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Leaders of the American Cocktail Revolution

Just like celebrity chefs, today’s celebrity bartenders have passionate followers who admire their quest for the best ingredients and the newest ideas. Here, America’s top five talents and some of their signature drinks.

Silver Lining

After training at one of New York City’s most revered bars, the exclusive Lower East Side speakeasy Milk & Honey, Joseph Schwartz is bringing impeccable old-school drinks to a wider audience at Little Branch. To get this foamy drink, he tinkered with a classic silver rye fizz, which gets its head from a shaken egg white. Instead of the usual sugar he adds Licor 43, a sweet, aromatic liqueur with notes of vanilla and nut.

XXX Martini

At Frisson, in San Francisco, Duggan McDonnell’s wildly inventive cocktails are thought-provoking without ever tipping into novelty for novelty’s sake. “I feel like you have to have at least one cocktail on your menu that is controversial,” he says. “It gives people a sense of discovery.” His martini, for instance, is a sexy riff on the dirty martini, which is clouded with a few drops of olive brine. His X-rated touch is a dash of black, slightly salty squid ink, which turns the drink a deep, rich color.

Don't Give Up the Ship

Ben Dougherty and partner Kacy Fitch pore over old cocktail guides in search of quirky forgotten recipes to serve at Zig Zag Cafe in Seattle—like this pleasantly bitter gin drink that calls for the unlikely pairing of Dubonnet, a sweet French aperitif, and Fernet Branca, a bitter Italian digestif.

The Mission

Lucy Brennan's improbably delicious drinks at Mint/820—avocado daiquiris, beet martinis—have inspired local bartenders for more than a decade and helped make Portland, Oregon one of the country's most dynamic cocktail towns. This port-accented cocktail reflects her belief that “there’s nothing better in cold weather than a sweater with a glass of port.” The name refers to the puree of Mission figs that lends the drink a sweet, fruity taste.

Ultimate Mojito

Ryan McGrale is a perfectionist who specializes in elegant twists on classic drinks. For example, he noticed that most people never finish mojitos because of all the mint at the bottom of the glass, so at No. 9 Park, in Boston, he pours this sweet-tart Cuban drink through a very fine strainer before serving it.

Published January 2006
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