"The cocktail table—the only place . . . where a single man could linger without looking purposeless and alone," remarks the narrator of F. Scott Fitzgerald's epochal Roaring Twenties novel, The Great Gatsby. The era, perhaps the greatest in cocktail history, spawned the invention of many drinks we consider classics today. To honor director Baz Luhrmann's maximalist interpretation of the classic American novel (starring Leonardo DiCaprio), we asked five bartenders from across the country to send us modern-day upgrades of their favorite Jazz Age staples.
The Classic:The martini
The Modern Update: The Monk's Dream
Hallowed by Hemingway for its austere beauty, the martini is reimagined at the new Brooklyn drinkery Tooker Alley, where owner Del Pedro has dedicated an entire portion of the menu to a chronology of martini variations. His own entry on that list hearkens to the martini predecessor, the Martinez, which leans on sweet vermouth with a splash of B&B (brandy and Benedictine), lending an herbal undertow to the gold-hued, boozy libation.
1 3/4 oz Tanqueray gin
3/4 oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
1/4 oz B&B
2 dashes bitters
Stir with cracked ice; strain up into a coupe glass with an orange-peel garnish.
The Classic:The mint julep
The Modern Update: Surfer Rosa
Consumed by Nick Carraway and company in The Great Gatsby to combat a sweltering-hot day, the mint julep remains one of the greatest cooling devices that doesn't require electricity. In Louisville, home of the Kentucky Derby, St. Charles Exchange bar manager Colin Shearn mixes up this bright twist on the southern classic, softening the burn of the bourbon with juicy raspberry syrup and the bittersweet citrus notes of Aperol.
1 1/2 oz Four Roses small-batch bourbon
3/4 oz raspberry syrup
1/4 oz Aperol
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
Build in a julep tin, add crushed ice, stir to combine, add more crushed ice. Insert two straws and a large sprig of mint.
The Classic:The gin rickey
The Modern Update: Amalfi Coast Rickey
A personal favorite of Fitzgerald's, a gin rickey is a dry, tall, bubbly drink traditionally consisting of little more than soda water, booze, and lime juice. At Chicago's the Barrelhouse Flat, bartender Greg Buttera adds a tiny bit of sugar but balances the sweetness with the intensely bitter Gran Classico and strong botanicals of the Beefeater 24 gin for a bracing, refreshing sip.
Briefly shake all except soda water and strain over ice cubes in a Collins glass. Top with about 3 oz of soda water. Garnish with a lime wedge.
The Modern Update: '75 D-Lux
Named for the 75mm artillery shells used in WWI, the French 75 was an immensely popular drink among American expatriates in Europe. Typically made with gin, the version at Austin's Bar Congress has an added depth from a Cognac base. And in place of dry brut champagne, a tartly sweet sparkling rosé tops off the libation.
1 3/4 oz Pierre Fernand Ambre Cognac
1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 barspoon powdered sugar
Patrick Bottex Bugey-Cerdon Rosé La Cueille (to top)
Build all ingredients in a shaker except the rosé. Shake and strain into a coupe. Top with the rosé and garnish with a large orange twist.
The Classic:The sidecar
The Modern Update: Moment in the Sun (pictured above)
Allegedly invented by an American officer in Paris during WWI (he named it after his motorcycle sidecar, apparently), the sidecar is said to be an adaptation of the daiquiri with brandy (Cognac) instead of rum and Cointreau replacing simple syrup. At Portland's Teardrop Lounge, owner Daniel Shoemaker replaces the Cognac with another kind of brandy—applejack—plus a dram of mezcal. His recipe is sweetened only with honey, which makes for a bold, brawny drink with a mellow hint of fruit.
1 oz Laird's bonded applejack
1 oz del Maguey Vida mezcal
3/4 oz honey mix (1:1 honey:water)
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
Shake and strain over fresh ice.
The Classic:Barrelhouse Flat Gin Rickey
The Modern Update: Amalfi Coast Rickey
Originally, the Rickey was made without any sweetener at all. This version incorporates a touch of simple syrup, but the bright bitterness of Gran Classico and Cocchi Rose ensures that it remains as bracing as its forerunner. The name is a reference to the Italian origin of the two ingredients that define the drink's personality. The Amalfi Coast also happens to include some of the most beautiful beaches on earthappropriate for a drink this stunningly refreshing.
1 1/2 oz Beefeater 24 Gin
3/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice
3/4 oz Cocchi Rose Aperitif
1/2 oz Gran Classico
1/4 oz Simple Syrup (1:1 sugar to water)
Briefly shake all except soda water and strain over fresh cubes in a Collins glass. Top with about 3 oz of soda water. Garnish with a lime wedge.