TO MARK the impending 100th Spirits post(!), I thought it might be handy to collect in one place some of this newsletter’s Greatest Hits. I was going to save this for Friday - but what the hell, here they are, 14 of the best, enough to fit on one side of a 90-minute tape. Or to form the opening menu at that imaginary bar I conjured all those moons ago, when it was still illegal to see our friends.
Inevitably this is a personal selection. Some are simply my favourite drinks; some were drinks I discovered while researching this newsletter; some posts made me smile to re-read; others were popular with readers; and all can be made with the 12-bottle bar outlined here.
(NB: This post may be too large for some inboxes but if you tap on the link, you should be able to read it in full)
I am interested to hear which posts (if any…) you have returned to in your own kitchen mixings. Leave a comment below? And do share this with anyone you think might be into this sort of thing. This has been such a pleasure to write and my intention is always that it should be a pleasure to read, too.
I had a lot of time in those early days. Here is a discourse on vermouth trends in the Martini, featuring Dr. Dre, the bar from American Psycho, and a numerical playlist lost to the mists of time.
A tribute to Mr. Ong, the Malaysian bartender who formulated this exotic rum-Campari-pineapple creature - which never fails to please.
Quite possibly my favourite cocktail? And reading back the post - God, how awful was that January Lockdown?
The most popular Spirits post, I believe? Featuring a lengthy discourse on the Daiquiri scene in John Updike’s Rabbit, Run.
This recipe, adapted from Sly Augustin’s Happiness Forgets bar, was a revelation to me - I’ve made it many times since.
A perfect Spring cocktail and a gateway drug, should you need convincing of the pleasures of absinthe.
As summery spins on the Negroni go, this one takes some beating (though I really wish I did better with that watermelon garnish).
Come for Alice Lascelles’s outstanding recipe; stay for the wasp who died of loneliness.
The first time that I truly “got” the Sidecar (the trick is to add a little sugar syrup). I also liked the little essay it prompted on the forgotten American novelist, Booth Tarkington, who both invented the Sidecar and (I contend) inspired Montgomery C. Burns.
What a delicious drink this is. Also features John Lennon getting “nasty drunk”, the Dude, and a list of cheeses that lactose-intolerants can eat.
The most-requested Spirits post (according to Google) and one of my better photos too.
It took me a long time to get this one right and I’m not even sure I did get it right. But I have fond memories of the experiment. And of BoJack Horseman.
OK, this one is extracted from my book, but it’s a lovely drink and perhaps the quintessential example of how pretentious I can get on gin.
This is a bit like when the band puts their recent single at the end of a Best Of, isn’t it? But this is such a great cocktail and a reminder to me that there is still so much to be discovered.
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Ooh, we come back to quite a few. The Jungle Bird and the Fig Leaf Old Fashioned (every year I regret not making even more fig leaf syrup), the Brown Derby, the Chet Baker … my husband loves the Suffering Bastard and the Old Cuban, I prefer the Boulevardier and the Rob Roy. Evidently you can bait a Sophie Trap with red vermouth and whisky. Planning to buy some Crème de Banane after that Cabinet post on it and I suspect the Banana Rum OF will make it onto the list too.
And I love the playlists. So good to have some new Friday or Saturday evening music to put on which does not involve making decisions, so an extra thanks for that!
Because I have a spreadsheet I can report that my top 10 (in order of appearance) would be as below.
1. The Jungle Bird
2. The Short Rib
3. The Trinidad Sour
4. The English Martini
5. The Fig Leaf Old Fashioned
6. The Breakfast Martini
7. Clarified Milk Punch
8. The Clover Club
9. The Strawberry Shrub
10. The Vampiro
I'm generally drawn to those that were a) unusual or at least new to me b) involved a bit of effort/foraging and c) just hit the spot on the particular week - and sometime all 3.