They are called classic cocktails because they were created in another era and yet they never got out of fashion. But they change, reshape, adapt to conditions, trends and requirements. And this may be another element due to which, these cocktails are considered irreplaceable, even in the most modern bars. Five classic cocktails, older than hundred years old, but still the best sellers wherever alcohol is served.
Consumer tastes may have changed over the years; we may have tasted the love of the bitter, the sweet and then the sour, we may have changed our favorite glasses, created new products and used others, maybe a few times we tried to balance between fresh and packaged, we may even have changed our favorite bars, but some values remained unquestionable. And because we never wanted to lose them, we made small sacrifices by changing their recipes. Let’s take a look at five classic cocktails changed drastically over the years.
1. Old-fashioned (my favourite!)
Probably the first cocktail for which the word “cocktail” was used. Old-fashioned was not first launched under that name. It started its career under the name Whiskey Cocktail · Whiskey, water, sugar, bitters. With a small spoon they used to break a sugar cube that you had soaked with a few drops of bitters, in a short glass, added a little water to melt the sugar, American whiskey and stir. When it first appeared, in the early 18th century, it did not even take ice. And the patrons of the bars and salons, it is said that they drank it for breakfast, to help them wake up.
Sometime in the middle of the 18th century, other products began to appear, mainly liqueurs and bitters. The most creative bartenders began to experiment and add them to classic recipes, such as that of Old-Fashioned. Some people did not like the idea and so they started asking for their Whiskey Cocktail, made the Old-Fashioned way.
However, Old-Fashioned did not escape the insatiable creativity of bartenders. At one point, it was made by crushing, together with the sugar, a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry. Logical, one would say, since whiskey tasted really bad during the prohibition. They also replaced the sugar cube -that took at least ten minutes to melt- with a teaspoon of refined sugar. Of course, there will always be the eternal rivalry between corn whiskey (bourbon) and rye whiskey. What whiskey is Old-Fashioned better with? They say that historically Whiskey Cocktail was made with rye whiskey and that it was later replaced by bourbon. For me, the best Old-Fashioned cocktail is made with bourbon, crushing the brown sugar cube with angostura bitters, ice, sparkling water, a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry.
If you try to trace the roots of Martini, chances are you will stumble upon another cocktail, considered by many to be his ancestor, Martinez, a fairly sweet cocktail from 1860. If we accept that the evolution of Martini begins with Martinez, then we could only reduce its sweetness. The sweet vermouth was replaced by dry vermouth and the Maraschino liqueur was dropped. At the beginning of the 20th century, basically what was left was a 50/50 Martini with orange bitters. Bitters were the first to leave, in the process of evolving and adapting the cocktail to the taste preferences of consumers, while the ratio of gin / vermouth became more and more inclined towards the gin side. Reached up to 15/1 or a simple “rinse” of the glass with vermouth. But the revenge of the vermouth had not yet arrived…
The (dark) decades of 1980 and 1990 that followed were those that put vodka in the game, as a basic ingredient of Martini, but also all kinds of fruit, liqueur and syrup, added in the shaker, creating super-sweet mixes with huge garnishes and grand names.
Fortunately those decades passed, Martini survived and the vermouth took the revenge mentioned before. The gin / vermouth ratio changed again, this time to the vermouth side, quite similar to the original recipe. Martini is known to be one of the most classic cocktails in history: Gin and vermouth, garnished with an olive or a lemon twist.
3. French 75
The first recipe of French 75 from the distant 1915, had an American apple brandy in it (Applejack)! It was called Soixante-Quinze or just 75 and was named after the eponymous French firearm used in World War I. His entire recipe, in addition to brandy, also contained gin, grenadine and lemon juice.
The changes over the years are innumerable. Gradually, Applejack became Calvados, absinthe was added, the lemon disappeared, and almost fifteen years after the original recipe, the French 75 took its final form: Gin, sugar, lemon juice and champagne!
Sazerac started in the mid-18th century, when it first appeared in New Orleans as a variation of the classic Whiskey Cocktail, with cognac instead of whiskey and bitters. Around 1873, Leon Lamothe, a bartender of The Sazerac Coffee House in New Orleans, added a few drops of absinthe to flavor the glass.
Shortly afterwards, the accursed phylloxera hit the vineyards of Europe, wiping out cognac from the face of the earth, hence from the classic cocktails. There was no problem for the American bartenders. They replaced cognac with rye whiskey in the original recipe, creating the modern Sazerac recipe. But cognac and American whiskey go so well together, especially in this cocktail, that many now use both, while paying tribute to the original protagonist of Sazerac.
The painful story of Daiquiri is a little closer to that of the Martini. It starts from one point, then it turns into something completely different, in order to have a happy ending by returning to the point where it started.
Daiquiri was the way Cubans wanted to highlight the white rum in the late 19th century: Shaking it with lime and sugar and serving it frozen, without ice. Daiquiri over the years has acquired infinite variations – with the most notable the Hemingway one (white rum, maraschino liqueur, freshly squeezed lime juice and grapefruit juice and a lime wheel garnish).
Daiquiri at some point became frozen, lime was replaced with all kinds of fruit, while sugar with other syrups, liqueurs or coca-cola. Its strength, however, proved to be his endurance over time. One of the most important classic cocktails has returned to its original recipe and now the harmony of its three ingredients is studied by every bartender when starting his career: White rum, lime, simple syrup (water & sugar).