In the ‘Gail’s Guide to Cocktails’ series, RŌNIN bartender and certified sommelier, Gail Lanorias, drops some knowledge on your favorite mixed drinks and provides professional tips on how to make them at home.
With the first publication of the Bar-Tenders’ Guide released in 1862, cocktail culture has been around for a long time and today, we’re revisiting the classics. This installment of ‘Gail’s Guide’ features 7 must-try classic cocktails: the Old Fashioned, Martini, Negroni, Manhattan, Pina Colada, Margarita, and Tom Collins. This is by no means a definitive list, but these specific drinks were chosen because they’re truly timeless and represent a range of classic cocktail preparations and styles.
Ingredients: whisky, bitters, sugar, citrus peel
Though it was developed in the 19th Century, the Old Fashioned, along with its peers the Manhattan and the Negroni, is more relevant today than ever before. There has been a resurgence of this classic cocktail thanks to nostalgia for the Prohibition era, when the production and sale of alcoholic beverages were banned in the United States from 1920 to 1933. It’s this nostalgia that has made speakeasies, 1920’s aesthetics, and classic cocktail culture trendy again.
Ingredients: gin, dry vermouth, olive or lemon peel
We consider drinking alcohol a somewhat unhealthy habit, but historically there’s a medicinal side to alcohol as well. The martini, for example, is made with bitters and vermouth, which at one point were consumed to get “better,” not drunk. In the past, martinis were most popular amongst artists and writers during the Prohibition era, but in modern times we can’t help but associate them with Bond, James Bond. Perhaps it’s for these reasons that martinis make us think of mystery, elegance, casinos, and hotel bars. Bartenders usually disagree with Bond’s preference for shaken martinis, but you should drink them how you please. James Bond didn’t give a damn, so neither should you!
Ingredients: gin, Campari, Italian vermouth, orange peel
The story goes that Count Camillo Negroni wanted a stronger version of his favorite drink, the Americano, and asked a bartender in Florence to make one with gin instead of club soda. The bartender added an orange garnish instead of the usual lemon peel and thus, this classic Italian cocktail was born.
Ingredients: whisky, Italian vermouth, bitters, Maraschino cherry garnish
The Manhattan was also popular during Prohibition, especially as it made illegal homemade whisky more palatable. The sugar and bitters mellowed the roughness of Prohibition whisky. Though we have access to great whisky today, it’s still a fabulous drink.
Ingredients: rum, pineapple juice, coconut milk
When referencing classic cocktails, we tend to think of “serious” drinks. But tiki cocktail culture was huge in the 1950s and has come back in fashion several times since. Whether or not tiki drinks are your jam, they’re undeniably a part of classic cocktail culture. Created in Puerto Rico in the 1950s, the Piña Colada has become the most classic tiki drink.
Ingredients: Tequila. triple sec, lime juice.
There are many origin stories for the margarita – many say it was created somewhere in Mexico in the 1930s or 40s. Like the Martini, this drink is often served in an iconic glass, but unlike martinis, it’s associated with holidays, the ocean, the beach, or Tex-Mex restaurants. Despite some of its questionable variations, the margarita is a great, simple drink and definitely a classic cocktail.
Ingredients: gin, lemon juice, sugar, club soda
The Tom Collins is the most classic gin cocktail. Like the margarita, there are many theories about the origins of this beverage, some believing it was created in England. Its recipe was first published in the 1876 edition of Jerry Thomas’ Bar-Tender’s Guide and remains a staple in the cocktail world. It’s essentially lemonade and gin, making it the perfect choice for a hot summer’s day.
Look out for the next installment of ‘Gail’s Guide’ to learn how to make these classic cocktails at home!