MojitoHavana, Cuba (date unknown)

Some cocktails can be easily pinned down to a specific point of origin. The Mojito isn’t one of them. The first printed recipe is in the 1931 bar manual from Sloppy Joe’s in Havana. But there are records of Caribbean pirates mixing unrefined rum, sugar, lime, and mint going back to the late 16th century. Who knows? One thing’s for sure: The Mojito’s trendiness a while back wasn’t because it was the new kid on the block.

Most places I’ve seen make this over-muddle the mint, demolishing it into little shreds you’re picking out of your teeth for the next hour. Adding lime chunks to the muddling mix will get a huge boost from the oils in their rinds. Take care and do your muddling in two passes – you’ll get a much nicer drink. And cleaner teeth.

THE KIT

Hardware: Shaker, Jigger, Muddler, Barspoon
Ice: Ice cube, Cracked ice
Glassware: Collins glass
Spirits: Light rum (recommended: Havana Club 3, Caña Brava, Cruzan)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Simple syrup, Seltzer or sparkling mineral water (recommended: Pellegrino) 
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lime chunks, Fresh spearmint

HOW TO

In a chilled shaker, add:

Half a lime, cored and cut into four chunks
2 oz light rum
3/4 oz simple syrup

Muddle well to express all lime juice and rind oils, then add:

10 spearmint leaves

Muddle again lightly to release the mint’s aromatics. Add an ice cube and let it steep in a cool place for a few minutes.

Fill a Collins glass about two-thirds of the way up with cracked ice. Gently strain the infused rum over the cracked ice – don’t shake too much. Top with:

1 oz seltzer or sparkling mineral water

Stir lightly to blend and garnish with a mint sprig that’s been lightly slapped against the rim of the glass to release its aromatic oils.

Tagged with:
 

Wallick Hotel, New York City (1913)

As Jerry Thomas captured a moment in time with his 1862 book “How to Mix Drinks (or The Bon Vivant’s Companion),” so did Hugo Ensslin with his “Recipes for Mixed Drinks” published in 1917 – the last cocktail guide available before Prohibition. Think of them as bookends when taken together. Ensslin was head bartender at the Wallick Hotel in New York City (since demolished, now the site of NASDAQ MarketSite). There, he created countless classics including his most famous, the Aviation. His book featured the products that were new and trendy at the time: Bacardi rum, grenadine, Cointreau, applejack… one has to wonder how much more the American craft of the cocktail would have flourished if it weren’t for Prohibition!

This drink’s name is a goof on Chauncey Olcott’s 1913 hit “My Wild Irish Rose” (he’s the same guy who co-wrote “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”) and uses Irish whiskey as its base spirit. Ireland was the first country to make whiskey, possibly as early as the 1100s – that’s a long time to get it right. The famously smooth Irish whiskey was big-time popular in the US around the turn of the 20th century – to keep up with demand, there were hundreds of distilleries and over 400 brands produced in Ireland. Then came Prohibition, two World Wars, the Irish Civil War, and the Great Depression… leaving Ireland with only two operating distilleries. Today, there are still just four.

Try this one with Redbreast 12 – a pot-still Irish whiskey reminiscent of the style popular when Ensslin wrote his book. And, of course, ridiculously-easy, no-excuse-not-to, homemade grenadineSláinte!

THE KIT

Hardware: Shaker, Jigger
Ice: Ice cubes
Glassware: Cocktail glass
Spirits: Irish whiskey (recommended: Redbreast 12)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Grenadine
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lime juice, Lime wheel, Maraschino cherry

HOW TO

Chill a cocktail glass in the freezer at least ten minutes.

In a shaker about a third-full with ice cubes, add:

2 oz Irish whiskey
3/4 oz lime juice
3/4 oz grenadine

Shake well to blend and chill, then strain into the chilled glass. Garnish with a lime wheel and maraschino cherry.

Uncertain origin (1870s)

For most of the 19th century, anything called a “cocktail” was of the same template: a spirit with sugar, a bit of water (or ice), and bitters. As vermouth became available in the US around 1870, there was a surge of revolutionary cocktails pairing this exotic new item with spirits: gin, genever, bourbon, rye, Scotch, rum, brandy… people couldn’t get enough of the stuff. The original pairing of spirit with vermouth and bitters may have been the Turf Club – unfortunately, history is frustratingly hazy on this subject. Damned drinkers! The classic Martini and Manhattan came from this period, as did the Martinez. It’s most likely named for the San Francisco-adjacent East Bay town that was a hub of activity during the Gold Rush. The oldest printed recipe for the Martinez specifies a ratio of one part spirit to two parts vermouth – the variation I prefer marks a subsequent point in its evolution, at a one-to-one ratio. All these spirit-and-vermouth cocktails went through a long dry spell in the 20th century, some getting down to just a quarter-ounce of vermouth, others just rinse the ice with vermouth before stirring and drain out any excess. Why the fear of vermouth? Who knows. I’m just glad that bartenders are re-embracing denser ratios these days.

Old Tom gin was most likely used in the original recipe since the London Dry style hadn’t taken hold yet. Another possibility would be genever, called “Holland gin” back in the day – try this with Bols genever sometime if you really want to get a taste of the past. The Martinez is one of my favorite examples of “time travel in a glass” – imagine yourself in a candlelit saloon, heavy with dark wood and red velvet, as you sip this. You may just get the urge to head across the Bay and go panning for gold.

THE KIT

Hardware: Mixing glass, Jigger, Barspoon, Vegetable peeler
Ice: Ice cubes
Glassware: Cocktail glass
Spirits: Old Tom gin (recommended: Hayman’s, Ransom)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Italian vermouth (recommended: Carpano Antica, Dolin red), Maraschino liqueur (recommended: Luxardo)
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Orange bitters (recommended: Regan’s), orange twist

HOW TO

Chill a cocktail glass in the freezer at least ten minutes.

In a mixing glass, add:
1 1/2 oz Old Tom gin
1 1/2 oz Italian vermouth
1/3 oz maraschino liqueur
2 dashes orange bitters

Add a mix of ice cubes and cracked ice to cover well above the liquid level. Stir well to blend and chill, then strain into the prepared, chilled glass. Pinch an orange twist over the drink to express oils onto its surface, then rub the twist around the glass rim to coat. Garnish with the twist laid across the surface of the drink.