What is the secret to the best cocktail?

Scott Nordlund

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About This Quiz

A quiz about cocktails and spirits that will be perfect for the bartender at heart. From mojitos to margaritas, what makes the perfect drink perfect?

What kind of alcohol is normally found in an old fashioned?

Note that the original definition called for spirits of any kind. You can make a tasty Old Fashioned from whiskey, of course, but also from tequila, mezcal, brandy, rum, genever, and to a lesser extent, aquavit or gin. I have even been desperate enough to attempt a vodka old fashioned, but I can't say I enjoyed it. Stick with more robustly flavored spirits.

What drink is known as the grandfather of the martini?

Grandfather to the modern martini, the Martinez is a drink of gin (Old Tom, if you can; try Ransom or Hayman's), sweet vermouth, maraschino or curaçao, and bitters. It's a sweeter drink than the typical dry martini, but the flavor is complex and refreshing. Assembling the ingredients requires some outlay of funds, but if you're within spitting distance of a respectable craft-cocktail bar, you should be able to sample one there

How do you make a martini extra wet?

Within reason, you can mix this one up however you want, and it's still a martini. Make it extra wet with equal parts gin and vermouth. Make it ultradry with merely a wisp of vermouth. Shake. Stir. (Blend? Now that's just crazy.) Garnish with an olive, a lemon twist, an onion, a slice of cucumber

What drink will your grandmother be ordering at the bar?

Please, no weak bourbons in my Manhattan. Give me a bourbon with a muscular rye-heavy mashbill, or just give me rye to begin with. Mix it sweet or mix it perfect (half sweet vermouth, half dry), but don't bother with a dry Manhattan, seriously.

What is the American version of the Amer Picon?

A Manhattan variation that launched a cocktail family of its own. The Brooklyn adapts the formula for a perfect Manhattan, which is rye or bourbon, dry vermouth, and sweet vermouth. The Brooklyn swaps the sweet for a blend of maraschino liqueur and amaro. Historically, it called for Amer Picon, which is very hard to find in the United States. You can use Ramazotti in place of Picon.

What frozen based drink is amazing with lime and rum?

Here, with the daiquiri, you have what I call a perfect litmus-test cocktail. Whenever I get a new rum, I almost always want to try it two different ways—sipped with a little ice, and mixed into a daiquiri. I find that the lime and sugar in a daiquiri complement the rum and highlight its flavors. I learn more about a rum mixed into a daiquiri than I do by just sipping it on its own. The only exception, I find, are rich, funky rums, such as rhums agricole. These tend to overpower the other ingredients.

What drink should you avoid the pre-mix for?

I admit, sometimes when I'm out to dinner at a Mexican or Tex-Mex place and I want a margarita, I don't always care whether it's made with fresh ingredients or from pre-mix. But I will never buy pre-mix for my home bar, and neither should you. The margarita is a simple recipe, just three ingredients, so there's no excuse for pre-mix. Get a good tequila (100% agave), a decent triple sec, and fresh limes, and you're almost guaranteed a great drink.

What is in the Margarita family, but changes up two ingredients?

An unlikely cousin to the Margarita, the Sidecar falls into the same Sour family as the tequila classic. In fact, once you know how to make a Margarita by heart, you pretty much know how to make a Sidecar: they're basically the same drink. One uses tequila and lime, whereas the other calls for cognac and lemon, but the template is spirit, orange liqueur, and citrus.

What drink is focused on gin and is not very popular, but cocktail experts should know?

If you're a cocktail geek, and you don't have the French 75 in your repertoire for parties, I'm sorry, but you're not a cocktail geek. I took the makings for French 75s to the home of some new friends a few years ago, and although my wife and I started the night as the only gin fans in the house, I wound up converting everyone else to the cause that night. You can't count on much in life, but you can always expect that sparkling cocktails will play well at parties.

What drink needs to have tomato juice, along with other juices you have lying around?

I'm breaking my highball rule here, but that's okay because I don't think of the Bloody Mary as a highball. Though nearly every cocktail manual I own lists it as such, I take a different view. A highball just means pouring a shot or so of booze and topping it off with a non-alcoholic mixer, usually from a gun or a bottle. Fine, you can make Bloody Marys that way if you're lazy and buy a bottled mix. But a good Bloody Mary mix is prepared in-house or at home from high-quality tomato juice and whatever other juices and spices you like. For home drinking, I mix mine à la minute. I juice lemons; I dash in bitters. I go to at least as much work as I do when mixing a cocktail. So screw it, it's a cocktail, not a highball.

What breakfast cocktail is perfect for any time of the day?

Regrettably, perhaps, we've gotten away from the breakfast/brunch cocktail. If anyone tells you that Irish Coffee is a sweet drink, scald them with your coffee. You only need a little sugar, your Irish, your coffee, and a dollop of lightly whipped cream atop.

What cocktail calls for applejack, lime juice, and grenadine

A deceptively simple looking recipe, the Jack Rose calls for applejack, lime juice, and grenadine. The way these flavors blend together is simply delicious. Make the grenadine yourself; it's easy and it's quick. (Although bottled pomegranate juice will do; no need to make your own juice.) Take the time and spend the money to track down Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy for this, too. It has a rich, fresh apple flavor that's much more satisfying than the blended applejack Laird's also sells. (The blended product mixes apple brandy with neutral grain spirit. It's more flavorful than an apple vodka, but nowhere near as tasty as the bonded.)

What drink needs a 1:1:1 ratio to start?

I don't think I understand people who don't love Negronis. The blend of bitter and sweet, the herbal complexity, the refreshing pleasure—you gotta be nuts not to like this. Like the Martini, the Negroni is a drink that's open to tinkering. Start with the classic 1:1:1 ratio and go from there. It's fun. Try blending vermouths, too. Right now, I like a Negroni that's 2 parts gin, 1 part Campari, and 1/2 part each of Carpano Antica vermouth and Martini & Rossi.

What makes the Boulevardier different than the Negroni?

Now, some might say this only qualifies as a Negroni variation. I don't think so. I think it's a fine cocktail in its own right, and delicious enough to belong on this list. In fact, I even know a person or two who prefers the Boulevardier to the Negroni. Since my favorite spirit is rye, I sympathize.

What drink is a New Orleans favorite?

Now for a few New Orleans classics. We'll start with the Sazerac. Nothing beats sipping one while spinning around the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone, but making them at home certainly comes close. The Sazerac would be among my desert-island cocktails, except for the unfortunate fact that it's very hard to find ice on a desert island.

Vieux Carre combines rye, cognac, Benedictine, and _______

Speaking of the Monteleone, the Vieux Carré (or Old Square, another term for the French Quarter) originated at the hotel in 1938. The cocktail blends rye, cognac, Benedictine, and vermouth, along with Peychaud's and Angostura. I've had more than my share of these at the Carousel Bar, too.

The Gin Fizz is traditionally made with what?

Break out your blender for this one. The Ramos Gin Fizz is a complex drink, of gin (naturally), lemon and lime juices, simple syrup, orange flower water, cream, an egg white, and (optionally) vanilla extract. Traditionally, it has the hell shaken out of it, first without ice, so that the ingredients emulsify, and then with ice, so it gets extremely cold and frothy. But Gary Regan, a smarter man than I am, insists that it's perfectly fine to use your blender for this one, so feel free, unless you're trying to tone up your arms.

What herb is in a mint julep?

A few years ago, we lived in an apartment with backyard access. In addition to grilling out, smoking cigars, and enjoying cocktails on the veranda, we kept a garden. One year, the mint came in so abundantly we had mint juleps every day for a week. That was a great week.

Bourbon as well as what can be used in a whiskey sour?

Another simple-to-make cocktail, the Whiskey Sour calls for bourbon or rye, lemon juice, and sugar. If you want a splash of orange juice in there, too, I won't stop you. This is a basic drink, of course, but it belongs in your arsenal because you'll probably have guests over one night, and sometimes your guests prefer basic drinks. As long as you have whiskey, lemons, and sugar on hand, you can always pull this one out.

How many types of rum are in a proper mai tai

My tiki-swilling friends are all saying now, "About time you got a tiki drink on here, Dietsch." It ain't every bar that does a Mai Tai correctly; in fact, it's probably still relatively rare to find one that does, unfortunately. Which is all the more reason to learn how to make them at home. The hardest part is finding everything you need: two rums (preferably, though one will do, if it's a rich-tasting dark rum), orange curaçao, and orgeat (try the one from Small Hand Foods.) Shake everything and strain it over fresh ice. (Heck, you don't even have to do that; I've often just dumped the entire mixing glass into a chilled rocks glass and called it a day.)

What alcohol is in a Planter's Punch?

A beautiful, and necessary, drink for summer. Dark rum, lime and lemon, grenadine, and simple syrup. Yum. Hell, go crazy and get some umbrellas or fancy straws and be all festive and stuff

Who made the cosmopolitan famous?

The Cosmopolitan is a cultural touchstone because once upon a time, Dale DeGroff got one into the hands of Madonna at the Rainbow Room and it became the drink to be seen with. Then HBO and SJP, of course, made the drink ubiquitous and clichéd. Nevertheless, sours (like Sidecars, Margaritas, and Daiquiris) are fundamental cocktails, and the Cosmopolitan is, simply stated, the best Vodka Sour around.

What breakfast food is essential in a pisco sour?

All I can say is that the pisco version is excellent; the unaged grape brandy makes for a drink that has a character distinct from its cousins—it's lightly floral and fresh. The addition of an egg white makes the drink creamy and luscious.

What gin brand is best associated with the Tom Collins

Collinses, historically, are a class of cocktails calling for a spirit, simple syrup, lemon juice, and soda water. The Tom calls for gin, of course. Historically, that would have been Old Tom gin, hence the name, but these days London dry is common. Try it with Old Tom if you have it, though. Or sub in the spirit of your choice; just about anything will work in this formula. This drink is so refreshing and so easy to sip that I think anyone who likes to drink should be able to make one.

What drink originated during prohibition in Detroit?

What a story this drink has! If this were a story about a forgotten boxer, rediscovered years later by a fight aficionado, Clint Eastwood would have already directed the film by now. The drink arose in Detroit during Prohibition, but fell into neglect for decades until rediscovered by Murray Stenson in Seattle. The Last Word is a complex, herbaceous drink, and like the French 75, it's one that I think would make a gin lover out of almost anyone.

What scotch is one of the world's best, at a decent price?

Named after the Gaelic word that means "causing the origin of something," Tùsail is crafted from a special selection of Maris Otter barley. This marks the first usage of this less starchy, more flavorful barley by the stalwart Highland distillery. Floor-malted by hand, Tùsail is matured in casks previously used for bourbon. Malty on the nose and the palate, it boasts notes of toffee and spices. Richer than the typical Glenmorangie, the spicy finish helps make this one vibrant, earthy single malt.

What Mexican spirit comes from Oaxacan soil?

This traditional Mexican spirit comes from Oaxacan soil and is produced by father-daughter team, Jim and Ashley Walsh. The Kimo Sabe Mezcal Joven: Albedo has a smooth body with flavors of citrus fruit, notes of smokiness and a spicy finish.

What is the base of a Apple Martini?

An Apple Martini, or “Appletini,” is a trendy cocktail that has gained popularity by adding a big twist to the typical dry martini. Vodka, instead of gin, is the basis of the cocktail and apple schnapps is most often used to add the sweet but slightly sour taste of apple to the trendier version of the cocktail. The Appletini is usually finished with a little lemon juice and garnished with a slice of apple to differentiate it from a normal martini served in the same glass.

What does Long Island Iced Tea lack?

Packing quite a punch, the Long Island Iced Tea is one cocktail that never seems to go out of style, especially with men. The potent concoction of rum, vodka, tequila, gin and triple sec is often finished with a mixture of sweet and sour, lemon juice and cola. Traditionally, there is no tea added to the mixture but the ingredients, especially the taste from the cola, provide the flavor profile of a tea with much more flavor and attitude.

What music group is said to have the drink californication named after them?

The Californication is not a subtle cocktail, but the citrus flavor imparted by the orange liqueur and orange juice attempt to disguise the punch it packs from the mixture of spirits. The name of the cocktail, Californication, is based on a term that is prominent in the lyrics of a song by the rock group, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. There has also been a television series that has run since August 2007 with the same name.

What kind of milk is used in a Pina Colada?

The classic tropical cocktail with a distinctive look and taste would have to be the Pina Colada. The simple yet exquisite mixture of rum, coconut milk and pineapple juice has been a favorite in the tropics and with the less experienced cocktail drinkers looking for a sweet cocktail that drinks more like a smoothie than an alcoholic beverage. The drink has become a popular drink to enjoy poolside or anywhere offering a glimpse of the ocean or the feel of sand between the toes.

What Brazilian drink is considered a strong one for many cocktail drinkers?

Caipirinha, has its origin that goes back to 1918 and is based on a remedy that was commonly used to treat Spanish flu. The word “Caipira” refers to a person from the countryside of Brazil who is far from modern or sophisticated in his or her ways. The drink is served from households to restaurants and bars in Brazil and has only recently started to gain popularity outside of Brazil. The inability to find good brands of cachaca in North America and Europe has been the only limiting factor to its growth in popularity.

During what century was the mojito discovered?

The origins of the minty mixture with rum go back as far as 1586 when the men aboard Sir Francis Drake’s armada reached out to local Indians in search of a cure for scurvy and dysentery. Drake’s small boarding party returned from the shores of Cuba with the primary ingredients for the modern day Mojito. Several other stories exist regarding the cocktail’s true origins, but most stories simply provide evidence to how long the general recipe has been in existence. The great author, Ernest Hemingway, was known to have developed quite a taste for the refreshing drink.

A slice of what normally accompanies a gin and tonic?

The classic gin and tonic will have a slice of lime to freshen up the taste. Nothing makes this drink pop like a splash of lime.

What is the essential variant for the Cesar?

The Bloody Caesar is sometimes referred to simply as a Caesar and is a slight variation of the Bloody Mary. It is a popular drink in Canada and has some very dedicated fans, however it may not be for everyone. This recipe replaces the tomato juice of the Bloody Mary with clamato juice (clam and tomato juice). The rest of the drink is almost exactly the same, though, just like the Bloody Mary, you can customize it. Add more hot sauce or choose an alternative to Tabasco, if you like. Garnish it with a pickle or stick with the celery. There are many options.

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