How to make perfect classic cocktails

We asked the mixologists at Pepper Smash Cocktail Kitchen at The Shops at Legacy for advice on crafting the perfect cocktail. A discerning gentleman must first acquire the tools for the trade. Your home inventory should include: Boston Shaker tins, Hawthorne, julep, and fine strainers, a bar spoon, wooden muddler, ice molds and one set of jiggers. Next, remember to be bold; a proper gentleman seeks adventure! Take your favorite cocktail and swap out an ingredient or add a muddled fruit. Always select fresh ingredients and avoid bottled mixes. A great margarita does not come from a bottle; it comes from fresh lime juice, a good tequila, and a decent triple sec. Please do watch your ratios. Precision counts.

Old Fashioned

The most classic of cocktails, an Old Fashioned is made with a large block of ice that melts over the duration of an evening. Ice achieves the two very important secret steps: dilution and solution. Dilution soothes the alcohol “burn”. Water is also a solvent that blends the various flavors together to create a balanced cocktail. A gentleman uses spheres for squared glasses and cubes for rounded ones.

Ingredients

  • 2 oz bourbon or rye
  • 3–4 dashes bitters
  • 1 tsp. simple syrup
  • Splash of soda
  • Orange slice for muddling, or lemon twist for garnish

Recipe

  1. Add the simple syrup to the bottom of a double rocks glass.
  2. Add the bitters and a splash of soda. Muddle together the simple syrup, bitters and soda with a spoon or muddler.
  3. Add ice, and pour in the rye or bourbon, stirring it all together.
  4. Optional: rub the lemon twist around the brim to bring out the scent of the oils before dropping it in the glass.

Manhattan

When making any classic cocktail, use decent liquor, but don’t break the bank. A gentleman might love his single malt scotch, but wouldn’t waste his Balvenie 18-year in a scotch cocktail. Yet, a liquor that is not enjoyable on its own will not be enjoyable in a well-made cocktail. These tenets hold true when making a Manhattan, an elegant drink where the taste of the liquor should shine.

Ingredients

  • 2 oz rye or bourbon
  • 1⁄2 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 1–2 dashes bitters
  • Maraschino cherry or lemon twist for garnish

Recipe

  1. Combine the rye, vermouth and bitters in a mixing glass or shaker with ice.
  2. Stir for a bit, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  3. Garnish with a cherry or lemon twist.

Martini

The original martini was made with gin and a splash of vermouth. Let us never forget that glassware is as essential to the perfect cocktail as the proper ingredients. A gentleman would never drink Chardonnay from a Bordeaux glass! Pour your juleps in julep tins, your oversized high proof cocktails into coupes, your old fashions into double rocks glasses. Your martinis into martini glasses.

Ingredients

  • 2 1⁄2 oz. gin
  • 1⁄2 oz. dry vermouth
  • Olives or a lemon twist for garnish

Recipe

  1. Pour gin and vermouth into a shaker or mixing glass filled with ice.
  2. Stir for a bit, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  3. Garnish with olives or lemon twist.

Originally published in the July 2017 issue