Considering Cocktails

Ten Favorites

In a recent Time article, John Cloud, who covers health and science for the magazine, reported that “abstaining from alcohol does tend to increase one’s risk of dying, even when you exclude former problem drinkers.”

What? Did I read that correctly?

Yes, that’s what new findings are saying.

And the article goes on to claim that “moderate drinking, which is defined as one to three drinks per day, is associated with the lowest mortality rates” and, is moreover, “thought to improve heart health, circulation and sociability, which can be important because people who are isolated don’t have as many family members and friends who can notice and help treat health problems.”

With this research in mind, it seems a good time to consider cocktails.

Now by cocktails I don’t mean the increasingly exotic and even bizarre mixtures that are showing up at super-trendy boîtes all over. No green tea highballs with organic ginger and sake infused kumquats.

Let’s just take a look at ten classics.


Traditionally there are two kinds of martinis: gin and vodka. It is said that the cognoscenti prefer the classic, or gin, version. And the way I make those is quite simple: keep the gin in the freezer until ready to pour. Put a teaspoon of very dry vermouth in a glass, swish it around, and discard. Fill the glass almost to capacity with the well-chilled gin. Depending on preference, add an olive or lemon slice. Voilà.

A slightly less lethal version comes via Nancy Smith of Beaverton, Oregon:

“Our favorite bartender’s recipe was simple: 1 1/2 ounce Tanqueray gin with 1/8 ounce Noilly Pratt dry vermouth.

“Of course, those measures had to be converted to household measures so we spent an unusually long evening working on the conversion.  (Possibly the quality control procedures that we felt were necessary to guarantee the perfect martini recipe might have contributed something to our trouble with numbers that night.)

“Finally, though, we came up with these measurements for a single drink:  1/3 cup Tanqueray with 1 1/2 teaspoons Noilly Pratt.

“Happily that didn’t end the research for the perfect martini, so after a few more evenings the recipe was fleshed out a bit. Purists will claim that it is important to use room temperature Tanqueray in order to get the needed 5% dilution. For them, the perfect martini will have ice added to the gin and vermouth and then will be  shaken 32 times or for 4 sets of 8.  Or ‘until your arm aches.’”


Put on a Lee Wiley CD.

Combine 3/4 ounce of sweet vermouth, 2 1/2 ounces of blended whiskey, a dash of Angostura bitters, and some ice in a mixing glass. Stir gently with a bar spoon. Put a maraschino cherry into a chilled cocktail glass and strain the mixture into that glass. Twist a strip of orange peel around the inner rim.

Relax and enjoy the music and the drink. Delicious experience.


The way they made these delicious drinks in San Miquel de Allende was to blend 1 part freshly squeezed lime juice with 1 part triple sec and 3 parts good quality tequila. Shake the ingredients together with a substantial quantity of ice and strain into a glass that has been rimmed with kosher salt. Serve with a slice of lime.

If you’re opting for more than one, it’s good to remember that the better the tequila used, the less excruciating a hangover the next day.

Bloody Mary

Bartender Fernand Petiot is said to have invented this Sunday morning staple in 1921 while working at the popular New York Bar, which later became Harry’s New York Bar after the famous Harry’s Bar in Venice. Essentially a concoction of spicy tomato juice and vodka, there seem to be infinite varieties. Here’s a favorite:

2 parts tomato juice
1 part vodka or gin
several splashes of Worcestershire sauce
(several splashes of Outerbridge’s Sherry Peppers when available)
Tabasco to taste
some horseradish, if desired
good squeeze of fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt
whisper of freshly ground pepper

Strain into an ice-filled highball glass and garnish with a celery stalk.

A Bull Shot is essentially the same drink but beef broth is substituted for the tomato juice; it is certainly splendid in its own right.

Old Fashioned

In an old fashioned glass, place 1/2 lump of sugar, a dash of Angostura bitters, and a drop of cold water. With a muddler, crush the sugar so that it is completely dissolved. Add two or three ice cubes and 3 or 4 ounces of blended whiskey, bourbon, or Scotch and stir well. Twist the lemon peel over the drink to release the oil and twirl the edge of the peel around the edge of the glass, dropping the rest into the whiskey. Add a slice of orange, perhaps a slice of lemon as well, and a maraschino cherry.

If possible, drinking this should be enjoyed while listening to Julie London singing Cole Porter’s “Make It Another Old Fashioned, Please.”


 One way to temporarily forgot your troubles:

Mix equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. Pour over ice cubes and garnish with a strip of lemon peel.


Cuba Libre

When discussing this article with some friends, two felt strongly that the Cuba libre was not really a cocktail in the same way as more sophisticated drinks and should not be included on the list. But the dictionary tells us that a cocktail is indeed “an alcoholic drink consisting of a spirit or several spirits mixed with other ingredients.” A concoction of 3 ounces of rum, 6 ounces of cola, and the juice of a lime garnished with a lime slice certainly complies with that definition. And besides, we mustn’t be disloyal to this always popular libation immortalized by the Andrews Sisters!

Ward 8

One of the oldest cocktails, this delicious drink originated in 1898 at the bar of the famous Locke-Ober restaurant in Boston. It is generally agreed that it was named for the city’s Ward 8.

Shake 2 ounces of rye or bourbon, 3/4 ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 3/4 ounce of freshly squeezed orange juice, and a teaspoon of grenadine well with cracked ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an orange slice. Rinse the shaker with a dash of club soda and add to the drink.


Mostly a summer drink, the gimlet is the perfect August alternative to December’s martini. In truth, however, it works well at all times of the year for those who enjoy a hint of vitamin C with their alcohol.

Pour 2 ounces of gin (or vodka, if you prefer) into a mixing glass with ice cubes. Add 1 3/4 ounces of Rose’s lime juice. Stir well and strain into a cocktail glass. Wipe the rim of the glass with a lime wedge, squeeze it into the drink, and drop it in.


For those who live, or want to live, in a Sex and the City world, happiness could never be defined without cosmopolitans.

Chill a martini glass. Mix 2 ounces of citrus-flavored vodka and 1 ounce of Cointreau into a shaker. Add 1 ounce of cranberry juice and a dash of Rose’s lime juice. Fill the shaker with ice and stir vigorously. Strain into the chilled glass and garnish with a twist of lime peel.

And Chip Simons, the gifted and always amusing photographer whose photo heads this article, has a suggestion: “Great idea for a party. Show up as a personification of a drink or alcohol (Tom Collins, margarita, etc.).”

In any case, enjoy!

Issue Twenty Two