When you’re entertaining guests at a cocktail party, no one expects you to be a professional mixologist. It never hurts, however, to know how to prepare the classics correctly.
Nate Hayden, a bartender at Boston's The Beehive, shared five classic cocktail recipes that every good host should know how to mix at their next party.
You might want to start practicing, because according to Hayden, "Everyone — and not just cocktail geeks — is moving in the direction of the serious classics." In other words, "People are drinking better than ever," he says.
"This is THE classic, and a terribly misunderstood drink," claims Hayden, who acknowledges that the term "martini" now refers to any number of cocktails (dry or dirty, gin-based or vodka-based, etc.). The classic martini, he says, is a mixture of only two ingredients, served straight up with a garnish.
5 parts gin
1 part vermouth
Stir ingredients over ice until well chilled, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an olive or three ("Never two!" says the expert) or a twist.
"Here's another one that's as old as they come," explains Hayden of the "simple, stiff and elegant" cocktail. “There are a million variations on this drink," he adds, "but the original was perfect from the get-go.”
2 1/4 ounces bourbon or rye
3/4 ounces sweet vermouth
2 dashes angostura bitters
Stir ingredients over ice until well chilled, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.
The Tom Collins
"Flavorful, sweet and fizzy, it's big-kid lemonade," says Hayden. He also calls the Tom Collins "the perfect summer sipper," but there's nothing wrong with enjoying this classic cocktail all year round.
2 ounces dry gin
3/4 ounces fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounces simple syrup
Shake gin, lemon juice and simple syrup over ice. Strain into and iced Collins glass and top with soda water. Like all sours, it's garnished with a cherry and an orange slice.
"This is a drink that's been jazzed up and then watered down beyond comprehension," says Hayden. "The 'Frozen Guava-rita' has it's place, but a classic margarita is at its best when it's uncomplicated: tequila, agave nectar and fresh lime, up or on the rocks, with salt or without. I like mine on the rocks with salt," he says. "And remember — you WILL taste the tequila in the classic version, so choose a brand you love."
2 ounces tequila of your choice
1/2 to 1 ounce agave nectar, to taste
1 ounce fresh lime juice
Shake everything over ice. Strain the margarita over ice or into a chilled cocktail glass, with a salt rim or without.
The Old Fashioned
"We have 'Mad Men' to thank for this drink's resurgence, but the old fashioned has been regaining popularity for years," explains Hayden of this classic cocktail. He also explains that modern mixologists will argue endlessly over the true recipe, but they all agree on one aspect: pouring a perfect old fashioned takes time. "The whole process should take a minute," he says. "If you order an old fashioned at a bar and get a drink in 10 seconds, more than likely, you just got a bad old fashioned."
4–5 dashes angostura bitters
1 orange slice
1 maraschino cherry
2 ounces whiskey (bourbon, rye or Canadian)
Soak a sugar cube in 4 to 5 dashes of angostura bitters in the bottom of an old fashioned glass, and add a small splash of water. Using a muddler, grind the sugar and bitters into a syrup, until the sugar is dissolved. Add the orange slice and the cherry, along with a tiny bit of the syrup the cherries are packed in, and muddle lightly. Fill your glass with ice and add your whiskey. Stir until everything is dissolved and combined, and top with a splash of soda water.
The Beehive also offers Hayden's updated version of the old fashioned, a signature drink he fittingly dubbed "the New Fashioned." Try one the next time you're feeling adventurous.