Sophisticated, delicate, debonair … neat drinks are always in style, all year round.
We’ve reached the final entry in my series of summer drink articles. We’ve already investigate Long Drinks, and we’ve tried our hand at Rocks Drinks. What we have now are four delicious concoctions that I’m calling “Neat Drinks”. Typically the term “neat” refers to individual liquors, served without ice in a glass. In this case what I mean are cocktails served straight-up in long-stemmed cocktail glasses.
Some bars call all of these drinks “Martinis” … but please don’t go along with this trend! A Martini contains gin (or vodka, if you really must), vermouth, and a garnish of choice. Anything else, my friends, is some other type of cocktail, deserving of its own name.
What follows are four examples of this breed: Delicious summer drinks that are best-enjoyed on a museum’s rooftop bar or at a pre-theater soirée. Perhaps you could arrange a date with your favorite lady friend to sample a few. If you’re lucky, she’ll wear her little black dress.
Daiquiri (A real one)
As far as I’m concerned, Cuba’s greatest contribution to the world is either this drink, or the delicious pork sandwich named for the island. The Daiquiri is easier to make, though, and is one of the most perfect summer cocktails on Earth.
In the 80’s and 90’s, this near-flawless concoction was co-opted by restaurant chains and perverted with fruit-flavored corn syrup, then served over crushed ice. The resulting sickly-sweet drink was little more than a glorified Slush Puppie, and an insult to what the Daiquiri is supposed to be. Will we stand for that? Gentlemen, we will not.
- 1.5 oz. Light or Golden Rum
- 1 oz. Simple Syrup
- .75 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
Combine ingredients over cracked/crushed ice in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. As with the Whiskey Sour (see: rocks drinks), you really want to shake this one well to help build up a nice head of foam. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a lime wedge, and enjoy.
I recently acquired a 1999 edition of Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book from a used book store. First published in 1930 and republished several times since then, it is an absolutely essential part of any serious cocktail aficionado’s library. The white lady can be found within its pages. It is a dead-simple cocktail, and that’s what makes it great. There is nothing in this drink that doesn’t need to be there, and everything that is there … must be.
A note: Normally, I am a proponent of replacing name-brand curacao with relatively inexpensive alternatives (just avoid DeKuyper … that stuff is terrible). In this instance, though, I advocate using Cointreau only, for three reasons. First: Cointreau is a triple sec, and a relatively unique one at that. Second, Cointreau had been in production for more than eighty years when this drink was invented, so the flavor was already well-established. Third, Harry Craddock forgot more about making cocktails than I will ever learn, so if he says “use Cointreau” … use Cointreau.
- 2 oz. Dry Gin (Beefeater and Tanqueray are excellent choices)
- 1 oz. Cointreau
- 1 oz. Lemon Juice
Combine all ingredients over cracked/crushed ice in a cocktail shaker, and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with an orange twist.
Since meeting my wife, who hails from Paris, she’s raised within me a great love of sparkling wine, and of beverages in which it is employed. As a result, I experiment with it quite often. This is my take on the classic Ritz Cocktail.
- 1 oz. French Cognac (VS is all right, VSOP is better. XO is a waste of Cognac that should be savored by itself)
- 1.5 oz. Fresh Blood Orange Juice
- 1 dash Angostura Bitters
- 2.5 oz. Champagne or Sparkling Wine
Combine Cognac, juice, and bitters in a champagne saucer or flute. Stir gently to combine. Top with sparkling wine, stirring very slowly. Garnish with a twist from one of the blood oranges.
There is something about the combination of sake, gin, and cucumber that screams “summer” to me. This drink is cool, refreshing, and utterly drinkable. I recommend experimenting with both your gin and your sake, but I find that Hendrick’s and a pure-rice (Junmai), filtered (Seishu), dry (+3 or greater) sake pair very well with cucumber.
- 2 oz. Gin
- 1 oz. Sake
- .5 oz Dry Vermouth
- 1 dash Herbal Bitters OR 1 dash celery salt
- ¼ Cucumber, peeled
Cut one thin wheel from the cucumber, slice from center to edge, and set aside. Chop up the rest of the cucumber and muddle in the bottom of shaker with the bitters/celery salt. Add gin, sake and vermouth, top with cracked/crushed ice, and stir vigorously to combine. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with the cucumber wheel.