Milk & Honey, New York City (2007)

Here’s a fine example of the current “craft” movement in cocktails – combining culinary techniques with bold flavors to create something new and amazing. This one’s by Sam Ross of Milk & Honey and Little Branch, two of New York’s craft bars getting a lot of attention these past couple years. A friend who tried this drink recently said she had an immediate flashback to watching her grandfather work on his car in his garage. Something about the smokiness of the Islay whiskey floating on top triggered that memory, and I like that idea. Not-so-basic aspects of this one: double-straining and floating a spirit on the drink’s surface. Just lower a barspoon, convex side up, to the surface of the drink and gently pour the Islay Scotch over the back of the spoon. It’ll settle on top without sinking in too much.

THE KIT

Hardware: Shaker, Jigger, Muddler, Barspoon, Fine mesh strainer, Cocktail pick
Ice: Ice cubes, Ice chunk
Glassware: Double Old Fashioned glass
Spirits: Scotch whiskies (blended {recommended: The Famous Grouse} & Islay {recommended: Ardbeg or Bowmore})
Mixers & Liqueurs: Honey syrup
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Fresh ginger, Fresh lemon juice, Candied ginger

HOW TO

Chill a double Old Fashioned glass in the freezer at least ten minutes.
In a shaker, add:
3 slices fresh ginger (peeled)
Muddle well to pulverize ginger and extract its juice. Add ice cubes to about a third-full, then add:
2 oz blended Scotch whisky
3/4 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz honey syrup
Shake well to blend and chill, then double-strain into the chilled glass through a fine mesh strainer over a large ice chunk or two to three ice cubes. Gently pouring over the back of a barspoon at the surface of the drink, add:
1/4 oz Islay Scotch whisky
Garnish with a slice of candied ginger skewered on a cocktail pick.

HONEY SYRUP

Honey Syrup keeps honey from freezing and seizing when mixed in cocktails. Just mix three parts honey with one part water over low heat and stir to combine. Keep cool.

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New York City (1908)

This formerly-obscure gem will convert your friends who still think of a cocktail as an “Appletini.” It’s fruity, tart, and snappy when done correctly. With only three ingredients in perfect balance, precise measurement is a must – along with the finest ingredients you can locate. The Laird family has been making spirits in New Jersey for 300 years (George Washington is on record having asked for their recipe) and they knock it out of the park with their 100-proof Apple Brandy. But mind their labels – Laird’s has another one called just “Applejack” that’s heavily cut with neutral spirits, skip it. Find the sweetest, juiciest limes you’re able to. And the crowning touch is a batch of homemade grenadine (easier than you think, recipe below).

THE KIT

Hardware: Shaker, Jigger
Ice: Ice cubes
Glassware: Cocktail glass
Spirits: Applejack (recommended: Laird’s 100-proof Apple Brandy)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Grenadine
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lime juice, Lime wheel

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 applejack
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.

GRENADINE

Real pomegranate Grenadine is miles above the common artificial kind and can be made easily at home. Mix one cup of freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice (if in season) or 100% unsweetened pomegranate juice (like POM brand) with one cup of white sugar. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. When it’s cool, add one and a half teaspoons of orange flower water – easily found at Middle Eastern markets or online. Adding an ounce of 100-proof vodka will keep it from spoiling too fast. Keep refrigerated. Will last about 3 months.

Stirrings and Monin are good commercial alternatives if you’re not up for the five minutes this takes.