The Old-Fashioned Cocktail
May 21, 2003 3:09 PM   Subscribe

You've Come A Long Way, Baby: Unfortunately, you picked the wrong one, dear old Old-Fashioned, dean of cocktails. Robert Hess's definitive essay on the ever-changing ways of making one shows just how contentious a cocktail recipe can be. It also bears sad testimony to how the great classics are being fruited up, iced up, fizzed up, shaken till obliteration and generally girlied, dumbed and boozed down. So how do you stand on the cherry, the pineapple and the orange? And don't even bother commenting if you're a seltzer fan! ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso (51 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
While we're being drink snobs, how come whenever I order a brandy alexander down here I either get some crazy frozen mess or a "sorry, we don't make blended drinks"?
posted by hammurderer at 3:39 PM on May 21, 2003

It also bears sad testimony to how the great classics are being fruited up, iced up, fizzed up, shaken till obliteration and generally girlied, dumbed and boozed down.

true tale
Underage drinker sneaked In & told make it simple: I'll have a Flaming Dr Pepper.
Bartender: May I see your ID.

I have trouble with Tom Collins, bartenders will argue with me, should be vodka until I politely bet them a round, then upon looking at recipe book, you're right gin.{never argue with the one who controls the alcohol}
posted by thomcatspike at 3:44 PM on May 21, 2003

The inability of most 'cocktail bars' in London to make a good Old Fashioned is one reason why I don't drink in cocktail bars. It's really quite sad: any manner of adulterated martinis and cosmos and alcopops-in-all-but-name on the list, but ask the bar staff to make you an Old Fashioned, and it's one big 'uh?' and, if you're brave/stupid to go on with your order, a big disappointment. (Unless you know of somewhere better, Miguel: but I doubt I'm going to get membership at the Carton Club - or even the Groucho - any time soon.)

I like the orange lightly muddled with the sugar and angostura, and the emphasis on getting the flavour out of the zest, because that's where you get the contrast with the whisky. (For which I can cope with CC, Maker's Mark, anything decent of that ilk.) And no fucking soda, thank you. Like the martini, this drink is not meant to be diluted. Unlike the martini, this drink doesn't force you to drink from a silly glass.
posted by riviera at 3:57 PM on May 21, 2003

meant to add, your recipe book for Tom Collins
2 oz London dry gin
1 teaspoon bar sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
Have trouble with bartenders pouring the correct alcohol, but sugar...make me puke, sugar & alcohol(heavy) don't mix well.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:00 PM on May 21, 2003

Always order "vodka Collins", thom. Ends all doubt.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:03 PM on May 21, 2003

I remember similar musings in the 70s when grasshoppers were all the rage.

Mmmm, creme de menthe. My parents would let me have some drizzled over vanilla ice cream when I was a kid so I could feel like a 'big boy'.

Stuff turns my stomach these days. I'll just settle for some Clos. Merlot, preferably.
posted by WolfDaddy at 4:04 PM on May 21, 2003

I like orange juice. With a lot of pulp. No vodka, thank you.
posted by jragon at 4:07 PM on May 21, 2003

Ha! Miguel, I just made a Periodista and Margarita using the "Cocktail" book from your second link. Great book for all you amateur bartenders out there. Three hundred or so classic drinks, about a hundred of which have detailed histories which make a good read.

My favorites (after a recent vacation to Miami) are the Periodista, aka. Journalist, and the Mojito which must be made with only the freshest mint. (I do hear that the Mojito is the next Cosmopolitan in terms of trendiness but, whatever, it's a great drink.)

And there is nothing wrong with a little sugar with your alcohol. Just don't overdo it.

Anyone know of some classic/traditional bars in the DC area? I saw what looked like a really good one not too long ago on 'food tv' or something but forgot to write the name of the bar down, dammit.
posted by topherbecker at 4:21 PM on May 21, 2003

A while back I actually printed out Robert's essay and stuck it in the trunk of my car, in hopes of one day being able to present it to the next bartender who made me a shitty Old Fashioned ... I figured it'd make me look like a prick, though.

I've found that about 90% of the bartenders I encounter are completely unable to make a proper Old Fashioned (not to mention the infuriating "What do you mean, you want bitters in your Manhattan? Nobody wants those anymore."), which is why I tend to be very selective about where I drink.

<egoboo type=shameless>
Another reason we don't drink cocktails at very many bars is that the drinks are damned good -- usually far better -- right in our own house. If we ever open a bar, I can promise you nothing but the very best.
posted by chuq at 4:24 PM on May 21, 2003

Riviera: since you've come out as an orange guy, I'll confess to the same being-in-touch-with-one's-feminine-side predilection. The combination of whisky and lemon and whisky and orange was drilled into me as a young child, whenever I got a cold and my mother served me a hot toddy, heavy on whisky, lemon juice, bittery aspirin, thick honey and orange juice. My only act of rebellion, on growing up was to lose the honey, go light on the sugar, replace the aspirin with Angostura, have it very cold instead of very hot and call it an Old-Fashioned. Plus ça change...

In fact, disliking syrup - I quite like some sugar crunchiness going on at the bottom, not in the middle of the drink - I'm afraid I heretically dilute the sugar and bitters in a thimbleful of room temperature orange juice. I don't swish it around much. I prefer to do it while actually imbibing. Every time the inner glucose meter indicates a drop, I give the old-fashioned glass another couple of swishes.

Then all I do is add the ice - a little too much probably - fill it with rye whiskey (Wild Turkey 101 proof is great value) and give it two twists of freshly harvested lemon peel.

As for London, yes I know. But the greatest living barman, Salvatore Calabrese, works in London, at the Library Bar in the Lanesborough Hotel. Not the right surroundings, I know. But the master of masters!...

The American Bar at the Savoy has the right surroundings but every time I've been there I've gotten into an argument with the lazy know-nothing Fawlty Towers school of bartenders there.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:27 PM on May 21, 2003 [1 favorite]

I quite like some sugar crunchiness
Have had bartenders(not me) argue on the sugar for my favorite shot. Use Sweet-in-Low, yet they mixed it, not rimmed it.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:41 PM on May 21, 2003

I'm now laughing out loud, Miguel: yes, I too was a hot-toddy child, and the transition to Old-Fashioneds seems only logical. Though for some reason I never treat my colds with bourbon-and-hot-water-and-lemon, though it probably tastes better than scotch. Probably because I always have a bottle of scotch at hand.

The Lanesborough, though? Just a little bit intimidating for mortals.
posted by riviera at 4:42 PM on May 21, 2003

Cocktail: gin & tonic, on a hot summer day.
Or, if I'm at Tabla, their wonderful tablatini.
Otherwise, good scotch, straight up.
posted by languagehat at 4:44 PM on May 21, 2003

heh, a lemon drop here is vodka citron and a sugardipped slice of orange to bite into afterwards. it works.
posted by dabitch at 5:52 PM on May 21, 2003

I've never had a bartender add soda to my Old Fashioned, thank god, but I'll be sure to watch more carefully from now on.

The drink I'm most hesitant to ordering - due to bizarre recipe variations - is the Sidecar. One bartender insisted on turning it into a slushy. Others use equal parts brandy, cointreau and lemon, making a drink that would make a statue pucker. The 4:2:1 strong, sweet, sour ratio is not to be upset.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got an orange slice to muddle.
posted by Monk at 5:55 PM on May 21, 2003

Monk: I once had the pleasure of asking for a Sidecar in the Bemelsmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel on Madison and, after the gruff bartender had said "Too right! A sidecar - I haven't made one in ten years! Probably the best drink there is, not that you could tell", I watched everyone else sitting at the bar order one.

I'll let you into a little secret: as long as the cognac is OK - and the more OK it is, the better the rule proves true - it doesn't matter whether you make it equal measures cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice (the standard recipe) or double the cognac, making it 50% to 25% each of Cointreau and lemon juice. Anything between 33,33% and 50% cognac is superb. Just be sure the Cointreau and lemon juice portions are equal.

Funnily enough, a Margarita (only invented in the Fifties) is little more than a tequila Sidecar:

1/2 silver tequila
1/4 lime juice (or lemon juice)
1/4 Cointreau.

I can't remember the names but the same proportions can be applied to whisky or whiskey (a Golden Daisy?), rum, gin and vodka.

2 portions of spirit, 1 of Cointreau, 1 of lemon or lime juice: this is the cocktail equivalent of Palladio's Golden Proportion. Or something. :)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:16 PM on May 21, 2003

(I do hear that the Mojito is the next Cosmopolitan in terms of trendiness but, whatever, it's a great drink.)

I'd argue that the Mojito has firmly arrived and the caipirinha is close on its heels (lovely but dangerous drink).

Lately I've been enjoying Manhattans, but with Summer approaching it's time to switch to vodka and gin (or cachaça). Anyone else find their cocktail preferences vary by season?
posted by donovan at 6:37 PM on May 21, 2003

Not strictly on topic, but one that irritates me (speaking as a sometime barman) when I'm asked for it - Guinness and Port, ruination of two good drinks. Damn hippies.
posted by Joeforking at 6:37 PM on May 21, 2003

Joeforking - ha! I got canned as a bartender for refusing to pour a Courvoisier and Coke.
posted by TimeFactor at 6:48 PM on May 21, 2003

Cocktail: gin & tonic, on a hot summer day

Don't tell me, oh Jove in heaven, that it is today that I will dispute wise languagehat's choice of words, but at least let me plant a seed of doubt in his capacious brain:

A gin and tonic, or any spirit mixed with a commercial soft drink, might be a highball, but it's certainly not a cocktail. Same with the Cuba Libre - rum and coke. This acceptance is allowed because the original highball was rye and seltzer and, later, rye and ginger ale.

If a gin and tonic is a cocktail, then so is a vodka and Orangina "screwdriver" (absolutely delicious though it is) or a Jack and coke. No, it cannot be so.

But, speaking as a purist, a real highball must contain at least some fresh juice - Gin Fizz, for instance - to be allowed to carry the cocktail name.

Interestingly, it could be argued that even the Old-Fashioned, in its simplest form of rye, sugar and lemon zest (before the addition of bitters) isn't a cocktail either.

Which is not to say a gin and tonic doesn't beat everything - except perhaps a julep - on a hot day. Here's my own version (it was 39 centigrade here in Lisbon today):

1) From a freshly plucked, very firm and greenish lemon, slice off a length of peel, taking care not to bring any of the white pithy stuff. Throw into a large glass.

2) Add a little gin. With a sharp knife, puncture the peel so as to release the zest and oils.

3) Add ice up to half way, throw in a slice of lemon, then fill up to the top with ice.

4) Pour gin onto ice, trying to make it take the most complicated route possible through the ice and the lemon slice. Nothing less than 1/4 gin.

5) Pour on the Schweppes tonic water (warm, so it retains its bubbles) very carefully, avoiding obstructions. Every crash is a bubble lost.

6) When the drink is ready, don't stir it. The tonic water does the necessary mixing. Just put your finger in one of the top ice cubes and turn 180º.

7) Finally, twist a long length of lemon peel over the surface of the drink. Get your face close to the glass to observe the tiny droplets of lemon oil.

8) Americans prefer lime with their gin and tonics. But lime is, for the true connoisseur, too sweet. Well, the perfect gin and tonic has two slices - one of lemon, one of lime, together as in the Brazilian flag - and, before the twist, squeeze just a little lime juice into the drink.

This will cure scurvy, the blues, hangovers, probably the clap too, you name it.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:55 PM on May 21, 2003 [15 favorites]

The only thing that makes a good gin and tonic drinkable is a spritz of lime. Otherwise you might as well just drink the urine of hobos with gonorrhea.

Personally, I quite like Sangria, but most bars around here don't have the wine at hand to do it. When my friends and I gather round to drink on formal occasions, we whip up a pretty good version that's two parts red wine to two parts orange juice, one part grenadine and one part vodka in big batches (one part vodka really means "whatever's in the bottle", and we go from there). People will toss back a pitcher thinking it's non-alcoholic, then fall on their faces right pissed.

On preview: Miguel> If you're using Schweppes for anything, that's why it's too sweet with lime. Use Canada Dry Tonic Water and a spritz of lime (and god forbid, avoid lime cordial). Or skip the fruit entirely and just mix Brio Chinotto with as much gin as you can stand in a glass. Heterodox, but delicious.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 7:10 PM on May 21, 2003

posted by Shane at 7:15 PM on May 21, 2003

MiguelCardoso, I've been passing this thread along to a few folks, and we all agree. You really, seriously, and truly know your shit, we're all very impressed, and would drink with you anytime.
posted by eriko at 7:41 PM on May 21, 2003

Yes, gin and tonic is not a cocktail. It is a summer: one which lasts from April till September. Apart from the pissing-down days, where whisky is called for.

The Caipirinha had arrived in the last cocktail bar I entered (last week, as dictated to by a friend). I imagined that it would manifest itself as a bad Mojito, and stuck to Martinis. (Essentially, straight gin in this place.)
posted by riviera at 7:47 PM on May 21, 2003

Miguel, yes; 2:1:1 is the perfect proportion for many many drinks. I usually start there and fiddle until the flavours harmonise and no single note is heard above the rest. I find a tad less lemon than Cointreau works best for me, but this may be due to the difference in Portuguese lemons and the rather sad ones we get in the Canadian prairies. The only way to solve this debate would be for the two of us to sit down over a trayful at the establishment of your choosing.

As far as G&Ts are concerned I'm a lime loving Englishman, but after trying your recipe just now I have to admit that you may be on to something.

On preview: While I love Canada Dry ginger ale, I have to go with Schweppes for tonic. Canada Dry leaves a rather unpleasant aftertaste.
posted by Monk at 7:52 PM on May 21, 2003

The Caipirinha . . .I imagined that it would manifest itself as a bad Mojito

Funny: I had a Caipirinha before I'd ever heard of a Mojito, and was scared to order a Mojito initially thinking it likely to be a bad Caipirina!

Properly done, a Caipirina is a crisp and refreshing drink that shouldn't be too sweet (I favor sour) and should have a glass just filled with muddled lime . . . if the bartender looks stingy on the limes or is using juice, stay away.
posted by donovan at 7:54 PM on May 21, 2003

Far be it from me to dispute boozological terminology with Miguel Cardoso! I accept the "highball" categorization without demur, and like eriko I would drink with you any time, and hope I get the chance.

But how could I forget the noble caipirinha, Brazil's greatest contribution to world culture? It's just that I haven't been to a Brazilian restaurant in too long (I'm still mourning the passing of Brasilia on 45th St., lost to the owner's divorce). Cabana Carioca, here I come!

Guinness and Port

*head explodes*
posted by languagehat at 8:31 PM on May 21, 2003

Mmmm... I just made myself a caipirinha.

Caipirinhas are so delicious you have to be careful not to have too many. They also produce the foulest-smelling breath imaginable.

There are two versions - the Carioca caipirinha, hailing from Rio de Janeiro which, typically, requires no effort and the Baiana caipirinha, from Salvador da Bahia, which does.

As you get wonderful limes in the US and the UK (but not wonderful lemons - these have to be freshly plucked, unwaxed, unfrozen, etc) I'd say caipirinhas were bound to catch on.

This is my last recipe, I promise!

Carioca Caipirinha

1) Roll a lime under the palm of your hand, really leaning into it. You want to separate the juice from the bitter pith. Lop of the top and bottom, discard. Now cut half the lime into eight pieces or, if you're really Carioca, into four.

2) Put into an old-fashioned glass. This is the only one that will do. Add at least a tablespoon of fine sugar. The Brazilians use very fine, but the coarser grain will do.

3) With a wooden pestle (the end of a broomstick is ideal if you haven't the real thing) muddle the limes with the sugar, until it's all mushy. Don't puncture the skin or it'll be bitter.

4) Top up with ice cubes, the smaller the better. Fill with cachaça. If you don't have cachaça, Colombian aguardiente is fine. Don't use rum - if you don't have cachaça, vodka is the best spirit, making it a "caipiroshka". With tequila, it's a "caipirila".

5) Mix it round with a spoon and...drink.

Baiana Caipirinha

This is the best, the real thing, but requires a little more work.

1) Cut a whole lime into about sixteen pieces, discarding the ends.

2) Add the sugar and muddle, same as above.

3) Pack the old-fashioned glass with pulverized ice (at least cracked: wrap ice cubes in clean tea towel and bash like all hell).

4) Pour cachaça (or vodka) until the glass is full.

5) Now find something that will allow you to shake it. It should fit over the old-fashioned glass perfectly and form a seal. I use (as does the Academia da Cachaça in Rio, where they allowed me to work for a few days) a sawed-off plastic flowerpot!

6) Shake the living daylights out of it.

7) Serve immediately while the sugar, the lime bits and everything are in a cloudy, icy suspension.

A final note regarding cachaças: the cheapest are sweetest but by no means the worst for caipirinhas. There are thousands of cachaças and the best should be drunk like old tequilas. So cheapest is best: Tatú, Pitu, Velho Barreiro, 51. The more expensive cachaças make lousy caipirinhas.

It's with these last "Baiana" caipirinhas you have to watch it, They're that delectable. The secret is to drink them slowly - they're great even when they're no longer ice cold - and accompanied by alcohol-soaking food. The ideal is, of course, the feijoada - the Brazilian black bean stew.

One every half-hour allows you to have six or seven, easy.
The temptation to suck one down, though, is irresistible. Avoid it like the plague, though. The right cachaça for caipirinha is low-grade cane sugar spirit, heavily reinforced with sugar.

It's funny that the caipirinha should have been brought up, by the way, because it is yet another ice-cold ex-hot toddy!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:32 PM on May 21, 2003 [17 favorites]

probably the clap too

Beats having your dick slapped betwixt two boards or your urethra scraped.

Yes, gin and tonic is not a cocktail. It is a summer: one which lasts from April till September. Apart from the pissing-down days, where whisky is called for.

Agree 90% whole-heartedly. Occasionally, (and in this instance) it's nice to live in a place where Summer runs from October to March.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:10 PM on May 21, 2003

My favourite:
Black Russian:
1/2 vodka. Triple distilled (Absolut, Smirnoff) is best, but anything will do.
1/2 Kahlua (or any other coffee liqueur).

If you're in a warm climate; ice.

If anybody tries to put cola in your Black Russian, beat them around the head with your balalaika.
posted by spazzm at 9:15 PM on May 21, 2003

Ah, the caipirinha - these caught on here in Wellington some time in the last 18 months. I love them. I maintain that all the citrus + white spirits means that you wake up feeling jaded BUT curiously perky. And they are not too sweet, always a bonus in my book.

Since the caipirinha, my rallying cry has become "Delicious fruity drinks!"
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:29 PM on May 21, 2003

Miguel, your mastery makes my liver swell. And I've also just joined the I'd-be-happy-to-drink-with-Miguel-club.

I've only had caipirinha in Rio/Sao Paulo so wasn't awre of the inevitable regional variation. (Though I did have more than a few in Rio with shaved ice). Heading to Bahia later in the year and will be sure to take notes!
posted by donovan at 9:33 PM on May 21, 2003

What a wonderful thread, and I'm bookmarking it for your recipes, Miguel. I mix drinks, but not nearly as poetically as you.

And ah, the caipirinha -- the best thing that Psycho Ex-Girlfriend gave me (she went to Brazil and brought me a big bottle of cachaça and the recipe.) My other (and truth be told, more usual) summertime drink is the good ol' G&T.

At this place a couple of weeks ago, I screwed up my courage and ordered both a Sidecar and (a little later) an Old-Fashioned -- I'd never dared to order them in a bar before. They were both absolutely perfect.

Certainly a far cry from the sad, sorry bar at the Omni Hotel in Atlanta, where I asked the waitress for a Manhattan "with a dash of bitters" -- I specify for insurance reasons -- and the waitress was completely clueless as to what I was asking for. I ended up having to WRITE IT DOWN for her. Sheesh. Never darkened the door of *that* place again. (Upon reflection, serves me right for not going to the Righteous Room.)

on preview: Black Russians are fun too. I make my own ersatz Kahlua (the real stuff is made with instant coffee; mine's made with fresh-brewed espresso and real vanilla beans), and that got me into Black Russians. Nice to have in lieu of dessert.
posted by Vidiot at 9:35 PM on May 21, 2003

miguel, i applaud you for bringing up such an obscure and wonderful drink as the Old Fashioned. i've been singing it's praises for many a year and must admit i have converted more than a few. this has always been a fixture at family gatherings and i'd hoped many a time that it was not going to be lost in this gin and tonic generation. (not that a sapphire and tonic with lime is a bad drink, mind you.) i submit to the mefi group my secret family recipie that has garnered many a compliment from the milwaukee bar crowd, expecially at certain jazz clubs that shall remain nameless and a few outlying townie bars who's staff i've taught better. (and btw, soda water is integral to this drink, screw the 'purists' you're just defying progress without it :P)

start with a proper Old Fashioned glass
for the fancy lads, use simple syrup, for the rest of us, cover the bottom of the glass in granulated sugar.
add 3-5 squirts of Angostura. just enough to make the sugar/syrup brown throughout.
muddle with a spoon against the bottom and side of the glass to coat up to about 3/4" from the top of the glass.
add 2 cherries (just because they're so rare in non tropical cocktails these days) and bend a orange wedge backwards to spray the oils of the peel into the glass. place the wedge of orange on the rim of the glass.
fill the glass with ice.
add 1.5-3oz of bourbon. i prefer regular Jim Beam myself, although the family would say Beam rye. all the better with Knob Creek or another member of the Small Batch Collection.
fill to the top with a tall pour of 7up or seltzer. 7up adds a nice hint of citrus and if made properly, the carbonation of the soda is nearly completely negated by the tall pour. just enough bubble to tickle your tounge.
stir and serve.

here in the land of cows, most prefer this drink with brandy, but i've always felt that spoiled wine should just become vinegar...

i welcome comments or suggestions on this most regal of drinks
posted by skatz at 10:07 PM on May 21, 2003

7-Up? in an Old-Fashioned?

*dispatches an exorcist to Milwaukee tout-suite*
posted by Vidiot at 10:20 PM on May 21, 2003

don't knock it until you try it. and i must emphasize the long pour. it really kills that nasty carbonation.
posted by skatz at 10:44 PM on May 21, 2003

and might i add, the excorcist has already been here twice, i still use 7up :P
posted by skatz at 10:46 PM on May 21, 2003

skatz, that 7up angle is *almost* as bad as adding fruit to ANY whiskey drink. People who do that shouldn't be allowed to drink.
posted by tj at 10:59 PM on May 21, 2003

ouch. i almost feel offended. my personal regular drink is AH Hirsch reserve 16yr up. i never said this was the perfect OF, just my family recipie. feel free to deduct the soda if you really wanna be a purist. at least i'm not crushing citrus and fruit with the spirits. my challenge still stands, make the drink as described and tell me you don't like it. soda or not.
posted by skatz at 11:20 PM on May 21, 2003

heh, a lemon drop here is vodka citron and a sugardipped slice of orange to bite into afterwards. it works.

Around here, it's a shot of chilled regular vodka with a sugar dipped slice of lemon to bite into.

I'm a girl drink drunk, so I won't get into the rest of the conversation.
posted by SuzySmith at 1:03 AM on May 22, 2003

regarding all of the talk about sidecars, i know some versions use triple sec (cheaper) instead of cointreau, but i've never heard of using grand marnier, whereas that is a common substitution in other drinks (the margarita comes to mind). so I have two questions: 1) can you use grand marnier for a sidecar? and 2) what exactly is the difference between cointreau and grand marnier?
posted by rorycberger at 1:10 AM on May 22, 2003

I'm just gonna stew here in jealousy because I live in a place that, whenever I ask for a vodka sour (or an amaretto sour. or a whisky sour.), I get blank stares.

However, I did discover this brilliant vodka-based cocktail at, of all places, Revolution. Zubrowka Bison Grass vodka, Krupnik Honey Punch, and apple juice. It tastes like sweet sweet apple pie going down... oh yes.
posted by Katemonkey at 4:25 AM on May 22, 2003

Here in NYC, Sasha, the proprietor of Milk And Honey, is introducing the kids to some of the old classics.
posted by liam at 5:17 AM on May 22, 2003

oooh! Thanks for the link to Milk & Honey, liam. I'll check it out. (So how exactly *do* the non-famous get in? Just ask? Or do I have to pass a coolness test?)

And rorycberger: Cointreau, Triple Sec, and Grand Marnier are all orange liqueurs. Cointreau and Grand Marnier are specific brands, while Triple Sec is (I believe) a generic category, like Creme de Cassis or

To my tastebuds, Grand Marnier is sweeter and less "orange-y" than Cointreau, which is why I like Cointreau better. (though I hear the really high-end, super-aged Grand Marnier is fabulous, I haven't -- sigh -- had a chance or the funds to try it.) I think that a Sidecar's balance of flavors would be upset by using Grand Marnier instead of Cointreau. but if you're really curious, try it yourself and see.
posted by Vidiot at 6:45 AM on May 22, 2003

Myself, I prefer single malt scotch, neat. On the other hand, back when I lived in Portland, I would occasionally go off to Henry Ford's on Barbur, in SW; it is the coolest bar I've ever been to (and if you go on Friday, Lyle plays the piano and croons out the hits).
posted by norm at 7:27 AM on May 22, 2003

the Academia da Cachaça in Rio, where they allowed me to work for a few days

*worships Miguel*

MetaFilter: jaded but curiously perky
posted by languagehat at 8:19 AM on May 22, 2003

Oooh, the Milk & Honey. I am fortunate enough to have been there once - although I am certainly not one of the cool kids, it's nice to have friends who are. That one visit ruined me for all other whiskey sours, those I make myself included.

Sadly, as far as I know you have to have an in to get admitted - ask around, see if anyone you know has their card.

This thread is great - I've been seized with cocktail fever now that the weather's warmer and my patio beckons. My next goal is to master the mint julep. Any advice?
posted by hilatron at 8:31 AM on May 22, 2003

I'd argue that the Mojito has firmly arrived and the caipirinha is close on its heels (lovely but dangerous drink).

I had to travel to Sao Paulo a few years ago, and during a few hours of off time was able to sit back with some colleagues and try a caipirinha. I had heard a lot about this drink, from colleagues who had gone on an advance trip to Brazil a few weeks prior. I got the drink, and absolutely hated it. It was so sour and harsh. And to top it off, there was this sludge at the bottom of the glass which I found really annoying.

Only later did I realize one had to stir the sugar (aka the sludge) at the bottom of the drink to get the real taste of the drink. Sadly, I have not had an opportunity to retry this mythical cocktail.
posted by smcniven at 8:46 AM on May 22, 2003

(has had enough, goes to bar and orders an old fashioned....smacks bartender for not making it correctly...remains alcohol free another day)
posted by clavdivs at 8:53 AM on May 22, 2003

"If anybody tries to put cola in your Black Russian, beat them around the head with your balalaika." - spazzm

Yick! Too right.

A White Russian (same as above, but with cream) used to be my standby drink when I did not want to challenge the bartender. Then I discovered that you *can* ruin one by using poor quality vodka. (ick - bitter aftertaste)

Now I order a Fuzzy Navel when I'm not sure how good the bartender is. Those are nearly impossible to ruin. I may not get a sublime experience, but neither will I get something undrinkable.
posted by Karmakaze at 9:02 AM on May 22, 2003

Now I order a Fuzzy Navel when I'm not sure how good the bartender is.

Yup, that makes it G&T territory for me, or just good ol' beer. (but not Guinness -- idiot bartenders can ruin those too.)
posted by Vidiot at 9:20 AM on May 22, 2003

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