So recently I was put on some medications that made it so I couldn’t drink, so I decided to do the next best thing and fantasize about drinking! I like to be a thorn in some bartender’s sides by asking for some kind of strange drinks, or asking for normal drinks in a strange way - i.e. Ordering a Cuba Libre...the bartender wasn’t too happy after he looked that up in his little black book, but that is like bartending 101. I got some advice from a family member that you shouldn’t drink to get drunk, you should drink for the flavor of the drinks. While I don’t always agree with that mindset, I do think it is kind of sad the state of some bars...bars where you can only get a drink if the ingredients are in the name. So I did some research over the past 5 years of old school drinks that still hold up today, and I figured I would share a few of my favorites with everyone.
5:2 parts Bourbon to Vermouth, dash of bitters. Cherry garnish. This is non negotiable. Chilled, and served up.
Why you should drink it:
I’m going to start this one out with why I started drinking them. The first one I had was when I turned 21, with drink tickets from a hotel. It was the worst thing I ever had, but I kept drinking it because darnit, it was cool. Eventually I started introducing myself to the wonderful world of whiskey and realized that there is a drink where you water down whiskey with fortified wine. More importantly though, I sought out the advice of my elders, and would ask anyone that I met who was over the age of 50 what they used to drink when they were young. My grandfather said he drank Manhattans and my dad drank 7 & 7’s. I know its probably stupid, but I like to honor them with my drinks when I am out, so I usually think of them when I get one.
As for the drink itself, it is really potent, and if made well with good ingredients it can actually mask the taste of the alcohol quite well. That isn’t to say it won't taste like bourbon...it will. Quite a bit. But it won’t taste like burning. As much. Some places add some cherry juice to the drink, and it usually makes it a slightly different, but still good, drink. Of all the drinks I will list, this one is the best one to spend more money on the main ingredient. Maker’s Mark or Crown Royal are the preferred brands for me, leaning towards Maker’s. I will also throw out that most places will make this drink ‘up’ (served in a martini glass), but I really prefer it to be served ‘on the rocks’ (with ice) and ‘short’ (10-14 oz glass instead of a 20 oz...I did once get a tall Manhattan at a full pint, and wound up pretty well smashed after that. Only got charged for one drink, too!) If you can find a place that knows how to make this, and makes it well, you can probably be confident they can make most classical drinks.
Tom Collins Preparation:
Gin, citrus, soda. Served in a collins glass - yes, they are related! Cherry, orange, lime, or lemon garnish.
Why you should drink it:
I once dated a girl who was raised by her farmer dad, who was probably in his mid 60’s. Again, I asked what he liked to drink and he told me a Tom Collins. After a trip to wikipedia to figure out what it was, I ordered it at the next bar I was at and had the best one I ever had in my life. This is a drink that can be made several different ways. The ideal method is squeezing a lemon or lime into the glass, muddling some sugar or adding syrup, then pouring in gin, adding ice, then adding soda. You can’t beat fresh with this. If you can’t get fresh, it is usually just sweetened lime juice, gin, and soda. Some places put grenadine in there, which makes the drink a frilly pink, so I advise you request it without if they prepare it that way. The drink itself, if done right, winds up tasting like a soda shop Sprite. If they mess it up, you can usually taste the herby flavor of the Gin more than the citrus, but that isn’t a huge problem. You can also omit the soda and wind up with a gimlet. You can then sub out gin for vodka, and have a gimlet. And gimlets are pretty great.
equal parts Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Campari. My personal taste is for a little bit more Campari. Chilled and served up. Orange rind garnish.
Why you should drink it:
I would be a liar if I said I didn’t just like the color of Campari. It winds up being a neat shade of red. This is definitely a drink to be enjoyed on its own...after a meal has finished, before a meal has started, or as the last drink of the night. The campari has a very odd flavor to it - at no point do you not taste an herby bitterness to it, but as soon as you look past that you get a super sweet fruity taste. It offers a lot of complexity, or at least enough to finish a glass. Plus, if you already have the Campari it goes really well with soda on its own. Overall, there isn’t much you can do with the drink except buy better gin, but it will be overpowered by the Campari no matter what. This is a good test of a bar’s knowledge and ingredients. If they stock campari, and if they know why they stock campari (its used for all of 2 drinks) then they are probably reputable.
White Russian (AKA: caucasian) Preparation
: 2 parts vodka, 1 part cream, 1 part Kahlua.
Why you should drink it
: Because the dude abides, man. I actually held off on having one of these for a while just because I never thought to order one at a bar. Then we had a company outing to a bowling alley where drinks were free flowing, so I figured I would go with my bowling instincts and grab one. These are a drink that is really easy going...I haven’t met many people who don’t like it, and it is difficult to taste the alcohol through the cream. When I first started going out to bars to drink, this was my chaser for well whiskey shots, and it is really easy to remember the guy who starts off his drinks with a shot and a white russian. There are a few variations that work really well: first, you can replace the vodka with chocolate or vanilla vodka to give it a little bit more character. My favorite though is replacing the cream with Rumchata, thus making it Cinnamon Toast Vodka. Kid’s cannot see why it is so delicious. Also, if a bartender serves it to you stirred (cream already distributed thoroughly) feel free to judge them.
Rusty Nail Preparation:
2 parts scotch, 1 part Drambuie. Cherry garnish.
Why you should drink it:
To preemptively answer your question of “Drambuie..what is it?”, Drambuie is whiskey mixed with honey, herbs, and spices. It is cloyingly sweet on its own, with an almost cinnamon like taste. Oh, and its 80 proof. So you take scotch. Add honey and herbs to it. And mix it with scotch. This whole cocktail is 80 proof. And that is beautiful. And you would not believe how good it tasted for that. Normal scotch on its own has a musty quality that some (like me) enjoy, but the Drambuie overpowers most of the scotch taste with how darn sweet it is, while the scotch cuts down the sweetness of the Drambuie. I won’t say that you can’t taste the alcohol, because you can, but you would be surprised at how easily drinkable this stuff can be. It feels a bit thicker than a normal drink, and it gets a lot of the honey and spice taste more than the whiskey taste. This drink isn’t complex. It isn’t subtle. It isn’t polite. You can be a girl, and this one will still put hair on your chest. It is 80 proof, though, and it is darn tasty.
Honorable mentions: Harvey Wallbanger (screwdriver with Galliano), Moscow Mule, Dark and Stormy, Sazerac, and the Corpse Reviver #2.
So Dtoid...what are you drinking?
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