Not every revolution requires an insurrection, and not every renaissance begins in salons, galleries or cloistered chambers. The cocktail seemed an unlikely candidate to start either a revolution or a renaissance, but somehow over the past decade, it has managed to become the center of both. Today the cocktail is celebrated at weeklong conferences and festivals that draw thousands. Taking cues from a wider culinary movement that’s been building steam for decades, craft-cocktail bars (and the bartenders and writers who inhabit them) are digging in the depths of the drink’s rich history and applying these fresh-taught lessons to new drinks, appropriating techniques and skills acquired everywhere from centuries-old handbooks. However, as fascinating as today’s artisan-driven or tech-savvy craft-cocktail bars can be, there’s also a need for cocktail comfort food―for exciting drinks that have the benefit of being delicious, and that can be easily prepared by non-professionals.
From Paul Clarke, the 2014 Best Cocktail & Spirits Writer and founder of the groundbreaking spirits blog, The Cocktail Chronicles, comes an approachable guide to the cocktail renaissance thus far and―as the name implies―a chronicle of the cocktails that have come along the way. The Cocktail Chronicles is not a lab manual for taking the cocktail experience to a molecular level; nor is it an historical monograph tracing the details of our forebears as they developed and mixed the drinks we enjoy today. Instead, The Cocktail Chronicles is a collection of approachable, and easily replicable drinks that all share the same thing: a common deliciousness and a role—both big and small—in the ongoing and thriving cocktail renaissance.
This collection of expertly curated recipes represents a photo album of sorts―snapshots of people encountered over the years, with some close friends and family members depicted alongside a few dimly remembered strangers. The Cocktail Chronicles believes cocktails should be fun: it doesn’t demand the purchase of a new product for every recipe or require hours spent preparing a single ingredient—that is a sure way to suck the joy right out of it. Life is complicated―a good drink doesn’t have to be. To that end, The Cocktail Chronicles has you covered.Excerpted from The Cocktail Chronicles: Navigating the Cocktail Renaissance with Jigger, Shaker & Glass by Paul Clarke, photographs by Ed Anderson (Spring House Press, copyright © 2015). You can purchase The Cocktail Chronicles at your local bookshop or through our affiliate links with IndieBound or Amazon.GIMLET
(from Chapter 2: Not Forgotten)
Comfort sometimes comes in the form of gin and lime.
- 2 oz. gin
- 1/2 oz. lime cordial
Garnish: Thin lime wedge
Method: Shake with ice to chill; strain into chilled glass. Garnish.
Nobody celebrates an engagement, a promotion, or a spectacular Saturday with a Gimlet. But a breakup? The end of a workday with no more than the usual screwups? A crappy Wednesday? Those are the times when you need a Gimlet.
The Gimlet was a favored drink of Raymond Chandler, who put many of them in the hands of Philip Marlowe (and the doomed Terry Lennox) in the pages of The Long Goodbye. This seems fitting; with a base of gin (you can use vodka, but that’d be like recasting Shia LaBeouf in the role Humphrey Bogart made famous), and lime cordial, and nothing else, the Gimlet has the color of bad luck and resignation, and a character leaning to jaded and slightly seedy, like Robert Mitchum in worn-at-heel wingtips and a suit jacket gone shiny with age.
The Gimlet also has a little problem. As Lennox notes to Marlowe, a real Gimlet is nothing but gin and Rose’s Lime Juice (“They beat Martinis hollow,” says Lennox, a man who knew his beatings and his booze). But Rose’s long ago followed the High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) route, and a drink well-suited to assuaging disappointment now just tastes disappointing.
Some substitute fresh lime juice and sugar, but really, that’s just a Gin Sour or a Gin Fix with lime—not bad, but not a Gimlet. Instead, track down some honest lime cordial, which has the tartness of the juice along with a little gamey bitterness from the peel; check the Cocktail Kitchen (see: The Cocktail Chronicles) for sources or instructions to make your own.
The Gimlet is more meditative than festive, more brooding than congratulatory. It may never share the Daiquiri’s sense of abandon, but on a lonely afternoon, it can be a most suitable companion.CHARTREUSE SWIZZLE
(from Chapter 4: Staying Power)
The Old World detours through San Francisco on its way to the tropics.
- 1 1/2 oz. green Chartreuse 1 oz. pineapple juice
- 3/4 oz. lime juice
- 1/2 oz. falernum
Garnish: Mint sprig, fresh-grated nutmeg
Method: Add all ingredients to glass and fill with crushed ice. Use a barspoon to swizzle the mixture until frost forms on the outside of the glass. Top with crushed ice; garnish.—Marcovaldo Dionysos, San Francisco
Around the turn of the millennium, while New York and London were asserting themselves as the crown capitals of the cocktail renaissance, strange things were happening in San Francisco.
The Bay Area has been an essential stop on the cocktail circuit since Jerry Thomas first shook drinks at the El Dorado back in the Barbary Coast days. But while New York bartenders were shopping for tie-pins and arm garters to wear while mixing Prohibition–era cocktails, their colleagues in San Francisco were plundering the produce markets and creating stylistic mashups of the sort that would earn the city a place as the Pacific Coast parallel.
Marcovaldo Dionysos was a formative figure in the development of Bay Area cocktails, working in establishments ranging from Absinthe to Michael Mina’s Clock Bar to his current roost at the tiki wonderland Smuggler’s Cove. Marco’s contributions to the modern cocktail canon are many (see the Uptown Manhattan, in The Cocktail Chronicles), but chief among them is the Chartreuse Swizzle. Using a potent base of green Chartreuse—careful, at 120 proof, Chartreuse doesn’t mess around—and matching its florid Old World herbaceousness against the rich, tropical-toned brightness of pineapple and falernum, the Chartreuse Swizzle is a hammock drink for the monastic set. Swizzles are supposed to be simple things—the drinks you leisurely stab with your straw during sleepy, sunny afternoons—but the Chartreuse Swizzle bumps the flavor complexity a dozen notches, while taking nothing away from the swizzle’s life-of-leisure properties.Read Vince Keenan on The Cocktail Chronicles in issue 65’s installment of Down the Hatch.Paul Clarke is a journalist specializing in spirits, cocktails and the culture of drink. The executive editor of Imbibe magazine, he has spent the past decade researching and writing about drinks for Imbibe, the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times, Serious Eats, Tasting Table, and many other publications and websites, and is a member of the editorial board for the Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails.
Since 2005, Clarke has documented his exploration of fine spirits and mixology on The Cocktail Chronicles, one of the first exclusively spirits and cocktail-related blogs on the Internet, and he’s the founder and moderator emeritus of Mixology Monday, a monthly online cocktail party that’s attracted scores of participants and thousands of readers since its 2006 debut.
A regular speaker at events including Tales of the Cocktail, Portland Cocktail Week, and the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, Clarke has received a Spirited Award from Tales of the Cocktail for Best Cocktail Writing, and a Bert Greene Award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals for his drinks journalism.
He lives in Seattle.