New takes on neo-classical cocktails

There’s a plaque in Martinez that reads:

“Birthplace of the martini. On this site in 1874, Julio Richelieu, Bartender, served up the first Martini when a miner came into his saloon with a fistful of nuggets and asked for something special. He was served a ‘Martinez Special.’ After three or four drinks, however, the ‘Z’ would get very much in the way. The drink consisted of 2/3 gin, 1/3 vermouth, a dash of orange bitters, poured over crushed ice and served with an olive.”

The first Martinez recipe known in print is the 1884’s “Modern Bartender’s Guide” which reads “same as Manhattan, only you substitute gin for whiskey.” And Jerry Thomas’ 1887 Bartender’s Guide or How to mix Drinks” lists a recipe for the Martinez as “one dash bitters, two dashes Maraschino, one pony of Old Tom gin, one wineglass of vermouth,” shaken, strained and garnished with a lemon. Thomas further suggests the addition of gum syrup if the guest prefers.

 By 1907, Marin’s own Cocktail Boothby (Rafael Hotel) lists the recipe for a “martini” in his book “The World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them” as two dashes of orange bitters, half a jigger of Old Tom, half a jigger of Italian vermouth,” which is then chilled and served with a cherry and a squeeze of lemon, with water served on the side.

 In 31 years, the ingredients for that drink changed, the garnish changed and so did the name. And they have changed even more since then. So, just imagine the change what a bartender who has been doing it for 33 years has seen?

With that thought in mind I offer up four neo-classic drinks, all of which have changed, some ever so slightly, and some quite dramatically, since I started bartending in 1988. All localized, of course, for your consumption, which itself is also a kind of change.

Petaluma Paper Plane

¾ ounce Moylan’s bourbon whiskey

¾ ounce Gran Classico amaro

¾ ounce Aperol

1 ounce lemon juice

Lime zest

Combine liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with lime zest.

The Paper Plane was invented in or around 2008 by bartenders Sasha Petraske and Sam Ross. There is some dispute over what role each person played in the drink’s invention, and even at which bar it came from, but the name is consistently listed as a tribute to British rapper “M.I.A.” and her song “Paper Planes,” which was released in February of 2008.

Spicy Skinny Margarita

1 ½ ounces Santo Blanco tequila

¾ ounce fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon (for or five sliced seeded rounds) red jalapeno chile

Splash of soda water

King Floyd’s Sriracha rimming salt

1 dried chile de àrbol

Combine tequila, lime juice and jalapeno chiles in a shaker glass with ice. Shake and strain into a salt rimmed glass filled with new ice. Top with soda water and stir gently. Garnish with dried chile.

“Margarita” means “daisy” in Spanish. A daisy is a type of drink featuring a liquor, a citrus juice, a flavored syrup (triple sec is essentially a flavored alcoholic syrup) and topped with soda water. So, the margarita has come full circle, almost. It got the soda water back but has now omitted the “syrup” and added chiles. And just to make things even more interesting rimming the glass with salt makes it also a type of “crusta.” Ain’t change fun?

Neo Classical Cosmopolitan

1 ounce Hanson Mandarin vodka

1 ounce Hanson Meyer lemon vodka

½ ounce fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice

½ ounce Cranberry juice cocktail

1 desiccated lime wheel

Combine liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until ice cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with lime wheel.

The Cosmopolitan was invented in the 1980’s and its vodka, triple sec, bottled lime juice and cranberry juice combination made for a pretty mediocre drink. It was too sweet, too syrupy and too red. With the introduction of flavored vodka in 1988 (courtesy of Absolut, and an entirely different category than regular vodka) the drink really took off. Made with less sugar, better flavored vodka and Meyer lemons instead of lime juice, this drink really comes into its own. Tartly pink it is quite delicious.

Amaro Spritz

1 ounce California amaro (Young and Yonder, Geijer Spirits etc.)

1 ounce dry sparkling wine (prosecco, champagne, cava, etc.)

¾ ounce soda water

1 blood orange wheel

Fill a large wineglass with ice, add ingredients in order listed and stir gently. The “spritz” often traces its history back to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and was usually a still wine (most often Italian) mixed with a splash of still water (“bespritzen” is the word for splash in German). The most famous spritz these days is clearly the Aperol Spritz which is a relatively new invention, as it changes the still wine into sparkling, adds soda water and incorporates Aperol (an amaro invented in Italy in 1919, two years after the dissolution of Austria-Hungary) for wine. Four years ago on my trip to Italy, Aperol Spritzs were all the rage. My daughter’s very recent trip there made note of the fact that the Campari Spritz is now up and coming. The truth is is that any amaro works in this drink, depending upon personal preference, and not dependent just on the two brands owned by Gruppo Campari.