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4 Boring Classic Cocktails And Their Superior Updated Alternatives

What makes for classic cocktails? History, of course, and popularity too. Yet in my eyes, the most important quality of a classic cocktail is that it makes the best possible use of the set of flavors and ingredients it requires. For example, the Manhattan is a classic because the specific way it combines whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters can only be played with, but not really improved upon. However, there are four cocktails I can think of that are considered classics, yet have far better classic alternatives that you should add to your mental list of drinks to order.

Ditch the: Moscow Mule
Key Components: Ginger beer, lime juice
Switch to: Dark and Stormy. Look, ginger beer and lime juice go great together, but when you make a Moscow Mule, you’re basically saying that you just want those two flavors to get you drunk. A Dark and Stormy, on the other hand, adds dark rum to the mix, adding some molasses and spice notes to the party. You still get that delicious ginger bite and tart hit of lime, but it’s a far more complex drink in total.

Ditch the: Whiskey Sour
Key components: Whiskey, citrus, sugar
Switch to: Lion’s Tail. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the Whiskey Sour, but if you take that drink and make it with allspice dram instead of some of the sugar, you get so much more flavor! It gives the drink a faint tiki sensibility (especially if you also use a dash of Angostura bitters), while still keeping the whiskey at the heart of the drink. If you use a blended Scotch you can get some really interesting results as well.

Ditch the: Cosmopolitan
Key components: Vodka, cranberry, lime juice
Switch to: The Aviation. I actually like the Cosmo, but the problem I often have with it is that most bars and restaurants use fairly sweet (and fake-tasting) cranberry juice, which throws the balance of the drink off. Instead, I like the Aviation, which starts with a gin base (though you can use vodka if you must) and then adds in lemon juice, creme de violette, and maraschino liqueur. You lose just a touch of the tartness that you might get in a really good Cosmo, but the interaction of all the different aromatics in the gin and creme de violette is delightful, and the drink also looks just as pretty as a Cosmo, which is definitely crucial.

Ditch the: Tequila Sunrise
Key components: Tequila, orange juice, grenadine
Switch to: The Blood and Sand. I’ve experienced a sort of strange resurgence in the Tequila Sunrise, which is one of the few 80s drinks that isn’t utterly disgusting, but it’s still not all that cohesive, especially if you use a blanco tequila. The Blood and Sand mixes blended Scotch, blood orange juice (though you can sub out the normal stuff and it works), cherry Heering, and sweet vermouth. You still get the fresh fruit and cherry notes, but the Scotch stands up better to the other ingredients, and the combo of cherry Heering and sweet vermouth don’t get syrupy the way that grenadine often does.

So there you go: simple substitutions that should make your next cocktail adventure a bit more rewarding.


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