New York City (1911)
Here’s a drink that almost went extinct because of Prohibition – in its original form, anyway. Early 20th-century trendsetter Hugo Ensslin‘s Aviation owes its dry, sweet, tart, and floral balance to a key ingredient: crème de violette – a liqueur made by steeping violet flowers in neutral grain spirit with sugar to extract their perfume and color. In the bottle, it’s a deep violet; Mixed in a drink, it adds a pale sky-blue tinge (hence the name “Aviation,” no doubt). When Prohibition came along, many companies stopped importing their products to the US or just went out of business altogether. Such was the case with the original supplier of crème de violette – and that’s why recipes for the Aviation printed after 1920 simply omit this crucial accent. Without the violette, this cocktail just tastes like a Pixy Stix. Not nearly as interesting (or as eye-catching) as it should be. Thankfully, as the craft cocktail movement picked up steam, we started to see a revival of previously-lost ingredients, including crème de violette, reintroduced in 2007 by Rothman & Winter.
Hardware: Shaker, Jigger, Cocktail pick, Hawthorne strainer (if using Boston shaker)
Ice: Ice cubes
Glassware: Cocktail glass
Spirits: London Dry gin (recommended: Beefeater, Tanqueray)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Maraschino liqueur (recommended: Luxardo), Crème de violette (recommended: Rothman & Winter)
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lemon juice, Maraschino cherry
Chill a cocktail glass in the freezer at least ten minutes.
In a shaker about a third-full with ice cubes, add:
1 1/2 oz London Dry gin
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz maraschino liqueur
1/4 oz crème de violette
Shake well to blend and chill, then strain into the chilled glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry pierced on a cocktail pick.
Pimm’s Oyster House, London, England (1840)
The Pimm’s Cup tastes like an iced tea that’s been out mowing the lawn. Earthy, refreshing, and simple to assemble, the Pimm’s Cup is made for sipping outdoors on a warm day. Bonus: its low proof means you won’t get smashed if you want to enjoy a couple. For some unknown (but brilliant) reason, these are popular in New Orleans, not just England.
Pimm’s (a gin-and-botanicals sling) was originally sold in 1840 as a digestive tonic at James Pimm’s Oyster House in London’s financial district. Over time, its popularity grew among the British elite at garden parties and sporting events, then spread around the world along with the Victorian British Empire. Thirsty for something more than the original gin version (renamed “Pimm’s #1” as the new versions appeared), its bottlings grew to Pimm’s #2 (Scotch), Pimm’s #3 (brandy), Pimm’s #4 (rum), Pimm’s #5 (rye), and Pimm’s #6 (vodka). As go empires, most of these have been discontinued, leaving just the original version to hold guard.
Simply combine Pimm’s #1 and some lemon soda over ice and garnish with a lemon wedge and cucumber slice. Yes, cucumber – trust me. It enhances the earthy sweetness in the mix. Lemon soda can be hard to come across – look for Lorina (sweeter) or San Pellegrino (drier) brands. If you’re coming up short, a lemon-flavored mineral water like Perrier will work. As a fallback, some people mix with 7-Up or ginger ale, but these will make the drink much sweeter than intended. A Pimm’s Cup is as close to an RTD (“ready to drink”) as I’ll ever be likely to recommend.
Last time I was in England, pubs were serving these all summer (although tricked out with strawberry and mint along with the traditional lemon and cucumber) so it’s nice to see that (at least in Old Blighty), traditions still endure. Foist one of these on an unsuspecting friend and you just may begin a new tradition in your home.
Hardware: Barspoon, Jigger, Straw (optional)
Ice: Cracked ice
Glassware: Collins glass
Mixers & Liqueurs: Pimm’s #1, Lemon soda (recommended: Lorina Original French Lemonade, San Pellegrino Limonata)
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lemon wedge, Cucumber slice
In a Collins glass filled with cracked ice, add:
2 oz Pimm’s #1
3 oz lemon soda
Stir well to blend and chill, then garnish with a lemon wedge and cucumber slice. Optionally, serve with a straw.
New York City, 1860ish
The Whiskey Sour is one in a family of “Sours” – modify the sweetener from simple syrup to honey syrup and you have a Gold Rush. Make it maple syrup and that’s a Rattlesnake. Make it with rum & lime, call it a Daiquiri. Keep swapping things around and tweaking proportions and you’ll get a Margarita, a Jack Rose, a Wild-Eyed Rose, a Sidecar… endless variations. Jerry Thomas first covered Sours in his 1862 book and just about every cocktail book since then has featured a version. I’ve uncovered a baffling array of recipes called “Whiskey Sour” – tall with soda in a Collins glass, frappe-style with blended crushed ice and Angostura bitters in a fizz glass, whiskey-forward on the rocks, citrus-forward up in a cocktail glass, and more. The original was surely just whiskey, lemon, and sugar, most likely on the rocks. Two hitchhikers this drink picked up along the way make a great addition: egg white and Angostura bitters. The egg brings body and texture, the Angostura helps mask the wet-dog smell that egg foam sometimes gets (plus it adds those delicious cinnamon and clove spices). Try it this way, then feel free to fiddle around with it, coming up with your own spin.
Hardware: Shaker, Jigger, Fine-mesh strainer
Ice: Ice cubes
Glassware: Cocktail glass or coupe
Spirits: Bourbon whiskey (recommended: Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey 81, Four Roses “Yellow Label”)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Simple syrup, Egg white
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lemon juice, Angostura bitters, Lemon wheel, Maraschino cherry
Chill a cocktail glass or coupe in the freezer at least ten minutes. Separate one egg, discarding the yolk. Lightly mix the egg white with a fork – this’ll help you measure it out.
In an empty shaker, add:
2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz egg whites
Make sure you have a good, tight seal (egg whites can foam up and expand when shaken). Shake without ice for 20 seconds to blend. Add a few ice cubes and shake again, hard, for at least 30 seconds. Double-strain into the chilled glass using a fine-mesh strainer.
Allow the egg foam to rise to the top (you can also spoon some residual foam out from the shaker) and, in a ring, drop:
8 drops Angostura bitters
Swirl the Angostura bitters with a cocktail pick to decorate the top of the drink. Garnish with a lemon wheel and Maraschino cherry pinned together with a cocktail pick.