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Drink Like a Mad Man: The Essentials for a Respectable Home Bar

July 23, 2010  |  2:30pm
This story is a part of our Mad Men Takeover. Season four of the series premieres on AMC this Sunday, July 25.

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Drinking can be fun no matter what the excuse, but after watching several seasons of those classy fellas down cocktail after cocktail, maybe it's time to try your hand at home bar tending. Here's a few tips, tricks, and outright demands to help you get started.

First, the rules...

1. Don't waste your money on the top shelf bottles.

Remember, you're mixing a drink, not sipping it solo. That means that all of the nuances you might normally be willing to pay for are going to get lost when you add mixers and shake like crazy. Plus much of the "ultra-premium" drinks that have been introduced into the market in recent years are more about ultra-premium marketing than the product itself. If that's not enough to encourage you to buy the standards, just imagine the look on your grandfather's face if he knew you were thinking of spending $75 on a bottle of booze.

2. Beauty is in the details.

Assuming you followed Rule #1, you should have some money left over. Use it to buy yourself some nice glasses and a good shaker. And when you're using said shaker, shake it like you mean it. The point isn't just to move your drink around in some ice. You want ice crystals floating atop your concoction. That requires using some serious effort, but it will be worth it. Finally, if you have gone to all of the trouble of mixing a drink, shaking it until your biceps burn and pouring it into a good glass, please don't garnish with an orange slice that looks as though it was cut by a blind person on a roller coaster.

3. Show some respect.

If you're serving someone a drink that has a name ending with "tini," it had better start with "mar." The ability to fix great drinks is a privilege. Don't blow it by fixing a "flirtini."

4. Know when to call it quits.

There is a reason America loves Don Draper and not his co-worker Freddy.  Draper's old-school charm isn't just in what he drinks, but how he drinks. The allure of the perfect Manhattan is severely diminished if the consumer of said drink makes a drunken ass of himself. So pace yourself. That 2 1/2 ounces in your old fashioned glass is likely to have more effect than you think, especially if you are typically a beer drinker. By all means, enjoy yourself, but remember: if you're drinking like a grown-up, act like one. 


Next, the goods...

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Whiskey: Canadian Club
Who cares if the Canadians don't know how to spell "whiskey"? When it comes to make an old fashioned (or a Manhattan if you don't like the sour taste of bourbon) you can't beat the standard. If you think you might want to drink some straight up or on the rocks, spend the extra bucks and splurge on the Sherry Cask variety for a smoother taste and more complexity.


Bourbon: Maker's Mark
Few varieties of liquor have experienced more growth in variety than bourbon, and for good reason. If you're interested in becoming a bourbon connoisseur, allow us to recommend Basil Hayden's. If you want a great mixer that's equally great on the rocks, go with the classic: Maker's Mark.


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Gin: Leopolds or Tanqueray 
A few years ago, I decided to leave my beloved Tanqueray in search of the best gin on the planet. It didn't take me long to realize that I was right the first time. My boss (and occasional drinking buddy) Josh Jackson contends that Leopold's may be a better product, but considering its price and ubiquity, I'll stick with the pine green bottle.


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Vodka: Tito's
Yes, some of the best vodka around is made in Texas. Smooth, clean and slightly citrusy, Tito's is great in your martini, with tonic or straight out of the freezer.


Kahlua
Surprise! Was there really any other option? 

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Angostura Bitters
Look for the ugliest looking bottle in the liquor store with a comically oversized label.


Sweet & Dry Vermouth - Martini & Rossi
Go with namesake of the martini. Whether you're getting the sweet or dry variety, there's a reason Martini & Rossi has been the industry standard for decades: it's tasty.


Limes - Preferably green, round and no more than a couple of days old.


Sugar cubes - Preferably white and square.


Maraschino cherries - It's better not to think too hard about why a cherry is that color red. Just remember it's key to a great Manhattan.


Tonic Water - Sure, tonic water is good, but for an even cleaner and more refreshing gin & tonic, go with diet tonic water. It's not about eliminating the 30 grams of sugar per can (although that is a bonus) as it is about the texture. The sugar-free version eliminates the syrupy feeling that sometimes comes with a gin & tonic, and makes for a much tastier drink.


Now, the gear...

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Old fashioned glasses: Crate&Barrel - "Buzz" 

While far thinner and more curvaceous than a traditional old-fashioned glass, this variation on the bar room classic screams 1960's.




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Martini glasses: Crate&Barrel- "Viv"
Clean, classic and at 1962 prices. Neato! 


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Shaker: Target - "Norpro Stainless Steel Penguin Cocktail Shaker

This shaker may not be Don Draper's first choice, but Peggy couldn't resist. Neither can I.


Finally, the drinks...




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Manhattan

Sadly, the drink was named for the island, but in my mind, it's the other way around.

2 1/2 parts whisky
3/4 parts sweet vermouth
1 dash bitters 
1 maraschino cherry 
1 twist orange peel

Combine whisky, vermouth, bitters and 3 ice cubes in an old fashioned glass. In a separate cocktail glass, add an orange slice. Strain whisky vermouth mixture into cocktail glass. 


Sidecar

Just because it's simple doesn't mean it's less than delicious. 

1 part whisky
3/4 part triple sec
lemon twist

Shake whiskey and triple sec over ice. Strain and pour into an old fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.


Tom Collins
Apparently the namesake for this drink wasn't a real person, which is just as well, because he wouldn't have lived up to the summery deliciousness of this drink anyhow. 

3 parts gin
2 parts lemon or lime juice
1 muddled sugar cube
1 splash club soda
1 maraschino cherry
1 lemon or lime wheel

In a shaker add gin, lemon or lime juice and a sugar cube
Add ice and shake well (please see Rule #2).
Strain into collins glass filled with ice.
Add club soda and stir well.
Garnish with maraschino cherry and lemon or lime wheel.

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Old Fashioned
It's thought by many that the old fashioned was the very first widely mixed cocktail. 
Don't let the name fool you. This drink is just as good now as it was 130 years ago when it was first gaining prominence.

2 dashes bitters 
4 parts rye whisky or bourbon 
1 sugar cube
orange slice 
maraschino cherry

In an old fashioned glass (who would have guessed?) shake bitters onto a sugar cube. Add a small amount of water and stir/muddle the sugar cube until dissolved. Add ice, orange slice and cherry. Add whiskey, stir well and enjoy.


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Gimlet
Such an ugly name for such a lovely drink.

3 parts gin 
1 part Rose's Sweetened Lime Juice
In a shaker combine gin and lime juice.

Add ice and shake well (please see Rule #2).
Strain serve with lime twist.


White Russian
It's odd to think that in the Cold War Era people were drinking anything with the word "Russian" in it, but then again, it took the war on terror to bring about the explosion of the hookah bar...

2 parts vodka 
1part Kahlua 
1 part half & half

Pour vodka, Kaluha and cream into an old fashioned glass. 
Stir well and serve with ice.
 

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