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Traditional Cocktails

Christy Grosz

When it comes to traditional recipes—those drinks that have been in cocktail books since bartender Jerry Thomas published his Bar-Tender’s Guide in 1862—mixologists have been loath to tamper too much with perfection. And now that formerly obscure ingredients like absinthe, which was illegal in the United States for nearly a century, and rye whiskey are readily available at local liquor stores, there is no need to alter the originals. In fact, for the first time, professional and novice mixologists can exactly replicate the flavor profiles of these historic intoxicants.

In this quest for the taste of yesteryear, mixologists have been preoccupied with authenticity and the notion of a perfect presentation. In particular, experts have focused an almost obsessive level of attention on the size and style of ice cubes. "A 1-by-1-inch or a 2-by-2-inch block of ice can make a perceptible difference, particularly in stronger cocktails, because it slows the rate of dilution," Katz says. "It’s not just nostalgia but hopefully a fun aspect." When re-creating the classics, it is also important to be just as detailed in measuring ingredients.

"You want to be accurate," Rosario adds. "If you follow the recipe and use the right measurements, the cocktail is always going to be fine." However, if gathering all of the necessary ingredients seems daunting, Lafranconi has some practical advice. "I suggest going to the local neighborhood bar and asking the bartender to make the recipe," Lafranconi says.

CLASSIC COCKTAIL SAZERAC
By Allen Katz
2 oz. rye whiskey
1 tsp. absinthe
Splash of cold water
1 sugar cube soaked with Peychaud’s bitters
Lemon peel

Coat the inside of a chilled old-fashioned glass with absinthe, discarding excess. Dissolve the bitters-soaked sugar cube in a mixing glass with a splash of water. Add whiskey and 1 cup of ice, stirring until chilled. Strain the mixture into the prepared glass. Squeeze a lemon peel into the drink and drop it in to garnish.

VALENTINO
By Armando Rosario
2 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. Luxardo cherry liqueur
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice and stir well. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a cherry and an orange peel.

PEARFECT PEAR 
By Armando Rosario
2 oz. pear-flavored vodka
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz. agave nectar
2 wedges of fresh pear, cut into small pieces

Muddle pear, lemon juice, and agave nectar in a shaker. Add vodka and ice. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with fresh pear and a mint sprig. 

RECOMMENDED SPIRITS: 
Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whiskey
Sazerac Rye Whiskey
Absolut Pears
Vieux Carré Absinthe
Absinthe Marteau

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Photo by Jason Tinacci