Beyond the Staples: 7 Essential (and Underrated) Cocktails

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Beyond the Staples: 7 Essential (and Underrated) Cocktails

Make someone a cocktail they drink for a day; teach someone how to make a cocktail, and they drink for a lifetime. As a bartender, I’m accustomed to being pressed into service when I show up to a house party. And while I never mind mixing up drinks for my friends, it’s always nice when people confidently take matters (and shakers) into their own hands. Anyone can make a gin and tonic, sure, but building more involved cocktails can be intimidating. Mastering staples like Manhattans and margaritas is a must, but why stop there? There’s a slew of other classics that every home bartender should bone up on. Here are seven essential cocktails you need to be able to make on your own.

Whiskey Sour

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When made from scratch (read: without sour mix) and with good but not too pricy whiskey, the sour is a great cocktail that makes for a handsome presentation. While it’s perfectly acceptable to omit the egg white, you should give it a try. Eggs work great in cocktails, and the sour is a perfect point of entry.

Ingredients
2 oz. whiskey
3/4 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup
1 egg white

Directions: Combine ingredients and dry shake (if using egg) for 10-15 seconds. Add ice and shake again. Strain into a chilled coupe, or over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Variations: Once you’ve figured out the sour formula, your imagination is the limit — swap in other sprits, syrups and juices for a near endless combination of flavors: float 1/2 oz. dry red wine on top for a New York Sour; swap in pisco and finish with a few dashes of Angostura bitters for a Peruvian classic; and for a smoky substitute try mezcal.


Tom Collins

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Your grandparents loved this one, and with good reason. The Tom Collins is a perfect warm weather sipper — tart and a little sweet with enough booze to make you forget the heat.

Ingredients
2 oz. gin (regular gin or old tom)
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup

Directions: Combine ingredients with ice, and shake. Strain over fresh ice into a Collins glass. Top off with club soda. Garnish with a lemon wedge. (If gin’s not your thing, swap it out for vodka.)


Singapore Sling

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Tropical, fruity, and spicy, the Singapore Sling is a classic cocktail that’s greater than the sum of its many parts.

Ingredients
1.5 oz. gin
1/2 oz. Cherry Heering
1/4 oz. Cointreau
1/4 oz. Bénédictine
2 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. grenadine
1/4 oz. lime juice
1 dash Angostura bitters

Directions: Combine ingredients with ice, and shake. Strain over fresh ice into a Collins glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.


Daiquiri

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No blender is required on this Caribbean classic. Rum, lime, and something sweet is all you need.

Ingredients
2 oz. white rum
3/4 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup

Directions: Combine ingredients with ice, and shake. Double strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lime wheel. For a Hemingway daiquiri, substitute 1/2 oz. Luxardo maraschino liquor for the simple syrup, and add 1/2 oz. grapefruit juice.


Sazerac

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The godfather of American cocktails, the Sazerac is essentially an old fashioned, but with more subtly complex flavors thanks to the addition of absinthe and two kinds of bitters.

Ingredients
2 oz. rye
1 bar spoon simple syrup
1/2 bar spoon. absinthe
4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
Lemon peel

Directions: Pack a rocks glass with ice and water to chill. In another glass combine the simple syrup, bitters, and rye. Add ice, and stir for about 20 seconds. Empty the ice from the first glass, and coat the inside of it with absinthe. Discard the remaining absinthe. Strain the mixture from the second glass into the first. Express the lemon peel over the drink, rub the peel along the rim of the glass, and add to the drink (or discard if you’re a sazerac purist).


Negroni

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This Italian classic is so easy to make — and delicious to drink — everyone everywhere should commit it to memory right now.

Ingredients
1 oz. gin
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. sweet vermouth

Directions: Combine ingredients in a rocks glass with ice, and stir. Garnish with an orange peel.


Aviation

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This cocktail is as beautiful to looks at as it is delightful to drink. When made well, it soars — floral, and slightly acidic with balanced sweetness — sending you into the clouds.

Ingredients
2 oz. gin
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. Luxardo maraschino
1/4 oz. crème de violette

Directions: Combine ingredients with ice, and shake. Double strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.


Jim Sabataso is a writer, cocktail enthusiast, and bar director for The Palms Restaurant in Rutland, Vermont. Follow him on Twitter @JimSabataso

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