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Best drink to introduce chowhound types to better cocktails?

I went to a cookout over the long weekend that was hosted by a friend of mine who is very much a chowhound but not a cocktail expert. I decided that I would bring over some things and mix up cocktails for the group.

That brought the question, what are some of the best bets to show off how good cocktails can be to a group of chowhound types?

I was initially thinking of doing two or three different drinks to span the spectrum a bit and offer different base spirits. I was considering a Corpse Reviver #2, Daiquiri, and something with whiskey, possibly a Redhook. In the end, I decided to simplify and just make Daiquiris.

They went over very well, and I did pause when asked what "kind" of daiquiris I was making, but quickly came up with the response "classic". I used the El Dorado 3 yr white rum, which I think makes a very nice daiquiri, with a recipe of 2 oz rum, 3/4 oz fresh lime juice, and 1/2 oz simple syrup.

I know gateway drinks have been discussed a lot, but for a group with more adventurous palates who are already into good craft beers and wine are there any different or unexpected cocktails that might make a particularly good intro?

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  1. My two favorites are the Negroni and the Sazerac. Real Margaritas are a beautiful thing, too, especially if they've only known sweet 'n' sour mix versions in the past.

    2 Replies
    1. re: invinotheresverde

      +1 one the real margaritas. We use just lemons, limes and oranges, sugar, and a pinch of salt for our base, and they're so much more refreshing than the cloyingly sweet mixes.

      1. re: invinotheresverde

        I forgot the Aviation. Newbs always like those, too. So pretty, also.

      2. I think a good mojito is another cocktail that can bring people into the mixed drink fray. And you can riff on it by using basil instead of mint, or adding a couple of slivers of crushed ginger, or sliced cucumbers. Super refreshing, simple, elegant.

        1. I'm using Manhattans with people I know and had some success in getting them onboard the bespoke cocktail ship. It's a classic, obviously getting popular again, but nevertheless dispels some preconceptions that some might hold vs. cocktails. It's stirred, so it doesn't come out fruity or frothy. It contains (preferably) rye whiskey, which is a spirit I think wholly deserving of it's time back in the public spotlight. It's modified by vermouth, which is another spirit and I just happen to think cocktails with multiple spirits are the most interesting. And it contains bitters, which are versatile and dynamic. All three of these ingredients can be modified for variations- i.e. bourbon or rum instead of rye, dry vermouth instead of sweat, and various flavored bitters.
          The problem with mojitos and margaritas is their ubiquity, especially in downmarket variations....I think Negroni is another good one. Sazerac I use as a test for bartenders, but for drinkers the absinthe or herbsainte taste/aroma can be a real turnoff.

          1. I think a well made old fashioned is the perfect "cocktail" to get people into drinking bourbon mixed drinks.

            1 Reply
            1. re: twyst

              Simple and elegant come to mind, so work the classics. A makers manhattan with top shelf vermouth. Sidecar with couintreau and cognac. Bombay gin and grey goose martinis. Mint julep, margarita, or mojito. Yes they are all over the landscape, but when you use good spirits and home made sours, with fresh garnishes, you have returned to what they originally were.

              A classic.

            2. First, I love manhattans and sazeracs but I wouldn't say they are "gateway" cocktails. They are quite "boozy" (which I love but is a turn off to new people).

              I agree with the real margaritas, sidecar, mojito route. The citrus makes them very approachable. A Dark and Stormy is always a very easy to drink cocktail too.

              If you want to really do something as a tasting, I like doing a bitters sample. It can just be mixed with soda water or tonic and is kind of a fun starter activity to introduce people to an aspect of cocktails they never think about.

              2 Replies
              1. re: thimes

                I agree that Saz/Man are boozy, but he said his peeps already drink good beer and wine, so I bet they can hang with the big kids.

                1. re: invinotheresverde

                  Yeah, totally depends who you hang with. I'm trying to convert beer, wine, straight bourbon drinking friends over. Fruity drinks with straws aren't going to appeal to those dudes. But that's what great about craft of cocktail. Something for everyone.

              2. Pisco sour? It definitely has the chowhound wow-factor of raw egg whites, but a relatively mild (and refreshing) taste.

                2 Replies
                1. re: LabLady

                  Forgot the Pisco Sour. Another classic that was the rage of the 50's. Which one. My niece who lived for a year in Chile says hers is the best. With great disagreement from our mutual friend from Peru. He feels his is far superior. I think they are variations on a great tune.

                  1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                    I first had them in Peru, but maybe a side-by-side Pisco sour test is in order.