New Year’s Eve is always a time for parties, and this year is especially noteworthy as we will be seeing the ’20s in, and might crave the escapist decadence of the 1920s. So, dust off your best clothes – as these cocktails demand the suave elegance of a ’20’s soiree – pour yourself a drink and enjoy. In this party spirit, these drinks follow the course of the night.
This might be seen as the quintessential drink of a sexist old gentlemen’s club, but really is a great simple drink that can be tweaked to bring life, and a pleasing mellowness to most whiskeys. It therefore makes the perfect drink to fix yourself as you’re getting ready to go out.
Pour a generous amount of Bourbon or Rye whiskey into a tumbler over ice, add a dash of bitters and sugar syrup to taste and garnish with an orange slice.
If this sounds too complicated for an accompaniment to getting ready, try the Wodehousian classic of a Brandy and Soda (B&S) which is as simple as it sounds – brandy with ice, topped up with soda.
French 75 (aka Soixante Quinze)
To start a party, the sound of champagne being opened is de rigueur, so why not blend the effervescent ecstasy with the intoxicating power of gin?
Mix with ice, 50ml dry gin, 25ml lemon juice and a tsp sugar syrup. Serve in a coupe glass and top with champagne (or sparkling wine of choice).
Try using a rosé sparkling wine for a delicately pink cocktail. As this drink leans so heavily on the sparkling wine for its flavour – and it is a special occasion – champagne really does make the drink. French 75 gets its name from a 75mm gun used in WW1 which was said to have a similar kick to the drink – so don’t skimp on the gin.
The perfect thing to drink as you move between parties (whether real or imagined).
Mix with ice, 25ml Bourbon, 25ml sweet Italian vermouth (c’mon it’s the start of the twenties so push the boat out with a nice vermouth) and 25ml Campari. Serve over ice in a tumbler.
If you swap the Bourbon out for Rye this drink turns into an Old Pal, so maybe save that until your socialising leads you to bump into someone.
If you are starting to think that the endless party is rather vapid, pour yourself one of these to keep the illusory glamour alive.
Shake with ice, 50ml cognac, 50ml triple sec. Serve in a chilled coupe glass rinsed with absinthe.
N.B. for the absinthe make sure it is absinthe rather than bohemian style absinth, as the latter lacks the requisite herbal notes that give the drink its enchanting power.
What rundown of classic party cocktails could be complete without a Martini? Yet this is a real Martini – not the 80’s way of excusing a glass of neat gin (or heaven forfend just vodka) – with plenty of vermouth bringing character.
Stir with ice, 50ml dry gin, and 50ml dry vermouth. Serve in a chilled coupe glass with a lemon twist or olive.
For a sweeter twist, play around with the vermouth, a 50:50 mix of dry and sweet vermouth is called a perfect Martini, and I think, rightly so. If these are too strong, up the ratio of vermouth, or try a dirty Martini by adding a splash of olive brine.
N.B. unless you are Bond and need your drink before withdrawal kicks in, have it stirred not shaken. Even if this takes a heartbeat longer, it yields a better drink.
– Ed Bedford
All other photos are writer’s originals.