In case you haven’t noticed, the 20s are roaring back in a big way – perhaps to get us in the mood for the 2020s! Art deco, jazz, feathers and flapper fashion are shaking to the surface of style again, and you can wash it all down with these classic cocktails.
Classic cocktails such as the Old Fashioned, the Sidecar and the Singapore Sling call on the art of the bartender to muddle and mix, and often use antiquated elements such as bitters, sugar cubes and maraschino cherries (and, yes, organic ones exist!) – which were the height of cocktail trends about a century ago. Classic cocktails also often use gin, which was very popular before the days of bubblegum-flavored wine, bacon vodka and Four Loco.
Obviously, these drink recipes come from a time when sugar was not the devil, but rather a treat to enjoy – so if you prefer, use agave syrup instead of sugar syrup and leave off the sugared rims if you are watching your sweets intake. Opt for organic fruits when possible to garnish the drinks – even better if those oranges come from your own backyard!
1. The Old Fashioned – Quite possibly the first drink to be called a “cocktail,” this bourbon-based drink should be served in a short, round 8-12 ounce glass (also known appropriately as an “Old Fashioned glass”). Put one sugar cube into the glass and top with a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters and a splash of soda water. Muddle (smash it up) until the sugar is dissolved. Fill the glass with ice cubes, add bourbon to the top of the glass, stir and top with an orange slice and maraschino cherry. If you don’t like the taste of bourbon, try Canadian or Tennessee whiskey for a twist.
2. The Sidecar – This popular French cocktail comes from a time when Americans were still enamored with La Belle France and used two French liquors, Cointreau and Cognac (the latter of which is now known as “YAK” in youthful bars and videos around the world). Invented around World War I in either London or Paris, this strong cocktail is best served in a cocktail glass with a sugar rim. To make it, combine one part Cognac, one part Cointreau (Grand Marnier or other Triple Sec) and one part lemon juice over ice; shake, then strain into a glass and garnish with a lemon twist (a long slice of lemon rind that is twisted into a spiral). The “English” version of The Sidecar is weaker and uses more Cointreau and less Cognac, so try this option if you’re a lightweight.
3. The Tom Collins – Few cocktails can claim to come from a hoax – but “Have you seen Tom Collins?” was the practical joke question of the late 1800s (Tom Collins did not exist). That is, until the “Father of American Mixology” Jerry Thomas memorialized a drink with the same name, forever answering the question with: “Yes, he’s right here in my glass!” To make a Tom Collins, add 1 ½ ounces gin (Bombay Sapphire is quite nice), ½ ounce simple (sugar) syrup and the juice of ½ lemon to a shaker filled with ice. Shake, then strain into a tall glass (also called a “Collins” glass) filled with ice. Top with soda water, stir, then garnish with an orange slice and maraschino cherry.
4. The Singapore Sling – Invented by a Raffles hotel bartender in Singapore sometime around the turn of the last century, this tropical pink cocktail uses fresh juices and a combination of liquor and liqueur to pack a punch. While many imitators exist that use the horrific “sweet and sour mix” instead of fruit juice, you will know the real deal by the foamy top. Here’s how to make it: Fill your shaker with ice, then add 2 ounces of gin, 1 ounce of cherry brandy (like Cherry Heering), ½ ounce of Benedictine liqueur, 2 ounces of pineapple juice, ¾ ounce fresh lime juice, 2 dashes of cherry grenadine and a dash of Angostura bitters. Shake lightly then strain into a chilled tall “Collins” glass with a few chunks of ice. Top with soda water and garnish with a pineapple slice, orange wheel and maraschino cherry.
5. The Martini – THE classic cocktail, the martini is all style – and almost all liquor. First thing’s first: A gin martini should never be shaken, as it bruises the gin (unless you like your gin bruised, like 007 obviously does). A “wet” martini uses more dry vermouth, a “dry” martini uses less dry vermouth, and a “dirty” martini adds a touch of olive brine to the mix. Master the art of martini making and you will have earned your bartending black belt. To make a classic gin martini, pour four parts gin and one part dry vermouth over ice in a mixing glass, stir well, then quickly strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with one green olive, and enjoy!