These are MY recipes for my favourite cocktails. Tried and true, they’ve served me well. I hope you try these at home. Enjoy!
1. The Classic Martini Cocktail
Vodka or gin, vermouth, lemon twist or olive. The trick to a perfect martini is ice-cold vodka. Forget shaking or stirring with ice. Pop the vodka or gin in the freezer instead. Rinse a martini glass in vermouth. Shake it thoroughly before pouring in the vodka/gin. Bitters were often added to martinis in the mid 20th century. Citrus bitters work well with vodka. Lavender bitters work well with the botanicals in gin. Serve straight up in a martini glass.
Gin, Campari, sweet vermouth, orange twist. In 1919 Count Camillo Negroni asked the bartender at Caffe Casoni in Florence to make something stronger than his usual Americano (campari, sweet vermouth and soda in a 1:1:1 ratio, lemon twist). The bartender replaced the soda in an Americano with gin. The ingredients were mixed in a 1:1:1 ration and garnished with an orange twist to differentiate if from an Americano. Orson Welles discovered the drink in Rome after the war and famously wrote “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.” I use Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth. Served on ice in a rocks glass. The Americano is a fine drink in itself and a gentle introduction to Campari. It is the first drink ordered by James Bond, in Casino Royale.
3. Old Fashioned
Bourbon or rye whisky, sugar, Angostura bitters, orange twist. The cocktail was first defined by a newspaper editor in Hudson, New York back in 1806 as being a potent combination of spirits, bitters, water and sugar. This is possibly the original cocktail. Muddle a sugar cube with a few drops of Angostura bitters (use sugar syrup or gomme if you prefer) and add 50ml (2 oz) of whisky. Stir with ice. I like to mash a wedge of orange into the side of the glass to leave serve this straight up in a martini glass although it is typically served in an old fashioned glass (a tumbler named for the drinks), on the rocks.
Bourbon or cognac, sugar, Angostura bitters, absinthe wash, lemon twist. This was the signature drink at the Sazerac Coffee House in New Orleans in 1859. It is traditionally made with cognac, although these days bourbon is frequently substituted. Mix the drink as for an Old Fashioned. The critical difference lies in rinsing the glass in absinthe. Absinthe, the Green Goddess is still banned in some countries. You may substitute a pastis such as Pernord or Ricard.
5. Champagne Cocktail
Champagne, cognac, Angostura bitters, sugar cube. This is the perfect drink for special occasions. The cognac gives a golden hue to the champagne. As the sugar cube dissolves it releases trapped air, adding to the stream of bubbles from the champagne. Add a few drops of bitters to a sugar cube before dropping it into a champagne flute. Cover with cognac. Top up with champagne. Be warned, this is potent!
Tequila, Cointreau or triple sec, lime juice, salt. During prohibition Americans drifted south of the border for a drink. Mexicans substituted tequila for brandy in the Daisy, a popular drink in the 1920s. The Margarita (Spanish for Daisy) is the quintessential tequila cocktail. Use a 1:1 ratio of tequila and lime juice (approximately 1.5 oz each), with about half as much Cointreau. Wet the rim of a martini glass or champagne goblet and dip in salt. Shake the ingredients with ice and strain into glass. Garnish with a wedge of lime.
Rye or bourbon whisky, Angostura bitters, Antica Formula vermouth, maraschino cherry garnish. Lore has it that the drink was invented in the 1870s for a banquet thrown by Jenny Jerome (aka Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston’s mother) at the Manhattan Club in New York for presidential candidate Samuel Tilden. It is easily the most popular of the cocktails named after the five boroughs of New York City. Mix 2oz rye, ½ oz sweet vermouth, a few dashes of Angostura bitters in a shaker. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry, ideally with its stem intact. Iâve given you the recipe for a Sweet Manhattan. For a Dry Manhattan, substitute dry white vermouth for red vermouth. Garnish with a lemon twist. For a Perfect Manhattan use equal measures of dry and sweet vermouth with a maraschino cherry garnish.
8. Bloody Mary
Vodka, tomato juice, Worcester sauce, Tabasco, lemon juice, freshly grated horseradish, beef bouillon cube (optional), celery salt, pepper, celery stick garnish Invented at Harry’s Bar in Paris (a frequent hangout of Earnest Hemingway) this drink was probably named after Queen Mary the 1st of England, the 16th century daughter of Henry the 8th whose persecution of protestants earned her the sobriquet Bloody Mary. Burning at the stake was her favoured method of execution. Mix 2 oz of vodka with 4 oz of tomato juice. Mix in 6 dashes of Worcester sauce and 3 dashes of Tabasco. Crumble about a third of a cube of beef bouillon into the potion, add a generous pinch of freshly ground horseradish, the juice of half a lemon. A dash of celery salt and freshly ground black pepper works well. Shake with ice and serve in a highball glass with a celery stick. There are a thousand variants to this drink. Big Tom’s Bloody Mary mix or V8 juice is frequently used instead of tomato juice. Big Tom’s is alright, V8 I find too salty; besides who wants to drink all those veggies!