My first cocktail book was The Craft of the Cocktail, by Dale DeGroff. Its tattered, multi-colored sticky pages continually bring me back for old favorites and new finds. When I got the book, I knew next to nothing about making cocktails; I had my assumptions, but that’s about it. Loving to cook, I figured that fresh, quality ingredients would be key. Well, at least I got one thing right.
I had no idea how vast and diverse the world of cocktails is and how horribly lacking my bar was when I first cracked open Dale’s book, but I soon found out. I knew a grand total of five drinks (which will not be mentioned), but Dale is a good teacher, and so I soon was making more cocktails than I could remember. The selection of recipes in his book was and still is phenomenal, but as with any hobby, I soon started searching for more knowledge. I wanted to know the drinks were made by no one anymore – the good, secret stuff, that only the most sage of cocktail enthusiasts knew about. My quest led me to Dr. Cocktail’s book.
Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, by Ted Haigh (Dr. Cocktail), is, with maybe one exception, the book that contains the most odd and “never-before-seen” cocktails that I have in my library. To this day, I still don’t think I have made more than half of the recipes in his book. But this is not out of want; the sheer number of ingredients that I had never heard of was astounding, and I can easily see how one could page through time and again only to find one or two recipes that they had the ingredients for.
So we come to the point of this article: to give you a plan for experiencing the drinks in Vintage Spirits with the fewest and most appropriate purchases. I will assume that you have the basics like gin, whiskey, pernod, triple sec, fresh fruit juices, etc. I will also only list drinks that I have made and enjoyed immensely.
Buy Applejack ($10), and make:
- Jack Rose
- Golden Dawn
Make grenadine ($4), and enjoy
- Jack Rose
- Monkey Gland
- Scoff Law Cocktail
Buy Lillet ($15), and make
- Corpse Reviver #2
- Twentieth Century Cocktail
Buy apricot brandy (recommended: Marie Brizard Apry $21), and make
Buy Campari ($25), and cherish
These five ingredients will really help you begin to expand your liquor selection, and as you browse through your various tomes of libations, you will soon see how many more cocktails you can make. Of those listed above, I probably use the Apry and grenadine the most, though I may enjoy the Campari more than all of them. The joys of Campari, however, are for another post. I hope I have been somewhat helpful for those looking to dig in to Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. Just wait until you try making potatations from The Gentleman’s Companion.