Strong but refreshing, these drinks are designed to be served chilled on the rocks and shared with good friends.
In my last article, we took a look at some long drinks that you can use to beat the heat of summer (and honestly, they’re all fine options year-round). Today we’re looking at rocks drinks. When you order a cocktail on the rocks, it means on ice, and there is an entire genre of beverages that are perfectly suited to this method of preparation.
Rocks drinks tend to be stronger than long drinks, often dispensing with diluting ingredients like soda water entirely and focusing predominantly on spirits, liqueurs, and small quantities of juices – most frequently citrus. Often built around subtle flavor layering, they reward slow sipping. Many of my favorite drinks – both classics and my own creations – are best served on the rocks, and there are a few crossover cocktails such as the Manhattan that are enjoyed both with ice and without.
The Caipirinha has enjoyed something of a surge in popularity in the last five years or so, and I’m certainly not going to badmouth it here, but the central liquor – Brazil’s excellent cachaça – just isn’t something that most people keep in their home bars. Vodka, on the other hand, is ubiquitous, and the Caipiroska brings it together with lime and sugar in a manner most delicious.
- 2 oz. vodka
- ½ a lime, cut in four wedges
- 1 tsp. plain sugar
- 1 tsp. brown or turbinado sugar
Muddle all lime wedges but one with both sugars (avoid over-muddling or the drink will be bitter). Add vodka, and stir vigorously until sugar has dissolved. Top with crushed ice and stir again. Garnish with the final lime wedge.
Sours are an entire category of cocktails, and you can basically choose any type of base liquor you want and make a sour out of it. I find that the Whiskey Sour gives both a reasonable degree of customization (after all, there are Irish, Scottish, Canadian and American variants to choose from), and a depth of flavor that you won’t get with vodka, rum, or many fruit-flavored liqueurs. Add a dash of absinthe or some herbal bitters, and you’ve got a drink with character and complexity!
- 2 oz. whiskey
- 1 oz. simple syrup
- .75 oz. lemon juice
Fill a rocks glass with crushed ice. Combine ingredients in a shaker over ice, and shake like hell for a solid ten seconds (you want the dilution and the foam that comes with substantial shaking). Strain into the rocks glass, and garnish with a maraschino cherry.
This is another cocktail of my own creation. Summer is the perfect time to grab some ripe fruit for muddling, and raspberries are one of my favorite ingredients in just about anything. They play well with the citrus tang of the lime, and rum never met a fruit it didn’t like, so it’s a natural match. If you don’t like dealing with seeds, you can press the raspberries through a strainer instead of muddling, but I think that’s part of the fun!
Oh, and the name? Our three R’s stand for Rum and Raspberries on the Rocks, of course.
- 2 oz. golden rum
- .75 oz. lime juice
- .5 oz. simple syrup
- 6 fresh raspberries
- 2 dashes angostura bitters
- soda water
Wash and dry raspberries. Drop them into a rocks glass and add the simple syrup and Angostura Bitters. Muddle the ingredients together until the raspberries are broken up and the liquid has gone red. Fill the glass with crushed ice, add rum and lime juice, and stir vigorously to combine. Top with a splash of soda, give one more stir, and garnish with a lime wedge.
This drink was designed by Dale DeGroff, one of America’s premiere cocktail gurus and a guy who’s been tending bar since before I was born. It’s simple, refreshing, and built to highlight the complexity of flavor that Angostura bitters can bring to the party. I don’t doubt that the cocktail’s namesake, F. Scott Fitzgerald, would’ve enjoyed it.
- 1.5 oz. gin
- 1 oz. simple syrup
- .75 oz. lemon juice
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Combine gin, simple syrup and lemon juice with ice in a cocktail shaker, shake vigorously, and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a piece of lemon peel. The drink should have a nice pinkish-orange shade. If not, add more bitters!