Here at Broquet, we liken the skill of mixing a quality cocktail to that of a well-mannered beard. In other words, it’s an essential skill that all must possess. For that reason, one of our favorite reads is The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David Embury. This book is an encyclopedia of the 20th century cocktail. It is a must read for aspiring bartenders and cocktail nerds looking for a basic understanding of cocktail construction.
Embury actually began his adult life as a tax attorney in New York City before deciding to pursue his bar tending passion (we’re pretty sure he made the right choice).
According to Embury, there are five basic principles for fashioning a quality cocktail:
- It should be made from good-quality liquors.
- It should whet rather than dull the appetite.
- It should be dry, with sufficient alcoholic flavor, yet smooth.
- It should be pleasing to the eye.
- It should be well iced.
We couldn’t agree with him more. That being said, we firmly believe that in life, and in cocktails, a little creativity goes a long way. So we’ve put together a list of our favorite timeless cocktail recipes (with our recommendations for liquors, bitters, etc.). Then we threw in some simple twists that will up your cocktail game.
1. Old Fashioned
Before Dinner Cocktail
1 1/2 oz. bourbon or rye whiskey (Four Roses Small Batch, $35)
2 dashes bitters (Hella Bitter Aromatic Bitters, $10)
1 sugar cube
Place sugar cube in old-fashioned glass and saturate with bitters, add a dash of plain water.
Muddle until sugar dissolves.
Fill the glass with ice cubes and add whiskey.
Garnish with orange slice and a cocktail cherry.
For a more complex and warm flavored Old Fashioned, substitute a honey based simple syrup for the sugar cube and add 2 extra dashes of orange bitters (Hella Bitter Orange Bitters, $10).
Before Dinner cocktail
1 ½ oz. rye whiskey (Prichard’s Rye, $51)
½ oz. red vermouth (Interrobang, $18)
1 dash bitters (Fee Brothers 1864, $9)
Pour all ingredients into mixing glass with ice cubes. Stir well.
Strain into chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with cocktail cherry.
Kick this drink up a notch by tossing the cherry garnish and use an orange peel twist. Make sure you squeeze the twist over your cocktail to add the essential oils. The addition of citrus will give you a well balanced flavor.
After Dinner Cocktail
1 1/2 oz. rye whiskey (Basil Hayden’s, $45)
½ oz. absinthe (St. George Absinthe Verte, $70)
1 sugar cube
2 dashes bitters (Peychaud’s, $10)
Rinse a chilled old fashioned glass with the absinthe, add crushed ice and set aside.
Stir the remaining ingredients over ice and set aside.
Discard the ice and any excess absinthe from the prepared glass, then strain the drink into the glass.
Add a lemon peel for garnish.
Go old school! Substitute a cognac (Remy Martin 1738 Accord Royal, $50) for the rye whiskey to enjoy this cocktail in its true form. (This was how the drink was originally made prior to the American Civil War, as cognac became hard to obtain.)
All Day Cocktail
1 oz. Old Tom Gin (Tanqueray Old Tom Gin, $35)
1 oz. dry vermouth (Martini & Rossi Extra Dry Vermouth, $13)
1/2 bar spoon maraschino syrup
1/4 bar spoon absinthe (St. George Absinthe Verte, $70)
3 dashes orange bitters (Hella Bitter Orange Bitters, $10)
Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into cocktail glass.
Garnish with a cocktail cherry and a lemon zest twist.
Substitute maraschino with a cherry liqueur (Grand Marnier Natural Cherry Liqueur, $39) for a slightly sweeter cocktail that is easier to sip.