Can’t we all use a little throwback to our formative years right about now? These bartenders tap into that comforting sense of nostalgia with cocktails evocative of treats, desserts and even toys.
Can't make it to any of the bars serving these great nostalgic cocktails? Try making the Sunday Flip from this list at home.
Head bartender Jon Howard remembers enjoying strawberry shortcake on summer Sundays growing up, and even though he admits most of the ingredients were store-bought, it was always the highlight of the week (and his grandfather’s favorite dessert). “For me, it marks summertime, family and the happy days of growing up,” he says. “I think given all that’s going on in the world right now, a return to innocence is a welcomed reprieve.” His drink mixes Carpano bianco vermouth with strawberry vinegar, sugar, lemon peel and a whole egg, served up and garnished with a strawberry slice.
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Aneka Saxon admits that her two-month stint as a Girl Scout wasn’t very impressive, except for one thing: She was really good at selling cookies. She has been playing with chocolate and fernet in drinks for years, but her most recent take is less dessert-like. She stirs Fernet-Branca with Arette reposado tequila, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Tempus Fugit crème de cacao and black and white bitters, served on the rocks and garnished with mint. “What excites me about this drink is that, even though it's reminiscent of a childhood treat, its bitter elements speak to a more mature and developed palate."
From the team at this bar, whose interior makes you feel like you’re inside a pinball machine, comes an ode to the namesake character in The Who’s iconic rock opera. The inspiration is a lot simpler, though: the PB&J sandwich that every American kid grew up on. Cocktail director George Sault fat-washes Deep Eddy vodka with peanut butter, mixes it with lemon and floats red zinfandel on top. “Even adults can tell you if they preferred grape to strawberry jelly, chunky or creamy peanut butter, crust on or off,” he says. “It's one of those things that you can enjoy now and feel comforted by.”
The staff at JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, which boasts seven waterslides, multiple activity pools and an 1,100-foot-long lazy river, saw how much guests enjoyed both Strawberry Daiquiris and the frozen amusement park treat dubbed the “ice cream of the future.” So they decided to combine the two, blending light rum with fresh and frozen strawberries, lime juice and ice, topped with the guest’s choice of Dippin’ Dots flavor. “Cocktails inspired by favorite flavors from childhood make us remember those carefree, mortgage-free, summers of our youth,” says manager Stacy Adams.
Practically everyone remembers begging their parents for a bag of addictive melt-in-your-mouth cotton candy from a cart spotted on the way out of a festival. Food and beverage director Scott Nelson tops his unabashedly sweet Martini, made with Three Olives vodka and pineapple and cranberry juices, with a pillow of the sugar spun treat. “This millennial pink confection is inspired by childhood candy and evokes memories at the boardwalk, amusement park, circus or county fair,” he says. Pop it in your mouth before it dissolves. It’s worth every bit of those sticky fingers.
Bar chef Laura Bellucci’s version of a milk punch adds cereal to the milky base for a throwback touch. She infuses rum with Honey Nut Cheerios, sweetens the drink even more with honey syrup and El Guapo Holiday Pie bitters and shakes it all with whole milk. It’s served up, with a skewer of Cheerios, and is best enjoyed with footie pajamas, your favorite teddy bear and a bad case of bedhead.
Inspired by the agua frescas that partners Mikey Corona and Brian Riggenbach would drink while on vacation in Mexico, this take on the street market beverage varies depending on seasonal ingredients and the whim of the bar staff. But it’s always served in that favorite vessel of the playdate set, the juice pouch. “Our punch bags take you back to that time when life was carefree and you weren’t shackled by adult responsibilities,” says Corona. “We live by the motto 'never grow up!' and this drink is a great example of our quest to stay young at heart.”
Head bartender Mike Jones’ loose interpretation of a banana split (an absolute favorite growing up) elevates the flavors of the old-timey ice cream parlor dessert in a minimalist presentation that doesn’t require a metal sundae boat or even a cherry on top. He shakes Rittenhouse rye whiskey with Lustau East India sherry, Giffard Banane du Brésil liqueur, pineapple and lemon juices, egg white and cinnamon syrup, garnished with grated cinnamon. “Nostalgic throwback drinks are becoming more popular,” he says. “We are seeing that our main demographic and clientele that are really into great cocktails were also born in the late ’70s to early ’90s.”
After chef José Andrés was served a drink in a honey bear jar, the bar team at his molecular mixology playground decided to create an entire series of libations that examine the role emotions and nostalgia play in the perception of flavor. The result is a seven-cocktail flight with creations like the jarmini, a genever, PX sherry, carrot and ginger sipper topped with sugar snap pea espuma and served in baby food jar; the Gotta Catch ’Em All, where the Pokémon card you choose determines the base spirit; and the For If You Build It, a mezcal number with house-made amaro, lemon and ginger that you only get to enjoy after you build a Lego path for your minifigure. “The approach for this flight was very conceptual,” says bartender Al Thompson. “We thought about the memories we wanted to evoke first and then built the cocktail around each idea.”