In the world of bartending, there’s long been a trend towards high octane cocktails. In theory, this makes for very short (or very sloppy) evenings. Now, both bartenders and patrons are looking for a change, and cocktails have started to make a turn towards lower alcohol libations.
The rise of low-proof cocktails can be attributed to many factors. “Low-proof spirits are great especially when trying to get the most from your night out,” says Naomi Levy, bartender at Boston’s Eastern Standard. Levy has been a bartender since she was 18, working the bar at Eastern Standard since 2010, and has seen the rise and fall of many mixology trends. She’s also a lightweight when it comes to holding her own liquor—a fact that she readily admits.
“There is a great appeal for both those sitting at the bar as well as those serving to create a complex, flavorful cocktail that won’t knock you off your bar stool.”
In the last few years, she has seen a noticeable increase in customers interested in low-proof cocktails. They’re craving something that won’t knock them on their ass, but is still delicious. “Spirits like vermouth, sherry and certain amaros have a ton of great flavor to them.” Levy adds, “They lend themselves really well, not only to sipping, but to mixing. While many of these spirits have been classically used as modifiers, more and more bartenders are finding they hold real appeal as the base of a drink as well.”
One of Levy’s favorite lower proof bases to work with is sherry. “Though I’m in love with Dolin Blanc right now, I drink it on the rocks with a splash of soda and a lemon twist.” She also enjoys working with Cochi Americano, while Braulio Amaro Alpino is one of her favorite amaros at the moment. “And clocking in at 21% makes it great for sipping after your meal, or mixed in a cocktail while still packing a very flavorful punch.” She even has a signature sherry cocktail at Eastern Standard: The Otoño.
1 ½ oz Lustau East India Sherry
½ oz Ron Bermudez Aniversario
¾ oz Lime Juice
½ oz Vanilla Simple Syrup
¼ oz Cinnamon Simple Syrup
Directions: Mount in a highball glass and dry shake. Top with crushed ice. Garnish with a half lime wheel.