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Today is National Cocktail Day and there’s no better time to expand your palate and experiment with some simple recipes than when you’re shuttered indoors. We asked Greg Ewan, a bartender at Aunty Betty’s Gin & Absinthe Bar located in Morgan Street Food Hall downtown, for some tricks of the trade to making delicious home cocktails using whiskey, rum, gin and a handful of other versatile ingredients. When you’re working from home and on your own schedule, it’s 5 o’clock anywhere; we certainly won’t won’t tell if you open the bar a little early.
“The most versatile four-ingredient bar in my opinion (assuming you have lemon or lime juice and sugar on hand) would be stocked with dry curaçao (I prefer Pierre Ferrand but Cointreau is great), dry vermouth (Mancino Secco preferred, but Harris Teeter usually stocks Noilly Prat, a solid go-to), sweet vermouth (if you’re near a bottle shop, grab P. Quiles; at Teeter, skip the Martini, don’t even look at the Gallo, and grab the Lejon), and Campari.
My favorite, the Negroni:
Classically equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, but I recommend trying
1½ ounces:1 ounce:1 ounce in the order listed.
Stir and serve ‘up’ if you’re swinging for the fences but on ice in a rocks glass is fine.
Swap in whiskey for the gin to make a Boulevardier, or rum for a variation that was never given a cool name for some reason.
You can also swap in dry vermouth for sweet or try ½ ounces of each.
If you have rum and pineapple juice on hand, google “Jungle Bird cocktail” and put on something beachy.
I prefer mine with 2 ounces gin, ½ ounce dry vermouth but highly recommend the equal parts martini (1½ ounces of each) if you can get a decent vermouth. Swap in rum in the ‘equal parts’ build and add ¼ ounce dry curaçao to make a dry El Presidente riff I call El Jefe. Take your time stirring your martinis, the water added is essential.
2 ounces whiskey, 1 ounce sweet vermouth, 2 dashes Angostura bitters. If you’ve got some sparkling wine in the fridge I recommend trying 1 ounce whiskey, 1 ounce sweet vermouth, 2 dashes of Angostura bitters stirred and strained into a coupe or wineglass topped with champagne. Swap in gin for whiskey, bring the vermouth down to ½ ounce, and add ¼ ounce dry curaçao for a solid Martinez variation.
Drinks with Gin and Dry Curaçao
If you have these two ingredients as well as lemon juice, lime juice, sugar, and eggs, you can pretty much make every drink created between the years 1835 and 1930 (I’m not even joking; remove those two ingredients and The Savoy Cocktail Book is down to, like, three brandy drinks).
Most popular among them would be…
The White Lady:
Classically, this drink is 2 ounces gin, 1 ounce dry curaçao, 1 ounce lemon juice. If you find that too acidic (I do), you can cut back on the lemon juice or add a drop of honey for a Bee’s Knees riff (or just make a Bee’s Knees).
99 percent of drinks in this category are shaken and strained into a coupe or martini glass.”
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