Category Archives: gin

Gin Palace

 

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Ah, to live in a palace made of gin, afloat on giant ice cubes in a sea of tonic water, where cocktails were coloured by the tears of rainbow-hued unicorns …

Ah, to stop with such nonsense and make yourself a drink …

The term ‘gin palace’ harks back to 1820s England. Before then, gin shops were just that; small places that sold gin to either take away or drink standing up within the establishment. Legislation changed, and the gin shops had to also be able to sell ale or wine, which meant they had to get bigger. Meanwhile, fashionable new shops with lavish fit-outs and gas lamps were becoming popular; they had gorgeous displays and were manned by staff behind numerous counters. It wasn’t long before the gin shops followed suit, with ornate decor and counters for their staff to stand behind. In the late 1820s they were known as gin palaces, and although apparently none of the original palaces are still around, they have left a lasting legacy; their old-fashioned counters are the modern-day bars you see in pubs and cocktail lounges.

Melbourne’s Gin Palace opened in 1997 (well before gin became trendy again), and has been serving up gin and good times in equal measure ever since. It’s a lavish yet somewhat grungy laneway bar, the kind of comfortable, welcoming place where you might drop in for just one drink and emerge several hours (or days) later. It’s exactly the kind of gin palace you could imagine living in, though they don’t have rainbow-hued unicorns (yet).

Apart from their names, what the cocktail and the bar have in common is that they’re a sophisticated yet easily approachable way to kick off a big night – or end one. The cocktail is sweetly reminiscent of berries and ice cream, but the gin stops it from being overly cloying. You can make this using quaffing gin and sparkling wine, but if you really want to capture that palatial feeling, go all out and use your fanciest gin and Champagne, dahling. Mwah!

INGREDIENTS

15ml gin

15ml blackberry liqueur or cassis (which is blackcurrant liqueur, and still delicious)

10ml vanilla liqueur (or good-quality vanilla vodka, such as Absolut Vanilia)

Champagne or sparkling wine

Blueberries to garnish, if desired

GLASS

Champagne flute, chilled

METHOD

Pour the gin and liqueurs (or their substitutes) into a chilled Champagne flute, then top up slowly with the bubbly. Garnish with the blueberries, if you like, or sip as is.

RECIPE BY

The Gin Palace cocktail recipe comes from Shaken: 250 very sexy cocktails (Murdoch Books, 2004).

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Astoria and Bacardi Vermouth

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The Waldorf Astoria is one of those very storied hotels whose name evokes a sense of old-world glamour and sophistication, and this lovely new collection of cocktail recipes certainly adds to that reputation.

The book contains hundreds of recipes for drinks served at the hotel’s bars – some are retro, some are classics, others are modern inventions, but all have been meticulously researched by the hotel’s bar manager, Frank Caiafa, and almost all of them are accompanied by his carefully compiled notes on the drinks’ histories, preparation methods or flavour profiles.

I started my exploration of the book by making two very simple cocktails, both of which use just vermouth and one spirit. While I preferred the delicate, herbaceous notes of the Astoria (pictured above), which Caiafa describes as a ‘reverse martini’, the Bacardi Vermouth (pictured below) was an interesting way to get to know the flavour of a sweet vermouth – I’d love to try it with various brands of sweet vermouth to see which one I like best. These both work well as aperitifs, best sipped while reading Caiafa’s book. Happy drinking – and happy reading!

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ASTORIA

INGREDIENTS

2 oz (60ml) Noilly Prat extra dry vermouth (I confess I used Dolin dry instead)

1 oz (30ml) Hayman’s Old Tom gin (have you tried this yet? It is a sweeter, old fashioned style of gin that I love.)

orange peel, to garnish

GLASS

Cocktail

METHOD

Add ingredients to a mixing glass. Half-fill the glass with ice, stir well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange peel.

BACARDI VERMOUTH

INGREDIENTS

1.5oz (45ml) Bacardi Superior white rum

1.5 oz (45ml) Dolin dry OR Cinzano Rosso sweet vermouth (I used the latter)

GLASS

Cocktail

METHOD

Add ingredients to a mixing glass. Half-fill the glass with ice, stir well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange peel.

RECIPES BY

Both recipes are from The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book by Frank Caiafa (Penguin Books, 2016).

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Gins N Roses I & II

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This week, after waiting since, oh, the 1980s, I FINALLY got to see my favourite band from childhood, Guns N Roses. Were they as good as they used to be? I don’t know – You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory – but they played some of my very favourite songs and everyone had a great night, so who cares? That’s fine in My World. And so, to celebrate, I thought I’d make a cocktail in their honour. But what to call it? Sweet Child O’ Wine? Catcher in the Rye Whiskey? Mama Gin? (OK, OK – Mama Kin is not strictly one of their songs, it’s a cover. Don’t put me Right Next Door to Hell for that.) I decided Anything Goes and that the drink should just be named after the band – and so I attempted to make something reflecting the moniker-Slash-pun Gins N Roses. Yep, you might be thinking ‘You’re Crazy’, but You Ain’t the First. And it’s not like I’ve been fertilising my imagination in the cold November Rain – I’ve just been greasing the Axls on the old pun wheels. (If all this reading is making you Dizzy with thirst, grab a Duff… but don’t get too Adler’d. Someone has to be across this post, after all. Stradlin’ it, in fact… )

All of this just goes to show It’s So Easy to have an Appetite for Distraction – I really hope you’re not Out ta Get Me as this Double Talkin’ Jive fills the space that should be filled with a cocktail recipe. It’s just that, well, it turns out I’m better at working song titles into a sentence than I am at inventing cocktails. Don’t Damn Me.

I’ll stop beating this Dead Horse – here’s my attempt at a cocktail intended to reflect the band. I wanted something so hard-hitting (like their music) that it could Get in the Ring, be as bitter as an Estranged band member and still feature notes of roses So Fine they could look Pretty Tied Up.

GINS N ROSES I

INGREDIENTS

60ml Four Pillars Navy Strength Gin

30ml honey syrup (made by dissolving 10ml honey in 20ml boiling water)

15ml lime juice

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon rosewater (to taste)

tonic

GLASS

Cocktail

METHOD

Add all ingredients except tonic to a mixing glass that’s half-full of ice. Stir really well, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and add a dash of tonic.

If this tastes too much like grandma’s scented drawer-liners (ie if you find the rosewater overpowering), dump the whole lot into a chilled tumbler that’s half-full of ice, add tonic and you’ve got a fancy G&T. It’s not a One in a Million cocktail, but it does taste like something Nice Boys would drink.

RECIPE BY

It’s not by My (friend) Michelle – it’s by the 52 Cocktails crew.

And you know what? It’s not great. But if you didn’t like it, Don’t Cry – there’s another version of the Gins N Roses just below, and it just might make you think you’re in Paradise City. Ain’t it Fun experimenting?

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I confess, I’m not a massive fan of the Gins N Roses I. But back in the ’90s the band released two albums on the same day, Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion  II. So surely I should get two goes at getting the cocktail right – all I need is just a little Patience. (I’ve been  working the bar at night, just trying to get it right…) It’s not a Bad Obsession – I just don’t want this idea to become Dust N Bones. And so, here we have the next version:

GINS N ROSES II

INGREDIENTS

60ml Tanqueray gin

30ml lemon juice

15ml sugar syrup

3 good shakes Angostura Bitters

2 shakes Bar Keep Chinese Bitters

soda, to top

GLASS

Old-fashioned or tumbler, rimmed with Angostura sugar. (To make this, simply add enough bitters to white sugar to turn the sugar pink. There’s more info on it here.)

METHOD

Add all ingredients except the soda to a cocktail shaker that’s half-full of ice. Shake it hard – Rocket, Queen! – and then pour everything, including the ice, into the tumbler. Top with soda and a few more dashes of each of the bitters.

RECIPE BY

This is a rough variation on a Fitzgerald (which is a Dale DeGroff creation) that was devised by the 52 Cocktails crew. The ‘pink rocks’ (Angostura sugar) pay homage to the band’s, er, lifestyle, while the refreshing, moreish concoction is just the Welcome to the Jungle I was looking for.

Cheers!

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New Fashioned & Old Fashioned

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I love a good Old Fashioned and I love gin, so it’s only natural that the first drink I tried from the new Dan Jones book, Gin: Shake, Muddle, Stir was a gin-based old fashioned – aptly called a New Fashioned.

It’s made almost entirely of gin – think of it as a martini of sorts for people who really, REALLY don’t like vermouth – so it’s logical that Jones instructs readers to use ‘really excellent gin’. To me, that means Four Pillars or West Winds (actually, it means a bunch of others, too, but hey, who’s counting?) and today I opted for West Winds The Sabre, partly because its blue-tinged bottle matched the book and partly because I’d been looking for an excuse to crack open a new bottle and this seemed like the perfect reason. (I must rethink this policy of waiting for a special occasion to open new bottles. New bottles of liquor could be languishing for days behind my bar if I keep this up.)

You’ve got to really love gin to enjoy this cocktail – so naturally, I loved it. It’s a great way to enjoy your very fave gin with just a hint of sweetness and not a lot else going on; if you’re not a gin-head, don’t bother.

NEW FASHIONED

INGREDIENTS

60ml really excellent gin (seriously, use your very very best gin)

splash of sugar syrup (I used 5ml)

dash of Angostura Bitters

dash of orange bitters (I used Angostura Orange Bitters)

strip of lime peel, to garnish

GLASS

Tumbler or old-fashioned glass

METHOD

Add a massive chunk of ice to your tumbler (one of those spherical moulds of ice will work, or just use a heap of decent-sized ice cubes). Add gin and sugar syrup and stir briefly to combine. Splash the bitters over the top and garnish with the lime peel.

RECIPE BY

This is from Gin: Shake, Muddle, Stir by Dan Jones (Hardie Grant Books, 2016)

 

HOUSE OLD FASHIONED

If you’re not into gin, make an Old Fashioned instead. Recipes vary a bit – here’s an ultra-cool one courtesy of Esquire – but the recipe below, a variation on the traditional recipe, is the one served at 52 Cocktails’ HQ.

INGREDIENTS

60ml Johnnie Walker red label whisky

15ml sugar syrup

several dashed Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters

GLASS

Old-fashioned or tumbler

METHOD

Place several ice cubes in a mixing glass. Add half the whisky and half the sugar syrup and stir well. Add a few more ice cubes and the remaining ingredients and stir again. Half-fill the serving glass with ice. Strain the cocktail into the glass and serve.

RECIPE BY

This is a variation on the theme of a traditional Old Fashioned, and we’ve been serving it up for years. The Black Walnut Bitters adds a delicious caramel note, changing the drink from a gutsy pre-dinner tipple to something you could almost serve with (or instead of) dessert. It’s a divine winter warmer, too.

Adding a fruit garnish is optional – there’s a bit of debate about whether a regular Old Fashioned should be garnished or not – but, for the record, our House Old Fashioned has never sported a garnish, and no one has ever complained.

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Vesper Martini

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If you’re looking for an elegant way to kickstart your night, try a Vesper Martini. It’s the drink ordered by James Bond in Casino Royale, and it’s a gamble with a great payoff: it tastes like a lighthearted martini but it’s got enough vrrroom to fuel a whole night out.

INGREDIENTS

50ml gin (I used Tanqueray)

15ml vodka

10ml Lillet Blanc

lemon twist, to garnish

GLASS

Coupe, chilled

METHOD

Half-fill a mixing glass with ice, then add the liquids and stir* well until chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with the lemon twist.

*Yes, yes, Bond asks for his to be shaken, not stirred, but martini purists insist he is wrong and I am inclined to agree – a martini should be stirred. For more about this, check out Martini by Frank Moorhouse – part essay, part love letter to what is probably the world’s most famous – and famously debated over – cocktail.

RECIPE BY

This version appears in one of my very favourite cocktail books, Ten Cocktails: the art of convivial drinking by Alice Lascelles (Saltyard Books, 2015). It’s a delicious read about – you guessed it – ten cocktails; the stories behind them, the author’s personal experiences with them, the history of the spirits they contain, and all manner of interesting trivia. Recipes are also included (spoiler alert: despite the title, there are more than ten recipes). If you like thinking about what you’re drinking, this is the book for you.

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Gin Sling

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Light and summery and somehow reminiscent of ginger beer without being cloyingly sweet, this cocktail is a classic for a reason. Its herbaceous undertones (courtesy of the vermouth) and zesty, fruity notes play well together; the only problem is, it’s far too easy to drink a bucketful in one go. Yum.

INGREDIENTS

45ml gin

30ml sweet vermouth (I used Martini Rosso)

22ml lemon juice

30ml sugar syrup

1 dash Angostura Bitters

Soda water, to top up

Lemon or orange peel spiral, to garnish

GLASS

Collins

METHOD

Add all ingredients except soda and garnish to a cocktail shaker that’s half-full of ice. Shake hard, then strain into a Collins glass that’s half-full of fresh ice. Top up with the soda water and garnish with the peel.

RECIPE BY

In his book The Craft of the Cocktail (Clarkson Potter, 2002), where this cocktail appears, Dale DeGroff says this is a late 19th-century sling recipe.

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The Abbey: a tale of two gins

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‘But why do you need more than 20 kinds of gin?’ said no one, ever.

Actually, that’s not true. A few non-gin-drinkers (yes, they do exist, and yes, I do occasionally deign to talk to them) have asked me this exact question when they’ve glimpsed my rather meagre collection of the good stuff, to which my usual response is to either launch into a long-winded explanation about all the different kinds of gin or offer them a gin flight so they can taste those differences for themselves. After all, it’s a bit like asking why you need different types of wine, or beer, or underpants: it’s essential. But now I’ve discovered the Abbey, the days of those discussions and flights may be over. Here is a cocktail that tastes completely different depending on which gin you use. (Yes, yes, I’m sure there are many such cocktails, but this is the first one I’ve made using two ostensibly ‘dry’ gins in which the flavours end up being worlds apart…try it for yourself, you’ll be amazed.)

The Abbey is originally from The Savoy Cocktail Book, which was published in 1930. Gin was big back then, but not even the legends behind the bar at The Savoy could have predicted just how many regional varieties of dry gins would have existed nearly a century later, when the 52 Cocktails crew decided to try making the drink using two vastly different dry gins. Fittingly, one of the gins (Tanqueray) is a London Dry Gin, in honour of the Savoy’s location; the other is Australian, just like 52 Cocktails. Specifically, it’s McHenry’s, a Tasmanian drop that pitches itself as a ‘classic dry gin’. Drunk neat, the Tanqueray has more of a floral nature than the McHenry’s, which (perhaps oddly enough) seems drier and earthier than the London Dry. But in a cocktail? Wow. What a difference. Here, the McHenry’s comes into its own, enlivening the already floral notes of the drink to new heights, while the Tanqueray makes it taste almost medicinal. And this, dear friends, is why it’s essential to have many kinds of gin (and whiskey, and tequila, etc) on hand; because sometimes a cocktail that seems a bit ‘meh’ may end up being wonderful if you just switch the brand or style of spirit. So keep experimenting – that’s the spirit!

THE ABBEY

INGREDIENTS

45ml dry gin

22ml Lillet Blonde

22ml freshly squeezed orange juice

1 dash orange bitters (be careful with the bitters – any more than a dash will overpower the drink)

GLASS

Cocktail glass or coupe

METHOD

Add all ingredients to a shaker that’s half-full of ice. Shake, hard, then strain into the glass. Garnish with orange peel if desired.

TASTES LIKE

Well, that depends on which type of gin you use – and, although we haven’t actually tried this out, we dare say it depends on which type of orange juice and orange bitters you use, too. Done right, this is the kind of orange-based drink you’d like to have with brunch – light, refreshing, and innocuous. Done wrong, it’s a heavy-handed version of a screwdriver – drinkable, but not as enjoyable.

RECIPE BY

Although this recipe first appeared in the Savoy Cocktail Book, this version comes from The Architecture of the Cocktail by Amy Zavatto (Harper Collins, 2013).

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Paradise

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‘It seems a bit presumptuous to call a cocktail “Paradise”,’ said 52 Cocktails’ CTO (Cocktail Tasting Officer). But that was before he took his first sip. This ambrosial, old-world drink was first printed in Harry Craddock’s 1930 classic The Savoy Cocktail Book and we think it’s time it had a revival. It’s the kind of drink you can picture a 50s starlet sipping while draped across as chaise lounge making bedroom eyes at you; sunny and bright yet luxurious, sophisticated and sexy all at the same time. Paradise, indeed.

INGREDIENTS

30ml gin

15ml apricot brandy

15ml freshly squeezed orange juice

dash of lemon juice

GLASS

Your fanciest cocktail or coupe glass, dahling.

METHOD

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker that’s half-full of ice. Shake hard, then strain into the glass. Garnish with a lemon wheel if desired.

RECIPE BY

This version appears in Margaret Fulton’s Book of Cocktails & Party Drinks (Octopus Books, 1984). For more about this book, click here.

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Happy World Gin Day!

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Hurray, World Gin Day is here! There are loads of events to help you celebrate this magnificent occasion (which is not just an excuse to drink gin – it’s a reason), or you can simply kick back at home with a gin-based cocktail. A G&T or martini are the obvious choices, but if you’re tired of them then check your pulse and, if you’re still alive, have a Gin Old Fashioned instead.

GIN OLD FASHIONED

I’m not much of a whisky drinker but I am a big fan of the Whisky Old Fashioned, which tempers the whisky’s fire with a decent dollop of sweetness and rounds it out with the earthiness of Angostura bitters. There’s a lengthy (but well worth reading) discourse about this drink, and a decent recipe, here.

Despite the fact that I usually use Johnnie Walker instead of the prescribed bourbon in my Old Fashioneds (oops), I’d never realised white spirits could be substituted for the whisky until I was idly flicking through the Savoy Cocktail Book and came across their Old Fashioned recipe, which says spirits such as gin or rum can be used in place of the whisky. Mind = blown. And so I tried out a Gin Old Fashioned, as follows.

INGREDIENTS

60ml gin (I used Tanqueray)

15ml sugar syrup

3 good dashes Angostura Bitters

Orange slice, to garnish

GLASS

Old fashioned, of course!

METHOD

Mix the sugar syrup and bitters in the old fashioned glass. Add a few cubes of ice and half the gin. Stir well. Add a few more cubes of ice and the remaining gin. Stir. Garnish with the orange slice.

TASTES LIKE

This is simultaneously robust, zesty, frivolous and refreshing – the kind of old fashioned you should drink in summer, when you want a serious drink but it’s too damn hot for a traditional old fashioned.

RECIPE BY

It’s based on so many traditional old fashioned recipes that it seems unfair to credit one source. But we’ll happily say it was inspired by The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock (first published 1930 by Constable & Co).

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE

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The predominant flavour and colour in a gin old fashioned comes from Angostura Bitters – if you love bitters, you will love this drink, which is not bitter as such (thanks to the sugar syrup) but full of flavour. And since the 52 Cocktails crew are bitters freaks, it seemed like a good idea to test out some other bitters in a gin old fashioned to see what it did for them. So we mixed up a second batch, omitting the Angostura, divided it into teeny little glasses and added a few drops each of some different bitters to see what would happen. We experimented with Greenall’s gin and a four-pack of bitters from the Bitter End.

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Wow. What a way to try bitters. While we concluded that we prefer our Gin Old Fashioneds made, well, the old-fashioned way, this method of bitters-tasting allowed us to explore the flavour profile of these unusually flavoured bitters in a really fun way – as a bitters flight. I liked the smokiness of the Memphis Barbeque Bitters; the CTO preferred the coriander-led Thai Bitters. The Bitter End recommends using the BBQ bitters in a Manhattan – I’ll definitely be giving that a go. But for now, it’s back to the gin. After all, World Gin Day only happens every day…er, I mean, once a year. Ahem. Cheers!

 

 

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Fitzeveryone

Lychee

Recently I made a big batch of lychee syrup and then had the pleasure of working out how to use it all. A few (OK, many) drunken hours (OK, days) later, I realised there’s no point trying to reinvent the wheel when you can just take an existing wheel and tweak it until you get something you like. So, now that my car has no wheels left, I’m ready to present the Fitzeveryone, which is basically a Fitzgerald but with a few tweaks (OK, a lot of tweaks).

For those of you unfamiliar with the Fitzgerald, I implore you to stop reading this drivel right now, and go and make one.

For those of you who know and love the Fitzgerald, that sublime mix of lime, gin and bitters that always makes me feel like a be-spangled flapper in a 1920s speakeasy, I implore you to stop reading this drivel right now, and go and make one.

And for those of you who’ve had loads of Fitzgeralds and are ready for something just a bit different – try the Fitzeveryone and see what you think.

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FITZGERALD

INGREDIENTS

45ml gin

30ml sugar syrup

20ml lemon juice

2 dashes Angostura bitters

GLASS

Rocks or coupe

METHOD

Pour all ingredients into a shaker that’s half-full of ice. Shake it like you’re on the run from the law. Strain into the glass and relax; everything’s copasetic, darling.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

The hardest thing about this cocktail is not getting addicted to it.

RECIPE BY

Various recipes exist for this divine drink, which was created by the brilliant Dale DeGroff. This one appears on the free version of the Mixology App and appears to be the same one Dale himself uses, minus the lemon wedge garnish.

 

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FITZEVERYONE

INGREDIENTS

60ml lychee syrup (To make lychee syrup, blend a whole can of lychees, including the syrup, until smooth. Strain through a muslin-lined sieve, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract as much fruit and flavour as possible. Pour into a clean glass bottle and add an equal amount of sugar syrup. Store in the fridge – it will keep for about two weeks.)

30ml lime juice

30ml cachaca (Cachaca is the national spirit of Brazil; it is a clear liquid that is distilled from sugarcane juice. I used a brand called Pitu, which obscurely enough has a picture of a prawn on its label. Thankfully this does not indicate it is prawn-flavoured alcohol. Rather, cachaca has a slightly dirty, mineral-y, sometimes even petrol-y scent and taste – but in a good way. You could say it’s an acquired taste, but then you’d have to pretend that it only takes one Caipirinha – the most common drink made with cachaca – to acquire that taste. Best you pretend it’s really hard to adjust to so you have an excuse to drink lots of Caipirinhas before moving on to the Fitzeveryone.)

3 dashes Angostura bitters

GLASS

Rocks

METHOD

Throw everything into a shaker that’s half-full of ice. Shake like you’re already drunk on Fitzgeralds, then strain into a rocks glass that’s also half-full of ice.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

Once you’ve made the syrup, this one’s a cinch.

RECIPE BY

Concocted by 52 Cocktails.