Esquire’s Magic Cocktail Formula

As a relative newbie in the world of cocktails, I find them totally mysterious. How is it that pouring apparently random amounts of ingredients that are often quite challenging to drink on their own transform in the shaker into a magical elixir? When I am cooking, at least, I have some confidence in my ability to play with ratios and substitute ingredients to manipulate flavor; mixing a cocktail, on the other hand, is an exercise in total blind recipe faith for me. Measure, mix, pour, pray. Unhappy with my cocktail impotence, I added “understanding cocktail anatomy” to my long-term life and blog to-do list.

As it turns out Esquire magazine has beaten me to the punch. Their reductionist cocktail recipe allows anyone to mix up a reliably drinkable invention using a simple ratio: 3 parts liquor, 1 part liqueur, 1 part Aperol and 1 part citrus juice.

two reddish orange cocktails with mint garnishes sitting on a wooden table on a white background

Any time someone claims to have discovered a foolproof recipe, it is my duty to attempt to break it, so for my first Esquire cocktail I broke out the most shameful contents of our liquor cabinet: 1½ oz Sauza Gold tequila, ½ oz Southern Comfort, ½ oz Aperol and ½ oz lime juice. Between the SoCo and the tequila, I wasn’t expecting much from this. But I was pleasantly surprised. While the cheap tequila’s familiar sting was present, it only lingered ethereally over the cocktail, rather than entirely defining it like the cheap tequila cocktails I invented in college. The drink was more or less as promised: smooth and not too sweet. Kind of boring, but not offensive.

Another iteration using 100 Proof Wild Turkey, Benedictine and lemon juice mixed with Aperol turned out the same way: not terribly interesting, but pretty good. Definitely drinkable.

This is not my favorite cocktail recipe. I’ve had way more fun and discovered far more interesting flavors and drinks in Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, which I’ve only scratched the surface of. But when it’s just too much to run out for that obscure new ingredient – or if it’s Sunday in this backwards state – it’s nice to know there’s a cocktail I can mix up with what I’ve got on hand, even if it’s SoCo.

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