Classic cocktails are classic cocktails for a reason. They are sacred, spirited stalwarts upon which all other cocktails are based—but that doesn’t mean they haven’t evolved over the years, for better or for worse. Many of the old standbys were originally made differently than they are now. Find out how to make the O.G. version of your favorite classic cocktail:
The O.G. Ways to Make Your Favorite Classic Cocktails
According to The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, the recipe for the original Martini appeared in books during the 1880s. Essentially a Martinez, it was made with Old Tom gin, sweet vermouth, orange bitters and, on occasion, a touch of maraschino liqueur. In the late 1900s, though, the Dry Martini started making an appearance. At the time, a Dry Martini was made with equal proportions of gin and dry vermouth (which would be seriously wet by our modern standards) and orange bitters. Try it for yourself—you’ll find it to be a much more aperitif-friendly drink that won’t have you slumping into your soup come dinner time.
Often exalted as the world’s first cocktail or the grandfather of cocktails, the Old Fashioned has been through a lot over the years. It’s been drowned in lemon-lime soda, over-loaded with fruit and over-sweetened to the point of liquid candy. But, according to The Old-Fashioned by Robert Simonson, the original recipe was not far from the one a knowledgable, modern day bartender would use today. Listed under the name Whiskey Cocktail in Jerry Thomas’s Bartenders Guide, the recipe called for three to four dashes of gum syrup (a sugar syrup enriched with gum arabic), a couple dashes of bitters and a “wine-glass” of whiskey. Rather than today’s Old Fashioned, this drink was shaken and strained into a red wine glass. It was garnished with a piece of lemon peel—no neon-red cherry (or even the now derigueur orange zest) in sight.
In his book, Imbibe!, David Wondrich calls the Mint Julep the “first true American drink.” Back in the early-to-mid 1800s, when the Julep was at the height of its popularity, the classic Southern cocktail was made not with whiskey (as it is today), but with Cognac. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that a Mint Julep came to imply a whiskey cocktail. If you want a taste of another old-school Julep, we recommend the Prescription Julep, which merges the two drinks, blending whiskey with Cognac for an ultra-potent refresher.
The giant Hurricanes you carry down Bourbon Street in New Orleans may be an efficient means of catching a buzz on the go, but they’re nothing like the original rum drink. First invented in the 1940s at Pat O’Brien’s bar, the drink was created as a way to use up a bunch of extra rum the bar had hanging around. While today’s Hurricanes contain any number of fruit juices and artificial mixes, the Hurricane of yesteryear was made with just three ingredients: aged rum, lime juice and passion fruit syrup. Our recipe is close to the old-school mix, but it swaps out lime juice for lemon juice. Give it a try, and you’ll never think of the New Orleans cocktail the same again.
Passion fruit syrup
Fresh Lemon juice
You might think of Jello Shots as being a modern day invention, but people have been boozing up gelatin (or gelatin-like substances) for over a hundred years. In Thomas’s Bartenders Guide, which was first published in 1862, he lists a recipe for Punch Jelly. Made with isinglass (fish bladders, essentially) in place of powdered gelatin, very rich lemonade, brandy and rum, the spiked dessert was served not in small plastic cups, but by the slice. If you dare to try to make it at home, read about our experience with the jiggly beast first.
Any Clear Spirit