The final two drinks on our NYE menu are the Red Hook, a Manhattan dressed up with a dash of Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, and the Negroni, a bitter but refreshing bartended favorite (which happens to be our staff cocktail tonight) -- if you like 'em strong, herbaceous, and citrusy, this just might become your favorite drink of 2015!
Although Americans drink three times more of it than any other spirit, vodka didn’t make its grand premier on the cocktail scene until the 1940s. Because of vodka’s late entrée – and because most cocktail geeks hesitate to call anything a “classic” unless it was concocted prior to the end of Prohibition – you won’t find many vodka drinks on classic cocktail menus.
However, one vodka drink you will find on the menu at The Sawbuck is the Moscow Mule – a delicious and refreshing highball that forever changed Americans’ boozing habits and earned itself the special, oxymoronic title of a true “modern classic.”
Cocktail lore has it that the Moscow Mule kicked its way into the cocktail scene 1941, when the American businessman who bought the Smirnoff name from a Russian family (but was having a hard time finding an American audience for the stuff) encountered an L.A. bar owner who was overstocked on ginger beer. Having little to lose, the two gentlemen threw their respective wares together with some fresh lime, served it up in a copper mug, and dubbed it the irresistibly alliterative Moscow Mule.
The drink was a hit and it wasn’t long before it swept the country from its L.A. bar of origin all the way to the clubs of Manhattan, sparking a vodka craze that would only increase in fervor in the ensuing decades. In the 1950s, Americans subbed vodka for gin in their Martinins; in the ‘60s and ‘70s they swapped it for rum and whiskey in their highballs; they poured it over New Coke in the ‘80s; and they mixed it with everything under the sun during the “(insert favorite candy-store flavor here)-tini” craze of the ‘90s and early 2000s.
However, few – if any – of the drinks concocted during vodka’s decades-long, Russian Army-like march over of the cocktail kingdom have withstood the test of time like the truly modern classic Moscow Mule.
For many, the Amaretto Sour brings to mind the worst a bad cocktail has to offer: cloyingly sweet almond-flavored liqueur, fluorescent-yellow pre-made sour mix, and a bright red maraschino cherry the likes of which mother nature never intended.
If this describes your experience of an Amaretto Sour, for fuck’s sake quit ordering those kinds of drinks at that kind of bar! When made right – with fresh lemon juice, top-shelf Amaretto, and a hearty slug of cask-strength bourbon, all whipped together with fresh egg white – the Amaretto Sour is a sublime combination of sweet, boozy, citrusy, and frothy.
The Amaretto Sour recipe we use at The Sawbuck is based on Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s over-the-top version of the drink – take the time to read about Jeffrey’s hardly-humble take on this classic cocktail and to introduce yourself to one of our all-time-favorite bartender heroes here.
The French 75, the second drink on our NYE menu, blends the brightness of citrus and the effervescence of champagne with the spirituous, botanical character of London dry gin. Both classic and classy, the French 75 is a perfect cocktail to toast the New Year with.
One version of the French 75's origin has the drink being created in 1915 at the New York Bar in Paris. The combination was said to have such a kick that it felt like being shelled by the powerful 75 mm artillery cannon favored by the French during World War I.
For an alternate take on the origin, check out cocktail historian David Wondrich's great article on the French 75 here.
The first cocktail on our NYE menu is the Old Fashioned, a truly timeless classic and the epitome of the original 1806 definition of a cocktail: “a potent concoction of spirits, bitters, water, and sugar.”
Don’t be intimidated by the “potent” and “bitters” verbiage, though – this one’s smooth and balanced, with delicious hints of vanilla, citrus and baking spices, all complimented by one of our signature brandied cherries.
Some of you might be curious about the bitters featured in the Old Fashioned and many of our other classic cocktails. Bitters are the condiments – or the salt and pepper – of the cocktail world. They balance cocktails by tying ingredients together, highlighting certain notes, and adding depth and complexity.
The term bitters is actually a bit of a misnomer, as they aren’t always bitter and are used in such small quantities – usually just a dash or two – that they’re either mellowed by other ingredients or balanced with a sweetener like sugar, honey, or maple syrup (three of our favorites).