To paraphrase the old maxim, if life jacks up the price of limes make lemon drinks. This season, with a premium on the green citrus from Mexico, there’s never been a better reason to turn your cocktail shaker yellow—nor is there any shortage of great drinks with which to do it.
WHISKEY SOUR—Cocktailians as far back as the nineteenth century have known that lemon is no doubt the best fruit accompaniment to American whiskey—Bourbon or rye. To two ounces of the stuff, add one ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice and a half ounce simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water, heated and stirred). Add an egg white and ice. Shake vigorously until froth develops. Strain into small cocktail glass. For extra interest, steep in basil leaves when making the simple syrup.
PISCO SOUR—With a similar name, this is the Latin cousin of the above drink, using the national spirit of Peru or Chile (depending on whom you ask). It’s usually made with limes, but lemons may have been the original inspiration and work just as well. Follow the above recipe, substituting pisco for whiskey. The secret of the drink is to garnish with a couple dashes of Angostura bitters on top of the froth. It gives the cocktail a barky charm that announces itself on the aroma.
GIN FIZZES—Perceptive readers will note a trend developing here. The above recipes can be adapted using gin. Historically, gin has been a malleable partner with lemon juice, mixologists having developed a range of variations. Classically, the fizz comes from a topping of soda water, but we like the merengue that an egg white gives, as above. Use egg yolk, and it’s called a Golden Fizz. Dribble in a few drops of orange flower water, and it’s a Ramos Fizz. Replace gin with sloe gin liqueur for a Sloe Gin Fizz. Rum, either white or gold, adds an Island twist to the drink. Serve in a Collins glass over ice.
LEMON DROP—Think of this vodka vehicle in the modern Martini mold. Not only is it served in a large (bird-bath) cocktail glass, but you can make it Saharan dry by increasing the spirit-to-fruit-juice quotient as much as you dare. Place two ounces vodka, half ounce triple sec, a half ounce fresh lemon juice and a teaspoon superfine sugar in a glass. Shake well with ice. Strain into a large cocktail glass that has been rimmed with superfine sugar wetted with lemon juice.
With all these drinks, the proper garnish is a twist of lemon. Happy squeezing!