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Like a soap opera character slowly recovering from amnesia, we’re slowly but surely remembering the drinks of our past.
Like a soap opera character slowly recovering from amnesia, we’re slowly but surely remembering the drinks of our past. In the past 15 years, old-school American cocktail classics like the Southside and the Bee’s Knees have started cropping up on menus across the country. Seamstress, the recently opened Americana-themed bar in Manhattan, is helping speed up the country’s cocktail recall with a menu of 50 classic American cocktails. Here, head bartender Pamela Wiznitzer highlights seven forgotten American cocktails that deserve to be remembered.
1. Jack Rose
Made with fresh lemon juice, applejack and grenadine, this early 1900s drink is super-simple and ultra-American. “Applejack is sort of like our answer to Calvados,” Witznitzer says. “The Jack Rose is just a really great shaken, refreshing cocktail that no one ever orders, which is really a shame.” She likes to make hers with Laird’s or Black Dirt, a craft applejack made in New York state. Pro tip: Shake the cocktail hard. “You have to really throw yourself into it,” Wiznitzer says.
While the creamy, pale green, pre-Prohibition cocktail is experiencing a bit of a resurgence at cocktail bars right now, Witznitzer still thinks this drink needs more love. “It’s a complete guilty pleasure,” she says. “You can just suck them down.” If the low proof puts you off (it’s made with just crème de cacao, crème de menthe and heavy cream), Witznitzer recommends fortifying it with an ounce of Irish whiskey or tequila. You can also swap out the cream for almond milk or coconut milk. Pro tip: Witznitzer warns against using more than a 1/2 ounce of crème de menthe.
3. Gin Rickey
Made with 2 ounces of gin, a 1/2 ounce of lime juice and soda water, the Gin Rickey was a sleeper hit. It originated in the 1800s but didn’t become popular until the 1920s. “It’s the only cocktail mentioned by name in The Great Gatsby,” Wiznitzer says. “It’s really refreshing, easy to make and low-calorie. And you can’t screw it up.” She also likes to make Cointreau Rickeys (Cointreau, soda water and lime juice). “You get a way more flavorful drink,” she says. “It’s fabulous.” Pro tip: Never use store-bought lime juice; always juice your own limes fresh.
4. Mamie Taylor
Named for Mayme Taylor, a Broadway star in the late 1800s who helped create the cocktail on a sailing trip in Lake Ontario, this take on a buck is made with 2 ounces of Scotch, ginger ale and a lemon peel. Witznitzer recommends using a blended Scotch like Compass Box’s The General or Johnny Walker Red and a quality ginger beer. Pro tip: Top the cocktail with a 1/2 ounce of peated Scotch for an extra layer of flavor.
“The martini is so popular, but it was derived from the Martinez,” Wiznitzer says. Made with Old Tom gin, sweet vermouth, Maraschino liqueur and Angostura bitters, the auburn cocktail dates back to the late 1800s.
6. The Jasmine
A more recent addition to the list of must-know cocktails, this bartender favorite was created by bartender Paul Harrington in the early 1990s at Townhouse Bar & Grill in Emeryville, California. “It tastes just like fresh grapefruit juice, but there’s no grapefruit juice in it,” Wiznitzer says. It’s made with 1 1/2 ounces gin, 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice, 1 ounce Cointreau and 1/2 ounce Campari, shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass. Pro tip: Wiznitzer recommends a fun, new-world gin for this drink—one with lots of botanicals.
7. Pisco Punch
Invented in the late 1800s at San Francisco’s Bank Exchange bar, this was a huge hit during the Gold Rush. “Goddamn, that’s a great drink,” Wiznitzer says. The easy punch is made with pisco, fresh lemon juice, fresh pineapple juice and simple syrup. Pro tip: If you don’t have the means to juice your own pineapple, simply muddle pineapple directly into the cocktail, infuse the pisco with pineapple overnight or opt for a pineapple gomme syrup and leave out the simple syrup.