In our guide on The History Of Cocktails, we mentioned that there were 6 main root cocktails. Here we take a look at each one and why it has been so important to cocktail culture. We've also included traditional recipes so you can make them at home.
The OG’s - Root Cocktails
Highball – Spirit mixed with soda water to lengthen it. Originally using a Scotch base. This sounds so simple, and it really is, but so much has come from it – from a G&T to a Bloody Mary.
To make: Add 30ml of your favourite Scotch to a highball glass, fill it with ice, and top it with soda. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
Old Fashioned – So, in the 1860’s all these new bartenders are making The Cocktail using their different bitters and fruity syrups. This led to the Old-Fashioned, because people didn’t want the fancy flavours the new young folk were putting in it – they wanted one “the old-fashioned way”. As Bourbon got more and more popular and accessible, and Genever dropped off, it took over as the go-to base spirit.
The Old-Fashioned is such a historically-important cocktail because it set the tone for consistency between bars. At the start of the 1860's, you could go and order a cocktail in a saloon, and you'd get a combination of whatever spirit and fruits the bartenders had to hand. A decade-or-so later, ordering an Old-Fashioned was a way of telling a bartender exactly what you wanted, and how you wanted it.
To make: Add 60ml of Bourbon/Rye, 1 bar spoon of simple syrup and 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters to a rocks glass. Add one big rock of ice, and stir for 20 seconds. Garnish with an orange twist.
The Martini – Gin and dry Vermouth. Sounds so simple, and that’s where we come in. It’s such a fragile drink that you have to get an idea of how the customer wants it, and find the best gin for that. If somebody wants their Martini dry, as well as using very little vermouth (that’s what dry means), we can also use a dry gin to pair with that. Wet = more dry Vermouth.
The Martini is the root cocktail of, amongst so many others, the Manhattan, which is a blend of rye and sweet vermouth using Martini ratios, but also includes bitters.
To make: Add 60ml of gin and 15ml of dry vermouth to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir for 20-30 seconds. Strain into a chilled Martini glass, and garnish with a lemon twist/3 olives
Daiquiri – The King of the sours – Rum. Lime. Sugar. 60ml:30ml:15ml. 2:1:½. (Sometimes people go 60:20:20 or something roughly resembling that, and that’s fine). The Daiquiri is important because every sour you’ve ever heard of uses one of these formulas, or something very close to it, as a base. 60ml of booze. 30ml of citrus. 15ml of sweetener.
A Gimlet is a Daiquiri but swap the rum for gin.
A Mojito is just a Daiquiri with mint.
A Southside’s just a Mojito with gin instead of rum.
An Eastside is just a Southside with the addition of cucumber.
To make: Add 60ml of rum, 30ml of lime juice and 20ml of simple syrup to a shaker. Add ice, and shake for 10 seconds. Double strain into a chilled coupe.
Flip - Flips are probably the least well known of the root cocktails. The base recipe is alcohol, sugar and a whole egg. Flips are a great winter drink, or as a dessert. Whereas egg white is used to create a separate layer of foam on top of a drink, the use and emulsification of a whole egg gives the entire drink a rich, creamy texture. This effect led to bartenders coming up with creative alternatives to whole eggs, that still hit that creamy spot – White Russian’s and Pina Colada’s being the most well-known ones.
Flips are an acquired taste, and honestly the hardest of the lot to get to taste good, because unlike egg white, the whole egg imparts significant flavour. They are seeing a bit of a resurgence with the speakeasy hipster types, and with their freshly grated nutmeg on top they do bang on the socials.
To make: Add 60ml of any spirit and 20ml of simple syrup to a tin. Crack a whole egg in there. Add ice and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Double strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with fresh grated nutmeg.
Sidecar – Another classic sour, but with a difference – You use a liqueur instead of a syrup to sweeten this cocktail. It’s Cognac, lemon juice and Triple Sec. 45ml:30ml:15ml. The volume of alcoholic liquid stays the same despite the amount of spirit dropping to 45ml, because the sweetener is alcoholic. Happy days.
The Sidecar is the root cocktail of classics such as the Cosmo, Margarita, White Lady and Last Word.
A White Lady is a Gin Sour, but reduce the gin to 45ml and replace that missing 15ml of alcohol with Cointreau. As Cointreau is a liqueur, it’s sweetened, so we don’t need the sugar syrup. We might add 5ml of sugar syrup once we’ve tasted the drink, because depending on how dry the gin we chose to use is/how sour the lemon is, we may need to balance it back.
To make: Add 45ml of Cognac, 30ml of lemon juice and 20ml of Cointreau to a tin. Shake with ice for 10 seconds. Double strain into a chilled coupe with a sugar rim. Garnish with an orange twist.
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