At Manhattan speakeasy Employees Only, you’ll find Pimm’s Cup, a drink that dates back to Victorian London, and the Manhattan, a favorite of the American humorist Ring Lardner (1885–1933), among other old standards. But they don’t taste like they did back then. Employees Only mixologists spike their Pimm’s Cup, for instance, with Cointreau and fresh lime juice for added depth and kick, although that’s not the way the drink was traditionally made.
“There are a lot of cocktail dorks running around, saying you can’t make it like this and you have to make it like this. It’s depressing,” says Employees Only co-owner Jason Kosmas. “Our drinks aren’t so much a period piece as a continuation of that period—like how people would have made then, if they had better access to the ingredients we have now.”
Many bars around the country are putting their own spin on the classics. Here are some of the more interesting reinterpretations.
Classic: Brandy, orange liqueur, lemon juice served up with a sugared rim.
Spin: Cuban Side Car—Captain Morgan spiced rum, Tuaca (an Italian vanilla and citrus liqueur), orange liqueur, fresh lemon and orange juices. (Ibiza Dinner Club, Seattle)
2. Ramos Gin Fizz.
Classic: Gin, lemon and lime juices, egg white, cream, sugar, orange flower water, club soda.
Spin: Bourbon Fizz (a.k.a. Porcupine’s Elixir)—Old Pogue bourbon, lemon juice, orange bitters, egg white, Sprite, cinnamon. (Dino, Washington, D.C.)
Classic: Rye, sugar, bitters, absinthe or a substitute (Herbsaint, Pernod, or Ricard), lemon twist.
Spin: Harmony—Pear and green tea–infused 209 gin, Lillet Blanc, Chartreuse, lemon juice. (Range, San Francisco)
Classic: Rye or bourbon, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, a maraschino cherry.
Spin: Manhattan Cocktail—The same, plus orange curaçao. (Catherine Lombardi Cocktail Bar, New Brunswick, New Jersey)
7. Pimm’s Cup.
Classic: Lemon-lime soda or ginger ale, slice of lemon, slice of cucumber, Pimm’s No. 1.
Spin: Pimm’s Cup—Pimm’s No. 1, Cointreau, lime juice, ginger soda, cucumbers, fresh mint. (Employees Only, New York City)
8. Hot Buttered Rum.
Classic: Dark rum, cloves, allspice, a cinnamon stick, sugar, butter, freshly grated nutmeg.
Spin: Hot Buttered Rum—Charbay Tahitian Vanilla Bean Rum, vanilla bean ice cream, brown sugar, cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, butter. (Cyrus, Healdsburg, California)