A Very Drinkable Geography Lesson.
oon it’ll be wheels up and we will all be taking to the skies again. And what better way to plan your next worldwide excursion than over cocktails. Here’s what we can learn by opening a few well-chosen bottles.
Martini x The Knickerbocker
They say that success has many parents — and that is surely true for the classic Martini, a.k.a. the King of Cocktails. Many cities claim to have invented this elegant mix of gin and vermouth, including San Francisco and tiny Martinez CA, in the days of the Gold Rush. We favour downtown New York, specifically The Knickerbocker Hotel.
At The Knickerbocker, you’ll have to reckon with both sweet and dry vermouth, the legacy of France and Italy respectively, in one glass.
How to make a Knickerbocker Martini
2 ounces Tanqueray No. 10
¾ ounce of dry vermouth
½ ounce of sweet vermouth
A dash of orange and citrus bitters.
Shake and serve in a chilled, stemmed glass with a garnish of lemon. *Copyright Charlie Palmer, headman at The Knick
A Knickerbocker bartender named Martini di Arma di Taggia is said to have shaken the first Martini for moneyman John D. Rockefeller in 1906. Remember, a Martini contains gin but it’s not all about the gin; back in Rockefeller’s day it was a 1:1 mix. Tanqueray is preferred because its simple four botanicals gives a pure citrus and juniper. Don’t stint on the vermouth … it’s got to be Noilly Prat from Southern France.
Whisky Mac x Road Hole Bar
Scotland and golf go together like whisky and water, so where better to imbibe the archetypical Scotch snifter than the Old Course at St Andrews? Just at the 17th hole to be precise, in the Road Hole Bar. Within, you will be confronted by a choice of 266 whiskies. Almost all of them can be combined with ginger wine to produce the Whisky Mac and, if the weather is inclement, you can add a dash of hot water to create a toddy.
How to make a Whisky Mac x Royal & Ancient
11/2 ounces Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 14 y/o single malt
One ounce green ginger wine
Serve over ice with a scroll of fresh ginger.
The Whisky Mac is devilishly simple. The special ingredient is green ginger wine. Some swear by Stone’s but the authentic Scottish flavour belongs to Crabbie’s, a tincture brewed in Leith, Edinburgh. You can use blended Scotch but the Quinta Ruban’s 14 years in bourbon and port casks makes for an exquisitely refined Mac.
Back in the days of the British Empire, Scottish soldiers found themselves posted all around the world, from Canada to India, Hong Kong to South Africa. Unsurprisingly, they often hankered for a taste of home that would also settle their stomachs with some medicinal ginger. The Whisky Mac honours Major General ‘Fighting Mac’ Macdonald.
Negroni x Camparino
The Negroni is all about the aperitivo Campari, invented by Gaspare Campari in 1860. This mysterious concoction is reputed to contain 80 herbs and spices, as well as orange and rhubarb.
For us, the headwater of the Negroni is Camparino, an Art Nouveau hideaway opposite the Duomo in Milan, Italy. Founded in 1915 by Gaspare’s son Davide, this is the bar that was made for one of the most iconic cocktails, rather than the other way around.
How to make a Negroni alla Camparino
One jigger Campari
One jigger 1757 Vermouth di Torino Rosso
One jigger Bulldog Dry Gin
Invented by the eponymous Count in 1919, the classic Negroni infuses the crisp bittersweets of Campari into the joyful nosegay of gin and smooth vermouth. Serve over ice with a garnish of orange. The Count was returning from his first trip to London where he enjoyed English-style gin which is why this recipe favours Bulldog’s sharp, dry distillation of juniper, poppy seed and Dragon’s Eye, the aphrodisiac Chinese fruit.
Singapore Sling x Raffles Bar
Sipping a Sling in the Long Bar at Raffles, one can imagine the scene in 1902 when a tiger snuck in and was cornered under the billiards table, where it was shot. Such are the tales that add a dash of romance to this beloved and exotic tall cocktail, along with the Angostura. Mythology tells us that Hainanese-Chinese bar captain Ngiam Tong Boon composed the recipe while serving a customer; Raffles claims to have the original napkin inscribed with the recipe in its safe. We like the version proposed by mixologist Gary Regan.
How to make a Singapore Sling x Raffles
1 ounce of Beefeater gin
1/2 ounce Cherry Heering
2 ounces fresh pineapple Juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime Juice
1/4 ounce Cointreau
1/4 ounce Benedictine
One or two dashes of Angostura bitters
Shake and strain into an ice-filled Collins, garnish with a Maraschino cherry and a wedge of pineapple, and top with club soda.
The Singapore Sling was originally destined for genteel ladies to sip in the heat of the evening. Eventually, everyone wanted one — and everyone included Rudyard Kipling, Charlie Chaplin, Ernest Hemingway, Somerset Maugham, and Elizabeth Taylor. Now the bar is a tourist trap … but you still need to go! Raffles was declared a National Monument by the government of Singapore in 1987, largely due to the Sling.
It’s a long, long flight to Tahiti no matter where you start. Out in the middle of the South Pacific, these tiny islands live large in our imagination as the ultimate beach paradise. What’s more, they inspired Tiki cocktail culture and the inevitable Mai Tai — sunset in a glass. We suggest going a little further to an island that Marlon Brando called his own. Sip your Mai Tai where Bob’s Bar is named after Brando’s longtime factotum, at The Brando Hotel on the luxury desert island of Tetiaroa.
How to make a Mai Tai x Bob’s Bar
1 ounce Trois Rivières 55° white agricole rum
²/³ ounce Plantation Original Dark rum
¹/³ ounce Myer’s Dark Jamaican rum
½ ounce Pierre Ferrand Ancienne Méthode Dry Curacao
²/³ ounce fresh lime juice
²/³ ounce Giffard orgeat syrup.
Shake everything except the dark rum with crushed ice and pour in a double old-fashioned glass. Float the dark rum on top. Serve with a bouquet of mint.
The Mai Tai is inspired by Tiki culture but doesn’t originate in Tahiti; it’s rooted in traditional Caribbean distillation. It is probably the invention of ‘Trader Vic’ Bergeron. Back in 1944, experimenting with daiquiris, Trader Vic was struck by the funky flavours of overproof Jamaican rum — pineapple, banana, fresh cake — that develop in so-called ‘muck pits’. At more than 50% ABV, it’s powerful stuff! Combined with the almond of the orgeat, the Mai Tai conjured a tropical garden. Floating dark rum on top of white, Vic saw a sunset and the Mai Tai was ready to rise. But not until friends from Tahiti had declared the blend to be ‘mai tai-roa ae’ — out of this world, the best!
We owe a debut to The Joy of Mixology by the late Gary ‘Gaz’ Regan, for keeping us straight on our recipes. Every home should have a copy of this book.