We’ve hit the books, talked to bartenders and historians, and drank our way through about 200 cocktails. It was all in the name of research. After that heavy lift, we’re now confident that we’ve isolated the five most important New York cocktails of the last decade – the drinks that have become quintessential classics of the modern craft cocktail Renaissance.
These are them:
Gin Gin Mule (2004 – Audrey Saunders)
This take on a Moscow Mule updated the Mule category and helped put some New York bars on the map. It’s from a vanguard of the modern craft cocktail resurgence (and probably the best bar operator in the world) and one of the raddest women around, Audrey Saunders.
1 1/2 ounces Gin
1/2 ounce Lime Juice
1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
2 ounces Ginger Beer
10 Mint Leaves
Muddle the mint leaves in a cocktail shaker with the lime and simple syrup. Add the gin and ice and shake until well-chilled, about 10 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass and top with the ginger beer. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Penicillin (2005 – Sam Ross)
Scotch, especially the peaty, smoky beasts from Islay, was rarely used in cocktails outside of a few classics like the Rob Roy, Blood and Sand, and Rusty Nail. That was until Sam Ross, of New York’s Milk & Honey, concocted this modern classic. The Islay adds its characteristic iodine notes to create a strong, yet enjoyable, medicinal punch to what would otherwise be a warming and spicy sour. It’s exactly what you want when feeling under the weather.
2 ounces Blended Scotch Whisky
3/4 ounce Lemon Juice
3/4 ounce Honey Syrup
3 slices Fresh Ginger
1/4 ounce Islay Scotch Whisky
Muddle the fresh ginger in the bottom of a cocktail shaker until well-crushed. Add the blended scotch, lemon juice, honey syrup, and ice and shake for 15-20 seconds. Strain (from the shaker and through a fine mesh strainer) into an ice-filled rocks glass. Pour the Islay over the back of a bar spoon on top of the drink.
Oaxaca Old Fashioned (2007 – Philip Ward)
The first of two Old Fashioned variations on this list, this was one of the first notable drinks with Mezcal. Mezcal developed a bad name in the U.S. as a cheap product famous for a worm in the bottle. Nothing could be further from the truth, and those myths have largely been put to bed thanks to the hard work of people like Ron Cooper of Del Maguey, who has introduced this country to the delights and depth of the Mexican spirit.
For anyone who still irrationally fears Tequila or Agave, this is a nice change from Margaritas. The drink is incomprehensibly smooth.
1 1/2 ounces Reposado Tequila
1/2 ounce Mezcal
1 teaspoon Agave Syrup
1-2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Combine all ingredients in an ice filled glass and stir for 20-30 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass and garnish with a flamed orange peel.
Benton’s Old Fashioned (2008 – Don Lee)
This drink tacks a bit closer to a traditional Old Fashioned with the ingredients of whiskey, a sweetener, and bitters, but an infusion of incredibly smoky bacon made this drink entirely modern. It also propelled a trend of infusing with ingredients that go far beyond simple fruits. Some imitators got it right, but others failed miserably with the infusion trend. This drink remains one of the first and probably best example.
2 ounces Bacon-infused Bourbon*
1/2 ounce Grade B Maple Syrup
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Add ingredients to an ice-filled glass and stir for 15-20 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Express the oils of an orange peel over the drink and rub the rim of the glass with the peel.
*The Bacon-infused Bourbon is easier than it sounds. The process has a funny name – fat-washing – but it just involves putting bacon fat in the liquor and then taking it out. Use the smokiest bacon you can find. Benton’s is best but nearly impossible to find except online. Cook the bacon slowly over medium-low heat until the fat starts to render. Pour off 1.5 ounces of bacon fat and allow to cool. While it’s cooling, cook the bacon to how you like it and then nom the crap out of it. Take a 750mL bottle of bourbon and place it in a container with a wide opening. Add the bacon fat and stir. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours and then place in the freezer for a few hours. The bacon fat will harden and you can just scoop it out with a slotted spoon and discard. The bourbon is now fully baconized and ready for a cocktail time.
Trinidad Sour (Guiseppe Gonzalez)
Cloudy and foreboding to look at. Like frothy blood. The first smell is overwhelming and the taste follows through on that promise. This drink can be described in one word: Serious.
If you’ve never had this cocktail, I can assure you that you’ve never had anything like it. Rarely does one see drinks with more than a couple dashes of bitters, and certainly not more than a dozen or so dashes. This drink is a different story. The amount of bitters in this drink can’t be measured in dashes. It’s a full 1 1/2 ounces. The Angostura serves as the base, as a more popular liquor might serve in any other cocktail. And because they are 90 proof, the drink is no slouch in the alcohol department.
1 1/2 ounces Angostura Bitters
1 1/2 ounces Orgeat (Almond Syrup)
3/4 ounce Lime Juice
1/2 ounce Rye Whiskey
Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled glass, shake for 15-20 seconds, and strain into a cocktail glass. Hold on to your hat.
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