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,” says Allen Katz, cofounder of the New York Distilling Company. “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,” adds Armando Rosario, Director of Mixology for Southern Wine and Spirits of Florida. “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, Francesco Lafranconi, the executive director of mixology for Southern Wine and Spirits of Nevada. has some practical advice. “I suggest going to the local neighborhood bar and asking the bartender to make the recipe,” Lafranconi says.