When it comes to cocktails, the combination of spirit, mixer, and other mixers will never go out of style.
While we’re all for–and inclined to order–the decidedly old school cocktails like the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Gimlet, and Vodka Tonic, there are quite a few other “New Age” (for lack of a better moniker) cocktails that have piqued our interest these days.
Each one of the cocktails you see below is a riff on a classic that deserves its own place in the pantheon of great drinks for one reason or another. Now here they are, the best cocktails you’ve never heard of.
On the surface, the Embarcadero is a San Franciscan, by way of New York–take on the Boulevardier, but this unique flavor combination drinks and remains on the palate in far more significant details. As opposed to the usual options, the Embarcadero combines Rye, Amaro, and Vermouth with a lemon twist to create a libation similar to both the Negroni and the Boulevardier despite–in our opinion anyway–being infinitely more delicious and drinkable.
Left Hand Cocktail
The Left Hand is a drink you’re not likely to find on a cocktail menu at all the usual haunts, but one that will come up if you decide to go with the “Dealer’s Choice” option at any large, metropolitan watering hole. It essentially boils down to a “Boulevardier with chocolate bitters,” but even that subtle distinction has led to dozens of iterations–from all of the famous bar groups and their ilk–over the years. You won’t go wrong with the Bourbon/Campari/Vermouth/Bitters recipe, but there are more variants on this top cocktail than there are ways to make clear ice.
Jungle Bird Cocktail
As the story goes, the Jungle Bird was originally created more than half a century ago as a welcome drink created by Jeffrey Ong and served to visitors of the Kuala Lumpur Hilton. Despite garnering acclaim in the likes of “The New American Bartender’s Guide” and receiving massive acclaim in its native Malaysia, the Jungle Bird eventually evolved into a concoction you can find on any good Tiki drink list from New York to Chicago to Vegas to San Francisco. Order one the next time you see it. You won’t regret it.
20th Century Cocktail
While the traditional dry martini and Tom Collins will always hold the crown when it comes to old school era cocktails, there’s another drink that never gets proper recognition: the 20th Century Cocktail. What appears to be a riff on the Corpse Reviver No. 2 on the surface is actually accentuated by and completed with a depth of flavor from the creme de cacao, Lillet blanc, and tart lemon juice that somehow marries all the flavors synergistically while also mellowing and balancing them. Done right, this is the cocktail we’d happily drink for the rest of our natural lives.
Yes, the pink lady is pink. And yes, it does have “lady” in the name. But the good people at Playboy interviewed a few bartenders about this, and if they’re not worried about the femininity of your drink, then you shouldn’t be either. The cocktail gets its pink hue from the 2 dashes of grenadine tossed in for good measure, but a pink lady is basically dry gin and apple jack, mixed with a little lemon juice and a goddamn egg white. Two high-proof boozes, mixed with eggs and lemon. Nevertheless, the grenadine gives it an ever-slightly-but-super-important dash of sweet fruitiness, and the lemon lends a dry, crisp smack to the concoction. If you’ve never sampled the Pink Lady, it’s time to do something about it.
Corpse Reviver Number 1
You’ve all heard of the Corpse Reviver (probably one of the most badass cocktail names of all time), but when you do, you’re usually hearing about Number 2 (gin, Cointreau, a little absinthe). The original Corpse Reviver #1 is an excellent cocktail that no one drinks, and we honestly don’t know why. A strong cognac base, mixed with a little calvados (apple brandy) and a little sweet vermouth, shaken well and strained into a standard cocktail glass, the Corpse Reviver #1 is a simple, uncomplicated, and damn good cocktail worthy of your attention.
Another classic cocktail we forgot after Prohibition, Warday’s Cocktail is excellent for people who prefer more herbaceous booze. Gin, calvados, a little sweet vermouth, are mixed and finished off by some Yellow Chartreuse. The Warday’s Cocktail is a drink that really does well in the transition from summer to autumn, but we’re fans of it year-round, too.
Known as “The Whiskey Cocktail for People who Don’t Like Whiskey,” the horsefeather is a careful and delicious blend of rye (or bourbon), ginger beer, and a dash or two of bitters, poured over ice into a highball glass, and garnished with a wedge of lime. It’s easy and simple and really hits the spot for those Sunday-morning hangovers, or on a scorching summer day. Hell, it’s even “spicy” enough to do well around a late-night winter’s fire. For this one, just make sure you don’t skimp on the ginger beer. How much you put in will make or break this light and sprightly cocktail.
Death in the Gulf Stream
If there’s one piece of advice from Hemingway that’s as good as gold, it’s his booze recommendations. A favorite of his, Death in the Gulf Stream (no, really, that’s the name of this cocktail) is a concoction of lime juice, bitters, simple syrup, and jenever (gin’s Dutch older brother). The juniper flavor from the jenever goes perfectly with the lime, and can certainly quench any thirst on a hot day. Do keep in mind, however, that too much simple syrup will absolutely ruin this drink. Follow the recipe down to the button, and then add syrup to taste–nothing more.
The Income Tax
As a very intelligent gentleman once said, “Only two things in life are certain: Death and this tasty cocktail.” The Income Tax is a year-round cocktail encompassing gin, dry and sweet vermouth, a little orange juice, and a couple dashes of Angostura bitters, shaken and strained into a cocktail glass. The ease and simplicity of this classic cocktail can’t be understated, especially for the complex flavors it delivers. For reference, this cocktail is almost identical to another classic pre-Prohibition mix called the Bronx, but with the addition of the bitters—which make all the difference.
Kentucky and Tennessee might be where America’s whiskey calls home, but New Orleans, Louisiana, is where it all goes to play. Vieux Carre is straight-up old-school Americana mixed into a glass that got tossed around in some Cajun voodoo, and turned into something beautiful. Bourbon, cognac, sweet vermouth, some Peychaud’s, and magic are mixed into a rocks glass with ice, gently stirred, before turning everyone’s Mardi Gras in a bead currency nightmare.
If you go down to Mexico and ask a Mexican what Mexicans drink, you won’t hear anything even remotely similar to the word “margarita.” Margaritas are the guilty pleasure of Americans, not the traditional drink of Mexico. If you want something closer to what they’re drinking south of the border, you need to get the La Paloma. A classic La Paloma has only four ingredients: Reposado tequila, fresh lime juice, grapefruit soda, and a pinch of salt (DO NOT omit the salt). That’s it. Mix everything together in a tall glass with some ice, stir it all together, and enjoy.