a proper drink: a book review

A Proper Drink is part narrative, part recipe book. In it, Robert Simonson traces the origins and growth of the modern cocktail revival from a dark time before the ubiquity of different types of bitters to the present, where cocktail bars have begun to spring up in suburbs, Nick and Nora glasses are in high demand, and cocktail recipes appear after network news.


Familiar characters amongst cocktail folk, like Dale Degroff and Dave Wondrich* make their appearances — as do more surprising cameos, like TGI Friday’s, whose early days Simonson describes as an “incubator of bartending skill and discipline.” Philip Duff, quoted in the book, goes a step further — “there would be no cocktail movement without them.”  It’s hard to imagine now, when the first drink on their Handcrafted Cocktail Menu is an Ultimate Long Island Iced Tea.

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oaxaca old fashioned

Yet another agave old fashioned.

Unlike the añejo old fashioned from last week, this one uses a blend of smokey mezcal and reposado tequila.

Interestingly (or maybe not), while I love drinking a good añejo by itself, reposado just doesn’t cut it and mezcal is a bit too much for my palate. Combined with a little sweetness and some bitters, though, they’re transformed.

Here, I’m using Del Maguey’s Vida mezcal, which the New York Times calls “unpolished yet sublime.” It’s certainly interesting — fruit and smoke on the nose, funky herbal spiced earth on the palate. For the reposado, I’m using Espolon. It’s got vanilla and caramel on the nose, and since it’s aged it’s got a nice toasty flavor.


oaxaca old fashioned
1 1/2 oz reposado tequila
1/2 mezcal
1 tsp agave nectar
1 dash chocolate bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Stir ingredients in an old fashioned glass. Add a big ice cube and garnish with an orange peel.

añejo old fashioned

The old fashioned is one of the simplest and tastiest cocktails you can make — whiskey, sugar and bitters. But, like many simple cocktails, the base formula lends itself to countless variations. One of my favorites is the añejo tequila old fashioned.


If you’re not that familiar with tequila, you might just know it from margaritas or from the terrible headaches you’ve gotten from a certain leading brand which doesn’t actually make their tequila with 100% agave.

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st. rita

It’s the first day of Spring, but here in Boston we’re supposed to get a snowstorm. In protest, I’m not leaving my house, and instead I’ll enjoy a nice floral cocktail that reminds me of warmer weather. Cue: St. Germain.

I’ve loved St. Germain, the elderflower liqueur, for a long time. It’s probably my favorite liqueur — sweet but subtle, floral and elegant. It’s great instead of vermouth in a gin martini, stirred into seltzer with a lemon twist, or even better, stirred into Champagne. Here, it’s added as a sweet, floral accompaniment to a margarita.

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