While tailgate season is all about beer, and the return of ABC’s Scandal might lead to a spike in red wine consumption, there is nothing that can truly replace a good cocktail. I would always choose a Cosmopolitan over a craft beer, a Daquiri over a dark red wine. So I headed to the experts at Celeste in Chicago for a lesson in the classic cocktail.
Few places take cocktails as seriously as Celeste. They call their bars the “Cocktail Science Lab.” Plus their team, led by Arthur Horocki, can whip up any of the 109 listed cocktails (woo!) on their menu at the drop of a hat. Horocki led me through the amazing maze of this menu and helped me learn a little more about my favorite drink category. Here are his top five classic cocktails broken down into easy steps (and sometimes shakers)…
Horocki calls it the perfect “outside summer drink” so jump on this one now before fall really hits! It should always be lime – no other fruit – and should be iced never frozen. These alterations are popular, but not the true recipe. All you need is:
- 2 oz of white rum
- 3/4 oz of fresh lime juice
- 3/4 oz of simple syrup
Shaken and poured into a chilled glass.
This choice is growing in popularity but was invented pre-Prohibition and is great for those who like red wine, Manhattans or other savory drinks. Plus, if you’re looking for a stiff drink, this is your choice every time. That’s because it is just equal parts: sweet vermouth, gin and Italian Campari. Just stir for a drink that’s simple, delicious and deadly.
This is another well-known, old school drink perfect for someone looking for a slight fruity taste, but not an overly sweet drink. To make it just combine:
- 2 oz of Cognac (otherwise known as brandy originating from Cognac, France)
- 3/4 oz of lemon juice
- 1/2 oz simple syrup
- 3/4 oz dry Curacao (an orange liquor)
This was my favorite drink on the list coming into this tasting, and Horocki and his Celeste team did not disappoint. He promised a richness to this well-known cocktail, and if you follow his recipe, I swear it will deliver on that and more.
- 8-10 fresh mint leaves (which you muddle)
- 1/2 teaspoon of Kane Demerara Sugar
- Lots of crushed ice
- 2.5 oz of bourbon
This was my favorite cocktail of the night, and is perfect for any fans of the bubbly. It’s light, refreshing and would be a great pre-dinner drink or a fun girl’s night cocktail. Plus I always say that champagne glasses look the best in photos.
- 1 oz of gin
- 1/2 oz of fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 oz of simple syrup
Shaken and poured into a flute. Then top with champagne
In addition to some serious cocktail knowledge, Horocki also answered some age old liquor questions, and made drink recommendations based on your alcoholic preference.
- When should I shake? And when should I stir?
- Simple, straight liquor drinks should be stirred to keep the clear and colorful look of the drink without making them appear cloudy.
- Drinks with juice (but not wine!) should be shaken.
- Should I buy whiskey stones?
- Horocki says no! explaining that the whiskey should “speak for itself” and the chilling effect of the whiskey stone “closes off the flavor” of the drink. It can make the whiskey more bitter and it loses some of the flavor it has gained from aging.
- What should I drink if I love…
- Moscow Mules
- Cosmopolitan (“make sure to ask for fresh lime juice to cut the sweetness!”)
- Gimlet (can also be used for gin-lovers)
- The Last Word
- The Corpse Reviver #2 (great for hangovers)
- Mint Julep
- Old Fashioned
- Brown Derby
- Margaritas (duh)