A storied cocktail with New Orleanian roots, the Sazerac was born in 1838, when Antoine Peychaud mixed the first one in a French Quarter watering hole and named it for his favorite French brandy, Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils. The drink evolved in in 1873 to replace cognac with American Rye whiskey and incorporate the mysterious properties of absinthe, courtesy of bartender Leon Lamothe—now regarded as the father of the modern Sazerac.
- 2½ ounces rye whisky (Eleven James recommends Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye)
- Absinthe (Eleven James recommends Vieux Pontarlier)
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- 1 sugar cube
- Twist of lemon peel
Start with two Old Fashoined glasses—one chilled and one unchilled. In the chilled glass, swirl around a few drops of absinthe until the inside is completely coated, discarding any excess. In the second glass, muddle a sugar cube with a few drops of water. Then add several small ice cubes, the whiskey, and the bitters. Stir well and strain into the first glass. Garnish with lemon twist.
Cel-Ray Spring Tonic
Fresh, herbaceous celery and cucumber make this fizzy tonic from Brooklyn-based outfit W&P Design seem positively healthy, so go ahead—have one after your next workout.
- 1½ oz. vodka (Eleven James recommends The 86 Co.’s Aylesbury Duck)
- 1⁄3 oz. fresh lime juice
- Ginger ale
- 1 large sprig of celery leaves
- 3 fresh cucumber wheels
- 1 fresh lime wedge
Combine celery leaves, cucumber and lime wedge and muddle. Add remaining ingredients, except ginger ale, and shake with ice. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass, top with ginger ale, and garnish with celery leaves.
- 2 ounces rye whisky (Eleven James recommends Michter’s)
- ¾ oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- ¾ oz. fresh-squeezed orange juice
- 1 lean teaspoon grenadine
Pour whiskey, juices, and grenadine over ice and shake. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. For a hot day refresher, strain into ice-filled collins glass and top with club soda or tonic water.
For the dignified pickle-lover, dill and cucumber add a fresh, savory note to this refreshing vodka cocktail.
- 2 cucumber slices
- 1 dill sprig
- 1 oz. Lime juice
- 2 oz. Vodka (Eleven James recommends Reyka)
- ½ oz. Agave nectar
Gently muddle dill and 1 cucumber slice in a collins glass. Add vodka, lime juice, and agave nectar and shake until blended. Pour over ice and garnish with remaining cucumber slice.
Red Campana Margarita
This unexpected twist on the classic margarita combines multiple warm-weather flavors into an elixir that’s complex enough for an inspiring cocktail, still lets the key ingredient—top-shelf tequila—smolder through it all.
- 1½ oz. tequila (Eleven James recommends Avión Silver)
- 1 oz. Canton Ginger Liquor
- ¾ oz. Fresh Lime Juice
- ½ oz. Agave Syrup
- 2 seedless red bell pepper ring
Place 1 red bell pepper ring in your mixing glass, and gently press your muddler to the bottom of the glass, being careful not to over-muddle—pressing is enough to release the natural oils and flavors. Add agave nectar, lime juice, ginger liqueur, and tequila; then add ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass or on the rocks, and garnish with a red pepper ring.
This classic fizz was traditionally served without ice, but adding several large cubes or a long spear of ice makes for a fine slow-sipper. For extra decadence, substitute chilled dry Champagne for the club soda to make a cooling French 75.
- 2 oz. dry gin (Eleven James recommends Green Hat Gin)
- Chilled club soda
- ¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp. superfine sugar (or use simple syrup)
- 8–10 mint leaves
Place mint leaves in cocktail shaker and gently bruise with muddler. Add gin, lemon juice, and sugar, and stir to dissolve. Fill shaker with large pieces of ice and shake gently (to keep from pulverizing the mint) for about 10 seconds. Double-strain into a highball glass filled with large cubes or ice spear. Top with chilled club soda. Garnish with a mint sprig.
Refreshed White Russian or “The Buzzed Lebowski”
Skye La Torre of Meatball Shop offers a welcome upgrade to this almost-low-brow favorite with high-caliber Grady’s Cold Brew instead of coffee liquer, which simply can’t pass the true java taste test. Grady’s chicory notes help balance the normally cloying sweetness of the drink and add a bonus buzz from the caffeine.
- 1½ oz. vodka (Eleven James recommends Reyka)
- 1 oz. Grady’s Cold Brew
- ¾ oz. Kahlua
- ¾ oz. organic cream
- 3 espresso beans for garnish
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Add ice, shake, and strain over one large cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with espresso beans.
Don’t be repelled by the name, with its connotations of oversized pool drinks and sorority parties—the daiquiri’s roots date back to the height of the English naval empire and are steeped in a history of pirates, skullduggery, and the triangle trade—undisputedly manly adventures.
- ½ oz. overproof white rum (Eleven James recommends Wray & Nephew)
- 1½ oz. white rum (Eleven James recommends 10 Cane)
- ¾ oz. fresh lime juice
- ½ oz. high quality cane syrup
Add all ingredients to a shaker tin. Shake for 15 seconds with ice. Strain into coupe glass.
An endlessly refreshing, all-day-sipping alternative to a Screwdriver—grapefruit’s tart, bitter sweetness compliments a top shelf vodka, rather than masking its flavor, as orange juice does.
- 2 oz. vodka (Eleven James recommends Grey Goose)
- 5 oz. fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
Pour vodka and grapefruit juice on top of medium-sized ice cubes in a cocktail glass. Stir well.
An easy sipper you’ll want in hand through the full breadth of the warm season, the Gold Rush is a breezy alternative to a Sidecar and highlights the key flavor notes of any fine bourbon.
- 2 oz. bourbon (Eleven James recommends Hudson Baby Bourbon)
- ¾ oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- ¾ oz. honey syrup*
*Make by mixing one part honey with two parts hot water. Stir until blended.
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain over a large ice cube into a chilled rocks glass.