The cocktail hour seems to be a forgotten tradition of yesteryear. Now days, we all pack into our nearest corner bar the second the clock strikes five and slug back a few frothy mugs of beer or glasses of cheap wine. There is nothing civilized about it. Cocktail hour and cocktail parties used to be a way to slow down and get drunk with friends while maintaining an air of dignity. Well, I for one, would like it back, and for the record, jager redbull does not qualify as elegant. A well made cocktail is one that is lovingly crafted, thoughtful and when shared with pleasant company, unforgettable.
When thinking about this project, I took a trip to my local liquor store and was shocked to find nearly a whole row of the store was devoted to flavored vodka. Not just lemon or grape, but glazed donut, buttered popcorn and bacon. seriously, who would want a bacon flavored drink, I love bacon as much as the next girl, but really? While vodka may dazzle with its flavors and choices; Gin will always be the spirit for me. It is the base of any descent bar in my opinion, and blends well with a plethora of mixers that are probably already in your fridge. Vodka can have its big moment, I would rather be classic than trendy any day.
Today, I will teach you 4 easy classy cocktails to whip up for Holiday gatherings or just because it is five ‘o’clock somewhere.
First, a few tips about cocktails, these may seem like no brainers but they make the difference.
1) Always, always, always, fill your shaker or rocks glass with plenty of ice!!
2) Measure precisely as you can. A burned drink is a very unpleasant way to start a party.
3) Have proper stem and barware. No one wants to drink a Cosmo out of a solo cup, it tastes far better out of a martini glass, I promise. After all, we are not in college anymore.
4) Don’t be afraid to follow your instinct, some great mixology can come from happy ancients.
Most of our cocktails today use a simple syrup. If you have never used simple syrup before, it could not be easier to make and provides for a gourmet spin on any average cocktail. I chose to make a sage honey simple syrup, because I like the taste with Gin, but feel free to try a different flavor. Directions are as follows.
Honey Sage Simple Syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
6-10 sage leaves (depending on how strong you want it, I used 6)
1 tablespoon honey
Bring water and sugar to a boil, stirring until all sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Lightly dot sage leaves, with end of butter knife to release aroma. Add the honey to the simple syrup, mix well. Add lightly muddled sage to mixture, stir well and let sit for 15 minutes. After time has elapsed, remove sage leaves and pour mixture into bottle. Store in fridge for up to a month.
Our first cocktail is the easy and very boozy, Gimlet. Traditionally, a Gimlet is four parts Gin and one part sweetened lime juice. My recipe keeps the potency, but utilizes our Honey Sage Simple Syrup, instead of sweetened lime juice. Raymond Chandler, would not approve, but life is about taking risks, (If you haven’t read, the Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler, stop drinking and get yourself to a bookstore, ASAP!!!). If you are not a gin fan, (then you are probably reading the wrong blog), feel free to use vodka. It is an easy twist on a classic drink that is sure to bring a smile to your lips.
M’s Modern Gimlet
3 oz Gin (I always use Bombay Sapphire, but Tanqueray would be fine)
1 oz lime juice
1/2 oz honey sage simple syrup
lime wedge for garnish
Fill shaker full of ice. Pour all ingredients in. Shake the hell out of it. Strain and serve in beautiful martini glass with lime garnish.
Our second cocktail is a bit sweeter and may be more popular than the aforementioned Gimlet. I call this cocktail the Bella Vita, because after a few of these, you will be seeing life through glorious rose-colored glasses. The Bella Vita is very sweet and would be a good choice for people who don’t think they like gin. The simple syrup and the creme de cassis blend well with the herbal notes that some people find overpowering in Gin. For those of you who haven’t had creme de cassis, it is a blackcurrant liquor that is best known in Kir’s, the french white wine aperitif. It is not creamy at all, so don’t let the name detour you, if you have texture issues. It is sweet, dark red, fairly cheap and would make a nice addition to any bar. P.s: I even got my husband, who is a rye and whiskey kind of man, to drink the Bella Vita. He claimed it was the best martini he had ever had, though, I think he may be a little biased.
2 oz Gin
1 oz of creme de cassis
1/2 oz honey sage simple syrup
juice of half a lemon
lemon-lime seltzer (or sprite)
Fill shaker full of ice. Pour in all ingredients, except for seltzer. Shake, shake, shake it!! Pour into martini glass, top with seltzer. Garnish with floating sage leaf. Sip until the world is rosy.
Our third and final martini, is called The Fitzgerald. It is another cocktail of yesteryear that is often overlooked today, in our world of O-bombs and Dirty Girl Scouts. It is an orange and gin cocktail that is between the Gimlet and the Bella Vita in sweetness. Light in flavor with a hint of orange, it is the perfect cocktail to enjoy on a spring night outside with friends.
The Fitzgerald (recipe loosely based on the Kitchnn’s version)
2 oz Gin
1 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
3/4 oz Honey Sage simple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters
Fill shaker full of ice . Pour all ingredients in. Shake it as if you were throwing shirts from your closet to impress a lady, a la Jay Gatsby. Pour into an elegant martini glass. Sip slowly, while you become whisked away by nostalgia.
CRANBERRY GIN AND TONIC
Our fourth and final homage to the Gin, is a twist on the iconic, Gin and Tonic. The G&T is my signature drink, it is cool,refreshing and just the right amount of confusing for people when they see a pretty-twenty something drinking it, instead of an old grouchy man. My friends do not share the love for the classic G&T that I do, but the Cranberry Gin and Tonic, is a drink that even the most picky boozers will enjoy. It is refreshing, festive and would make the perfect holiday party cocktail with it’s red and green color palate. Let me know what, you non-gin drinkers think! I hope you will be pleasantly surprised.
Cranberry Gin and Tonic:
3 oz Gin
2 oz chilled tonic water
juice of half a lime
lime wedge for garnish
Fill tall glass half full with ice. Add gin, tonic and juice of lime. Top with cranberry juice. Cut lime wedge in half and float both parts in drink. Mix with long spoon. Enjoy!
I hope that one of these cocktails will make an appearance in your life, and maybe, just maybe, will brighten your day. Make them for your loved ones or just for yourself. Vodka may be flashy and flavored with every fruit of the rainbow, but Gin is full of the elegance of a time gone by, it is more than a drink, it is liquid nostalgia. Don Draper from Mad Men says it best, “Nostalgia it’s delicate, but potent.”
Tune of the day: Fly Me to the Moon– Frank Sinatra