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By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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The Crème Revival

Dixie Cocktail Courtesy of Hard Water

Dixie Cocktail Courtesy of Hard Water

Mention crème de cacao or crème de menthe to anyone who drank through the 80s and they will cringe as if they had just been offered a pair of parachute pants. Though associated with saccharine, often artificially colored cordials, true crèmes can be elegant, velvety digestifs or superb cocktail modifiers. Today, artisan producers are restoring crèmes to their respectable form, much to the delight of bartenders who use the vibrantly flavored, sweet liqueurs in revivals of long-lost cocktails and terrific new drinks. MORE >

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Spring Herb Cocktails

Herbal Cocktails: Cilantro Martini

Cilantro Martini © Lauren Feighery

Across the country, bartenders are moving away from heavy, earthy cocktails and replacing them with bright and bracing drinks made with fresh herbs. At Austin’s Drink.Well, co-owner Jessica Sanders and her bar staff created three tinctures (rosemary, cilantro and basil) to star in off-the-menu herbal gin martinis. Each tincture—made with quality vodka infused in a jar packed with herbs—complements a specific gin and vermouth. MORE >

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Look Away Ents: Delicious Cocktails Use Bark, Sap, Buds and More

Tree Cocktails: Fire & Smoke

Fire & Smoke © Aaron Cook | AACK Studio

You love them for shade, for climbing, and if you're a squirrel, for their cozy hollows, but trees also have a lot to offer when it comes to cocktails. The roots and bark imbue tinctures with a woody sweetness, the sap lends itself to an aromatic syrup, the leaves infuse spirits with freshness and the buds can be made into a concentrated tree-essence. MORE >

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Irish Whiskey: Out of the Shot Glass, into the Cocktail

Irish whiskey cocktails: Mr. Brownstone

Mr. Brownstone © Carissa O'Connor

Approachable Irish whiskey is often served straight, but the smooth, lightly spicy spirit is also delicious in cocktails. “It tastes like butterscotch and toffee,” says Erick Castro, bartender at San Diego's new soda shop-style bar Polite Provisions. “I have a lot of friends who aren’t cocktail drinkers, but they’ll take a shot of Jameson without hesitation.” Castro loves to mix it in cocktails like Mr. Brownstone, a fizzy drink that combines Jameson, housemade cinnamon syrup and Angostura bitters and is charged overnight with CO2 then served on draft. The result is a lightly boozy, caramel-tinged cocktail served on the rocks with a star anise garnish. Here, more cocktails that highlight easy-drinking Irish whiskey.»

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Spring Tease: Fennel Cocktails

Fennel Cocktails: The Archduke

The Archduke © Brent Herrig

Lightly sweet and fresh, fennel is the perfect bridge from winter to spring. Like a lot of chefs, many cocktail experts are fans of both fennel bulbs and the plant’s herbaceous fronds. At New York City’s The Third Man—Edi & The Wolf’s little, boozier sister—Austrian chef-partner Edi Frauneder uses fresh baby fennel juice in the Archduke. Frauneder first dehydrates fennel fronds with a quick blast of liquid nitrogen, then adds ice, Laird’s Apple Brandy, bittersweet Cynar, fresh fennel juice made from the delicate bulb and Peychaud’s bitters. He stirs the anise-scented cocktail, then strains it into a rocks glass with one large, hand-cut ice cube and garnishes it with a fresh fennel frond. Here, more fennel drinks that offer a taste of spring. »

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Sake Cocktails: No Lychees Allowed

Smallwares: The Sake

The Sake © Jannie Huang of Little Green Pickle

Sake has long been associated with dubious karaoke-bar offerings (sugary-sweet lycheetinis, Sapporo sake bombs), but the fermented rice drink has a lot more to give the mixology world. Pioneering bartenders are using high-quality sake to create superb new cocktails that showcase its range of flavors, from light and dry to full-bodied and mildly sweet. MORE >

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Pink Gin: Strong Enough for a Spy, Pretty Enough for a Lady

Pink Gin: Marrow 75

Marrow 75 Courtesy of The Marrow

Pink Gin—a term for gin mixed with Angostura bitters—was incredibly popular in England starting in the 19th century when the British navy used the concoction to combat seasickness. It was so ubiquitous that James Bond drinks one in Sir Ian Fleming's, The Man with the Golden Gun. His order: Beefeater with "plenty of bitters." The combination is now catching on in the U.S., where American bartenders are using bottled pink gin in Valentine's Day-perfect cocktails. MORE »

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Historical and Heretical Sazeracs

Sazerac Interpreted

Sazerac Interpreted Courtesy of Restaurant R'Evolution

With Mardi Gras approaching on February 12, cocktail obsessives can honor the holiday by trying a new variation on New Orleans’s famous Sazerac. The basic recipe features rye whiskey, Peychaud’s bitters and sugar, stirred and strained into a cold (but ice-free) rocks glass rinsed with absinthe. At French Quarter newcomer Restaurant R’evolution, wine and spirits director Molly Wismeier makes a Sazerac with brandy. MORE »

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Toasty Drinks for Winter Weather: Hot Toddies, Irish Coffee and Warm Punch

Hot Drinks: The Dead Rabbit

The Dead Rabby © Andrew Kist

New Yorkers looking for an antidote to the recent blast of frigid weather can take refuge at a new cocktail spot opening next week called the Dead Rabbit, which will offer several warming winter drinks. Located in an early-19th-century townhouse, the new venue is actually two bars in one: a cozy pub, which aims to have the largest Irish whiskey menu in the city, and an upstairs cocktail lounge. Downstairs, co-owners Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry will serve a classic hot toddy and Dale DeGroff’s Irish coffee recipe. But upstairs, among the 72 cocktails divided into 12 chapters, Muldoon and McGarry will employ very modern technology to prepare historically influenced drinks. MORE >

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Port: The Unsung Cocktail Ingredient

The Elk’s Own Port Cocktail

Courtesy of Barrelhouse Flat.

In a recent piece detailing the simple pleasures of sweet and rich after-dinner wines, F&W’s Ray Isle wrote that port is “arguably the world’s greatest sweet wine.” It’s also one of the greatest classic cocktail ingredients, especially for winter drinks, to which the fortified wine adds a luxurious texture and intense dark fruit flavors. “The tradition of port in cocktails is as old as mixing drinks,” says Greg Buttera, the creative director of Barrelhouse Flat in Chicago. Buttera’s menu features two historical port cocktails: the Coffee Cocktail and the Elk’s Own.

“The Elk’s Own first shows up in The Savoy Cocktail Book, published in 1930,” says Buttera. “The drink evolved a little bit but the original was called the Elk’s Fizz—it was the 1901 Police Gazette cocktail of the year.” Buttera begins with Rittenhouse Rye Bottled in Bond, an intense 100-proof whiskey that provides a strong backbone for the drink. “It’s not a whiskey you would slowly sip while you pour over a leather-bound volume of Melville,” Buttera warns. He mixes the whiskey with ruby port, fresh lemon juice, Angostura bitters, simple syrup and an egg white for volume and a velvety consistency. The cocktail is shaken vigorously and served in a rocks glass. “It’s a nice cold weather cocktail,” Buttera says. “But it has much brighter fruit and more acidity than a lot of whiskey drinks.”

The Coffee Cocktail, which neither contains nor tastes like coffee but does somewhat resemble a frothy café au lait when mixed properly, dates to 1887 when it appeared in the third edition of Jerry Thomas’s The Bar-tender’s Guide. For his version, Buttera mixes equal parts of light, fruity Maison Surrenne Petite Champagne Cognac and ruby port with a touch of simple syrup and a whole egg. Buttera gives the mix a quick dry shake before adding ice and shakes again, just enough to chill the drink. He strains the creamy result into a brandy snifter and tops it with nutmeg. “The port has a silky texture inherently,” Buttera says. “Then the fat from the egg yolk integrates and creates a nice mouthfeel. It goes down very easy.” Here, more bars serving terrific port cocktails.

BAR GUIDE

Teardrop Cocktail Lounge, Portland, Oregon
Among the bar’s exquisitely crafted early-19th-century cocktails is the Chicago Fizz, which dates to 1930. Bartenders use an ounce of house-blended rum as the base: a mix of polished, tropical Plantation Grande Reserve 5-year, appley Flor de Caña and vegetal Novo Fogo Cachaça. To that, they add ruby port, lemon juice, rich demerara syrup and egg white. The rosy shaken cocktail is strained into a glass filled with a couple of ounces of club soda for a lightly fizzy, creamy drink. teardroplounge.com

Sylvain, New Orleans
Even though winter in New Orleans isn’t the chilliest, bartender Darrin Ylisto thought the seasonal menu at Sylvain could use a cozy, robust port cocktail. For the Dead Man’s Wallet, Ylisto mixes Rittenhouse rye with lemon juice, cinnamon syrup, ruby port and Angostura bitters. Ylisto shakes the spiced, fruity cocktail and serves it on the rocks in an old-fashioned glass. sylvainnola.com

Ace, Denver
A massive former garage, Ace now houses an Asian restaurant, a ping-pong hall and a bar, which features both original creations inspired by the cult movie Big Trouble in Little China—like the Girl with the Green Eyes, named for Kim Cattrall’s character—and new takes on classic cocktails like the Ship Song, a fruity twist on an old-fashioned. To make the Ship Song, bartenders muddle orange peel with sugar and Angostura bitters, add Guatemalan rum and ruby port, and stir it until it’s chilled. The dark, baking-spice-inflected cocktail is strained over one large ice cube and garnished with an orange peel. acedenver.com

South Water Kitchen, Chicago
Head bartender Sarah Mengoni just updated the cocktail menu at this recently redesigned restaurant. One of the new seasonal drinks is the Boardwalk Braggadocio: vodka, Laird’s Bonded Applejack, nutty tawny port, fresh lime juice, simple syrup and Angostura bitters, shaken, strained into a coupe and garnished with a mint leaf. “It’s almost like a fruitcake,” Mengoni says. “Fresh—not the one that has been passed around your family for the past 10 years.” southwaterkitchen.com

Related: 50 Best Bars in America
Best New Cocktails Trends for 2013

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