When I think of drinks that are considered underrated, I think of things like a gin and tonic which, presumably, is composed of three super basic ingredients: Gin, tonic and a squeeze of lime. However, the style of gin, brand of tonic and freshness of that squeeze of lime are all factors and flavors you can play with, turning what sounds like a simple beverage into a mind-blowing concoction. For example, the G&T the research chemist father of Toby Cecchini, co-owner of the Long Island Bar in Brooklyn, devised, which Cecchini wrote about for Imbibe magazine back in 2016:
“When I was young, but just entering adulthood, I would take a Greyhound bus up to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, several hours north of Madison, where [my dad] ended up with his second wife. Upon arrival, he would make us a pitcher of G&Ts in his idiosyncratic fashion, which very much blended his mastery of flavors with his knowledge of chemistry. Emphasizing how gin is really just a solvent, like many he used daily, he would cut and juice limes, and then julienne the rinds, which held the all-important citrus oil. He would dump these in the bottom of a large crystal pitcher and then add room-temperature gin to them. These he would muddle together for a few minutes to extract that aromatic oil from the rinds, so important to the end result, along with a certain measure of leftover juice, enough to make the mixture translucent and imbue it with a necessary tartness. This was, he later emphasized, all the juice needed; one was not to dump the juice already squeezed back into the mix. That, you could set aside for something else.
He would then crack ice cubes nonchalantly in his hand with the back of a heavy spoon, showering each one in turn into the pitcher as he talked on about this and that. He would swirl all that together and then, having put the tonic water into the freezer for the final half hour or so, he would pour the frigid tonic water carefully down the side of the pitcher, so as to not lose the carbonation, and then stir the whole thing gingerly with a chopstick.”
The same can be said of the daiquiri, which also has three ingredients (rum, sugar and lime) and has been overlooked by drinkers since the 1970s, when it was ruined by artificial limes and blenders. The combinations for daiquiris, like gin and tonics, are nearly limitless: Use a light rum, a dark rum, a spiced rum, an agricole; use less simple syrup, use a flavored simple syrup, use demerara. Each is going to be a radically different drink.
I recently, however, came across an r/AskReddit thread in which some kind (or unemployed) redditor compiled a list of 30 “underrated” cocktails culled from the top comments of the thread. To get didactic about it, some of them aren’t cocktails, simply things to try (e.g., Fernet). But more importantly, everything on the list is an amazing cocktail, and so, I’m struggling as much with the “underrated” designation as anything else. That said, there are a handful of drinks on the list that are under-ordered, and that’s a fucking shame. Those drinks…
The Trinidad Sour is a weird drink, but that was the whole point. Created in 2009 by Giuseppe Gonzalez while he was head bartender at New York City’s famous Clover Club, the Trinidad Sour turns everything even seasoned bartenders think is supposed to go in a cocktail upside down. The base spirit of this drink — i.e., the alcohol is used in the highest volume — is Angostura Bitters, the deep red, spicy/bitter tincture used in drinks like Manhattans and Old Fashioneds.
Ango, as we bar folk call it, is typically measured in dashes: A Manhattan, for example, uses two to three dashes of it as a salt-and-pepper kind of seasoning for the whiskey and sweet vermouth. The original recipe for the Trinidad Sour, however, calls for 1.5 ounces of Angostura. That’s like making pasta salad with two cans of olives and half a cup of noodles.
Somehow, though, it works.
Angostura has an earthy, bitter and lightly spicy taste. First produced as a medicinal tincture in 1824, the same recipe is used today. (Ango and ginger ale is a classic stomach-settler and head-clearer after a night of heavy drinking.) It’s also almost 90 proof. You can absolutely get drunk off shots of Ango, but that’s like getting drunk on Listerine. (Bitters is considered “non-potable” and can be sold in many places that cannot otherwise sell alcohol because no one in their right mind would actually drink enough of the stuff to be affected by the alcohol content.)
Until, that is, Gonzalez combined it with 1 ounce orgeat (aka almond syrup); ¾ ounce lemon juice; and ½ ounce overproof rye — or the composition of the Trinidad Sour. What you end up with is a dry, herbaceous, well-rounded drink that tastes almost like a gingersnap cookie.
I wouldn’t order one of these anywhere but a bar known for its cocktails — and even then don’t be surprised if your bartender looks at you a little strangely. If they do make a Trinidad Sour for you, though, expect people to ask what you’re drinking: The color of this drink is incredible.
Oh, and I wouldn’t have more than two. It might not taste like it, but there’s 2 ounces of overproof alcohol in there. Translation: It’ll knock you on your ass.
The Penicillin is one of my all-time favorite cocktails — that I always forget to order. Created by Sam Ross in 2006 while at Milk & Honey in NYC, this blend of Scotch; ginger-honey syrup (¾ ounce) and lemon juice (¾ ounce) is like drinking an iced ginger tea by campfire. In terms of the booze portion, the drink is built around a blended Scotch, like Pig’s Nose (2 ounces in total), but it’s topped off with an incredibly peaty Scotch, like Laphroaig 10 Year (¼ ounce), giving you a blast of smokiness on the nose, followed by a honey-sweet, ginger-spicy and citrus sip. (Without that smoky hit of peat on top of the drink, you’re missing its beauty.)
If you’re looking for Penicillin on a cocktail menu, you’ll likely find it on a list of brunch drinks: Everyone knows brunch is just a late breakfast for hungover people, and this drink will definitely cure what ails you.
Corpse Reviver #2
I’ll remember the Corpse Reviver #2 forever, because it’s one of the first real cocktails I learned to make, which, given that it’s equal amounts four ingredients — 1 ounce gin, 1 ounce Lillet Blanc (or Cocchi Americano), 1 ounce Cointreau and 1 ounce fresh lemon juice — and a splash of absinthe, I suppose isn’t saying a whole lot.
Still, the thing about Corpse Revivers is that while they’re practically all alcohol, they taste like a complicated lemonade. Moreover, the Corpse Reviver #2 is, as the name and number suggest, a drink in a category of cocktails designed to be hangover cures. Made popular by Harry Craddock’s 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, which also includes a recipe for the Corpse Reviver #1 (a frightful cognac-based concoction), there are now four cocktails in the Corpse Reviver category, though the #2 is by far the most popular (and, imho, palatable).
It also — despite its name and reputation as a hangover aid — can prove deadly. As Craddock notes, “Four of these taken in quick succession will unrevive the corpse again.”