although i salute the return of bars that serve cocktails, as opposed to those where you have to explain how to make a vodka and orange, i am distressed by the fact that, rather than making proper cocktails, they generally just give themselves an uber-sleek decor, take whatever bottles have collected dust, mash up the ingredients and serve them in a martini glass to fashion victims.
a well-prepared cocktail can be the highlight of an evening, but it needs to be executed by someone who knows what they’re doing. and too often, there is a confusion between the flat out weird and the low-yield girl drinks that are generally dished out at resorts. the best cocktails have more kick than an angry mule, but taste so divine you’ll be under the table before you know what hit you. the iron fist in the velvet glove indeed.
a few of my favourites include:
the mint julep. do yourself a favour: never order this in a bar. you’re likely to get a mix of creme de menthe and cheap whiskey that tastes like your mouth when you were trying to hide the fact that you were out drinking in high school. the first time i had these made properly, the guy preparing them called a friend of his in west virginia to get the recipie: nice bourbon, fresh mint, brown sugar that you heat on the spot, all served over ice. one of the most refreshing summer drinks ever, but beware, it packs a punch beyond what you would expect from its simple ingredients. tasting tip: let it sit for a few minutes after preparation to allow the flavours to mingle.
the sidecar. rarer than hen’s teeth are the bartenders who know how to prepare one of these properly. i’ve actually been known to walk a couple of them through the process, with mixed results (go ahead, groan, i swear it was unintentional). probably the only cocktail involving brandy that won’t make your teeth rot, this little bomb also involves cointreau and lemon and tastes best when it’s a little on the sour side (to me at least). (warning: some guides or bartenders will tell you that you can substitute triple sec, which is cheaper, for cointreau. don’t believe them.) no one really orders these, or even knows what they are, for the most part, because they faded from popularity around the early 1940s, but that makes the hunt for a good one all the more exciting.
the mojito. luckily, this cuban treat is the essence of popularity right now, which makes them easy to find. chain restaurants even serve them and they’re pretty good to boot. a mix of rum, lime, mint, soda and sugar, they should be required patio drinking in the summer. also worth checking is the mojito’s brazilian cousin the caphirinia, which eschews the mint, but gives much the same effect. the caphirinia is a little more difficult to find, but is gaining in popularity.
i personally think that the cocktail hour is the essence of civility and, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to unwind at the end of the day? despite the fact that the cost per drink is high, most people can’t handle more than a few serious cocktails even if they could routinely drink sumo wrestlers under the table, so you are getting more bang for your buck.
anyone who has favourite cocktail recipies or locales to share, please feel free.