Much to my joy, many new cool cocktail bars opened up this year and most were instant favourites of mine. And I’ve sampled many a cocktail but somehow managed to whittle down all the ones I loved to this manageable list for your perusal. It’s no coincidence that they’re all basically dark spirits — bourbon, rum, tequila. Oh but how I love aromatic cocktails, but they are also my personal favourite cocktail recipes that everyone might like to try at least once…
1) Jamaican Firefly
I love Dark & Stormys and this one of Audrey Saunders’ new La Brea bar menus is no exception. Dark rum, house-made ginger beer, lime juice, simple syrup. The house-made ginger beer is nice and spicy and I love the tasty candied ginger garnish which echoes the sweetness and spiciness of the cocktail. I’d definitely make a habit of ordering this baby.
Bourbon, Kahlua, Dry Vermouth, Peychaud’s Bitters, Orange Bitters. This tasty, aromatic cocktail created by mixologist/cocktail blogger Mark Blackhart is reminiscent of the Revolver, one of my fave drinks ever, at Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco.
3) Benton’s Old Fashioned
Discovered during my trip to NYC last October, PDT’s yummy-sounding Benton’s Old Fashioned is made from bacon-infused Four Roses bourbon, Grade B maple syrup and Angostura bitters. The bacon flavor was so subtle but you could still taste it. And despite the maple syrup, this wasn’t a sweet cocktail.
4) Last Tango in Modena
Then hidden-gem-of-a-bartender, Matt Biancaniello, created this innovative cocktail comprised of Hendricks Gin, muddled strawberries, and 3-year-old balsamic vinegar topped with St. Germain foam. I heart how he turned one of my favourite desserts into an impressive cocktail. It even looks like dessert in a glass. Yummy.
Knob Creek 9-year, Antica Carpano sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters and garnished with Morello cherries. Yes, it’s a Manhattan but you have to understand that I found this well-made cocktail after having been disappointed by the ones I had just hours before at the Gallery Bar in the Biltmore. And when I took that first sip, I had to wipe away a couple of tears. Relief, maybe. Happiness, definitely. The cocktail had the perfect measurements of everything. I wanted to swish it around in my mouth and gargle with it before letting it run down my throat. Dee-licious.
6) Tiger’s Milk No. II
Tiger’s Milk No. II, mixologist Jacqueline Patterson’s creamy mix of Spanish brandy, rum, sugar, cream and nutmeg. OMG so tasty. I encountered the tiger at San Francisco’s Heaven’s Dog, a noodle shop/barestaurant with yummy cocktails. This one was dangerously drinkable in that I could down two of these ones after the other. It wasn’t as sweet as its ingredients implied it would be but I think it would be an awesome way to finish off your dinner.
This is my favourite on the La Cienega Boulevard bar’s menu, created by Damian Windsor and Jared Meisler. With a combo of Maker’s and habanero pepper, how could you go wrong? Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Baronjager Honey Liqueur, lemon juice and spicy habanero bitters on the rocks. It’s spicy, perfect for savouring.
Sazerac Rye, Sweet Vermouth, Mozart dark chocolate liqueur, orange bitters and rhubarb bitters. This cocktail, created by Vincenzo Marianella, appeared on the Santa Monica bar’s debut menu but frustratingly enough couldn’t be ordered for several months since its key ingredient, the Mozart dark chocolate liqueur, was difficult for the bar to get hold of. When it was finally available, its composition reminded me of a chocolate-tinged Manhattan. Its cocoa flavor was very subtle only showing up in the finish. It was tasty although missing some depth which was instantly corrected when made with Campari which provided it with a much-needed kick.
9) The Lullaby
I was fortunate to have this during a cocktail competition held at Malo in Silver Lake which pitted a bunch of mixologists against one another. Matty Eggleston, formerly of The Hungry Cat and The Varnish, created this mother’s milk of a cocktail using Gran Centenario Rosangel, Nutella and steamed milk. His comforting concoction would make a lovely nightcap. Despite the use of Nutella it’s not too sweet and the orange zest and grated cinnamon give it the spiciness it needs.
An unusual mix by Julian Cox of mezcal, citrus, pomegranate, agave nectar and Chapulin salt. So aromatic and smoky with a lot of kick. I’ve never tasted anything like it and it won’t be the last time as this will be my drink of choice here.
And there you go, that is just ten of my favourite cocktails. Have you enjoyed one of these? Do you plan to try one at your next try at a cocktail bar? Do let me know your thoughts in the comments below.