Our cocktail world is full of good stuff. We've got exciting new tools taken from our friends in the kitchen, a plethora of ingredients to combine in a multitude of ways, glassware up the wazoo, but (thank the Lord!) there is still a demand for the classics. Most bartenders I know will test a new comrade's strength by their creation of a classic. Most of us have our favorites; the Daiquiri, a Manhattan, or the almighty Old Fashioned. Any one of these preparations can diagnose the skill of the crafter in a couple of sips. To understand these classics is to understand not only history and context, but to gain a larger knowledge of the "why" and "how" of our trade.
Largely important and common in classic cocktails is the structure. Ratios for most drinks stay pretty static- the building blocks are all the same, with slight variations depending on who is stirring the Manhattans. "2 : 1," "2 : 1 : 1," "1 : 1 : 1," are so often seen, by looking at the ingredients to most recipes, one can most likely guess to the proportions. This comes back to a discussion of balance and personal preference, as there is almost always a little bit of a discrepancy, however the starting point is the important part and typically what drives the creation of new cocktails.
At Sportsman's Club, we do a lot of reformatting. We plug different ingredients into the same ol' formulas to see what new combinations will prove worthy. One of my favorite recipes to riff off of is a Negroni, equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. The combination of strong, sweet, and dry is quite literally intoxicating and open for so much adaptation. While this could veer into a discussion on the validity of equal parts proportions in today's world of modern palates, it is not going to. Confession- I tend to "spill the gin" here, and I haven't heard any complaints yet.
In this spirit, I'd like to highlight a cocktail that deserves every bit of praise it has received in the last several years. The Old Man, the Monk, and the Sea by Cristiana DeLucca is the perfect example of using classic specs to create something new. Here Cristiana combines Old Weller 107 (the Old Man,) Benedictine Liqueur (the Monk,) and dry Oloroso sherry (the Sea,) with a long dash of Angostura. The cocktail is delicious but what makes it in my mind a "Modern Classic" is the fact that it can be called for and replicated in almost any cocktail bar in the world. Below you'll find the recipe for Cristiana's magical concoction. Come on in and try it any time.
The Old Man, the Monk, and the Sea by Cristiana DeLucca
1.5 oz Old Weller 107
.75 oz Benedictine Liqueur
.75 oz Lustau Dry Oloroso Sherry
Long dash Angostura Bitters
Stir over ice until well chilled, strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon peel.
-- Jacyara de Oliveira --