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Cocktail Menu

I'm planning on creating a cocktail bar-quality menu for my home bar. I think it will be a good way to introduce the unaware to how good cocktails can be and allow the more experienced drinkers to explore new ones. It will also be an excellent exercise in case I ever decide to start up my own bar.

Given the wide audience, I'd like to have a mix of historical and contemporary, strong and light, complex and simple, and I'd like to give roughly equal attention to all spirits. I believe a healthy dose of everything best showcases the world of drink.

In your opinion, what cocktails need to be featured? Right now, these are the ones I'm considering:
G&T
Moscow Mule
Americano
Daiquiri or Floridita or Hemingway Daiquiri or Papa Doble (if anyone can definitively distinguish those last three for me, please do)
Diablo
Mai Tai
Manhattan
Margarita
Martinez
Martini
Old Fashioned
Sazerac
Presidente
Vermouth Cocktail
Jasmine
Sunflower
Corn N Oil
Argento's Dream
Boulevardier or Old Pal
Last Word or Final Ward
Chartreuse Swizzle
Japanese Cocktail
Penicillin
Trinidad Sour
Wolf's Bite (Clyde Commons)
Aviation
Caipirinha
Cameron's Kick
Cesar's Rum Punch
Mary Pickford
Paper Airplane
Ramos Gin Fizz
The Prospector
Ward Eight

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  1. That's a nice list. I'd include the Corpse Reviver #2 in your menu. I've never had a single guest dislike it. A few others that yo may consider including:

    Monkey Gland
    La Louisianne
    Negroni
    Bitter Elder
    Brandy Crusta

    6 Replies
    1. re: curseofleisure

      Ah! I'm not sure how I forgot those. Thank you. I've never had a Monkey Gland and I need to get my bottle of Benedictine before I can shake up some Cocktail's a La Louisiane.

      1. re: alphanumeric

        Just my opinion, but I don't think you're missing much with the Monkey Gland. Bizarre name, quirky history, but it tastes like diluted gin and OJ with a hint of licorice...nothing more.

        1. re: The Big Crunch

          @The Big Crunch, if you up the amount of grenadine (I have found a 50/50 mix of Rose's and homemade pomegranate grenadine works best), use a high-proof gin (years of experimenting have led me to the conclusion that Seagram's Distiller's Reserve is the best match for this drink), fresh-squeezed orange juice and Herbsaint instead of absinthe, you may change your tune.

          1. re: curseofleisure

            Actually, one of the only versions I've found that I liked (though didn't love) was from the PDT Cocktail Book, in which he uses straight pomegranate molasses. It's stronger and balances things out better.

            1. re: The Big Crunch

              I have had raves about my grenadine. It is very bright and clean tasting.

              Forester's Grenadine
              2.5 cups / 20 oz. POM pomegramate juice
              2.5 cups / 20 oz. dry measure cane sugar
              1-2 oz. fresh lemon juice (to taste)
              1/4-1/2 oz. orange blossom water

              Shake all in a 1 quart canning jar until sugar is dissolved. Taste and add more lemon juice to taste.

              To make shelf stable for up to two years, put into small, 8 oz. canning jars. Put sealed jars into canning pot covered with cold water. Bring to boil, drop to simmer and cover. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove jars and let cool.

              1. re: JMF

                Interesting that you add lemon juice; I'll try that next time. I just use Jeffrey Morgenthaler's recipe that's been around a while, though I up the orange blossom water a bit from his recipe, basically adding it by the quarter tsp to taste.

    2. Sidecar for sure

      Vieux Carré

      a Corpse Reviver - whichever you like best

      French 75

      1 Reply
      1. If you are going to list a lot of drinks, like you have here, I would make sure that they are organized well with good descriptions. That would be the key to making the list useful rather than overwhelming. You have to consider whether you want to list them by base spirit, or some kind of category, and whether you want to list the ingredients for everything or use a more romantic, descriptive style, or both.

        1 Reply
        1. re: nickls

          I've just responded to this concern above, but I agree completely and simply failed to mention it in my original post.

          I like your point about potentially using a more romantic, descriptive style. That would certainly be easier for novice drinkers to parse.

        2. Wow, that's quite an undertaking.

          Personally, I wouldn't be able to handle it -- I'm not fast enough. When more than a couple of guests come over I just mix up a big pitcher (or bowl) of whatever I think will work well and don't give 'em any options. Major respect if you can actually carry this off!

          Now, as for some drinks to add:

          Pegu Club
          Corpse Reviver #2 (already mentioned by tokyopix but worth repeating)
          Negroni (mentioned by curseofleisure, but worth repeating)
          Negroni (worth repeating again)
          Negroni (okay, worth repeating a third time. Why is it not on your list?)

          Maybe another tiki drink or two? A Planter's Punch? 1934 Zombie Punch? Test Pilot? Something else? Singapore Sling? (I don't really count that as a tiki drink per se, but it's worth including.)

          Maybe a highball or two, aside from the G&T? Tom Collins, actually made with Old Tom?

          And, naturally, you need to include some of your own creations.

          6 Replies
          1. re: davis_sq_pro

            IF this is for a specific event I second and third DSP's recommendation to make a pitcher and let that be it. I say this for two reasons. If your making each drink to order it is very tough to enjoy the company of your guests. From a guest perspective I also think it is best just to have two - three alternatives. With a small pool of choices you everyone can try them and at the next get together you can feature other selections. For the guest it still ends up being a good party with great cocktails rather than a cocktail class.

            If it is just for your general bar set up I would pick ten or so drinks to feature and change them seasonally. There will be less strain on you and it will allow show guest these drinks in their prime.

            1. re: quazi

              I have just posted a response to my original post clarifying that confusion.

              I was considering cycling drinks over time. Maybe remove a handful of the bottom performers every few months and replace them with seasonally appropriate ones. Or I could have a 'specials' section at the beginning of the menu.

            2. re: davis_sq_pro

              I've had a lot of success with this format:

              I have a party about once a month with a lot of repeat customers. I make a menu of 6-8 cocktails around a theme. The first one was when I found Cochi Americano here in Tokyo. I did

              Kina Cocktail, Helena Bonham Carter, Black Friar, Hoots Mon, and a White Negroni. We have snacks that kind of coordinate. We also subbed in Lillet Blanc and Dolin for side-by-side comparisons which was fun. All drinks are really small so lots of tasting can happen.

              I gather the spirits, bitters, juices, garnishes, etc. I need before they arrive. I pull that all out of the regular liquor storage and set it up with equipment on a sideboard. I actually print the menus and each one lists all ingredients and how it is served (just one line, really).

              My guests know they can order off-menu and that's fine, but mostly they stick to those drinks to try new things. Next month we have a whole new theme. Some themes are around alcohol, like above. Some are more like "citrusy summer cocktails" and I try to get a couple different base spirits involved for variety.

              That way your number of drinks is more manageable and your prep is done, but if someone wants a favorite you can easily still stir up a Martinez, for example, if that's what a guest wants.

              1. re: tokyopix

                I did a poor job relaying the fact that this is for general use and not any specific event. However, I like your format for parties. You're quite lucky to have so many cocktail enthusiast friends!

                1. re: alphanumeric

                  It is nice to have a lot of friends who are enthusiastic! It allows me to mix up a lot more drinks than I'd get through with just me trying once in a while. 2 tips I've learned as I've gone:

                  1) when making the list, try to go for variety in glassware as well as base spirit/flavor profile/etc. I have about 40 small cocktail glasses and about18 or so in the freezer at all times. I beef that up a bit at party time, but there's only so much space. If I make sure I have a highball and at least one on the rocks, I never have to wash stemware during the party.

                  2) I don't mix ahead. I'll do this occasionally for a dinner party b/c I have the meal to attend to. On those occasions I'll mix, for example, the juice/simple syrup/brandy part of a French 75 and then I'll shake and top with champagne as drinks are ordered. But for strictly cocktails - I shake/stir/build to order.

                  The last one works well for a number of reasons. It slows things down, but I really don't want a bunch of drunk people. Even with 2-3 oz drinks I like to keep it at a stately pace. I also mix right with my guests so we're talking and visiting the whole time and we often discuss the drinks and ingredients. Guests also opt to try unusual ingredients neat b/c the mixing is done right there.

                  I'm very impressed by your book concept, too! You'll have to let us know how it comes out.

              2. re: davis_sq_pro

                I apologize for a misleading original post. This won't be for a large gathering, but just for any time a guest drops by and would like a drink.

                I've actually yet to try the Pegu Club. It's high on my list to try but I keep pushing it off for some reason or other.

                The Negroni must have been a Freudian omission. Had I thought of it it would have easily made the cut. However, for some reason I'm not terribly fond of them, despite my love of all the components.

                I was just thinking the Tiki category is under-represented here. I need to brush up on my Tiki knowledge first, though.

                Good call on highballs.

                Unfortunately, I am still too much of a novice myself to have many respectable personal inventions.

              3. Is this for stocking an everyday bar or for a specific party? How often do you have people over cocktails and what is the average number of people who attend?

                I ask because your list is very extensive and while I applaud your effort to offer "something for everyone" from many angles light/strong, historical/modern, etc as a guest I would be easily overwhelmed. I would want to time to peruse the list, ask questions, read/hear descriptions. While many of these are very familiar to me there are many that are not I would want to learn about them. I can see your other guests getting quite frustrated if there was someone like me who really wanted to take the time to learn and therefore slowing down the host

                Since it will be hard to truly estimate who is going to have what I would think there would not be a lot you could do in advance other than always having things like simple syrup on hand along with pre cut fruits/citrus and the like.

                Is your intention to build the bar slowly or do all at once? Either way you will want a good inventory system so that you are not caught short if you get a run on particular drink. Do you intend to allow your guest to create their own as well? You might want to consider a number of unique mixers and liqueurs too.

                What missing in my mind is
                Sidecar
                Negroni
                Bajan rum punch (or some kind of rum punch)
                champagne cocktail
                Mojito

                1 Reply
                1. re: foodieX2

                  My bar is already fully stocked and has the ingredients for any of the drinks I listed above, excepting perishables and certain wines or wine-based drinks.

                  This is for general purpose. I have people over a few times a week. Usually one to three people. Not always having drinks, but the option is always there for guests. Because of the format I'll be presenting drinks in (see my additional post above), choosing one shouldn't be a huge challenge. And since it's often just a small gathering, there's no harm in discussing any of them at length if a guest is curious.