When it came to cocktails, we used to sidle up to the bar and ask for the first thing that came to mind: a gin and tonic. But today, modern “mixologists” (a fancy name for the bartender) are digging up vintage cocktail recipes - it’s a shame to stick with the same-old, same-old when such wonderful drinks as the French 75, the Singapore Sling and the Santa Maria are to be had. Whether you like it neat, dirty, on the rocks, or with a twist, your cocktail repertoire will enjoy serious expansion with some of these delightful concoctions from days gone by.
History and drink descriptions are care of our friends at Wikipedia unless otherwise noted.
- Instead of a White Russian: The Ramos Gin Fizz
A Ramos gin fizz (also known as a Ramos fizz or New Orleans fizz) contains gin, lemon juice, lime juice, egg white, sugar, cream, orange flower water, and soda water. It is served in a large glass, such as a Zombie glass (a non-tapered 12 to 14 ounce glass).
The orange flower water and egg white significantly affect the flavor and texture of a Ramos, compared to a regular Gin Fizz. As Cleveland bar chef Everest Curley points out “a big key to making egg cocktails is not to use ice at first; the sugar acts as an emulsifier, while it and the alcohol ‘cooks’ the egg white.” Even so, many bartenders today use powdered egg white because of the possible health risks associated with consuming raw eggs.
Henry C. Ramos invented the Ramos gin fizz in 1888 at his bar in Meyer’s Restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was originally called the New Orleans Fizz, and is one of the city’s most famous cocktails. Before Prohibition, the bar employed dozens of “shaker boys” to create the drinks during periods of heavy business.
- Instead of a Cosmpolitan: The French 75
French 75 is a cocktail made from gin, Champagne, lemon juice, and sugar.
The drink was created in 1915 at the Paris landmark, Harry’s New York Bar by barman Harry MacElhone. The combination was said to have such a kick that it felt like being shelled with the powerful French 75mm howitzer artillery piece, also called a “75 Cocktail”, or “Soixante Quinze” in French. The French 75 was popularized in America at the Stork Club.
The drink’s recipe was first recorded in The Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930. A later cocktail book The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David Embury claims that the French 75 is a Cognac based drink.
- Instead of a Daquiri: The Singapore Sling
The Singapore Sling is a cocktail that was developed sometime before 1915 by Ngiam Tong Boon (嚴崇文), a bartender working at the Long Bar in Raffles Hotel, Singapore. The original recipe used gin, Cherry Heering, Bénédictine, and fresh pineapple juice, primarily from Sarawak pineapples which enhance the flavor and create a foamy top.
Most recipes substitute bottled pineapple juice for fresh juice; soda water has to be added for foam. The hotel’s recipe was recreated based on the memories of former bartenders and written notes that they were able to discover regarding the original recipe. One of the scribbled recipes is still on display at the Raffles Hotel Museum.
Recipes published in articles about Raffles Hotel prior to the 1970s are significantly different from current recipes, and “Singapore Slings” drunk elsewhere in Singapore differ from the recipe used at Raffles Hotel.
The current Raffles Hotel recipe is a heavily modified version of the original, most likely changed sometime in the 1970s by Ngiam Tong Boon’s nephew. Today, many of the “Singapore Slings” served at Raffles Hotel have been pre-mixed and are dispensed using an automatic dispenser that combines both alcohol and pineapple juice to pre-set volumes. They are then blended instead of shaken to create a nice foamy top as well as to save time because of the large number of orders. However, it is still possible to request a shaken version from bartenders.
- Instead of a Mojito: The Caipirinha
Brazil’s national cocktail, made with cachaça, sugar and lime. Cachaça is Brazil’s most common distilled alcoholic beverage. While both rum and cachaça are made from sugarcane-derived products, most rum is made from molasses. Specifically with cachaça, the alcohol results from the fermentation of sugarcane juice that is afterwards distilled.
The word caipirinha means ‘little countryside drink’ in Portuguese. Although there’s no definitive version of how the cocktail was invented, its story is bound up with that of cachaça, the spirit that Brazilians drink a staggering 200 million liters of every year.
It seems likely that the caipirinha evolved as workers on Brazil’s sugar cane plantations looked for a palatable way to drink the cachaça they were helping to produce. An alternative story has it that Portuguese slave traders returning to Europe would use limes to prevent scurvy, which they added to the cachaça they’d picked up in Brazil and combined with sugar for sweetness. (History of the Caipirinha thanks to www.squaremeal.co.uk.)
- Instead of a Margarita: The Matador
The Matador is a tequila-based cocktail. Less widely known than the margarita, its structure is similarly simple, with three primary ingredients: silver or blanco tequila, pineapple juice, and lime juice. Its chief coupling of pineapple and a single spirit resembles a Jackhammer, a variant of the Screwdriver which substitutes pineapple juice for orange juice to mix with vodka. Matadors are often presented differently, either in a cocktail (or martini) glass or a champagne flute.
The modern Matador, sometimes referred to as the “Tequila Matador,” is a drink made with tequila, pineapple juice, and lime juice. It has been around for decades, and is included in classic cocktail books like Trader Vic’s Bartending Guide.
The Cafe Royal Cocktail Book, originally published in the Britain in 1937, has a completely different recipe for a Matador that is made with orange curacao, French vermouth, and tequila. The Pinequila, a cocktail more similar to the modern Matador, is also included in the book and is made with 1/3 parts tequila and 2/3 parts pineapple juice. (Thanks to Ryan Kelley at www.examiner.com)
- Instead of a Screwdriver: The Pimm’s Cup
Pimm’s No. 1 is a gin-based potation made in England from dry gin, liqueur, fruit juices, and spices. Served with lemon soda or ginger ale, it becomes a Pimm’s Cup. Pimm’s No. 1 was created in the mid-18th century by English oyster bar owner James Pimm. The recipe is still a secret; supposedly, only six people know exactly how it is made. It has a dark, golden brown color, a medium body, and a taste of quinine, citrus fruits, and spice. Its low alcohol content of only 25 percent has made Pimm’s a drink to have when you are having more than one.
As was customary at the time, Pimm served the cocktail in tankards—hence the name Pimm’s Cup. The rage for this relative of the Sling became so great that Pimm mass-produced and bottled it along with Pimm’s 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6: whiskey, brandy, rum, rye, and vodka, respectively. Detractors have likened the earthy mixture to liquid dirt mellowed by iodine, but the Pimm’s Cup is still the traditional drink of Wimbledon, with visitors to the matches consuming some 40,000 pints a year. The addition of a cucumber slice gives the drink some truck as a health food. Some. (From Field Guide to Cocktails by Rob Chirico)
- Instead of a Rum and Coke: The Presbyterian
The Presbyterian is a mixed drink of bourbon whiskey, club soda and ginger ale. “Why a Presbyterian? I can’t say for sure. Perhaps it’s a reference to the nationality of the base spirit, and a nod to the Church of Scotland. Then again, the wholesome appearance of this drink makes it suitable for covert imbibing at church picnics; for all anybody knows, you’re relaxing in the shade with a tall glass of iced tea.
Whatever the provenance of its name, the Presbyterian is pretty much made to be enjoyed outdoors, preferably with a picnic blanket in sight and with a few blue puffs of smoke blowing off the barbecue. Incredibly easy to prepare, the Presbyterian also lends itself to the pitcher treatment: simply do a little math before the guests arrive, and pour everything together as everyone’s starting to mill around the backyard (or deck, or fire escape, as the case may be). Then settle back with a plate of potato salad and whatever’s smoky and sizzling, and watch the sun go down on a long holiday weekend. Just remember to plan more days like this in the summer to come.” (Thanks to www.seriouseats.com for this info.)