I’m friends with a “cocktail virgin.” No, not that blogger from Boston, but a lady who hasn’t tried the most popular of classics … modern or antique.
When you’re trying to walk a person into the world of fine mixed potables, it’s all about the details—and if you’re a regular reader of this column, you know how much I harp on technique and style. It’s literally the difference between an OK drink and a makes-your-evening drink. So let’s get down to brass tacks and start with some basics—and some of my favorite cocktails I’ve created over the years.
The first is the “Indigo Child,” a refreshing twist on the Collins I created for the Cole Hotel during the lockdowns. The technique here is mostly in making the herbed simple syrup, so proceed as follows: Get yourself your favorite vodka or gin, and grab the peaflower tea bags you ordered online. Mix the bottle with three bags of the tea in it until you get a beautiful blue color. Bring two cups of water to a simmer; add a handful each of thyme and rosemary, woody bits and all; and let it steep. When the mixture is sufficiently dark and herbaceous, add two cups of white sugar and a splash of cold water to make up for evaporation. Allow the syrup to cool in the refrigerator.
When you have this prepared, it’s easy. Fun detail: The color will turn indigo when the lemon juice reacts with the peaflower! This is a cocktail made to tickle the eye first, followed by the palate. It’s best served alongside one of our purple sunsets.
- 2 ounces of peaflower-infused spirit
- 1 ounce of fresh lemon juice
- 1 ounce of herbed simple syrup
Shake; strain into a tall glass; top with soda water, and garnish with edible flowers.
The next day, you’re probably going to need an “eye opener”ؙ—and boy, oh boy, do I have one for you. This is one I put on the brunch menu at the Cole, but I started making it when I was at Truss and Twine. It’s a take on an amaro flip, and it has a caffeine kick. Most people haven’t ever had a flip, but it’s nothing to be scared of, and the yolk gives you an extra dose of vitamins to get your day going. This drink is called the Mr. Experience:
- 2 ounces of the fernet of your choice
- 2 ounces of coffee liqueur (I recommend NOLA or Mr. Black)
- 1/2 ounce of brown sugar syrup (equal part Demerara sugar and boiling water)
- 1 whole egg
The technique here is easier than a proper sour: Just crack the egg; there’s no need to separate the white! Look, it sounds gross. I get it, but trust. Shake the mix without ice, and then add ice, and shake it like a Polaroid picture. Strain into two of your cutest stemmed glasses, and grate an espresso bean into a landing strip across the top. This is best enjoyed to the music of Australian musician Donny Benet, after whose song it was named.
OK, so we’ve had citrusy and herbaceous, and we’ve had bitter and smooth, so let’s do savory and smoky next.
This is a cocktail that was on the menu at Seymour’s long after my departure, with my blessing. It was called the “El Brujo,” then the “Oaxacan Brunch,” and finally the “Shameless Plug.” The technique here is the same as the last drink: First there’s a dry shake, then a “wet shake” with ice. Really crank it with the wet shake; sound is an important element here. If you’re making a lot of them, I recommend throwing a bunch of sage into two cups of simple syrup and pulsing it lightly in a blender.
- 2 ounces of mezcal (damiana-infused for extra credit)
- 1/2 ounce of lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce of lime juice
- 1 ounce of simple syrup
- 1 egg white
Dry shake and wet shake, as before; strain over ice in a bucket glass with ice; garnish with fresh sage. Yeah, I know, a sour on the rocks is blasphemous … but it just works. Slap the sage before you garnish; the damiana adds a minty back note … and it’s an aphrodisiac, from what I hear.
So, what am I making for my cocktail virgin? It’s something that requires perhaps the most difficult technique in bartending: restraint. She’s a big fan of crème de violette and gin, so I whipped up a gin sour that fits the bill. The light blue color is also divine, and the perfume from the violette in moderation will definitely leave your friends talking. Ladies and gentlemen, The Ludivine:
- 2 ounces of gin of preference
- 1 ounce of lemon juice
- 1 ounce of simple syrup (equal parts)
- 1/4 ounce of quality crème de violette
- 1 egg white
Dry shake; shake with ice vigorously; strain into a stemmed cocktail glass. I like to use a quality cherry in syrup and run it over the foam to add a nice red swirl.
Whatever cocktail you make for your friends, make sure you do it with thought and care. Make some noise with your shake, but never with your stir; take time to include ingredients that are a feast for the eyes and nose as well as the mouth. Put some flair into your straining, and don’t fear the egg—or cream, for that matter. Mouthfeel isn’t just for wine.
More on creamy drinks soon, or at least as soon as I can find a bottle of crème de noyaux for a Pink Squirrel.
Kevin Carlow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.