I really love a proper Mai Tai, a drink that has many faces and when made properly is truly amazing. With the Tiki revival going strong, I believe this to truly be one of the most underrated cocktails that is often made incorrectly.
Sherry drinks: Bamboos, Coronations. Sherry is getting a lot of love in the bartender community. But guests feel like it’s cheating them out of a boozy cocktail, like if it’s not a healthy dose of whiskey or gin, it’s not worth their time. I wish more people asked for a Bamboo—it’s delicious.
The Bamboo, because it’s low ABV and great to start the evening and there are many variations you can make by changing the types of sherries and vermouths. While in Spain last year, I went to quite a few cocktail bars. At every stop, I asked for a lighter-style cocktail with gin or sherry. Without requesting one specifically, I got Bamboos on four separate occasions in different cities. They were all different but exactly what I wanted at the time.
Classics. Simple, fresh, approachable drinks that are crafted with care and love. A perfect Manhattan, classic Martini, hand-shaken Daiquiri, simple Old Fashioned. I made Audrey [Saunders]’ Gin Gin Mule the other day for a guest. It was so cool, refreshing and bright—a perfect drink for a new cocktail lover on a hot day. Finding that perfect drink for your customer in that perfect moment—that is underrated for sure!
The Mezcal Mule. It’s one of my favorite drinks. I’m a mezcal drinker all they way. It’s like the cocaine of spirits; it’s an upper. Mezcal, fresh lime and good ginger beer—it’s the best and the easiest, and it’s one of my favorite drinks. Mezcal Negronis are also underrated. Most people have never had one, and they’re delicious.
The Sazerac. So simple: rye (or cognac), Peychaud’s bitters, absinthe and sugar. So easy, so simple, so great. But many don’t quite get it perfect. Keep trying! It’s easily one of the best classic cocktails, so try with different brands, pre-batch it—whatever it takes, but make more Sazeracs!
The Saturn deserves the mantle of the perfect gin Tiki cocktail. Its serendipitous combination of London dry gin, lemon, passion fruit, orgeat and falernum calls to mind many classics while also carving its own unique space in the cocktail lexicon. A perfectly crafted Saturn carries the regality of a Mai Tai with the drinkability of a Tom Collins. Who doesn’t want that? It perfectly embodies a cocktail that is fruity but dry—something bartenders are asked for all the time.
The Alaska: gin, Yellow Chartreuse and orange bitters. It dances between spirit-driven and citrus-forward. It’s good, moving from one side of the spectrum to the other. And Yellow Chartreuse sometimes gets a bad rap for being on the sweeter side. I’m also a sucker for a well-made 20th Century. Crème de cacao before Tempus Fugit came out with theirs was too sweet and viscous and no one wanted to do anything with it. But now you’re able to use it in some of these classic cocktails without it being a sugar bomb. It doesn’t have to be at the end of your meal anymore; it can be at the beginning.
I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t drink a Martini before dinner. It’s not an unknown drink, but it’s such a perfect drink before dinner. The Bamboo is one of my favorite drinks that I never get a lot of orders for: sherry, vermouth and bitters. It has a lot of the pleasures of a Martini, it fills a similar role, but you can drink 15 of them. Also: Cobblers in general. I’ve put cobblers on a bunch of menus; we had one on Trick Dog, which remains the lowest-selling drink on the Trick Dog menu. I don’t understand what the hang-up is.
The Vieux Carré is in my favorite underrated cocktail. I think it’s underrated in part because everyone is scared to try to pronounce it. I’m not kidding! To be honest, if you have never had any French lessons, it can be intimidating. Seriously, I love this cocktail. I think that it’s fascinating that it’s a technically easy cocktail to build yet it’s hard to get one that tastes well-balanced. I love the way all of the ingredients interact with each other and accentuate the cognac.
The Vesper. It’s subtle, refined and refreshing, and there are a million fun ways to put spins and variations on it. I prefer it stirred with a 50/50 ratio of gin and vodka, and I use Cocchi Americano or Dolin Blanc in lieu of Lillet.
The Long Island Iced Tea. It can be completely underrated if you make it with quality product. You shouldn’t take it too seriously. But if it’s well made, it can show off your skill level and expertise.
The Jasmine! Every time I shake up this beauty and send it to a guest who wants something “refreshing, citrus, not too sweet” they are amazed by the flavor profile and how simple the drink is to make. Additionally, you can substitute the gin for almost any other spirit and the drink still tastes great. I wish more bartenders knew of this cocktail and it were listed on more menus.
I love making Vespers at home but good luck finding a bartender out in town who knows how to make one, at least here in the US. On the rare occasion I find a bartender who knows the recipe, the bar rarely keeps Lillet on hand. Too bad, it's a great, boozy cocktail and one of mine and my wife's favorites.