A Black Russian.

Working with a greenhorn bartender can be good for a veteran bartender; it gets the juices flowing again.

I mentioned to her that I felt like I was running out of cocktails, both famous and obscure, to cover in this column, and she began rattling off suggestions. I responded I’ve covered it; I covered it twice; I’m pretty sure I’ve covered it; I don’t want to cover it, etc.

This conversation got me thinking that, in fact, there must be a ton of worthy drinks out there I haven’t yet written about. Here are a few that I have missed, for whatever reason, over the years. There is no particular order here; I’m just shaking the file cabinets and seeing what falls out!

The Trade Winds is a modern Tiki cocktail that has its roots in the 1970s. If you’re drinking one these days, it’s probably some bar manager’s version of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s version. (I tend to tweak his recipes myself.) It’s one of those Tiki drinks that can be made with either gin or rum; you can probably guess which version I prefer if you’re a regular reader of this column. (If you’re not a regular reader, it’s gin.) For you rum-lovers, here is the easiest way to make the cocktail. Equal parts is usually a good sign for a drink!

  • 1 ounce of light rum
  • 1 ounce of dark rum
  • 1 ounce of apricot liqueur
  • 1 ounce of creme de coconut
  • 1 ounce of lemon juice

Shake all of the ingredients with crushed ice; dump and serve in a tall glass; top with an umbrella pick (the kind you get at Chinese-restaurant bars and Tiki lounges) blown backward—that is, pull the umbrella part until it’s hyperextended.

For the light rum, use nothing too funky, please—maybe a Venezuelan or Puerto Rican white. For the dark rum, I would use a black strap rum (like Myers’s or Goslings). If you prefer gin, simply replace the rums with 2 ounces of gin—easy as pie. The quality of the apricot liqueur matters here; don’t be cheap.

Here’s another cocktail where the line between gin and rum drinks starts to blur. The drink is called an Air Mail, and it dates back to the days when mail planes were just becoming a thing—queue Martin Short in Three Amigos. According to the always-illuminating Difford’s Guide, it was first referenced in a promotional pamphlet from Bacardi. Later on, it showed up in bar manuals, including ones by David Embury and Esquire.

I learned this recipe a long time ago, yet a while after I encountered its more famous twin, the French 75. The few bartenders who know how to make this one generally put it on the rocks and make it a highball, unlike the French 75. Both cocktails should probably be that way, but that horse left the barn a long time ago.

  • 1 1/2 ounces of Bacardi Gold (not sponsored)
  • 1/2 ounce of lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce of honey syrup (2:1 honey to water)

Shake and strain into a Collins glass; top with brut sparkling wine; garnish with a lime wheel.

Save some of that bubbly for the next one, the Champagne Cocktail. This one is old—Jerry “The Professor” Thomas, 1800s old. It’s also super-easy, and probably the only reason to keep sugar cubes around the house. Yeah, it’s kind of a crime to adulterate a nice Champagne, but if you make this one with a cheap sparkling, it will be terrible, and don’t come whining to me about it. This one requires instructions more than a recipe.

Douse a sugar cube in Angostura bitters; place into a Champagne flute or coupe. Gently pour Champagne down the side of the glass; garnish with a lemon peel; express oil on the stem and into the glass.

The White Russian isn’t the most popular order right now, for an obvious reason. I’ve always hated making this drink. If you make a cocktail using dairy, especially heavy cream (the only real way to make the cocktail), you will contaminate your entire well (what we drink jockeys call a workstation) unless you wash your tools like your life depended on it. I also groan about making this drink because of the bearded Big Lebowski bros who order it. I like the movie just fine, but the superfans can be obnoxious as all get-out.

I can’t, however, deny that the drink is absolutely delicious and decadent when made properly! It’s a proper mid-century cocktail to boot, for those of you into that sort of thing; it was invented in the early ’60s by someone who never got any credit.

The inventor of the Black Russian is a different story. According to Liquor.com, it was invented in the late 1940s in Brussels at the Hotel Metropole by barman Gustave Tops (What a name!) for the American ambassador to Luxembourg. (What a gig!) Here’s a slight variation I like to make.

  • 2 ounces of vodka
  • 1 ounce of NOLA coffee liqueur (not sponsored)
  • 1 teaspoon of demerara syrup (raw sugar and water, 2:1)

Stir over ice and serve over a big cube if you have one, for the iceberg look.

If you like the heavy cream, and I don’t blame you: Add one ounce, and shake it dry first; add ice, then shake and dump into your favorite vessel.

Despite this drink having nothing to do with Russia, I have a great suggestion for marketing it to your guests: Add a splash of cola, and it becomes a Colorado Bulldog! A domestic vodka works just fine for this one, by the way.

Four more drinks down, and many more to go, of course. I’ll likely hang up my Hawthorne strainers long before I run out of drinks to write about—although I think it’s past time for me to create some sort of database!

Kevin Carlow

Kevin Carlow has been a bartender and writer for most of his adult life. Having worked in nearly every position in the service industry at some point, he is currently a cocktail consultant and the co-owner...