You can tell a lot about a guy by what he chooses to drink. Is he sipping on a Gin and Tonic? Or is he appreciating a 12 Year Old Laphroaig in a specialized Glencairn Whisky glass?
One thing is for sure, if a glass filled with pink liquid is in his hand, garnished with whatever the fruit store still had in stock, feel free to expel him from our gender.
Jokes aside, we are free to drink whatever we want – except Single Malts with Green Tea. If you desecrate a Whisky in that way I will hunt you down. But the truth of the matter is we are judged based on what we drink. You can’t cradle a Singapore Sling at a fancy Cocktail Party and expect people to take you seriously.
So today I’ll be going through 5 classic concoctions that will gain you the respect of any hardened liquor enthusiast. Not only what they are, but how to make them at home. With Singapore in the midst of a cocktail revolution, now couldn’t be a better time to drink one of these babies at a swanky bar or at your very own cocktail party.
The Old Fashioned
The first cocktail, the first choice of all cocktail snobs worldwide. When cocktails were first invented, a cocktail was described as a simple drink of liquor, sugar, bitters and a splash of water. The recipe was bounced around, resulting in the Old Fashioneds of a few years ago muddled with cherries and oranges, topped up with sprite.
With the cocktail revolution and the increased interest in vintage cocktails, the old fashioned has been restored to its former glory. I am borrowing a recipe from Jeffrey Morgenthaler, of Clyde Common, an amazing bartender. Do take note that with simple cocktails like this, the quality of the liquor matters significantly. Get a good aged bourbon such as Elijah Craig or Maker’s Mark.
Recipe ¼ oz. 2:1 Simple Syrup* 2 oz. Good Bourbon 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters**
Stir ingredients together, serve on the rocks, preferably a very large ice cube if you have one. Garnish with a large orange peel, squeezing the oils over the top.
*Make a simple syrup of sugar and water in a 2 to 1 ratio, feel free to mix it up with any sweetener you fancy. Maple syrup, honey syrup, agave syrup, as long as it makes sense, go for it. **Available at all good liquor stores, this indispensable ingredient should be at every home bar.
No other cocktail has been the issue of such fierce debate, and no other cocktail has been so woefully misunderstood. Shaken or stirred? Less or no Vermouth? Olive or lemon peel?
For the mixing method, I would stir it in a metal tin to chill the drink down even more, and I won’t shake it. Rule of thumb, If your cocktail has all clear ingredients, stir it. If it has any cloudy ingredients such as citrus juice or fruit pulp, shake it. The main issue I have with most martinis is the Vermouth. Most bartenders abhor it, resolving to use less and less of it, resulting in martinis with merely the scent of Vermouth. There is even a Winston Churchill martini, where you drink a glass of gin while looking at a bottle of vermouth.
For those who don’t know, Vermouth is a fortified wine, available in dry, sweet or red forms. Yes you read that correctly, it’s a WINE. Albeit fortified slightly, Vermouth will lose its herbal aroma and acidity if it isn’t kept chilled and used fresh. Yet so many bars leave vermouth on the counter, letting it slowly oxidize and lose all of its complexity. Its no wonder everyone hates the bloody thing.
Recipe 2`1/2 oz. Gin* ½ oz. Dry Vermouth 1 Dash Orange Bitters**
Stir all ingredients with ice in a metal tin. Strain, Garnish with lemon twist. Or olives, up to you really.
*Chill the Gin beforehand for good Martinis. Freeze for great ones. **Yes Orange bitters. Before the cocktail purists crucify me, the original martini calls for orange bitters, and it ties the drink together beautifully.
My personal favourite at the moment. Bitter herbal, just a little sweet and boozy as all hell. Looks really classy to boot. The Negroni has its roots in a cocktail known as the Americano, a before dinner drink of Campari and Red Vermouth, topped with club soda. One Boozehound of a Italian General wanted a stronger drink, and subbed the soda for Gin.
Campari is a aperitif, a drink meant to be had before a meal to help stimulate your appetite. Bitter and herbal, the bitterness really helps to make you hungry. With the rediscovery of very bitter Italian liqueurs in modern mixology, drinking Campari and red vermouth, which is bittersweet, will be a good place to start.
Recipe 1 oz. Gin 1 oz. Campari 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
Stir over ice. Garnish with orange slice, serve in rocks glass with ice cubes.
There is some contention on what Whisky to use on this classic cocktail. Purists will condemn any Whiskey not made with a large percentage of rye. And they’d be right to. Rye gives a great spiciness that plays wonderfully with the sweet Vermouth. If you can’t find good rye Whiskey, a solid Bourbon will do. If you substitute with Scotch, it becomes a Rob Roy, a whole new cocktail altogether.
A maraschino cherry is the classic garnish for this drink. Do try to find good quality cherries for your bar, not the neon red corn syrup loaded bombs popular in most clubs. Cherries give a hint of sweetness to the cocktail. A nice twist would be to add a small amount of maraschino liqueur into the cocktail, further upping the complexity.
Recipe 2 oz. Rye Whiskey ½ oz. Sweet Vermouth 2 dashes Angostura Bitters ¼ oz. Maraschino Liqueur (optional)
Stir over ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with cherry.
Now you may notice most of the cocktails here are dry, but that doesn’t mean I dislike sweet cocktails. I hate overly sweet ones, but cocktails that toe the line between sweet and dry are my favourite. One such cocktail is the Aviation, a truly beautiful cocktail. Made with Crème de Violette, a Violet flavoured liqueur, it gives the drink a surreal light blue tint. Crème Yvette or Parfait Amour can also be used.
This is a cocktail you would drink near the end of a meal, or after it. Sweet cocktails shouldn’t be drunk before eating as it may affect the taste of the meal, and may not whet the appetite as much as a bitter or dry one.
Recipe 2 oz. Gin ½ oz. Maraschino Liqueur ¼ oz. Crème de Violette ¾ oz. Lemon Juice*
Shake with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with Maraschino Cherries
*Fresh lemon juice. If you have to use some artificial crap, don’t bother.
So now you have a few cocktails under your belt. Go out there and explore! Go to good cocktail bars, and if you like a particular drink, tell him/her to make you something similar.
Trust your bartender, utilize their wealth of knowledge. Also make sure to drink these concoctions with good company. Drinks taste better when there is someone to taste them with… #justsaying