We live in a world of remixes, reboots and revivals, of sequels, prequels, remakes and homages, nods, shout outs and reinterpretations. Bars are not exempt from this obsession with the past and rare is the menu that doesn’t revere the classics.
And while admiration is well deserved, cocktails that have transcended the time and place of their creation had to be invented at some point.
If Venetian bar owner Giuseppe Cipriani hadn’t been inspired in the forties by a bonanza of seasonal peaches near his now iconic Harry’s Bar and decided to mix the fruit’s purée with Prosecco, brunch would be a sadder, Bellini-less place.
If London Bartender Dick Bradsell hadn’t put together a new drink in the early nineties when a customer asked him for something that would “wake her up, then f**k her up”, we wouldn’t have the Espresso Martini.
They could have resorted to a sleek Prohibition era tipple or to a trusted 19th century punch yet they dared to create and now their recipes are replicated in bars all over.
The International Bartenders Association (IBA) features a list of official cocktails divided in “The Unforgettables”, “Contemporary Classics” and “New Era Drinks.” Even the most recent item acknowledged in this list dates from the last millennium.
What cocktails invented in the 21st century shall become the classics of the future? What is the legacy of today’s bartenders?
Somebody out there has to have the imagination to come up with the next Piña Colada or Cosmopolitan (yup, they were groundbreaking at some point). Perhaps it’s too soon to tell, after all, Fosco Scarselli probably had no clue he’d be mixing history when he replaced soda for gin while making an extra strong Americano cocktail for Count Camillo Negroni.
The Key to Crafting a Classic
While obscure artisan bitters and quirky infusions make for distinctive drinks, a real classic can only become such if it can be replicated with what a well stocked bar can reasonably be expected to have. It has to be possible for a skilled bartender to complete its preparation before customers loose their cool and it has to be profitable enough for bar managers to keep it on the menu.
International bartending competitions are a good place to watch for recipes with potential. Whether it’s IBA’s World Cocktail Championships or one of the several international tournaments sponsored by famous brands, each year high-level bartenders compete but also, meet each other and share, spreading trends and ideas.
Drinks expert Robert Simonson has done an admirable work creating the app Modern Classics of the Cocktail Renaissance, in which he documents drinks that have travelled outside their bar of birth to become permanent features in menus across the world in recent decades.
Some of the cocktails created after the turn of the millennium that have become iconic include the Chartreuse Swizzle (2002), Gin Gin Mule (2000), Gold Rush (2001), Red Hook (2003) and the White Negroni (2001).
Below, four neo-classic cocktails that have made it into the menus of Irish bars, their recipes and where to enjoy them…
Dublin’s Asian inspired eatery and cocktail bar Saba offers a Gin Basil Smash in the “Classics” section of its menu. The drink coexists with a Parthenon of classics such as Mojito, Old Fashioned, and Mai Tai. The difference is that the Basil Mash was created just in 2008. Salvatore Calabresse’s book Classic Cocktails tells the story of bartending living legend Jörg Meyer, who came up with the drink nearly a decade ago and mixed it to win the highly coveted Spirited Awards at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.
You can also find the nü-classic at Pacino’s, or sip a version of the smashing hit at J.T. Pims, where the Bloomin Smashin combines Bloom Gin, Strawberry puree, Basil Lemon & Apple juice. In less than a decade, the drink has carved a place for itself and it’s so beautifully simple that one can not help but wonder how did it not get invented sooner?
– 60 ml gin
– 30 ml lemon juice
– 20 ml simple syrup
– Fresh basil
1. Put basil leaves into a shaker and add the other ingredients.
2. Shake with plenty of ice and double strain into an old-fashioned glass with fresh ice cubes.
3. Garnish with a leaf of basil.
The irony is not lost on us, Penicillin has gone viral. It’s mixed across the world and it’s no stranger to Irish bars, but the drink wasn’t roaring in the twenties, nor staying alive back in disco days. It was created in 2005 by Sam Ross, from New York’s Milk & Honey. At the time the drink saw the (dim) light, the idea of mixing blended and single malt Scotch was taboo, even more so with the addition of ginger, lemon and honey.
The Exchequer serves an “Irish Penicillin” which combines Teeling Small Batch, Connemara Peated, ginger and honey syrup, Irish honey and lemon juice. You can also taste another rendition of the drink at The Chelsea Drugstore, where two Scotchs and a touch of Absinthe offer a smokey deep sip, and if you go north, you’ll also find the drink in the cocktail book at Belfast’s Merchant Hotel.
– 60 ml blended Scotch
– 15 ml single malt Scotch
– 15 ml honey
– 2 slices of fresh ginger
– 15 ml lemon juice
1. Muddle the ginger in the bottom of a shaker.
2. Add ice and the remaining ingredients and shake.
3. Double strain into an old-fashioned glass and garnish with candied ginger.
You know you’ve made it when Jamie Oliver publishes his take on your recipe. Contrary to what the name suggests, the Old Cuban is new; the drink was created in 2002 by Audrey Saunders, owner and bartender at NYC’s Pegu Club. The drink is a liquid portmanteau of a Mojito and a French 75 and in words of Jamie Oliver himself, this cocktail “is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.”
At the time of writing this feature, we couldn’t spot Old Cubans explicitly labelled as such in Irish cocktail menus, but the closest cocktails we found were the Mojito Royale at Fade Street Social (a Mojito topped with Prosecco instead of soda) and the Yeah Yeah Yeah from Peruke & Periwig (which substitutes the original’s name as well as Angostura bitters for Aphrodite bitters).
– 45 ml aged rum
– 30 ml simple syrup
– 22 ml fresh lime juice
– 2 dash Angostura bitters
– 6-8 mint leaves
– 60 ml of Champagne
1. Put the ingredients (except Champagne) in a cocktail mixed with ice and shake aggressively to break the mint.
2. Double strain into a Champagne flute and top with Champagne.
3. Stir and garnish with a sprig of mint.
Elderflower liqueur St. Germain was launched in 2007 and acquired by Bacardi in 2013. After that, it quickly went from obscure to omnipresent. Numerous cocktails have been created or updated to include this floral charmer and one of the simplest and most popular is the sparkly St. Germain and vodka plus a sparkling component which can be Champagne, Prosecco or soda water. A gin variation is also very popular.
Different versions of this combination have popped up since the liqueur’s debut including branded signature cocktails such as Grey Goose’s Le Grand Fizz, which was launched in 2016 in times for that year’s Cannes Film Festival. Fade Street Social serves a version called Elderfizz which mixes the liqueur with Prosecco and lemon juice; Morgan Bubbles at The Morgan Hotel add a touch of mango to this mix and Opium’s Elderflower Fizz is spiked with vodka. Another fizzy variation you can also enjoy is the Six of One 10 at Bow Lane, which combines sour apple and lime with the floral charms of Elderfower, gin and Prosecco.
The recipe below is one of the most common variations of the Elderflower Fizz, and as the drink has already mainstream success (it rests among Appletinis and Caipiroskas in the menu of popular nightclub Copan’s as St Germain Sparkler), variations from bar to bar are expected.
– 20 ml St Germain Elderflower Liqueur
– 20 ml lemon juice
– 30 ml vodka
– 60 ml Prosecco
1. Add all the ingredients except the Prosecco to a flute glass
2. Top with Prosecco
3. Stir very gently
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.