One of the most challenging things of being one of the only craft bartenders in Kirkland is that people aren’t used to a bartender that can make a wide range of well made cocktails. Most bartenders in my town have one cocktail that they make the best, and most likely it’s a slight variation of a lemon drop, cosmopolitan, or mojito. These are all good cocktails but are, more often than not, tossed together by some hack more interested in taking home the woman sitting next to you than actually crafting an enjoyable drink.
What makes my nights enjoyable is when I get the guests that want to step outside of their comfort zones and ask me to guide them there. Guests can be so open to new food, wine and beer experiences but when it comes to cocktails, it’s an extra dirty vodka martini with extra olives, an onion and a twist on the side, or nothing. It saddens me when someone picks up my cocktail menu, takes a quick glance, and says, “I’ll just have a Lemon Drop.” I love to talk about spirits and cocktails. I bring in specialty items and print unique drinks on the menu in order to spur conversation.
Classic cocktails have passed the test of time for a reason…they’re good, no reason to mess with them. I love when I make a cosmopolitan, by the standardized recipe, and guests comment on how good it is. Yes, it’s a great drink, unfortunately over time every bar jockey has personalized it in some way that nobody knows what it is supposed to taste like.
Here is my list of the most commonly ordered cocktails and my recommendations for those that want something better:
The most basic of sours, the Lemon Drop cocktail, with its flavorless base spirit, citrus, sugar and not much else, comes off boring and one note.
1.5 oz Ketel One Citroen
1.5oz fresh lemon juice
0.5oz simple syrup
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass with a sugared rim.
Moving beyond the Lemon Drop. The Corpse Reviver #2 was created in the late 1800’s as a “hair of the dog” cocktail. It is very light, refreshing, full of citrus, and very well balanced. It is also my go to drink to convert people that think they don’t like gin. People are surprised at how much they like it.
Corpse Reviver #2:
1oz fresh lemon juice
1oz Cocchi Americano(or, Lillet Blanc)
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with 3-4 drops of absinthe and garnish with a brandied cherry.
The Cosmopolitan was invented in South Beach by Cheryl Cook and standardized by Dale DeGroff. It first gained notoriety when Madonna was seen drinking one at the Rainbow Room in NY while under DeGroff’s direction. Now thanks to Carrie and Samantha the “Cosmo” is the pink drink of every woman still living the Sex In The City dream. I have nothing against the drink itself, it’s a good cocktail. I do, however, look forward to the day I get an order for one and think to myself, “wow, it’s been a while since I’ve made one of these!”
1.5oz Absolut Citron
1oz cranberry juice
.25oz fresh lime juice
Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with an orange twist.
For those that like their Cosmos but want to branch out The La Floridita is usually what I recommend as a first step. It is layered flavors of spice, chocolate, pomegranate, vanilla and citrus. While balanced, is great for people who like their cocktails on the sweeter side. And yes it’s pink.
Lastly, one of the horrors of modern mixology, the Sour Apple Martini. Dekuyper’s Sour Apple Pucker is a cheaply made, artificially flavored liqueur, which means it’s nasty, it has no place behind my bar. Unfortunately, I still get calls for this drink so I’ve had to put together a cocktail with a similar flavor profile using fresh and naturally flavored ingredients. It has more of a real sour apple flavor as opposed to the dirty Jolly Rancher flavor of the original.
The “Fresh” Sour Apple Cocktail:
1.5oz Absolut Pear
.75oz Berentzen ApfelKorn
1oz pineapple juice
.5oz fresh lemon juice
.25oz honey syrup
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with a thin sliced apple