May 23, 2014

We tapped beverage expert Anthony Caporale to give us this summer’s most-wanted classic cocktails—with a twist.

The classics are back and, dare we say, trendy, as bars and restaurants are swinging back to the original spirit-forward drink template. “For a long time, consumers felt the bartender’s job was to hide the flavor, or at least the taste, of spirits and alcohol in a drink," says Caporale. "But now consumers are demanding to be able to experience the spirit." It's the year to ditch the mixers and unhand the frozen piña colada in favor of simple cocktails that put your favorite liquor on a pedestal.

Predictably, our consumption habits fall in the same pattern each year. We spend the cold months brooding over darker, heavier cocktails while putting down one light, crisp drink after another in the peak of summer’s heat. Drinks fall in and out of vogue with the seasons, and as the days grow longer the late afternoon elixir is back in demand. “The Negroni in particular is just stratospheric. It's one of the top three or four classic cocktails that I see, but what I see is people playing with it,” he says. Equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin—it may be better suited for a slow evening on the back porch rather than a backyard BBQ. Enter the Americano, the Negroni's less pungent cousin, made simply by replacing the gin with soda water or tonic. “It’s a terrific drink—very light, relatively low alcohol compared to some of the other drinks.”

Swap the gin, again, for whiskey and you have the Boulevardier, a drink that personifies the French title’s English translation, “man about town.” Substituting sweet spiced whiskey for gin balances the bitterness that makes the Negroni such an acquired taste. It’s the Negroni for those who have historically hated the Negroni.

While many classics are only a matter of pouring and stirring (no blender required!), convenience is key when you're hosting the party. "When I go to the beach, have a cookout, or am just having people over and want to serve nice drinks, but don’t want to be stuck behind the bar making drinks, I’ll just bottle a dozen or so cocktails and put them on ice," says Caporale. "People get a beautiful craft cocktail that’s as easy to serve as popping open a beer." The Negroni and its many variations bottle particularly well. Caporale suggests purchasing a set of 187 ml champagne bottles for hosting. Champagne bottles are thick, durable, and can be reused after a run in the dishwasher—perfect for a summer blowout and all of the antics that come along with it. You can get a capper and enough caps to last you years for about $20.

Cheers to plenty of reasons to celebrate, and plenty more cocktails to celebrate with this summer!

BoulevardierIn a rocks glass filled with ice, add:1 oz. Drambuie1 oz. Campari1 oz. Sweet VermouthStir to chill and garnish with an orange peelTo bottle: Add 1½ oz. of each ingredient (except garnish) to a 187 ml Champagne bottle, top with 1½ oz. tonic water, cap, and chill.

AmericanoIn a rocks glass filled with ice, add:1 oz. Campari1 oz. Sweet Vermouth1 oz. SeltzerStir to chill and garnish with an orange peelTo bottle: Add 2 oz. of each ingredient (except garnish) to a 187 ml Champagne bottle, cap, and chill. 

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