Elegance on the Rocks: Classic Cocktails for the Sophisticated

How often do you find yourself at a bar, pondering a worn-out little menu of cocktails and concoctions offered by the house while your mind is hopelessly stuck on “ . . . vodka-soda, please”?  It can be pretty overwhelming, especially if you’re a man and don’t want to appear emasculated in front of a lady, or your friends. But it’s not rocket science. Here are some classic ideas from L’Esthète that might help you save face and, overall, give you an arsenal to fire from when in a bar scene. Americano was first served at the 1860s Italian Café Campari, and consisted of Campari and Cinzano. This drink was a favorite of American expats during Prohibition, so its original name “Milano Torino” was changed to “Americano” as a compliment.  The Americano is composed of Campari, sweet vermouth, and club soda.  Snob Alert: If you want a little James Bond in your drink, ask the bartender to use Perrier instead of club soda. Old Fashioned is definitely your poison if you prefer something simple and solid, yet delicious.  This cocktail is something your grandfather would drink. And not because it lacks adventure, but because it’s sophisticated enough to be appreciated by all ages. Always opt for good whiskey or bourbon, and don’t ruin the perfect simplicity of this drink by adding fruit or soda water. The classic ingredients of an Old Fashioned are whiskey or bourbon, sugar, and bitters. Martini is probably the most-mixed cocktail in modern bars, and, frankly, most of the time it’s just a nice cold martini glass of booze with olives. In the 1940s and into the 1950s, Martini was described as a mixture of two parts gin, one part vermouth, and a dash of orange bitters. Dry Martini is a drink made with dry vermouth, not with very little vermouth (as some seem to think).  You can also substitute gin with vodka, as many people do nowadays, but if you want to be serious about your drink, do it the classic way. At least once. Manhattan’s earliest known printed recipe was published in O. H. Byron's 1884 Modern Bartenders' Guide, citing two versions: one made with French vermouth, the other with Italian. A popular history suggests that the drink originated at the Manhattan Club in New York City in the early 1870s, where it was invented by Dr. Iain Marshall for a banquet hosted by Lady Randolph Churchill in honor of presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden. The cocktail became popular and referred to the name of the club where it originated. Even though today’s younger crowd may call Manhattan a “grandma drink,” its elegance, timeless confidence, and unapologetic attitude will surely rub off on you. Give it a chance—while keeping it traditional: rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Moscow Mule has captured hearts of many Russians, but was in fact invented in Manhattan by John G. Martin, Jack Morgan, and Rudolph Kunett. In 1941, the three friends were in the Chatham bar, wondering what would happen if a two-ounce shot of Martin and Kunett vodka were joined with Morgan's ginger beer and a squeeze of lemon juice. Surprisingly the legend was born and christened the Moscow Mule. The cocktail became most popular in Los Angeles, although it has been regaining its glory during this century on the West Coast. Snob Alert: If the bar offering the Moscow Mule does not serve it in a copper mug, don’t order it.

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