Every year the cocktail scene gets better and better. New venues serving out-of-the-ordinary mixed drinks continue to pop up in cities all around the globe. Over the last year, we’ve hit up just about every major spot in NYC for tastings. It would be a near impossibility to list everything we’ve loved. Whether they’re signature or seasonal drinks, the following eight represent a broad array of base spirits and accent flavors. You’ll find gin (let’s go ahead and say gin may have been the most important spirit in creative cocktail making this year), tequila, mezcal, rum, whiskey and more. Feel free to dig through our greater food and drink adventures—or if you’re still in the spirit, hit up our illustrated guide to holiday cocktails.
Mama I’m Coming Home
For batch-making, there’s nothing quite like the Mama I’m Coming Home. Created by Jennifer Knot of 312 Chicago, this warm drink incorporates port and scotch. Together, after mulling with sweets and spices, it yields warmth for the spirit.
2 cups apple cider
1.5 cups pecan-infused Cutty Sark Blended Scotch Whisky
0.75 cup Fonseca Bin 27 Port
0.75 cup honey syrup
2 Cinnamon sticks
Place all ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let mull for an hour. Double strain the cinnamon sticks and cloves from the hot cider. Pour into an Irish coffee mug and garnish with a soft caramel candy. Serving size: 10 people batched / 4 oz per drink or single servings.
Bonded Apple Sazerac
Created by Johnny Swet for premiere cocktail lounge The Skylark, the Bonded Apple Sazerac succeeds in its double commitment to apple. It’s approached once with CH favorite Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy but touched upon again with the relatively obscure Schoenauer Apfel Liquor (aka a specific type of apple schnapps). The absinthe-rinse makes it wilder, but never too much.
2 oz Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
1 oz Schoenauer Apfel Liquor
.25 oz agave
4 dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters
Stir to incorporate all ingredients. Strain into an absinthe-rinsed rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
The simplest, most direct cocktail on our list, the Copperface, employs only three ingredients but the end result makes for a fruit basket of fun—for lack of better words. With a base of Absolut Elyx, who imagined the mixed drink, Calvados (apple brandy) and apricot brandy go hand-in-hand for a highly palatable sipper that’s not too sweet but definitely carries lots of booze.
2 oz Absolut Elyx vodka
.5 oz Calvados
.25 oz apricot brandy
Stir over cubed ice and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.
A play between a Bee’s Knees and Gin Sour, the Le Gin from Manhattan’s Le Turtle makes for a surprisingly refreshing drink. The gin base has been infused with black tea leaves for six to 10 hours and it’s complemented by the muddled cardamom. The lemon, honey and frothy egg whites add levity and the end result—all the way down to the bitters—feel like an uncommon approach to summer spice.
8 pieces muddled cardamom
1.5 oz Earl Grey-infused Beefeater gin
.5 oz Cocchi Americano
1 oz lemon
.75 oz honey
.75 oz egg whites
Combine ingredients. Shake. Serve up in rocks glass and garnish with two dashes of Angostura bitters.
Right off the bat, it’s worth noting that this costs a hefty $375 at the Baccarat Hotel’s bar. The reason for this happens to be the base spirit, Nolet Reserve, which itself sells for around $700 a bottle. And the reason behind that is the substantial amount of saffron and verbena that has been added to the spirit. Those elements do not go unnoticed, and when partnered with vodka and bolstered by Lillet Rose, one is left with a drink of uncommon merit.
2 oz NOLET’S Reserve
1 oz Grey Goose VX
.5 oz Lillet Rose
Expressed grapefruit peel
In a mixing glass, combine all of the ingredients using a jigger. Using a stirring spoon, stir to dilution but not to over-dilute. Strain into a coupe glass and zest with a grapefruit piece and discard. The grapefruit does not go into the glass.
Bright and floral, the Purple Maize (developed by NYC’s Cosme) makes good use of Japanese shochu, Dolin Blanc and St Germain—all of which lift the concoction to a sweet and vibrant level. Very easy to sip but packing a substantial booze backbone means it’s necessary to keep an eye on how many you drink.
1 1/4 oz Creyente Mezcal
.5 oz St Germain
.5 oz shochu
.5 oz Dolin Blanc
.5 oz lime juice
Muddle cucumber slice with Creyente mezcal. Add all other ingredients and shake over ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a jasmine pearl.
Tequila doesn’t have to be a summer spirit. With a mezcal rinse and a bit of Ancho Reyes, the Oaxacan Daisy spices things up a bit—warming and bold. Developed by Bryan Dayton, the co-owner of Boulder, CO’s OAK and Denver’s Acorn, this winter tequila concoction really kicks it up a notch.
1.5 oz Milagro Reposado
.5 oz Ancho Reyes
.5 oz lime juice
.75 oz agave
Rinse glass with a splash of Montelobos Mezcal. Combine all ingredients together in a cocktail shaker and shake. Serve in a margarita glass and garnish with lime.
Beyond being visually stunning, the Perla Negra tastes like nothing else. Concocted for downstairs cocktail venue Slowly Shirley, this cocktails surprises go beyond the charcoal.
2 oz Santa Teresa 1796 rum
.5 tsp activated charcoal
1 oz kalamansi
1 oz orange juice
.5 oz honey
.5 oz ginger
1 oz arrack
top: 2 oz Sorrel
Add activated charcoal to shaker. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the Sorrel. Shake with about three large ice cubes. Strain over crushed ice into skull vessel. Pack a lit votive candle into the crushed ice on top of the cocktail. Measure and pour the sorrel around the candle. Garnish with orchids.
Images courtesy of respective venues