Josh's 10 Favorite Cocktails of All Time

Courtesy House Spirits Distillery

Recipe:

2 oz. Dry gin

1 oz. Vodka

½ oz. Cocchi Americano aperitif

Place all ingredients in a shaker with crushed ice. You can stir them, but we've found that shaking works even better (Bond was right). Strain into a martini glass. Twist a slice of lemon peel over the top so the oils spread into the glass and drop the peel in after.

Notes:

A little note about this cocktail, which was developed in honor of James Bond and was originally his drink of choice. This is one cocktail where the quality of the ingredients you use will shine through in the finished drink; therefore, use the highest quality gin and vodka to make the best Vesper. We like Plymouth or Leopold's gin and Vodka 14. You will frequently see Lillet Blanc recommended as the third ingredient rather than the Cocchi. Lillet will work, but it will make an entirely different cocktail. The reason Lillet is often called for is because Lillet formerly made a version called Kina Lillet. While it was also a light fortified wine like Lillet Blanc, it contained bitter ingredients that made it much more akin to Cocchi Americano. So to produce the most accurate and, in my opinion, best kind of Vesper use Cocchi instead.

9
The Old Fashioned
Courtesy New York Times

Recipe:

2 oz. Bourbon

1 Lump demerara sugar

2-3 Dashes Angostura bitters

Orange zest

Place sugar lump in a rocks glass and saturate it with two to three dashes of Angostura bitters. Muddle the sugar and add whiskey. Swirl to combine and coat the sides of the glass. Express a piece of orange zest over the drink and drop in the zest. Add a couple of medium-sized pieces of ice. You may also want to add a little spray of seltzer water too; we do sometimes.

Notes:

We've already written extensively about our love for the Old Fashioned cocktail and its origin, so if you're interested check it out and learn while you enjoy one.

8
The Martinez
Courtesy Chow

Recipe:

1 ½ oz. Old Tom gin

¾ oz Italian vermouth

1 small tsp. Maraschino liqueur

2 Dashes orange bitters

Fill a cocktail shaker half full with ice cubes. Add all ingredients and stir well with a long spoon until outside of shaker is frosty. Strain into a chilled stemmed glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

Notes:

This cocktail is a venerable one, making its first appearance in print in the 1887 edition of Jerry Thomas' Bon Vivant's Companion, the U.S.'s first bartender's guide. Don't be afraid of the appearance of maraschino liqueur. It bears absolutely no resemblance to the bright red maraschino cherries, despite sharing the name. In fact, maraschino liqueur has a nice nutty sweetness that will knock your socks off in small doses (use Luxardo). You'll also notice the gin that's called for is Old Tom. If you're used to good old London dry gin, Old Tom will be a new treat for you. It's considered a "wet" gin and the only way to understand the difference is to try them both. Ransom makes the best Old Tom, in my humble opinion. Carpano Antica sweet Italian vermouth will make the best version of the Martinez. Lastly, I prefer Regan's orange bitters. You might not have any of these liquors hanging around your house, but once you have a Martinez you'll likely always have them on hand henceforth.

7
La Medicina
Courtesy The Sonora Grill

Recipe:

2 oz. Tequila

¾ oz. Fresh squeezed lemon juice

½ oz. Ginger syrup*

½ oz. Honey syrup**

¼ oz. Mescal

Combine the tequila, lemon juice, honey syrup and ginger syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and then strain into a tumbler with ice. Slowly pour the mezcal over the back of a spoon over the drink so that it floats. Garnish with a lemon peel.

* To make the ginger syrup, combine 1 part ginger juice (you can buy at some stores or if you have a juicer, get to work) to 1 part simple syrup (which is itself 1 part water to 1 part sugar; see the Guadalajara Sour recipe for instructions).

** To make the honey syrup, heat equal parts honey and water in a pot while stirring. Allow to cool and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Notes:

La Medicina was created by a bartender at Atlanta restaurant Bocado. It's a play on the classic scotch cocktail the Penicillin, which contrasts smooth blended scotch with a smoky Islay scotch and combines them with lemon, ginger and sweetener. In La Medicina, the scotches are switched out for tequila and mezcal. There are all sorts of mezcal on the market, all made from agave in a similar process to making tequila, but outside of the five regions of Mexico where tequila is legally made (similar to Bourbon only being made within certain counties in Kentucky and champagne being produced only in the Champagne region of France). Mezcal is made somewhat differently from tequila and so it tastes different enough that they are for all intents and purposes two different liquors. You may also be familiar with mezcal as that Mexican liquor that has the worm in it. That's true, but you'll be hard pressed to find a worm in the better mezcals that have hit the American market in the last couple years. In this cocktail, you'll want to use a very smoky mezcal like Sombra to reproduce the impact the Islay scotch has in the Penicillin. Also, this is a great chance to become introduced to making your own syrups, which can be used in all sorts of different drinks, alcoholic and otherwise.

6
The St. Germain Cocktail
Courtesy St. Germain

Recipe:

1 ½ oz St. Germain liqueur

2 oz. Brut champagne

2 oz. Soda or seltzer

Fill a tall glass with crushed ice. Pour over ingredients and stir to combine. Serve with a twist of lemon, orange or grapefruit.

Notes:

This most simple of cocktails is also one of the more refreshing. What's more, it's easy to make in large batches for sharing on the porch on a warm day. St. Germain is a French brand of elderflower liqueur that mixes well in all manner of cocktails, so a bottle won't sit around for too long. It is very sweet and has a singular, flowery (though, peculiarly, not floral) taste. The original recipe calls for Brut champagne or dry sparkling wine which manages to offset the sweetness of the liqueur. You could use any champagne or sparkling wine, though, and trying new ones out (like a sparkling Rosè) will effectively make an entirely different drink altogether. Some people opt for still wine instead of sparkling and leave the gassiness to the third ingredient, the club soda.

5
Guadalajara Sour
Courtesy Andrew Scrivani/New York Times

Recipe:

Several sprigs fresh cilantro

¾ oz. Freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 ¾ oz. Blanco tequila

¾ oz. Simple syrup*

¾ oz. Rosè wine

Slice fresh jalapeno, seeded

To a shaker, add cilantro and lemon juice and muddle together using a wooden muddler or the back of a spoon. Add simple syrup and tequila and ice and shake until well chilled. Double strain (using a mesh strainer) into a rocks glass with large cubes of ice. Slowly pour the wine over the back of a spoon so it floats on top of the drink. Garnish with jalapeno.

Notes:

Cilantro and jalapeno in your drink? Oh yes, and lots of it. A guy from Boise named Michael Bower came up with the Guadalajara Sour, and I found it in the New York Times and adapted it, adding the cilantro and jalapeno. The result is pretty much summer cocktail heaven. Be sure to use a double strainer when pouring this one from the glass to the shaker. It's a mesh strainer designed for cocktail-sized jobs and it's good to have around when you're mixing a drink like this one that has particles of muddled herbs in it.

4
The Sojourner
Courtesy Elizabeth Wilson/Creative Loafing

Recipe:

1.75 oz. Four Roses Small Batch bourbon

0.3 oz. Fresh lemon juice

0.3 oz. St. Germain liqueur

0.3 oz. Zirbenz Stone Pine liqueur

0.3 oz. Simple syrup

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Several fresh save leaves

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the sage leaves (save one for a garnish) with the lemon juice. Add the remaining ingredients and ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into a coupe or cocktail glass and garnish with a sage leaf.

Notes:

A guy named James Ives created The Sojourner while he was at Atlanta restaurant 4th and Swift. The Sojourner calls for some specific ingredients and while you could use any medium-proof whiskey to make it, Ives originally called for the small batch version of Four Roses bourbon. He also originally used Zirbenz Stone Pine liqueur, which is exactly what it sounds like, and in fact during a demonstration he once gave my wife and me, Ives said he created this drink in order to feature Zirbenz, which he'd discovered while living in Europe for a time. (He also told us he named all of his drinks after movies, though I don't know which one the Sojourner references.) Lately, a number of other distilleries have come up with their own pine liqueurs and they would probably do just as well in this drink, so knock yourself out with what's best to you. Also, you may be a bit perplexed by the 0.3 oz measurements, as it is a bit perplexing. That amount equals 1.8 US teaspoons, so two scant teaspoons will come pretty close.

3
Vieux Carre
Courtesy DrinkShouts

Recipe:

1 oz. Rye whiskey

1 oz. Cognac

1 oz. Sweet Italian vermouth

1 tsp. Benedictine D.O.M.

2 Dashes Peychaud's bitters

2 Dashes Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice and stir until combined and well chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with brandied cherry and enjoy.

Notes:

I smoke a cigars now and then and I have found that the Vieux Carre is so smooth that it actually manages to mellow them - probably thanks to the Benedictine, which is an herbal liqueur. The name of the drink is the French term for the French Quarter, which makes sense since the Vieux Carre was invented in 1938 by a New Orleans bartender named Walter Bergeron, who headed the bar at the Monteleone Hotel. The drink is pretty much a showcase of some of the best liquors that humankind has to offer and can be upgraded easily by using high-end ingredients. For example, using a good champagne cognac (which is as amazing as it sounds) rather than mere cognac, turns this already-ritzy drink into one that's worth wearing a tuxedo for. I like to use Carpano Antico vermouth (which also turns up in the Martinez) in the Vieux Carre. Amazing with or without a cigar and best on a winter night.

2
La Paloma
Courtesy Mint Catering

Recipe:

2 oz. Fresh grapefruit juice

1 Tbsp. Fresh lime juice

1/4 oz. Simple syrup

2 oz. Mescal or tequila

Moisten the rim of a tall glass with a lime or grapefruit wedge and rim with coarse salt. Pour in remaining ingredients and stir. Add ice and top with club soda.

Notes:

From what I've read, this, not the margarita, is the preferred drink of Mexico. It's often made with grapefruit-flavored soda, like Jarritos (or Squirt), in which case you should leave out the grapefruit juice, simple syrup and club soda and just use as much grapefruit soda as you like. For my money, fresh juice, simple syrup and club soda is much preferred.

1
Tabard Cocktail
Courtesy Ryan Donnnell/Imbibe Magazine

Recipe:

1 1/2 oz. Reposado tequila

1/2 oz. Amontillado sherry

1/2 oz. Drambuie

Dash orange bitters

Combine ingredients in a shaker or pitcher over ice. Stir until combined and well chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass and express an orange peel over the top. The original recipe calls for a sprig of thyme as a garnish.

Notes:

This is the house cocktail of one of my favorite bars in the entire world, the Tabard Inn. The historic inn, which is located in the middle of Washington D.C.'s Logan Circle neighborhood, houses the equally historic bar where this cocktail is served. As anyone who knows from the How Bars Work episode, this is typical. The cocktail was created by Tabard bartender Chantal Tseng and does an excellent job of summing up the pre-Prohibition heritage of the Tabard Inn: It's boooooozy and delicious.