Left to right: Barkeeper’s Whimsy, Torino Fizz and Marylebone High
Some nights, looking at a Manhattan is enough to reintroduce a hangover. But nobody said that cocktails had to be so boozy. Before you reach for the club soda, however, know that there is an in-between: low-alcohol cocktails made with vermouths and liqueurs, spirits heavy on sophisticated flavor and light (comparatively) in proof. Don’t drink these because they won’t get you incredibly buzzed. Enjoy them because they’re refreshing and surprising. The fact that you won’t need to chase them with Advil before bed (if you haven’t had 10 of them) is a bonus.
It has no official name—ask for something with Bonal, an herbaceous French aperitif, at Comstock Saloon and this is likely what you’ll get. But this wonderfully dry appetite opener with a slight apple finish (courtesy of the calvados) is an easy sipper despite its sinister, Manhattan-like appearance.
1½ ounces Bonal
1 ounce dry vermouth (preferably Dolin)
½ ounce calvados
Dash of Angostura Bitters
Stir ingredients with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.
—Jeff Hollinger of San Francisco’s Comstock Saloon
A sweet, slightly bitter drink akin to a sour or gin fizz. It gets its name from its key ingredient, the Gran Classico, a new-ish Campari-like liqueur based on an 1860s recipe from Turin, Italy.
¾ ounce Plymouth Sloe Gin
½ ounce Carpano Antica Vermouth
½ ounce Gran Classico Bitter Liqueur (or Campari)
¾ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce simple syrup
½ ounce egg white
Combine all ingredients. Shake vigorously. Strain into Collins glass over ice. Top with splash of soda. Garnish with Peychaud’s Bitters.
—Paul McGee of Chicago’s The Whistler
Think of this cocktail, named after the London street where Pimm’s originated, as a cross between a Pimm’s Cup and a mojito. The sage and lime play nicely off the liqueur’s distinctive sweetness.
2 ounces Pimm’s No. 1
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
3 lime wedges
3 sage leaves
2 dashes orange bitters
Muddle sugar, lime, sage and bitters in a cocktail shaker. Add Pimms and ice. Shake then strain into Collins glass over ice. Top with 2 ounces of soda.
—Marley Tomic-Beard of Seattle’s Spur