Trends — the inevitable year-end survey. But here's the thing: when activated charcoal makes its way into drinks and obscure preparations such as oleo saccharum (citrus peel plus sugar) appear in mainstream mags such as Bon Appetit (December '15), it's time to reassess. The next trend, I would like to predict, but instead just fervently propose, is going back to basics. Hence the next three walk-before-you-run drinks. Master them. Ask for them.
Might as well start with the martini; its age, some say over 150 years, gives it way-back creds. It's also allegedly simple — but hold on: Do you really know what constitutes a classic? For starters, it has nothing to do with vodka. Never. And it also eschews that past-its-prime vermouth in the cabinet over the refrigerator. It's stirred, not shaken, despite James Bond (who got everything wrong). I recently tried a version that was equal parts gin and dry vermouth, and though it's good, it's not for newbies. Simply whispering "vermouth" in the vicinity is no good, either. So here goes:
Into a mixing glass measure 3 ounces gin (Plymouth, for example), 1 ounce dry Vermouth (Dolin) and a good shake of orange bitters. Then add ice fresh from the freezer. Stir until the outside of the glass or tin is quite cold, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with lemon peel first squeezed over the glass. Olives are OK if you promise to stop at two — more than that and you're on the slippery slope to dirty.
The Daiquiri: oh, the indignities it has suffered. You will suspect that we're not talking Bourbon Street frozen slush. And it's not Papa Hemingway's super-charged version — though feel free to try it after you've made this with the best rum you can muster:
Into a shaker, measure 2 ounces white rum, 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice and 1 ounce simple syrup; fill with ice and shake vigorously to a rumba beat. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with a lime wheel. Some perfectly reasonable people prefer dark rum, others a little less sweetener. Suit yourself here (Editor's Note: Slam it just for kicks.)
The Manhattan: bad things have happened to this classic over the years, as well — a fruit salad's worth of garnishes, for example. I'm instead suggesting really good brandied/preserved cherries (three max) such as Luxardo or the more-savory locally produced ones from Taste Elevated.
Into a mixing glass or tin measure 2 ounces rye (or go "crazy" with 100 proof if you like), 1 ounce sweet red vermouth such as Carpano Antica and two dashes Angostura bitters. Add ice and stir until frosty, strain into a chilled coupe and add the cherries — on a pick or not.
Toast your trendiness.