When Is a Negroni No Longer a Negroni?

The spartan ingredients of the Sazerac—Cognac or rye, sugar and bitters, served neat in an absinthe-rinsed glass—double as a gruff declaration of identity. Musky and minimal, it’s a fundamental American invention, an unfussy cornerstone drink whose simplicity is at odds with its colorful, fleur-de-lis-stamped origin story.Straight-up as New Orleans’ patron cocktail may be, it demands “impeccable balance and measuring and perfect technique to get it right,” according to Ryan Maybee, owner of the Kansas City bar Manifesto. Disregarding this faultless recipe, meanwhile, requires an entirely separate set of skills. The “Featured Classic” section of a recent Manifesto menu comprised three associated takes on the drink. The “proper” Sazerac hewed close to the ideal. Another subbed the requisite rye or Cognac for blended Scotch, working in honey and cinnamon. Then the third, a distant relative dubbed “Café Treme”: a toddy of star anise-infused Old Overholt and brown sugar syrup, topped with Peychaud’s-flavored whipped cream and a crisp fennel pizzelle to ape the green fairy’s anise.

Is a Sazerac still a Sazerac when it’s served steaming hot and garnished like an Italian Christmas treat? Maybee is one bartender less concerned with definitional questions than he is energised by what this practice offers: a rare chance for drinkers to literally taste a venerable cocktail’s genealogy, from obscure beginnings to current-day deviations.Plays on the Daiquiri, the Martini and the Alexander have also had their day in Manifesto’s “Featured Classic” section, a pull-out that accompanies an already-large selection of 30-plus drinks built by Maybee and his staff. Nearly all of them can be traced back to cocktails of yore, a fact that is far from unique to Manifesto. “I thought it was a good way to exhibit the mindset of bartenders,” says Maybee. “[We] showcase how we have our roots in classic cocktails, and yet also have the ability to be creative.”While highlighting a traditional cocktail in direct association with its riffs—a liquid March of Progress, if you’ll allow it—might be the most overt way to display drinking evolution, other bars use different devices to convey the same idea. At New York’s Slowly Shirley, co-owner Jim Kearns is a stickler for giving credit where it’s rightly due: a “Created By” column running to the right of each cocktail description contains bibliographic info for each drink. This attention to detail is extended to the menu’s “Five Families” section, which contains variations on a quintet of time-honored drink categories: Sours & Fizzes, Daisies, Old-Fashioneds, Manhattans and Martinis.“You may not know, for instance, what an Obituary is, but you know what a Martini is,” explains Kearns, name-dropping the turn-of-century twist that coaxes absinthe into the timeless coupling of gin and dry vermouth. (It’s attributed to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, serving New Orleans since the late 1700s.) In this sense, presenting old-school cocktails on a continuum serves a pragmatic purpose: It encourages the overwhelmed to gravitate toward something they’ve never enjoyed by highlighting a connection to something they have.A Manhattan fan, for example, may not

Plays on the Daiquiri, the Martini and the Alexander have also had their day in Manifesto’s “Featured Classic” section, a pull-out that accompanies an already-large selection of 30-plus drinks built by Maybee and his staff. Nearly all of them can be traced back to cocktails of yore, a fact that is far from unique to Manifesto. “I thought it was a good way to exhibit the mindset of bartenders,” says Maybee. “[We] showcase how we have our roots in classic cocktails, and yet also have the ability to be creative.”While highlighting a traditional cocktail in direct association with its riffs—a liquid March of Progress, if you’ll allow it—might be the most overt way to display drinking evolution, other bars use different devices to convey the same idea. At New York’s Slowly Shirley, co-owner Jim Kearns is a stickler for giving credit where it’s rightly due: a “Created By” column running to the right of each cocktail description contains bibliographic info for each drink. This attention to detail is extended to the menu’s “Five Families” section, which contains variations on a quintet of time-honored drink categories: Sours & Fizzes, Daisies, Old-Fashioneds, Manhattans and Martinis.“You may not know, for instance, what an Obituary is, but you know what a Martini is,” explains Kearns, name-dropping the turn-of-century twist that coaxes absinthe into the timeless coupling of gin and dry vermouth. (It’s attributed to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, serving New Orleans since the late 1700s.) In this sense, presenting old-school cocktails on a continuum serves a pragmatic purpose: It encourages the overwhelmed to gravitate toward something they’ve never enjoyed by highlighting a connection to something they have.A Manhattan fan, for example, may not

At New York’s Slowly Shirley, co-owner Jim Kearns is a stickler for giving credit where it’s rightly due: a “Created By” column running to the right of each cocktail description contains bibliographic info for each drink. This attention to detail is extended to the menu’s “Five Families” section, which contains variations on a quintet of time-honored drink categories: Sours & Fizzes, Daisies, Old-Fashioneds, Manhattans and Martinis.“You may not know, for instance, what an Obituary is, but you know what a Martini is,” explains Kearns, name-dropping the turn-of-century twist that coaxes absinthe into the timeless coupling of gin and dry vermouth. (It’s attributed to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, serving New Orleans since the late 1700s.) In this sense, presenting old-school cocktails on a continuum serves a pragmatic purpose: It encourages the overwhelmed to gravitate toward something they’ve never enjoyed by highlighting a connection to something they have.A Manhattan fan, for example, may not

In this sense, presenting old-school cocktails on a continuum serves a pragmatic purpose: It encourages the overwhelmed to gravitate toward something they’ve never enjoyed by highlighting a connection to something they have.A Manhattan fan, for example, may not recognise a Remember the Maine, first featured in Charles H. Baker’s 1939 The Gentleman’s Companion; a lover of Gimlets might have never heard of Jerry Thomas’ Gin Daisy (1876). Framing these citations in clear, contemporary terms helps assuage order anxiety. “If there’s a section of the menu that shows how that drink came to be,” says Kearns, “you have a better understanding of that drink and what can be done with it.”This sentiment applies on both ends of the transaction.

Categorical presentation can demystify a guest’s experience, but it also dictates development behind the bar. “Really, all of the inspiration comes from classics in some form or another,” says Maybee. It’s been this way since the early days. Since seminal texts like Harry Craddock’s circa-1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book has influenced generations of cocktail-building, it’s easy to forget that an icon like Craddock was similarly inspired by the recipes that preceded him—his Corpse Reviver No. 2, for example, is a twist on a Sidecar, which is a twist on a Brandy Crusta. But the Crusta is also an early example of a Sour, which should give you a rough visual of how the root system of this spirited family tree crawls across centuries.“Go back far enough, and everything intersects and intertwines,” says Kearns. “Nowadays, it’s riffs on riffs on riffs.”Julie Reiner, who opened Clover Club in Brooklyn in 2008, clusters her “Evening Cocktails” into thematic sub-groups like Royales or Sours & Cobblers. “It’s hard to sit down and read every single drink,” she says. “This way, you can navigate a little bit.” But, as the brief-yet-informative intros capping each list-within-list suggest, the idea of education was also a serious consideration.While Carroll Gardens features no shortage of well-versed restaurant

The “Featured Classic” section of a recent Manifesto menu comprised three associated takes on the drink. The “proper” Sazerac hewed close to the ideal. Another subbed the requisite rye or Cognac for blended Scotch, working in honey and cinnamon. Then the third, a distant relative dubbed “Café Treme”: a toddy of star anise-infused Old Overholt and brown sugar syrup, topped with Peychaud’s-flavored whipped cream and a crisp fennel pizzelle to ape the green fairy’s anise.Is a Sazerac still a Sazerac when it’s served steaming hot and garnished like an Italian Christmas treat? Maybee is one bartender less concerned with definitional questions than he is

Maybee is one bartender less concerned with definitional questions than he is energised by what this practice offers: a rare chance for drinkers to literally taste a venerable cocktail’s genealogy, from obscure beginnings to current-day deviations.Plays on the Daiquiri, the Martini and the Alexander have also had their day in Manifesto’s “Featured Classic” section, a pull-out that accompanies an already-large selection of 30-plus drinks built by Maybee and his staff. Nearly all of them can be traced back to cocktails of yore, a fact that is far from unique to Manifesto. “I thought it was a good way to exhibit the mindset of bartenders,” says Maybee. “[We] showcase how we have our roots in classic cocktails, and yet also have the ability to be creative.”While highlighting a traditional cocktail in direct association with its riffs—a liquid March of Progress, if you’ll allow it—might be the most overt way to display drinking evolution, other bars use different devices to convey the same idea. At New York’s Slowly Shirley, co-owner Jim Kearns is a stickler for giving credit where it’s rightly due: a “Created By” column running to the right of each cocktail description contains bibliographic info for each drink. This attention to detail is extended to the menu’s “Five Families” section, which contains variations on a quintet of time-honored drink categories: Sours & Fizzes, Daisies, Old-Fashioneds, Manhattans and Martinis.“You may not know, for instance, what an Obituary is, but you know what a Martini is,” explains Kearns, name-dropping the turn-of-century twist that coaxes absinthe into the timeless coupling of gin and dry vermouth. (It’s attributed to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, serving New Orleans since the late 1700s.) In this sense, presenting old-school cocktails on a continuum serves a pragmatic purpose: It encourages the overwhelmed to gravitate toward something they’ve never enjoyed by highlighting a connection to something they have.A Manhattan fan, for example, may not recognize a Remember the Maine, first featured in Charles H. Baker’s 1939 The Gentleman’s Companion; a lover of Gimlets might have never heard of Jerry Thomas’ Gin Daisy (1876). Framing these citations in clear, contemporary terms helps assuage order anxiety. “If there’s a section of the menu that shows how that drink came to be,” says Kearns, “you have a better understanding of that drink and what can be done with it.”This sentiment applies on both ends of the transaction. Categorical presentation can demystify a guest’s experience, but it also dictates development behind the bar. “Really, all of the inspiration comes from classics in some form or another,” says Maybee. It’s been this way since the early days. Since seminal texts like Harry Craddock’s circa-1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book has influenced generations of cocktail-building, it’s easy to forget that an icon like Craddock was similarly inspired by the recipes that preceded him—his Corpse Reviver No. 2, for example, is a twist on a Sidecar, which is a twist on a Brandy Crusta. But the Crusta is also an early example of a Sour, which should give you a rough visual of how the root system of this spirited family tree crawls across centuries.“Go back far enough, and everything intersects and intertwines,” says Kearns. “Nowadays, it’s riffs on riffs on riffs.”Julie Reiner, who opened Clover Club in Brooklyn in 2008, clusters her “Evening Cocktails” into thematic sub-groups like Royales or Sours & Cobblers. “It’s hard to sit down and read every single drink,” she says. “This way, you can navigate a little bit.” But, as the brief-yet-informative intros capping each list-within-list suggest, the idea of education was also a serious consideration.While Carroll Gardens features no shortage of well-versed restaura

Source: PUNCH | When Is a Negroni No Longer a Negroni?

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