Hack the classics

Over the course of more than two decades as a writer, editor, and columnist for local newspapers, I came to conclude that our readers mostly fell into two broad camps:

Those who wanted the news to affirm their world view and comfort them in their beliefs.

And those who wanted the news to challenge their opinions and disrupt their assumptions.

I think cocktail consumers often fall into the same categories: the folks who want their Old-Fashioneds and their G&Ts served up exactly the same way every time, and the ones who are constantly craving new tastes and experiences.

These Sunday Specials are for the latter group. They’re all variations on popular, recognizable drinks, sometimes with the addition or substitution of a single ingredient. And all will give adventuresome drinkers a new experience and a fresh perspective.

Hacking the classics is really simple. You can follow one of two roads:

  1. Change lanes by substituting one ingredient for another with similar characteristics (herbal liqueurs for aromatic bitters, for example, or citrus spirits for citrus juices); or
  2. Leave the path entirely by introducing an unexpected ingredient (a chile pepper or a raw shellfish).

For Gimlet fans, consider the Kamikaze, which adds a dash of citrusy triple sec to the vodka-and-lime-juice formula. If you prefer gin to vodka, as I do, feel free to use it instead; you’ll be making a London Kamikaze. The orange hit from the triple sec gives the drink a complexity that the Gimlet could only wish for.

An excellent variation on the Manhattan is the Blind Pilot, created by longtime Portland bartender Lance Mayhew. This one omits the bitters but adds herbal liqueur—Gailliano, which you’ll be happy to find a use for once you’ve tired of Harvey Wallbangers. It’s close enough to a Manhattan to be familiar but far enough away to deserve a place of its own on the bar menu.

I’m not a big fan of tequila, but the most delicious Margarita I ever tasted was the spicy version at Dosalas, the swanky waterfront tequila bar in Vancouver, Wash. You have several options for replicating this caliente concoction: using a chile-infused tequila, of which there are many; making or buying a pepper-infused simple syrup; adding a touch of chile liqueur, such as Ancho Reyes; or my preferred method, using a couple of slices of fresh jalapeño, muddled in the shaker with or without the seeds. The pepper has bite, yes, but also a freshness that you can’t get any other way.

Finally, a cocktail I have yet to try but which I’ll introduce to my lips at the first opportunity: the Oyster Martini. Unlike the many cocktails that have come along in the past 20 years bearing the “-tini” designation simply because they’re served in a Martini glass, this one is really just a Martini with raw oysters instead of olives.

Developed by Dan Severt, bar manager at the Taylor Shellfish Farms Queen Anne oyster bar in Seattle, this cocktail was touted by the bloggers at Native Flavor as a great way to enjoy half a dozen oysters on the half shell: three on a plate and three in the drink.

It’s not a drink for everyone—and certainly not for those who want their Martini world view predictable and eternal.

London Kamikaze

Adapted from Quench Magazine

1 ounce gin
1 ounce triple sec
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
Lime wedge for garnish

Shake liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime wedge.

Blind Pilot

Adapted from Lance Mayhew

1 ounce bourbon
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce Galliano liqueur

Add all ingredients to mixing glass, then add ice. Stir vigorously for 30 seconds. Strained into a chilled cocktail glass.

Spicy Margarita

Adapted from Barfecto

2 ounces blanco tequila
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce orange liqueur
1/2 ounce agave syrup
1 lime wedge
2 thin slices of jalapeño (seeds optional)
Salt and jalapeño slices for garnish

Rub the rim of a rocks glass with lime wedge, dip in salt to coat, and set aside. 

Add the jalapeño slices to a shaker and gently muddle. Add liquid ingredients and ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain into prepared glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a jalapeño slice. 

Oyster Martini

Adapted from Dan Severt and Native Flavor

3 ounces vodka
¼ ounce dry vermouth
6 small fresh oysters

Shuck oysters and place three on the half shell on a small plate. Pour the other three, including the oyster liquor, into a chilled cocktail glass.

Add vodka and vermouth to cocktail shaker with ice. Stir until well chilled. Strain into the glass with the oysters.

Alternate sips of the Martini with oysters from the plate. Conclude with the three oysters in the bottom of the glass.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.