Don’t you just love sipping on handcrafted cocktails at one of those fancy places where the bartenders shake up magical elixirs? Next time you’re there, notice all of the liquor bottles lining the shelf behind the bar. You’ll see lots of bottles that are familiar to you and some that you’ve never heard of or you’ve more than likely forgotten about. Plus little bottles of bitters and tinctures lined up on the bar that add extra splash of flavor to those fancy dancy cocktails.
Wouldn’t it be fun to be able to mix up these fancy cocktails at home? But, with so many cocktail ingredients to choose from, where do you even start? Ted Haigh’s (AKA Dr. Cocktail) book ” Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails” is an excellent resource book for those who are tempted to make fancy vintage cocktails at home. You’ll enjoy the stories behind these legendary cocktails too. This fun book reads like a novel with stories about cocktails, punches, cobblers and shrubs, plus 80 rediscovered cocktail recipes that you will love!
Let’s begin with a liqueur that actually was forgotten for a time: crème de violette. Possibly because it was not a commonplace popular liqueur, there was a time between the 1960’s and the cocktail revival in 2007 that this violette color liqueur was virtually impossible to find in the United States. With the resurgence of interest in the art of the cocktail, crème de violette was rediscovered in cocktails such as the Aviation. This gorgeous cocktail, the color of blue sky, takes flight with gin, crème de violette, lemon juice and maraschino liqueur. Served in a Nick and Nora glass, this cocktail will make you feel like you are in a 1930’s Bette Davis movie – so romantic!
What’s a Nick and Nora glass? According to Bevvy.com, this glass gets its name from the main characters (Nick and Nora) in the 1934 movie The Thin Man. This is the style of glass that Nic and Nora Charles sip cocktails out of throughout the movie. It is a somewhat smaller glass than what we think of as a cocktail glass today, so only cocktails served “up” should be served in this glass (the ice would not comfortably fit in this delicate glass).
Moving on, what in the world is Orgeat syrup and why would I want to add it to my handcrafted cocktails? It is an almond-flavored syrup infused with a little orange blossom water, often used in tropical cocktails such as the popular Mai-Tia. Did you know Mai-Tia’s were Elvis’ drink of choice in his 1961 movie Blue Hawaii? You’ll enjoy orgeat in other oldie but goodie cocktails such as Planter’s Punch (dark Rum, orange Juice, orgeat syrup, pineapple juice), Scorpion (brandy, darkrum, gomme syrup, Lime juice, orange juice, orgeat syrup, white rum), and Trinidad Sour (rye whiskey, lemon juice, orgeat). You can make your own orgeat syrup, but the process has numerous steps and once you purchase all of the ingredients you will have spent as much as you will spend on a bottle of pre-made syrup.
James Bond, played by Roger Moore in the 1973 movie Live and Let Die enjoyed sipping a Sazerac cocktail. Absinthe is an anise flavored spirit that is one of the main ingredients in this classic cocktail made famous in New Orleans. My first recollection of a Sazerac was in an episode of the Andy Griffith Show when Andy takes his new girl Peggy out to a fancy restaurant in Raleigh. She obviously is more cultured than Andy, which is obvious when she orders a Sazerac and has to explain to Andy that it is a cocktail from New Orleans. Andy responds, “I’ll just have a beer.” On National Absinthe Day (March 5), Food and Wine Magazine printed several recipes for Absinthe handcrafted cocktails including the Wonderlust, a lovely sky blue cocktail that also contains our old friend crème de violette.
There are so many cocktail ingredients that were once shoved to the back of the shelf that have made a resurgence in modern handcrafted cocktails – green chartreuse, creme de menthe, sloe gin, to name just a few. Those are for a later conversation. For now, let’s get mixin’ and shakin’ so we can enjoy a fabulous lost and found cocktail.
Are you ready to expand your cocktail repertoire to include vintage handcrafted cocktails? What’s your favorite old fashioned cocktail ingredient?