One of the main rights of passage for those turning 21 is that they can drink legally — and, might we add, responsibly, because with privilege comes obligation.
That said, those turning 21 in the new year can produce that adult driver’s license at restaurants and bars, when they safely open, to enjoy an alcoholic bevy. Or they can make a guilt-free cocktail at home. Here are three classic cocktails with which you can toast becoming “legal”:
The cosmopolitan, or cosmo, has long been associated with young women, New York City and the 1990s, thanks to the hit HBO series “Sex and the City,” whose main character, style-setter Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), imbibed them at lunch with her gal pals. (In the subsequent film, though, snobbish Carrie says that she stopped drinking them “because everyone else started.”) All we can say, Carrie, is that means more of the pink beauties for us.
Despite its “Sex and the City” imprimatur, the cosmo has a complex history that may date from the 1930s but certainly to various sources in the mid-1970s — ranging from gay bars in Provincetown, Massachusetts, to Minneapolis bartender Neal Murray.
The International Bartenders Association (IBA) uses vodka citron, or lemon-flavored vodka, in its recipe, though you can use regular vodka.
- 1 1/2 fluid ounces vodka citron
- 1 ounce cranberry juice
- 1/2 ounce Cointreau
- 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and double strain into a large martini glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.
The acidic journalist H.L. Menken said the martini was “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.” Indeed, it may be the king of cocktails, partly because of that perfection but mainly, we suspect, because of its infinite variety.
The martini owes its popularity to happenstance. In the 1920s, gin, its main ingredient, was outlawed along with other spirits by Prohibition. Nothing is quite so desirable as that which is forbidden, and soon batches of gin were being whipped up in bathtubs, along with kick-up-your-heels martinis.
The drink can, of course, be made with vodka instead, or garnished with cocktail onions instead of a twist of lemon or olives (and thus be called a Gibson). It can be “shaken, not stirred” (the preference of the James Bonds of the movies) or “stirred, not shaken” (the preference of the James Bond of Ian Fleming’s books). (Fleming also created the Vesper martini, after Bond’s wounding true love, which uses gin, vodka and Kina Lillet.)
You can dirty a martini with olive juice or make it porn with vanilla and passion fruit and a side of Prosecco. You can make it drier by adding more gin in relation to the vermouth, and you can serve it on the rocks or straight up in a chilled martini glass.
It’s no doubt this enormous versatility helped the martini, eclipse in the wine spritzer age, come roaring back to life at the end of the 20th century and the first two decades of our own. (AMC’s “Mad Men” series might’ve also played a role with its portrayal of the “three-martini lunch.”)
Because of the drink’s versatility, one recipe will not suffice. What follows is a recipe for the classic martini and one for the espresso martini, a popular dessert drink invented in the 1980s by British bartender Dick Bradsell:
The classic martini
- Cracked ice
- 2 ½ ounces dry gin (or vodka)
- ½ ounce dry vermouth
- Green olives or lemon twist
In a mixing glass or cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine gin/vodka and vermouth, blending well. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with olives or lemon twist and serve.
The espresso martini
- 1 ½ ounces vodka
- 1 ounce brewed espresso
- 1 ½ ounces coffee liqueur
- 1 cup ice
- Coffee beans
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and strain into a chilled martini glass. The espresso will give the drink a nice layer of crema on top. Garnish with three coffee beans.
Some say it was invented by the English privateer Francis Drake. Others by African slaves or South American Indians. Still others claim it was the favorite drink of writer Ernest Hemingway, subject of a fascinating Ken Burns’ three-part documentary, bowing on PBS in April.
What we can say for sure is that the mojito, the signature Cuban highball, is legendary, and for good reason. Who, after all, wouldn’t want to sip mojitos and go salsa dancing in Cuba, as Colin Farrell’s Sonny Crockett does in the “Miami Vice” movie?
While it conjures steamy summers, this “hot, hot” drink is perfect for the winter holidays when made with raspberries or strawberries for a minty, red-and-green effect:
- 10 fresh mint leaves
- ½ lime, cut into four wedges
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup ice cubes
- 1 ½ ounces white rum
- ½ cup club soda
Muddle the mint leaves and one lime wedge in a glass, then add two more lime wedges and sugar and muddle again.
Fill the glass with ice. Pour rum over ice and add club soda. Stir, sip and add more sugar if desired. Garnish with remaining wedge.
To make a strawberry or raspberry mojito, muddle berries with mint leaves at beginning of prep. (Make sure strawberries are hulled and sliced.) Garnish with berries.