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jmfangio

100 Cocktails To Try Before You Die

29 posts in this topic

Houston Press had an article yesterday on Anvil's 100 Cocktails To Try Before You Die. I'm at 46, so obviously I have some catching up to do.

Although only one page long, the list is daunting. Satan's Whiskers, Monkey Gland, Blood & Sand, Corpse Reviver #2, Death in the Afternoon, Widow's Kiss, El Diablo: one could almost mistake the cocktail names for santería ingredients. And the sheer breadth of the different cocktails is mesmerizing; some with egg, some with absinthe, some with champagne, some with rum. And each of them a classic cocktail, in the truest sense of the phrase.

I guess this brings up three questions:

What's your count?

If you were going to revise the list, what would you take out, and put in its place?

Along the lines of the age old last meal question, what would you choose as your last cocktail? For this question, defunct spirits and ingredients allowed, so if you want a Manhattan with Pre-Prohibition rye and Abbott's Bitters, fair game.

Here's a direct link to the list.

ETA: I'll throw in my own answers to the above questions later today or tomorrow. This is going to require serious thought.


Edited by jmfangio (log)

"Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other." - W. Somerset Maugham

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What's your count?

64

If you were going to revise the list, what would you take out, and put in its place?

To start, replace the Dulchin (who would obliterate good pisco like that?) and Tailspin (muddy a perfectly good negroni with chartreuse?) with a Bronx and Brooklyn.

Along the lines of the age old last meal question, what would you choose as your last cocktail?

A negroni...I want to be hungry for what's next.


Edited by KD1191 (log)

True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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What's your count?

45

If you were going to revise the list, what would you take out, and put in its place?

I'd drop the Whiskey Skin (the Toddy is already there...) and replace it with the original Hurricane (2:1:1 Jamaican rum, passionfruit, lemon)

what would you choose as your last cocktail?

I think a Last Word would be only too appropriate. And it's a dang good drink - no need to get super fancy.

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I'm only at 25. I got a lot of drinking to do.


PS: I am a guy.

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What's your count?

53, give or take. (Some of them I've only tasted out of someone else's glass.)

If you were going to revise the list, what would you take out, and put in its place?

I think most of the drinks on that list have a reasonable claim to being there, though there certainly seems to be some repetition: why have both the Bijou and the Tailspin? Or, as was pointed out above, the Whiskey Skin and the Toddy? The two things I would add are the Moscow Mule and the Black (or White) Russian.

Along the lines of the age old last meal question, what would you choose as your last cocktail?

I think it would have to be a Martini.


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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80 even... you get to a lot of these by working through Dr. Cocktail's Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails and Wondrich's Imbibe!

there is a fair amount of repetition, but the bases are covered. sometimes simple substitutions/additions drastically change a drink, though. a toddy and a skin might look like the same drink, but that lemon peel makes the difference for me. drop the toddy if you drop one.

dying drink: manhatten with a great rye and punt e mes. i can't think of many things that are more satisfying.

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I'm at 55. Feels a little lame.

last drink: Manhattan (rye & antica). Everything I could want from a cocktail.

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My count: 61

What would I replace?: I'm not a big fan of a Death in the Afternoon. It's always struck me as a bit of a gimmick drink and it's not much fun to drink. Maybe I'm using the wrong sparkling wine (too dry). I'd replace it with either a Fogcutter (not too many tiki drinks on the list and that's a favorite of mine) or a Southside.

Drink before I die: that's a tough one and would change daily (hourly? minute-ly?) but the first thing that popped into my head was a Sazerac with Handy--I want that drink to last as long as possible.


nunc est bibendum...

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About 61 for me. The only one of those 61 that I didn't make myself was the Zombie. While some require uncommon ingredients, ironically, it's the simpler ones that I seem to have passed by, like the Americano. I make Negronis all the time, but never seem to bother making an Americano.

One that I would definitely add to the list would be Dale DeGroff's Anejo Highball. That is an almost perfect drink. If anyone reading this thread hasn't tried that one . . . what are you waiting for?

My dying drink, however, would simply be a bottle of Lagavulin.


Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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Somewhat conservative estimate puts my count at 89...I'm puzzled by things that seem superfluous, like including both a Whiskey Skin and a Hot Toddy, or a Coffee Cocktail and a Port Flip. And while it's not exactly a life-changing drink, I also felt like the Bronx is inconic enough to deserve a place on a list like this, and Death in the Afternoon can indeed be an acquired taste. However, the list doesn't claim to be the 100 best cocktails ever, merely 100 things they think one should try. It is, undoubtedly, part gimmick, since there is an obligatory punch card and reward or recognition of some kind after completing all 100 drinks, but any gimmick that has people ordering Chrysthanthemums and Pisco Punch is one I can deal with. It also cleverly signals a wider range of offerings than a 12-15 drink cocktail menu can. The first few times I was at Anvil, people around me were mostly drinking things from the normal list. The last time I was in there they had recently implemented this list, and it was surreal but very cool to hear people ordering Sherry Cobblers and Old Pals as if they were Cosmopolitans or something.

And of course a big part of the fun with lists like this is the discussion about the merits of the choices.


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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The list - this is the best thing I've ever been part of behind a bar. I definitely think that one of the fun things about this list is that it is gaining attention among mixologists about their favorite cocktails and what should and shouldn't be on a list. BUT, that's not what this list was for. We can certainly have this discussion, and I will thoroughly enjoy the conversation, but this list has less to do with all of us and more to do with people who are new to classically prepared cocktails.

I don't bartend in NYC, San Fran, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Boston, or anywhere else with more than two options for well-made cocktails. I bartend in Houston, Texas, and there are two places in this city that make serious drinks, our bar Anvil, and Beavers where we introduced classics to Houston and others continue that tradition today. Unlike other cities, there was no cocktail revival in restaurants before developing a bar scene, and this environment means that to most Houstonians, classically-made cocktails are somewhat of an uncommon experience. Houston more than any other city I have worked in or visited has a bar scene that focuses on speed, not quality, and southern traditions that are difficult to break. Don't get me wrong; I love Houston and there may not be another city on the planet this large with such a friendly, comfortable personality. But, recently, I tried to name as many bars as I could in an evening that had been open more than 30 years - I came up with three...in the country's fourth largest city. Sure, there probably are more, but my point is that Houston drinking traditions have less to do with places, bartenders, and recipes than anywhere else I know.

But I could really care less, there is no other city I would rather live in and no other people I would rather have sitting across from my bar. However, this means that making classic cocktails may encounter more resistance than in other cities. This undoubtedly has its ups and downs as a business owner, yet the best way to overcome these challenges is to share our passion for cocktails with others. I have been writing the blog Drink Dogma for over three years now and trying to build a market for classics in Houston for about the same amount of time. The list is the next step in an effort to be educational about cocktails and make them well.

Sure, we could all choose some we would like to see and others we would like to keep, but for us, this list was about giving people who might be new to cocktails a walk-through that would give them an appreciation and historical perspective on a decent drink. The list has drinks that seem similar to show people how the smallest change in cocktails can impact the drink (i.e. the whiskey skin and the toddy). We intentionally chose to include some very similar drinks especially for this purpose. In some situations, we chose to leave drinks off of the list because we have house cocktails that are similar to or derived from these classics, for example our Border Strom kept the Dark N' Stormy off the list. In other places, we chose to leave drinks off because we collectively hate the way they taste that much - like the Bronx - you've got a Satan's Whiskers on there which is a much better variation. Other times, we just happen to like some cocktails that may not be popular with everyone, like the Dulchin.

The point though is that this is how our bar has chosen to go about educating people about cocktails. It shares our perspective on drinks with guests to our bars and was never intended to be a online list about the best 100 cocktails ever. If this was the goal of the list, it would definitely be different. I hope this doesn't discourage these types of discussions; I think they are a lot of fun and would like for them to continue and be a part of them. I do however think that people should be aware of what the purpose of this list is and keep that in context at all times. The list is getting so much attention that I can't tell you the last time that I was asked to make a cosmo; people come in and explore the list for several minutes before carefully choosing or asking for a recommendation. Anvil was not designed to be a speakeasy; it was supposed to be an accessible bar for Houstonians searching for a well-made cocktail. The list is playing a huge part in this effort, and as a huge fan of this approach to bartending, I can't say I've ever been happier making drinks.


Robert Heugel

Anvil Bar & Refuge - Houston, TX

http://www.drinkdogma.com

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In other places, we chose to leave drinks off because we collectively hate the way they taste that much - like the Bronx - you've got a Satan's Whiskers on there which is a much better variation.

Oooo...them's fightin' words.

But, seriously...the list is great for evangelization. It doesn't have to be the be-all end-all, because it's likely that anyone properly influenced by it would seek out more information and discover the whole world of cocktails beyond the list.


True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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61 for me; Tales seminars helped boost my initial number by a dozen or so :)

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So the Anvil list is now at the 2.0 version (here) which is now organized into categories rather than alphabetical. Makes more sense. The categories are:

  • Sour and Short
  • Herbal and Spirituous
  • Boozy and Alluring
  • Light and Loooooooong
  • Bitter + Bold
  • Tropical & Tiki
  • Odds & Ends

The Painkiller makes an appearance as the Brandkiller... clever.

My count is 58 for the new list, 65 for the old list (the link to the old list in the first post no longer works, but I found a copy here). It looks like I have some categories well covered - 100% for the Bitter & Bold and Tropical & Tiki categories! On the other end, I haven't much tried in the Odds & Ends category.


Edited by FrogPrincesse (log)

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The updated list is fascinating, and I haven't had as many of them as I might like, with only 40. It's interesting to see the choices of gin styles in some of the drinks (like genever in the Martinez and Old Tom in the Aviation, which I make with Old Tom and London dry, respectively). And does anyone know anything about Anvil's version of Don't Give Up the Ship, which is listed as "Bourbon, Fernet, Falernum, Cherry Liqueur, Lime"? The only cocktail I've tried by that name has gin, Fernet, sweet vermouth (I've also seen Dubonnet), and curacao.


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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And does anyone know anything about Anvil's version of Don't Give Up the Ship, which is listed as "Bourbon, Fernet, Falernum, Cherry Liqueur, Lime"? The only cocktail I've tried by that name has gin, Fernet, sweet vermouth (I've also seen Dubonnet), and curacao.

I noticed that too. Like you I make mine with gin, fernet branca, sweet vermouth, and curacao (discussion here).

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I found the cocktail with bourbon, fernet, cherry liqueur, lime juice, falernum in the Kindred Cocktails database. Actually it is Murray Stenson's Porteño. Probably just a typo in Anvil's cocktail menu.

Porteño
by Murray Stenson, Zig Zag Cafe, Seattle, WA
3/4 oz Bourbon
1/2 oz Fernet Branca
1/2 oz Cherry Liqueur
1/2 oz Lime juice
1/2 oz Falernum (or simple syrup)

Shake, strain, cocktail

--
Kindred Cocktails | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community


Edited by FrogPrincesse (log)

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I'm definitely below the curve with these lists... new list - 25, old list - 36.



It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Clocking in 49 on the new list.

There are a lot in the short and sour section I'm yet to try.


The Dead Parrot; Built from the ground up by bartenders, for everyone:

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55 on the new list, 72 on the old. Though admittedly, some of them in my early days with less ideal brand choices.

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I see it in Embury, listed (in near-Embury fashion) as 1 part lime juice, 2 parts Italian vermouth, 4 parts Gold Label rum and 1 or 2 dashes Angostura. He notes:

This cocktail, while not particularly good, is interesting in that it is a compromise between the aromatic type and the Sour type.


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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In the new list, I am intrigued by The Crescent City (Jamaican rum, sweet vermouth, lime, Angostura bitters). I spent a bit of time trying to find a recipe online but had no luck so far. Does anyone know more about this cocktail?

This is sometimes called a Fig Leaf, I think.

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Thanks Matt and Plantes Vertes. Fig Leaf is indeed a more familiar name.

David Embury's Fine Art of Mixing Drinks was first published in 1948. The Fig Leaf was included in Trader Vic's Bartender Guide (1947). There is also an earlier reference in Crosby Gaige's Standard Cocktail Guide (1940) according to this reference, with a recipe here. But the Fig Leaf seems a bit different from the Crescent City because the proportions between rum and sweet vermouth (1:2) are reversed compared to the Crescent City (2:1).

I like the concept of the Crescent City as a Daiquiri with sweet vermouth as the sweetener. It also reminds me of a Palmetto with lime juice. I will have to try it despite the less than enthusiastic introduction by Embury.

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A perhaps more interesting alternative is enthusiastically demonstrated here by Simone Caporale

I've meant to try this drink for over a year and never got around to it.


The Dead Parrot; Built from the ground up by bartenders, for everyone:

Monkey Shoulder Ultimate Bartender Champions, 2015

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