Ah, 2012. The air smells fresher, the breeze (sometimes) feels like spring, and the world hasn’t ended. It’s looking good so far.
But your gin-and-tonic routine is still stuck somewhere in the late ‘90s.
We like a classic mixed drink as much as the next barfly, but why waste the normal, neighborhood-dive order at the myriad craft cocktail bars in Portland? And, by an informal bartender estimate, many of you are still reluctant to try a throwback 1920s cocktail, or four.
But, those vintage drinkers knew a thing or two.
So, this year we humbly suggest that you leave your diehard, lemon-drop habit at home and try something new.
We’ve matched up some of the most ordered beverages with some snappier cocktail alternatives. Because Maker’s on the rocks is good, but we’re Portlanders. We can get more creative than that.
Your Usual: Lemon Drop
You probably like the balance of sweet to sour, and that it’s a substantially alcoholic thing despite tasting like anything but.
Shake It Up: Elderflower Gimlet
This updated classic sounds just as pretty, and we're really just replacing your sour and sweet elements with something a little nicer. A gimlet is traditionally gin, lime juice, and a bit of simple syrup, but with this you’ll also get St. Germain, an elderflower liqueur. And it’ll be served up in a martini glass.
You can also ask for the Elderflower gimlet with vodka, but try it with gin first. Trust us. The herbaceousness of the liquor is excellent for a gimlet. Most bars will stock Hendrick’s, which is an easy choice for this cocktail. It’ll be so delicious you’ll forget you ever needed a sugar rim.
Your Usual: Maker's on the Rocks
A drink for the easygoing man. Anti-fuss and served in a nice strong tumbler to grip in your bear paw of a hand.
Shake It Up: Old Fashioned
Most bartenders pride themselves on their version of this classic cocktail. It’ll be spirit-forward, essentially a slightly adulterated, chilled bourbon. Why order it? Since you drink Maker’s, you already enjoy a sweeter bourbon, and here the flavor is accentuated by bitters, citrus, and a bit of sugar. It’ll be served either neat or on the rocks in a tumbler, unlike its sister cocktail, the Manhattan. Little-known fact: This was a favorite of James Bond’s, when he wasn’t swilling martinis. Ahem.
Your Usual: Cosmopolitan
Popular even before Carrie Bradshaw got her hands on it, it’s essentially a strong fruit punch served up. You’re either into said fruitiness, or you like the glamour of ordering one. (Or both.)
Shake It Up: Negroni with Carpano Antica (pronounced kar-pah-noe antee-kah)
We’re going out on a limb with this one, because we love bringing people over to the Negroni side. Negronis are typically equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, served on the rocks, although we recommend asking for it up.
It’s complex, a tad bitter, a bit sweet, and strong as hell. When you ask for Carpano (a specialized Italian vermouth) with it, the sweetness of the drink is amped up, making it more accessible to devoted Cosmopolitan palettes.
Your Usual: Baileys, After Dinner
Baileys did its marketing right. Sure, it's a sweet, easy-to-like beverage, but it's also one of the first things that comes to most peoples' minds when prompted for an after-dinner drink. You might like the flavor, but better yet, try ordering a specialized digestif.
Shake It Up: Pastis
The anise flavor of this suggestion is going to upset some people, but go with it, fellow drinkers. It’s a lovely acquired taste—there’s a good reason elderly French men sip on this for hours at a time. It’s even a little creamy and the perfect drink to follow a meal. When you order this you’ll be given a highball of ice and a bit of Pastis, with a side vessel of water. Pour the water in a bit at a time, sip, relax, pour a little more in, repeat. Revel in being Parisian.
Your Usual: Gin and Tonic
A classic in its own way, we’re not going to mess with this choice much, but even this drink can get a little dressed up, now and then.
Shake It Up: Gin Rickey
Really rolls off the tongue, this one. It’s very similar to a gin and tonic—it’s served in a highball, but sugar and limes are muddled into the bottom first, and it’s topped with gin and soda water. You have the sweetness of the tonic water replaced and the appropriate fruit classily dotting your drink. Swan off with your beverage and pretend it’s summertime in the 1910s. At least until the next round.
If your drink didn’t make the list, tell us about it in the comments below! We’ll come up with more suggestions (as will our readers).