Thirsty Thursday – A five-bottle bar for eleven cocktails (and non-alcoholic alternatives)

Gin-Campari Sour

In my last Thirsty Thursday post, I published my list of essential bar equipment for folks who are interested in making mixology their quarantine hobby. Hopefully these little detours from technology & career advice will help with your work-life harmony while we’re all working from home.

This week, I am going to share my top five ingredients that you’ll need to start exploring mixology. I’m also including non-alcoholic alternatives that you can substitute for any/all of these ingredients. Not everyone drinks alcohol–but that doesn’t have to hold you back from exploring mixology. Some of these cocktails are pretty spirit-forward, but you can convert them all into a low-alcohol or no-alcohol alternative by substituting some or all of the non-alcohol (zero proof) alternatives.

My fave five

If I were stocking a very limited bar, and wanted to experiment with cocktails, I’d stick to these five bar ingredients.

Note that my recipes below all list the spirits in this list, so for the low-alcohol or no-alcohol variations, just use this chart to swap in the zero proof equivalents.

Spirits Zero Proof
Gin Zero proof Gin
Bourbon (or Rye Whiskey) Zero proof Whiskey
Sweet Vermouth
(my favorite is Punt e Mes)
Versin Aperitif
Campari San Peligrino sanbitter
(or Bitter Rosso)
Angostura Bitters Fee Brothers Old-fashioned bitters

A note on bitters: Angostura bitters are 45% alcohol, but you normally just use a few drops. If you want ZERO proof (what the US FDA calls “alcohol-free”), steer clear of them (ex, they are haram). But if you just want very low alcohol (what the US FDA calls “non-alcoholic”), then you can still use the Angostura bitters. I much prefer the taste–but taste is personal so feel free to go your own way!

If you want to get a second type of bitters, pick up some orange bitters. Some of the recipes I include might call for orange bitters, but you can totally use angostura bitters if you’re trying to keep your investment low.

These recipes will also make use of citrus juice & peel, simple syrup, and even egg whites. These are perishable kitchen ingredients, so I’m not including them in the above list, because you’ll probably just pinch them from the kitchen pantry.

What the hell can you make with this stuff?

These spirits go particularly well together, with many drinks using either bourbon or gin, plus a combination of the other ingredients.

Take note that the build methods repeat themselves: shaken, stirred, and occasionally made right in the glass.

The Negroni

  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • garnish: orange peel twist

In a pint glass, or the large side of your Boston Shaker, add a fistful of ice, and all three ingredients. Stir (don’t shake!) until chilled. If you hold the base of the pint glass/shaker with one hand, and stir with the other, you’ll know it’s cold enough when the glass/shaker feels icy cold from the outside.

I prefer to strain into a coupe, manhattan, or martini glass. Some folks like this in a rocks glass with some ice. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.

Note: I hate martini glasses. They slosh & spill every time you try to take a sip. Coupes are the “original martini glass” and less spill-prone.

Sweet Martini

  • 2 1/2 ounce gin
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 or 2 dashes of angostura bitters

In a pint glass, or the large side of your Boston Shaker, add a fistful of ice, and all three ingredients. Stir (don’t shake!) until chilled. If you hold the base of the pint glass/shaker with one hand, and stir with the other, you’ll know it’s cold enough when the glass/shaker feels icy cold from the outside.

Serve this strained into a coupe or martini glass.

Gin-Campari sour

Source: Saveur Magazine

  • 1 1/2 ounce gin
  • 3/4 ounce Campari
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • garnish: a small orange wedge or orange twist

In a cocktail shaker, combine the gin, Campari, lemon juice, simple syrup, bitters, and egg white, and shake until combined. Fill the shaker three-quarters full with ice and shake vigorously until the egg white is incorporated and frothy, about 30 seconds.

Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with the orange wedge or orange twist.

Gin Gimlet

  • 2 ounce gin
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup
  • garnish: lime peel twist

In a pint glass, or the large side of your Boston Shaker, add a fistful of ice, and all three ingredients. Stir (don’t shake!) until chilled.

Strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass, or strain over a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with the lime twist.

Negroni Sbagliato

This means “broken negroni” or “messed up negroni”

  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 (or 2) ounce sparkling wine (prosecco or cava)
  • garnish: orange peel twist

In a pint glass, or the large side of your Boston Shaker, add a fistful of ice, the gin, and Campari. Stir (don’t shake!) until chilled.

Strain into a champagne flute or wine glass, top with sparkling wine and orange twist.

Americano

This means “broken negroni” or “messed up negroni”

  • 1 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 1/2 ounce Campari
  • 2 ounces soda water
  • garnish: orange peel twist

In a pint glass, or the large side of your Boston Shaker, add a fistful of ice, the sweet vermouth, and Campari. Stir (don’t shake!) until chilled.

Strain into a highball or rocks glass, top with soda water and orange twist.

Boulevardier

(this is just a Negroni with bourbon instead of gin!)

  • 1 ounce bourbon
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • garnish: orange peel twist

In a pint glass, or the large side of your Boston Shaker, add a fistful of ice, and all three ingredients. Stir (don’t shake!) until chilled. If you hold the base of the pint glass/shaker with one hand, and stir with the other, you’ll know it’s cold enough when the glass/shaker feels icy cold from the outside.

Strain into a coupe, manhattan, or martini glass. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.

Manhattan

(this is basically a sweet martini with bourbon instead of gin!)

  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes of angostura bitters
  • Garnish: orange peel twist or cherry

In a pint glass, or the large side of your Boston Shaker, add a fistful of ice, and all three ingredients. Stir (don’t shake!) until chilled.

Serve this strained into a coupe or martini glass. Garnish with orange peel or cherry.

Reverse Manhattan

“Reverse” cocktails switch the ratio of the main spirit with the other mixers. In this case, the sweet and bitter flavors of the vermouth come to the forefront, and the boozier bourbon takes a backseat.

  • 2 ounces sweet vermouth
  • 1 ounce bourbon
  • 2 dashes angostura bitters
  • Garnish: orange peel twist or cherry

In a pint glass, or the large side of your Boston Shaker, add a fistful of ice, and all three ingredients. Stir (don’t shake!) until chilled.

Serve this strained into a coupe or martini glass. Garnish with orange peel or cherry.

Old Fashioned

  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1-2 tsp water
  • 3 dashes angostura bitters
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • Garnish: orange peel twist and/or cherry

In a rocks glass, combine the sugar, water, and bitters. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. (Sometimes, I cheat and just use 2 tsp of simple syrup!) Add a couple of ice cubes (or one big one), and the bourbon. Stir until chilled. Add your orange peel and/or cherry to garnish.

Whiskey Sour

  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup
  • Optional: 1 egg white
  • Garnish: orange peel twist and/or cherry

In a cocktail shaker, combine the all ingredients (except the garnish), and shake until combined. Fill the shaker three-quarters full with ice and shake vigorously until the egg white is incorporated and frothy, about 30 seconds. (If you skip the egg white, it won’t get frothy.)

Strain into a highball or rocks glass, filled with ice. Garnish with the orange wedge or orange twist.

What’s Next

I picked this list of ingredients & recipes because they are really just all variations on the same few recipes. You can experiment more just by using the same recipes, and substituting in a different (but similar) ingredient.

You could substitute scotch for bourbon. You could substitute vodka for gin.

Explore amaros

Campari and sweet vermouth are both from the amaro family of sweet-and-bitter Italian liqueur. If you like bitter, try substituting Cynar for one or both of them in any of the recipes above. If you want something a little more citrusy and less bitter, try substituting amaro montenegro for one or both of the Campari & sweet vermouth. There are a lot of amaro in the world, and I kind of love them because they are all so different. Try adding a little amaro to soda water or sparkling wine, for a spritz.

With a little exploration and practice, you’ll be able to mix every cocktail.

2 Comments

  1. No vodka or tequila??

    Yes, you have isolated a nice set of ingredients; no, I wouldn’t drink any of those cocktails due to personal preference. 🙂

    • That’s what I get for not reading every line. “You could substitute vodka for gin”. I apologize.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.