All things classic
Recently my girlfriend and I have been experimenting with spirits and cocktails. This comes from two dedicated beer drinkers, but we've been enjoying exploring different drinks. I'm working on the classics (martinis, gimlets, Tom Collins, juleps) but would like to explore a bit more. I'm a fan of simple, elegant drinks that let the flavor of the alcohol shine through.
Two questions: any good idea for excellent, simple drinks? I have a lot of vodka sitting around. I used up all my bourbon making mint juleps, but it's possible that I might buy more. I have most of a bottle of spiced rum as well.
And are there good gins that I'm missing? I've always bought Bombay Sapphire, but recently figured out that I prefer Plymouth. I'm trying not to go up into the price range of Hendrickson's.
As for gins, there are plenty of good ones but it really depends on what botanical mix you prefer. Like I prefer the dry gin (white label) Bombay over the Sapphire.
Other notable ones:
• Hayman's Old Tom Gin - a sweeter variety of gin; this recipe was brought back from the recipe crypt so people could make proper Martinezes and Ramos Gin Fizzes.
• Boomsma Oude or Jonge Genever - Genevers are maltier gins. The Oude is yellowed from barrel aging and is thus a bit more mellow. There are other genevers like Bols and Anchor Steam's Genevieve that are rather good.
• 209 - Similar to Plymouth's gentleness but with more citrus notes.
• Martin Millers - I haven't priced this but I had it recently. Nice licorice notes, lighter in the juniper. You probably pay extra for their marketing though (and the story about the gin traveling to Iceland for their water).
For drinks, here are a few you might like.
-- Negroni: Equal parts Gin, Sweet Vermouth, and Campari. If you don't care for Campari, try it with Aperol. It's a different drink really, but you'll get the idea.
-- Old Fashioned: Leave out the muddled fruit, and for the love of God no soda water.
-- Aviation: For a while this was the darling drink of the cocktail geek set with good reason. You can leave out the Crème De Violette if you like, and in fact I like it better that way myself.
For Vodka drinks I'd give the Moscow Mule a try. If you have citrus Vodka you might want to try a Cosmo. It doesn't do much for me, but well made it's a good drink, and it's so rarely well made it's worth trying to see how it can be good.
As for spirits I second yarm's recs. and would add:
Junipero Gin -- It's a pretty botanically forward so it's not for everybody, but it's great.
Rye -- You may already have some, but if you don't it's worth checking out. My favorite (though can be hard to find) is the Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond version which clocks in at 100 proof. Their non Bottled in Bond version is good too, as is Old Overholt.
Buy more bourbon :) Rye for Sazerac's - trade someone the vodka for their unwanted Whiskey/Gin
get some dry and sweet vermouths
Bitters (Angostura is the place to start, peychauds for Sazerac's)
find someone to mooch/buy a little absinthe off
Get those and then branch out and invest when you have money/interest:
triple sec, marachino liquor, campari, green charteuse...
What I listed are found in a lot of classic cocktails that I like. Several Boozemonkey listed. I'd add sours, sidecars, fizzs to be tried (ok not just alchohol). For interesting Gin variations try a Last Word and Bijou.Corpse Reviver #2 is wonderful as well... wait you need to add Lillet Blanc for that. Ohh it is a slippery slope