It’s easy to hunker down in the cold and snow of winter by pouring drinks that are better designed to stave off the weather than to perk up your palate. But now that spring has sprung, it’s time to range out from those nogs and straight pours that got you through. Put some fruit and soda in your drink and you’ll welcome those extra hours of sunlight.
Every cocktail has an origin story, some quite reasonable, others far-fetched. In the case of the Moscow Mule, it is that John Martin, the president of the spirits importer Heublein, was commiserating with Jack Morgan, the owner of the Cock’n Bull Bar, on L.A.’s Sunset Strip. The former had a shipment of Smirnoff vodka he couldn’t sell. The latter had a surplus of ginger beer. Some tellings include a salesman hard-up to unload some copper mugs. They put them together and the Moscow Mule was born. Eighty years later, the most unbelievable part of this story may be that vodka was ever hard to sell. But this was a decade before what is now America’s most popular alcoholic beverage would be pitched as leaving you breathless. The important thing is that this tangy mix of ginger, lime and clear spirit with an unusual presentation found a place in the nation’s taste buds and hung on. In fact, the Mule has gotten a recent kick from the cocktail revival, and even the obscure part of the mix—the copper vessel—is not hard to find. Some bartenders fuss with the garnish (lemon or mint are popular choices, but we prefer to stick with lime) or even switch out the vodka with another spirit, which isn’t playing fair. Here’s how to make the real Mule.
1 ½ oz. vodka
½ oz. lime juice
Pour vodka and lime juice over ice in the appropriate mug. Fill with ginger beer. Stir. Garnish with lime wedge.
Bourbon Peach Smash
Among the many delightful monikers used to describe mixed drinks—cocktails, fixes, flips, slings, nogs, punches and rickeys—smash has got to be right up there for the most evocative. Is it a noun? Is it a verb? Is it a state of mind? In short, a smash is an iced drink with muddled fruit or herbs, which sounds suspiciously like a julep. And, in fact, The Savoy Cocktail Book described it as “in effect a julep on a small plan.” But that’s not fair to say either. While a julep is broadly a fruit concoction with sugar and ice, who doesn’t think of mint drinks and fancy hats at Churchill Downs at the mention of the term? Let’s reserve the J-word for that horse-racing drink and consider the smash for those other warm-weather cold drinks that feature fruit and, of course, Bourbon. Any fruit that can be muddled in the bottom of a glass is a candidate for a smash, but peach is our go-to. Partly because it is a fruit inextricably linked with the South and therefore Bourbon. Partly because it enjoys a long season of ripeness that begins in May in some places. But mostly because it tastes so good.
1 oz. simple syrup
½ cup sliced fresh peaches
1 ½ oz. Bourbon
Muddle simple syrup and peaches in a mixing glass. Add Bourbon and ice and shake. Strain with a julep strainer into an Old Fashioned glass over ice. Top with seltzer. Garnish with peach slice.
Because of the sad state of affairs that cocktails were in when the revival began some decades ago, there is a tendency now to trick out drinks with fresh ingredients to make up for the dark ages. Thankfully, that leaves behind such atrocities as powdered Daiquiri and Whiskey Sour mixes that were used to replace fresh-squeezed lime and lemons in those troubled times. But in the rush to authenticity don’t forget that some drinks were invented to be made with the easy mixers that were at hand, and not everything is improved by swapping them out. Such is the case with the Gimlet, which isn’t really the same if not made with the satisfyingly bitter Rose’s Lime Juice, which comes in a bottle. And so is the case with the Paloma. Mixologists want to tart up the drink with fresh grapefruit juice of special provenance or add homemade bitters or alternate fruit juice as if they were returning to the original. But no, stick to the plan. This delightfully refreshing Mexican drink was created as a simple highball, combining bottled grapefruit soda (probably Squirt, but Fresca is an acceptable substitute) with Tequila. You can use all the fancy stuff to impress your guests, but don’t let anybody tell you that you’re not being authentic when you simply pour some soda over Tequila and ice to quench your thirst on a hot day. We give you both options.
The Easy Paloma
1 ½ oz. Tequila
Pour spirit over ice in a highball glass. Add soda.
The Alternative Paloma
1 ½ oz. Tequila
¼ oz. simple or agave syrup
3 oz. fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
Rim highball glass with salt. Add ice, add remaining ingredients and stir.
Corpse Reviver No. 2
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this ominous-sounding drink is that there were several versions back in the riotous days when unrestrained drinking led to a temperance movement. The pseudoscientific idea was that more booze could be a hangover cure. The first Corpse Reviver appeared in the 1870s with a brandy base. This more popular version comes from The Savoy Cocktail Book, the seminal 1930 work compiled by Harry Craddock of the London bar of the same name. Made at the height of the Gin & Jazz Age, this Corpse Reviver is logically a gin drink. Its complexity suggests an attempt to fool the deceased into reanimating. We propose it not as a panacea for the overindulgent, but for those whose palates have gone into hibernation after a long winter and need a little reawakening. Reprinted here is a slightly modified take on Craddock’s original recipe, which called for Kina Lillet, the aromatized wine that James Bond used in the Vesper. As it is no longer made, we have replaced it with the more mainstream Cocchi Americano, but feel free to switch in another amaro.
¼ oz. lemon juice
¼ oz. Cocchi Americano
¼ oz. Cointreau
¼ oz. dry gin
1 dash absinthe
Combine the ingredients with plenty of ice in a cocktail shaker, shake vigorously, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel.