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Behold, the latest in libations

Published Dec. 28, 2003|Updated Sep. 2, 2005

Remember Sex on the Beach? Forget it. What you really want is a Pink Squirrel.

No, it's not a Cinemax special. Catchy, or at least provocative, names are a hallmark of trendy cocktails today just as much as they were decades ago. But drink fads change at the drop of a miniature umbrella, and you don't want to be caught ordering something that's just so five minutes ago.

"We're like an ice cream shop these days _ 31 flavors," said Bob McCambridge, a 33-year veteran of the San Francisco bartending scene currently pouring drinks at Moose's in the North Beach neighborhood.

"It used to be simple stuff like scotch and water," he said. "Now, 99 percent of what these young folks order changes every day."

In the '20s, it was all about moonshine and fruity mixes designed to hoodwink the prohibitionists. After that, Manhattans and martinis were all the rage.

Fast-forward through the free-love, cocktails-are-for-grandma years, and a resurgence has brought back many of the classics while making way for some worthy newcomers.

The following are a few of the more popular mixed booze choices imbibers have been quaffing of late:

MARTINI. When it comes to the martini, the adage applies: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The quintessential not-for-neophytes drink, however, has strayed from the straight-up vodka and gin versions, gradually morphing into a blank canvas on which "mixologists" have painted a variety of elixirs.

"The flavored martini is still really hot, and some of the popular flavors in bars around town now are the lychee and mojito martini," said Dale DeGroff, noted New York City bartender and author of The Craft of the Cocktail.

Other martini creations include:

THE APPLETINI. Cocktail.com named this fusion its "mixed drink of the month." The recipe is simple: a shot of vodka and a half shot of apple schnapps, served with a raisin in a chilled martini glass, of course. The green apple martini is a slight variation.

THE CHOCOTINI. Cocktail.com James Bond would probably shoot you with his bow tie if you served him one of these, but nevertheless, this has become a hot choice for the martini rookie with a sweet tooth.

THE DIRTY MARTINI. Prepare the gin or vodka classic with plenty of olive juice. Serve it with an extra olive or two _ try almond- or garlic-stuffed olives.

MOJITO. If Fidel Castro were to attend the Kentucky Derby, he'd certainly forgo the traditional mint julep in favor of a mojito. And with the growing popularity of these bubbly Cuban delights, the cigar-sucking dictator wouldn't be alone. "Mojitos are still huge around the country, and bartenders are doing flavor variations like the berry or the vanilla mojito," DeGroff said.

This refreshing amalgam consists of rum, mint and lime.

COSMOPOLITAN. The cosmo isn't quite the "it" drink it was a few years ago when the Sex and the City vixens knocked back a few while boning up on raunchy gossip at some trendy Manhattan nightclub. Still, it remains a popular choice, primarily among women. The basic recipe consists of vodka, lime, cranberry juice and Triple Sec. For a variation with a saucy moniker, try a Rude Cosmo, which substitutes vodka with tequila and some Grand Marnier.

TEQUILA, STRAIGHT-UP. This south-of-the-border favorite is no longer the get-drunk, do-something-stupid bebida of choice. Tequila interest has grown in recent years as premium brands have entered mainstream trendiness. Stepping out from behind the intense flavors of the margarita, Mexico's finest contribution has become a stand-alone drink to be savored.

"People finally realized Cuervo Gold, which had pretty much cornered the entire market, was crap," McCambridge said. "Now everybody has their own personal favorite brands."

Instead of wincing down a shot of some cheap mixto (less than 100 percent pure agave), try sipping a reposado or anejo, two high-end varieties of aged tequila.

Enthusiasts point to brands like Don Julio, Porfidio and Patron.

CHAMPAGNE COCKTAIL. Rule of thumb: Don't dare jump into the stretch Hummer for a night on the town without a bottle or two of Cristal. But don't fret if you haven't enough bling to afford the trendy champagne. Try enhancing one of the more affordable sparkling wines _ particularly now, the perfect time of year for cork-popping mixers.

"Champagne-based beverages are always a favorite closer to New Year's," said Kari Haugeto, otherwise known as Miss Cocktail on Cocktail.com.

Not just your geriatric aunt's drink anymore, the champagne cocktail has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts among the hip crowd. The no-frills recipe in its most basic form includes champagne, a sugar cube and Angostura bitters.

From the staples of the trendy bar scene, we move to the slightly more obscure cocktails that have been making a splash of late:

THE PISCO SOUR. There's certainly a trend toward Southern Hemisphere cocktails, according to DeGroff, who lauded this tart Peruvian concoction. The main ingredients include Pisco, a brandy made from the muscat grape; lemon; egg whites; and Angostura bitters. A mainstay in Peru and Chile, this drink has begun to win fans in the States. A simple recipe is included here.

CAIPIRINHA. In keeping with the southerly flavors, this Brazilian specialty is a cousin of the mojito, consisting of a sugar cane rum called cachaca (or substitute a light rum), lime, crushed ice and sugar. The caipirinha hasn't caught the eye of bar hoppers to the degree of some of the aforementioned drinks, but it just might if the trend DeGroff mentioned continues.

THE SWIMMING POOL. "We get a lot of requests for colorful cocktails, mostly greens and blues," said Miss Cocktail. She mentioned this drink, in particular, as one that seems to be "spilling over from Europe." Described as "a pina colada with blue Curacao," the Swimming Pool "is "in' because of its intense blue color."

THE PINK SQUIRREL. BarTV.com put this creamy libation on its Top 10 cocktail list, recommending it for those "hot summer nights." The recipe includes creme de cacao, creme denoyaux and heavy cream shaken with crushed ice and served in a frosty cocktail glass.

Pisco Sour

3 parts Pisco (see note)

1{ parts lemon juice

1 teaspoon sugar

Ice

Put all the ingredients in a mixer and shake well until ice is melted, then serve very cold in cocktail glass.

Note: Pisco is a Peruvian brandy made from the muscat grape.

Serves 1.

Source: www.alldrink.com.

Caipirinha

1 lime, cut into small pieces

Superfine sugar

2 ounces cachaca (see note) or white rum

Ice cubes

Place the lime pieces, pulp side up, in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass or heavy tumbler. Add sugar to taste and crush the lime and sugar together with a pestle or the end of a wooden spoon (be sure to crush the pieces pulp side up, or too much bitter lime oil will be released from the zest). Add the cachaca, stir to mix and add the ice cubes. Stir again and serve.

Serves 1.

Note: Cachaca, a spirit distilled from sugar cane, is one of the most popular drinks in Brazil. Some of the better varieties are available in larger liquor stores.

Source: Food Network's "Two Hot Tamales" show.

Swimming Pool

} ounce vodka

} ounce white rum

} ounce blue Curacao

2 ounces coconut cream

4 ounces pineapple juice

Shake ingredients with ice. Strain into tall glass filled with ice. Garnish with pineapple wedge and orange wheel.

Serves 1.

Source: www.cocktail.com.

Pink Squirrel

1 ounce creme de cacao (White)

1 ounce creme de noyaux (see note)

4 ounces strawberry ice cream

Mix in blender until smooth. Pour into on-the-rocks glass. Float a fresh strawberry on top.

Note: Creme de noyaux is a pinkish French liqueur flavored from the pits of various fruits. Hiram Walker makes a variety. An almond liqueur can be substituted, but it is not as sweet.

Serves 1.

Source: www.recipegoldmine.com.

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