, if you have ’em). Garnish with orange twist or peel.
Variations: blanc vermouth or dry vermouth work well. The Boulevardier and Old Pal, below, are taxonomically similar to it, with whiskey instead of gin. If at a well-equipped bar, try a white negroni (gin, Suze, Lillet). The only thing a bottle of Suze will do at your house is collect dust.
Some insist on the bitters/sugar cube/water routine. We say: if you have the simple, use it. Sugar water is sugar water. Besides, a cube is a fixed amount of sugar. Simple gives you better control. If it’s not clear from the rest of this guide, we prefer drier cocktails. Depending on your preference, age, or the age of the person you learned to drink from, you may use soda water. Not our bag. By all means, do it, but please use restraint. Muddling the fruit, though, is verboten.
- 2 oz. bonded (100-proof) or higher bourbon or rye
- Sugar cube, splash water (or ¼ oz. 1:1 simple)
- Two to three dashes angostura bitters
Soak sugar cube with bitters in double rocks or mixing glass. Tweedy types may start with the cube on a bar napkin to soak away excess bitters. You’re not tweedy. Add just enough water and break up cube with muddler. Add whiskey, then ice to fill (or pour over big rock, if you have it). Express citrus twist or peel (bourbon: orange, rye: lemon) over glass and drop in. Add cherry if desired.
Variations: enough to start holy wars. Some muddle the peel before adding the whiskey (not the same as smashing an orange slice) but that doesn’t seem to bring much of an effect to the final product. Angostura may be substituted with any bitters on hand. Demerara sugar is a common sub, particularly in the form of twee, overpriced “rough” sugar lumps.
We have been known to dump whiskey over rocks, add a few dashes of bitters, stir with a finger, and stare for a second at an orange before deciding: fuck it, it’s close enough.
Like a Negroni, but with bourbon. That’s it.
Delicious, powerful, and somewhat dry, the Old Pal is a great preprandial (and if you’re like we are, also mid- and postprandial) drink.
- 2 oz. rye whiskey (Rittenhouse preferred)
- ¾ oz. Campari
- ¾ oz. dry vermouth
Stir; strain over rocks or up, to your preference. Add lemon twist or peel.
Variations: though heresy for a negroni-like drink, we always go without the citrus. We also love this drink at ratios from 8:3:3 to 1:1:1. (We may like Rittenhouse too much.)
“The Reason to Have Peychaud’s and Absinthe” would be too long a name.
- 2 oz. rye whiskey
- Sugar cube, splash water (or ¼ oz. 1:1 simple)
- 3 or more dashes Peychaud’s
- Dash of Angostura
- Rinse absinthe
Assemble bitters and sugar (refer to the Old-Fashioned recipe for the sugar cube routine) and whiskey in a mixing glass; add ice, stir. Rinse chilled double rocks glass with absinthe. A lot of recipes say “discard excess”. Don’t. If you overpour, you could put it back in the bottle; or, you know, into a small glass with ice and let it louche, to be served as a back to the sazerac. Just a suggestion. Strain drink into prepared glass, express lemon twist/peel over drink and drop in.
Variations: please don’t. Don’t serve on the rocks, don’t substitute bitters.
The French Quarter (lit.: ‘old square’). A good way to annoy your bartender as they rack up eight items at their station while tickets pile up.
- 1 oz. rye whiskey
- ¾ oz. cognac
- ¾ oz. sweet vermouth
- ¼ oz. Bénédictine
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s
- 2 dashes Angostura
Stir, strain into chilled double rocks glass. Add lemon peel.
“A dry martini,” he said. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.”
“Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”
Would if we could, Ian, but those ingredients are either reformulated or extinct. Cocchi Americano is widely available (the same importer also brings in Dolin) so that’s our go-to for replacing the Kina Lillet. Problem is, one bottle of it makes fifty Vespers and only lasts a couple weeks. It is both quite sweet and quinine-bitter so you can hardly put more of it in the drink. Corpse Revivers require a full ounce, but that still won’t get you through it. We’ve taken to making spritzers with it.
Remember, Ian Fleming was a lush. Drink but one of these.
- 3 oz. gin
- 1 oz. neutral 100-proof vodka
- ½ oz. Cocchi Americano
Shake, fine strain into chilled coupe, add lemon peel or twist.
Variations: shake longer and skip the fine strain if you want the totally-to-spec version, but Fleming was just trying to make Bond, well, Bond.
Fuck. Okay. (Deep breaths. We can do this.)
Most margaritas in America are execrable. (Some of them are merely very bad.) A trend of “correcting” saccharine margaritas with light lager beer apparently led to InBev creating some unholy beverage-like product that we try not to think about.
Use good triple sec and fresh lime juice, nothing else. The standard proportions are insane, and you want to make that expensive liqueur last, so think twice before increasing it. (Psst: if you want it to be sweeter, add simple syrup.)
Rimming is still the enemy! Put a pinch of kosher salt in the shaker, it’s more consistent. In bit of excess inspired by Liquid Intelligence, we use 5 or 6 drops from a dropper bottle containing 20w/w% saline.
- 2 oz. silver tequila
- 1 oz. fresh lime juice
- fat ½ oz. triple sec For sweet tooths, stop at ¾ oz. triple sec and add ¼ oz. (or more) simple
- Pinch or so salt (encouraged, but optional)
Shake, fine strain into double rocks glass filled with ice.
Variations: replace Some of the tequila with mezcal, or a small amount of the lime juice with lemon juice. In general, tequila and lime pair with capsaicin, so you can easily add jalapeño or habanero; you don’t need a lot of heat for an improvement.
Use the egg white unless you need to avoid raw foods; it also gives you a chance to shake a whiskey-based drink. You can optionally doodle a design with bitters on the resulting foam. Just like a real craft bartender.
If you don’t have great white/yolk separation skills, strain the yolk away with your fingers and wash your hands.
- 2 oz. whiskey (we prefer bourbon)
- ¾ - 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
- ½ oz. 1:1 simple
- Egg white (about 1 oz., from a large egg)
Assemble ingredients and dry shake vigorously, then add ice and shake normally. Fine strain into cocktail glass.
Variations: some people like their ‘sours’ quite sweet; e.g. Dave Arnold’s Rittenhouse sour uses only ½ oz. lemon juice and a whopping ¾ oz. of simple. Best to ask both how tart and how sweet someone wants the drink to be.
- 2 oz. cognac or similar brandy
- ¾ - 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
- ¾ oz. triple sec
Shake, strain into cocktail glass (fine strain if preferred). Lemon twist garnish.
Variations: there’s a reason we put this next to the whiskey sour: you can use egg white (hint, hint). You can also use lime juice instead of lemon juice, w/w/o the egg white.
One of the early (and still one of the best) cocktails of the “craft” movement. As conceived it is a batch-preperation cocktail, but with a little patience, a kitchen scale, and a little ginger root, you can make a great one-shot version with no prep.
The goals are to reduce waste, equipment needed, and cleaning time, and to avoid the annoyance of measuring a volume of honey.
- 2 oz. blended Scotch
- about 10g honey
- ¼ oz. water
- ¾ oz. lemon juice
- About a half-inch chunk of fresh ginger, grated or ground The finer you get the ginger, the less you will need. A microplane works, or muddling the shit out of coarsely diced chunks in the other part of the shaker.
- Float of peaty single malt
Add water to mixing tin, place on kitchen scale, tare. Squeeze in desired amount of honey and stir until dissolved. Add ginger, lemon juice and blended Scotch, then stir again and taste test (it should have a nice kick). Shake and fine strain into rocks glass with ice. Add float of peaty single malt and lemon peel.
Variations: too much effort? Try the Debonaire cocktail: 2½ oz. moderately peaty Scotch (think Highland Park 12, or Johnnie Black), ¾ oz. Domaine de Canton. Stir, strain into chilled cocktail glass.
Scotch is sweet, Drambuie is sweeter, which is why the traditional Nail (2:1 or even 1:1) is a sugar-bomb you associate with your grandmother. It took much coaxing (and a few Penicillins) before we were willing to even try this.
- 2 oz. blended Scotch
- ½ oz. Drambuie Not ready to invest in a bottle of Drambuie? Neither are we; buy a couple 50ml airline bottles.
Stir; strain into double rocks glass over ice; add lemon peel.
Variations: there’s little sugar in the drink, but nothing to offset it, either. For improved balance, float a heavily-peated single malt or build with a peated blended Scotch. A dash or so of bitters helps too.
This is just a weird one, and we’re saying that as lovers of both rye and Fernet-Branca. Against the laws of nature or something. But the combination works.
- 2 oz. rye whiskey Supposed to be canadian whisky, but fuck that. Rittenhouse.
- ¼ oz. Fernet-Branca
- ¼ oz. 1:1 simple
Stir, strain into chilled cocktail glass, add orange peel.
Truly anytime cocktails, but traditionally associated with hair-of-the-dog or brunch drinking. Both of those are bad ideas, but hey, it’s your liver and your headache.
Again, the original formulation used Kina Lillet (cf. Vesper), and again, we use Cocchi Americano.
- 1¼ oz. gin
- 1 oz. lemon juice
- 1 oz. Cocchi Americano
- ¾ oz. triple sec
- Rinse absinthe
Rinse chilled cocktail glass with absinthe. Shake, fine strain into prepared glass. Add cherry.
There are two versions of this cocktail floating around: one with gin, one with cognac. The former is the superior one. Try the slightly sweet and less junipery Plymouth Gin over a London dry.
If you plan to serve a crowd, this takes a very short time to prebatch; reusable plastic champagne flutes work well, and you can draw 2 oz. and 6 oz. wash lines You would not think this is necessary. It is.on an exemplar with a marker so guests can pour their own.
à la minute
- 1 oz. gin
- ½ oz. lemon juice
- dashes 1:1 simple
- 4 or so oz. Brut champagne (or other very dry sparkling wine) This recipe is for 7-8 oz. champagne flutes. Scale up the Collins if serving in cougarware.
Stir the first three ingredients (a mini-Tom Collins base), fine strain into flute, fill with champagne. Add long lemon twist.
Variations: grapefruit juice works well; it’s less acidic and sweeter than lemon, so omit the simple.
prebatch, in one clean 750ml bottle; makes 10 to 12 servings
- 11 oz. Plymouth Navy Strength
- 5-6 oz. fresh lemon juice, fine strained
- 50g sugar
- Pinch kosher salt (not enough to be perceptibly salty; optional)
- 7 oz. distilled water
Put sugar, salt if using, gin, and strained lemon juice in the bottle; close and shake to dissolve. Add water and put on ice. Serving volume is around 2 oz., depending on how tart you make it.
The sugar cube is not so much to sweeten (which it will, slowly, as the drink sits) as for effect: it provides a rough surface for cavitation to continuously occur. The bitters will cause immediate foaming, so err on the side of less.
You can batch-prep by putting cubes in flutes, but do not allow the bitters or bubbly to sit idle, even for a minute. The transition is from dry to sweet, not sweet to flat.
- Brut champagne (or other very dry sparkling wine)
- Sugar cube
- Bitters of your choice
Place cube in champagne flute. A coupe may lose carbonation faster, but the real problem here is it doesn’t look as good. Hit with a dash of bitters, fill slowly with champagne and serve immediately.
Variations: instead of the sugar and bitters, use a barspoon or so of liqueur (St. Germain; crème de cassis for a Kir royale; or try crème de pêche for a cheater Bellini). Avoid Death in the Afternoon, a waste of good absinthe and even not-so-good bubbly.
You can use vodka here, but why? A common way to punch up the flavor is liquid smoke, so to cut the middleman out we just use mezcal.
This is one of the few drinks where eyeballing and winging it will work out fine, so feel free to change out or even omit anything but the tomato juice, hot sauce, and Worcestershire. Avoid going too hard on the capsaicin.
The Lea & Perrins contains anchovy, which we bolster with anchovy paste. There is no such thing as a vegan Bloody Mary. That doesn’t mean it is not delicious: it’s just not a Bloody Mary. We also assume that you do not consume tomato juice on the regular, so the thin but extremely convenient canned Campbell’s is backed up with double-concentrated tomato paste, a tube of which is handy to keep around anyway.
Hangover sufferers should omit the alcohol. Your liver took enough damage.
- 1 oz. silver tequila
- 1 oz. mezcal
- 5.5 oz. (one can) Campbell’s tomato juice
- Juice of ⅓ lemon (with wedge reserved for garnish) and ½ lime
- Four or five dashes Lea & Perrins
- Eight or so dashes Tabasco
- 1 tsp. prepared horseradish
- 1 tbsp. double-concentrated tomato paste
- 1 tsp. anchovy paste (optional, if you’re squeamish)
- Celery salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Put the citrus juice, tomato paste, anchovy paste, and Worcestershire in a pint glass. Break up the anchovy and tomato paste (an actual use for a muddler). Add rest of ingredients, cover with ice. Either roll the ingredients between two glasses or gently shake in an Boston shaker (rinse the tin promptly) to chill and mix without cracking the ice. Serve in situ with appropriate garnish.
Variations: endless. Some that spring to mind: Colman’s mustard instead of the horseradish; Frank’s Red Hot, Secret Aardvark, or whatever hot sauces; cayenne pepper, soy sauce.
Refreshing and bittersweet, the americano cocktail should be a brunchtime staple. Instead you get pitchers of Mimosas (which are awful no matter the format) and are left hoping that the French 75 will be on the menu because you know that trying to get an order of this through your server to the bartender will be hopeless.
- 1 part Campari
- 1 part sweet vermouth
- Soda to taste You could do as little as 1 part; we do about 3
Assemble in a larger double rocks glass or pint glass (or Collins, if you have it) with ice. Add the soda first, otherwise it will just float at the top. Garnish with orange twist.
Variations: the basic Campari & soda, or Cynar & soda.
Ah, yes. The alcoholic’s Crystal Light.
We’re not mad; this is sorely neglected as a restorative. You don’t want to consume more alcohol, and the amount is negligible in ¼ oz. of Angostura. You want something flavorful, and even diluted 50 times by soda, that much Ango is still powerful.
The deep ruby color is essential, and we recommend at least a dash per ounce, but you can go lighter.
- 6 - 12 dashes (⅛ to ¼ oz, depending) Angostura or other bitters
- 10 oz. soda
Put ice in a large glass (16 oz. or more), pour soda (leave room at the top), dash bitters (it will foam, which is why you left room), stir with straw (up-and-down round-and-round), and top it off. cf. Champagne cocktail: if you add the bitters first, it will foam even more Lime garnish.
You don’t need to run out and buy all the ingredients: all you need to do is visit a well-equipped bar with a knowledgable bartender on a slower weekday.
The Red Hook is named for a Brooklyn neighborhood, so it should be no surprise that it’s a variant. Punt e Mes (a sweet vermouth with bitters) is used instead of Amer Picon (huh? what? exactly.) and dry vermouth. The playful label is a normal Carpano vermouth label with a jaunty, chunky white-on-red PUNT e MES serif applied.
The Red Hook is fairly sweet. The Meat Hook corrects this, but not in the usual way with bitters or acidic juice. We’ve described it to bartenders dozens of times: “A Red Hook, with a float of Ardbeg.”
- 2 oz. rye whiskey
- ½ oz. Punt e Mes
- ½ oz. Maraschino (use less for a Red Hook)
Stir; strain into chilled cocktail glass.
Variations: float a peaty single malt on top for a Meat Hook.
A bittersweet, peaty, wintery cocktail. It’s also dead-simple, with no make-ahead time investment and no cream. Unusual for using the yolk. Not recommended unless you like both Cynar (pronounced CHEE-nahr) and heavily peated Scotch.
- 1½ oz. peaty single-malt Scotch (e.g. Ardbeg or Laphroaig)
- 1½ oz. Cynar
- 1 whole large egg (about 1½ oz.)
Dry shake ingredients until completely incorporated, then add ice and shake normally. Fine strain into cocktail glass, top with grated nutmeg.
Revived by cocktail luminary Murray Stenson, the Last Word seems simple on paper but is far greater than the sum of its parts. Sweet, tart, herbal, strong, and is flavorful from the first, frigid sip to the last, slightly cool one.
The Final Ward almost feels like a cheat: it swaps out two ingredients, and the creator named it after himself. If you try it, though, you’ll be in love.
- ¾ oz. gin
- ¾ oz. lime
- ¾ oz. Maraschino
- ¾ oz. green Chartreuse
Shake, strain into cocktail glass (fine strain if you prefer).
Variations: the Final Ward replaces gin with rye and lime with lemon.
Developed to highlight vermouth and counter the perception that it’s nonessential to the martini. It also, ahem, helps you go through dry vermouth that’s about to go off.
- 1½ oz. Tanqueray (or other very junipery gin)
- 1½ oz. Dolin dry vermouth
- 2 dashes orange bitters
Stir with wet ice in mixing tin longer than usual, about 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass, garnish with lemon peel.
The primary ingredient for this is Angostura bitters. Most recipes call for a full ounce of orgeat, which we find too cloying. Dropping it down a quarter ounce and increasing the rye by same also makes the ratios easier to remember (4:3:3:3). Fun to mess with. Equal parts is more agreeable. The bold may want to try a full ounce of rye and ½ oz. ea. orgeat and lemon (2:2:1:1).
It is hard for a home bartender to go through orgeat unless you tiki the fuck out for a while. You can pick up the smaller bottles of B. G. Reynold’s and/or make a lot of orgeat lemonade.
- 1 oz. Angostura bitters (pop the regulator off or just be patient dashing it out) Be careful, ango will stain everything
- ¾ oz. bonded (100-proof) rye whiskey
- ¾ oz. orgeat
- ¾ oz. lemon juice
Shake, fine strain into cocktail glass, stand back.
We are admittedly not fans of tiki drinks; in general they are sugar papering over a disconcerting quantity of alcohol in a single glass. But the Trinidad sour is not for everyone.
- 1 oz. aged rum
- ½ oz. overproof rum
- ½ oz. cognac
- ¾ oz. crème de pêche
- ½ oz. lemon juice
- ½ oz. simple syrup
Shake, strain into double rocks glass, fill with ice.
Are we allowed to put our own cocktail here? Sure.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and the bossman, Hernando, had a bottle of Suze on his desk we kept trying to find a use for. As for the ‘Moxie’, it is a now-rare cola flavored with gentian.
- 1½ oz. mezcal
- ¾ oz. Suze
- ½ oz. lime juice
- ½ oz. demerara simple syrup
Shake, strain into collins glass with ice, fill with soda. Lime wedge garnish.
When friends started poking for cocktail and spirits recommendations, we went to look at The Sweethome—and promptly recoiled at the three-piece shaker recommendation. The first draft was about three things: buy a tin shaker and pint glasses, your ice at home is shit, and the only whiskey you need is Rittenhouse. Everything else has grown from that.
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