by Pink Lady
A few nights ago, I suffered a truly awful anxiety dream—vicious even, because it twisted one of my very favorite activities—cocktailing with people I respect and experimenting with new flavors—into a nightmare.
The scene: a crowded auditorium packed to the gills with some of the brightest stars in the mixological galaxy. Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff is there, as is Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh and Imbibe! author and my personal hero, David Wondrich, as well as bar superstars from both coasts and every city in between. They’re here for a cocktail contest in which I am competing. I’m standing above them on a very high stage, flanked to my left by the late Jerry Thomas, and to my right by—who else?—Tom Cruise from the movie Cocktail, circa 1988.
The challenge: Invent a delectable cocktail in under five minutes using nothing more than the mysterious contents of a velvet drawstring bag that sat in the center of each bartender’s station. A pistol is fired, signaling the start of the cocktail competition, and as Jerry Thomas and Tom Cruise tear into their velvet bags and start mixing … I freeze.
My heart pounds, my palms sweat, my ears start ringing. To my left, Jerry Thomas is tossing a stream of liquid between two glasses in an arc high above his head, somehow not spilling a drop. To my right, Tom Cruise is gyrating and flipping bottles in time with the music, which is of course “Hippy Hippy Shake.” A smiling Katie Holmes looks on. The crowd roars, chanting “LU-PEC, LU-PEC.” And I can’t move.
I awoke from this terrible scene with a start, and an ocean of relief washed over me when I realized it was just a dream. The chances that I’ll ever be mixing up drinks alongside a 1988 Tom Cruise from Cocktail and Jerry Thomas, who died in 1885, are slim. However, I can sleep soundly knowing if that situation ever did come to pass, I have several classic cocktail-making patterns up my sleeve that would help me rise to the occasion, such as this one, for a delightful aperitif cocktail. You may recognize it as the basic template (minus the barspoon of liqueur) for both the martini and the Manhattan, two drinks that have stood the test of time and are still popular among modern drinkers over a century after their birth. Fill in the blanks and give it a spin at home. After all, generations of drinkers can’t be wrong.
DAVID WONDRICH’S APERITIF COCKTAIL
Adapted from BarSmarts
2 oz high-proof base spirit
1 oz low-proof aperitif (vermouth, Lillet, Aperol, etc.) or fortified wine (a light wine, such as dry sherry, works well with white spirits; heavier wines, such as port, work well with brown spirits)
1 bar spoon liqueur (for accent, a great way to play around with more pungent herbal liqueurs)
2 dashes bitters (use orange or fruit bitters for lighter drinks; angostura, Peychaud’s or other aromatic bitters for heavier ones)
Stir ingredients over ice in a mixing glass; strain into the glass of your choice.