6 new cocktails you need to mix now

By / Wine + Drinks / December 25th, 2018 / 12
new cocktail from Attaboy

In the beginning, there were six: The Old Fashioned, the Martini, the Sidecar, the Jack Rose, the Daiquiri and the Manhattan.

For decades, home bartenders felt confident once they’d mastered those six, essential, post-war cocktails, as outlined in 1948 by David Embury in his hugely influential manual, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. That book has become less popular, of late, for a few reasons, not the least of which is that historian Wayne Curtis discovered that Embury, a tax lawyer, worked in his spare time to maintain segregation in the United States at a time when progressives were working to dismantle that system. Some drinks enthusiasts have struggled to hold on to the good in Embury — since there is plenty of smart advice in his book — but the debate will likely soon fizzle anyway, given that the “modern classic” cocktail revolution is finally making his six basics obsolete.

It’s not that you shouldn’t know how to make those six — you absolutely should. It’s just that, with the invention of dozens of new modern classic cocktails, the cocktail canon is now far larger, and a modern cocktail enthusiast will want to know how to make many more.

What’s a modern classic? It’s a drink invented relatively recently (generally after Tom Cruise’s onscreen performance as a bartender poet/flairmaster in 1988), that has become so well known and pervasive that you can order it at almost any cocktail bar, even when it’s not listed on the menu. If you’ve ever had a Paper Plane, a Bramble, an Aperol Spritz or even a Cosmopolitan, you’ve had a modern classic.

James Grant barmanager Wilfreds

James Grant

“I would imagine most people don’t even realize a lot of the drinks they order are only 15 or 20 years old, since so many of them have just been folded into the larger lexicon of classics,” says James Grant, Bar Manager at Wilfred’s in Edmonton. “But, whether they know it or not, it shows the great strides our industry has taken in such a short time. It always delights me when someone orders a Laphroaig Project with the same confidence they might order a Negroni.”

Invented in 2009 by Owen Westman of San Francisco’s Bourbon & Branch, the Laphroaig Project isn’t nearly as popular a modern classic as, say, a Paper Plane. In Edmonton, though, it became a regular “call drink,” after it was put on the menu at Three Boars by bartenders Chuck Elves and Jeff Savage. A call drink is one that, like a Manhattan or a Last Word, you should be able to order in any good cocktail bar. Elves and Savage talked up the Laphroaig Project to their patrons whenever possible — and their enthusiasm caught on with patrons and other bartenders all over Edmonton. It helped that it was a quirky and intriguing drink made with green and yellow chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, citrus, peach bitters and Islay scotch. Frankly, on paper, it sounds absolutely disgusting; in real life, though, it’s a delicious and perfectly balanced smoky-herbal cocktail.

The story of the Laphroaig Project is unusual, however, since the majority of modern classics are based on fairly simple and straightforward ratios, which is part of the secret to their success. Grant says most modern classics come about because bartenders want to make the most of the amazing new ingredients available (agave-based spirits and European digestifs and aperitifs, for example) and turn to classic proportions to make them work in new cocktails. The Paper Plane, for example, is equal parts bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino and lemon juice — not entirely dissimilar to the specs for a Corpse Reviver #2 or a Last Word. The challenge with an equal-parts cocktail, however, is to find the right four ingredients to balance, since, typically, one spirit will bully the other ingredients.

And that’s exactly what the inventor of the Paper Plane, Sam Ross of New York’s Attaboy (formerly the legendary and seminal Milk & Honey), is known for. Well, that and being one of the first to use peaty Scotch in a cocktail, namely the Penicillin (circa 2005), another modern classic. A couple of years back, Ross told me that it wasn’t just his tireless quest for balance that was responsible for getting two modern classics under his belt, it was also his sense of adventure. “I’m always trying to find that sweet spot between bitter and sour,” he said. “But it’s one thing to use a dash of bitters. It’s another to make a drink that uses upwards of an ounce of bitters and still try to find an appropriate balance.”

“Modern classics often make use of unusual ingredients, but it’s really important that there are no proprietary ingredients involved,” says Grant. “You know, you look at something like a Paper Plane. That’s four bottles that most bars have. You put it together in equal measures, so it’s easy to remember and it has a catchy name. So, it’s running on all cylinders, basically.”

On top of all of this, inventor Ross has a certain geographic advantage when it comes to inventing modern classics, since a visit to his bar on New York’s Lower East Side is mandatory for every bartender and cocktail lover. Bartenders take their favourite cocktail recipes home as souvenirs, then introduce them to their customers — a big part of why we can trace so many modern classics to Manhattan. The Gin-Gin Mule, the Old Cuban, the Red Hook, the Cosmopolitan and the Oaxaca Old Fashioned are all native New Yorkers.

Grant points out, however, that even though these drinks have been accepted into the general canon of cocktails, there are still regional differences, such as Edmonton’s obsession with the Laphroaig Project, or the fact that some familiar-sounding drinks considered modern classics in the United Kingdom are known but rarely seen on North American menus.

“When I was in London a few months ago, I was really surprised that every little bar — whether it was in the airport or the hotel, or just a little restaurant — had a Bramble on the menu,” recalls Grant. “I saw the same drinks over and over again, and they were different from the ones in North America. The Bramble and the Porn Star Martini, both of which were invented in the U.K., were just about everywhere.”

Alright, add them to the list. How many are we up to now? Almost too many to count. For starters, then, here are six modern classics I think every home bartender and cocktail enthusiast should get to know — the new essentials for holiday home entertaining:

Bramble

Created in 1984 by British bartender Dick Bradsell, the Bramble is the oldest modern classic on this list. Because it called for blackberry liqueur, which was hard to get in Canada until recently, it’s a little less common here than it is in the United Kingdom.

1 1/2 oz London Dry gin
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
3/4 oz blackberry liqueur
Blackberry
Lemon wheel

Fill a short Old Fashioned glass with crushed ice until it’s overflowing. In a cocktail shaker, combine gin, juice, simple syrup and cubed ice. Shake well for 20 seconds then pour into the glass. Gently drizzle blackberry liqueur overtop for a lovely visual effect of purple bleeding into the drink. Garnish with a fresh blackberry and a lemon wheel.

Old Cuban

The Old Cuban was invented in 2002 by Audrey Saunders, owner of New York’s Pegu Club and one of the key bartenders involved in the craft cocktail renaissance. If you like it, there’s a good chance you’ll also like the Gin-Gin Mule (gin, ginger beer and mint), another modern classic invented by Saunders.

6 mint leaves
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
1 1/2 oz aged rum
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 oz brut cava
Mint sprig

Lightly muddle the mint leaves with the lime juice and syrup in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add the rum, bitters and ice and shake well for 45 seconds. Strain into a flute glass and top with cava. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Trident

Robert Hess, a Seattle-based cocktail enthusiast, is one of the few people to have invented a modern classic, despite never having worked as a professional cocktail bartender. As was the case with the Paper Plane, the Trident’s popularity was boosted by the fact that this equal-parts cocktail is easy to remember and make — plus it’s delicious.

1 oz aquavit
1 oz Cynar
1 oz dry sherry
Lemon twist

Stir ingredients together for 60 seconds with ice, then strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Paper Plane

Sam Ross is responsible for both the Penicillin and the Paper Plane. Here’s a recipe for the latter since it’s easy to make, easy to remember and oh-so easy to drink.

3/4 oz bourbon
3/4 oz Aperol
3/4 oz Amaro Nonino
3/4 oz lemon juice

Shake all ingredients together for 30 seconds. Double strain into a chilled coupe.

Trinidad Sour

In 2009, Giuseppe Gonzalez, who was then bartending at Brooklyn’s Clover Club, blew everybody’s mind when he invented the Trinidad Sour: a bitter but balanced cocktail that calls for a full ounce of Angostura bitters. Drinks travel fast, but this one was record-setting — thanks to the novelty base.

1 oz Angostura bitters
1 oz orgeat syrup
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz Rittenhouse rye

Shake all ingredients together for 30 seconds. Double strain into a chilled coupe.

Laphroaig Project

The recipe for the Laphroaig Project spread quickly for much the same reason as the Trinidad sour, namely, that the combination of chartreuse, maraschino and peaty whisky doesn’t sound like a good combination — but it is. Hailing from San Francisco, it became a fast hit in Edmonton.

1 oz green Chartreuse
1 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz Laphroaig Quarter Cask whisky
1/2 oz maraschino liqueur
1/2 oz yellow Chartreuse
2 dashes peach bitters
Lemon twist

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker for 40 seconds and double-strain into chilled coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christine Sismondo is a National Magazine Award-Winning drinks columnist and the author of Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History as well as America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops.

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