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Sazerac at Old 97
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Apricot Flip at Old 97
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Old Fashioned and Moscow Mule at Table Six
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Kent Smash and The Black Squirrel at Nineteen 10
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The Manhattan at Corkscrew Saloon
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Absinthe at Corkscrew Saloon
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Brandy Crusta at Crafted Cocktail Company
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Singapore Sling at Crafted Cocktail Company
James Bond’s classic Martini. Carrie Bradshaw’s sophisticated Cosmo. Don Draper’s ever-present tumbler of amber liquid. Classic cocktails have become as much a part of pop culture as the characters we associate with them.
These definitive drinks have been around for decades and have delighted generations with their time-honored ingredients of elegance and sophistication.
You don’t need a vintage cocktail shaker or a high-society event to enjoy these deliciously crafted cocktails. A sense of history and a taste for adventure is really all you need. Just try to resist ordering them shaken, not stirred.
Old 97 — Kenmore
[ bartender: Wendy Casale ]
Tucked between a transmission shop and a mower supply store on Kenmore Boulevard, Old 97 Café may be The 330’s worst-kept secret. The owner has never paid for formal advertising, but evenings find the cozy bar and expansive outdoor patio filled with what Wendy Casale calls “casual folks who go with the flow.”
Casale has been a customer at Old 97 since its modern rendition opened in 2010, and the Canton native has been tending bar there for two and a half years. “I have a vast resume,” says Casale, who has driven a FedEx truck, professionally installed tile and run a small college. “I always seem to have bartending creep back into my life. I love to cook, so this is an extension of that.”
History is important at Old 97, which was a trolley stop and pub for travelers in the 1940s. “One of the oldest cocktails we have, created in colonial times, the 1690s, [is] called a Flip,” Casale says. Originally, the drink comprised beer with rum, molasses, and cream or an egg that was stirred with a hot poker, making the concoction boil and flip, inspiring the name. “We do an Apricot Flip,” Casale says. “[But] we don’t use a hot poker.”
For her version, Casale uses cognac, apricot liqueur, a little apricot jam, and an egg white. She dry shakes it—meaning without ice—to get the egg blended, then adds ice to it and shakes it again, really hard to create the frothy whip. The mixture is then strained into a glass without ice and served with grated fresh nutmeg on top. “With just a handful of ingredients, it’s pretty complex,” says Casale. “The way the egg feels in your mouth makes it a silky drink.”
Another classic Casale loves, the Sazerac, was first made in the 1850s in New Orleans by apothecary Antoine Peychaud—whose bitters are still available—using Sazerac French brandy, a company that continues to distill fine spirits in the U.S.
“This drink starts with the tiniest bit of absinthe that you pour directly into a chilled glass without ice and sort of roll it around to coat the inside of the glass,” Casale says. She then adds sugar, bourbon and bitters to the glass before the final flourish. “It’s fun to flame the lemon peel before it goes in,” she says. “You squeeze the lemon over the flame and it ignites the oil.”
The Sazerac is something of an acquired taste, Casale warns. “It has complex flavors that are more forward, [but] I believe more people who try it really like it.”
Casale attributes the renaissance of classic cocktails to an appreciation of craft, as seen in boutique distilleries and craft breweries. “I think people are coming around to the idea of a cocktail as something to enjoy, as opposed to just chucking down Jack and Coke,” she says.
Table Six — North canton
[ bartender: Gabe Voss ]
Gabe Voss used to be a bar manager at a country club, where he “learned the ropes on the classics” because of the clientele. He’s been in the food industry for 17 years, tending bar for 12, and with Table Six for two.
“When you’re a barkeep, it’s always about putting a little dazzle on it,” he says, which is why he always makes up a story to explain the origins of the Moscow Mule. The true origin story sounds something like a joke: a Smirnoff vodka salesmen walked into a NYC bar in the 1950s, met a bartender who made his own ginger beer and a woman trying to sell her handmade copper mugs, and ba-da-boom, a marketing gimmick was launched.
Voss makes up a much more satisfying tale of a Russian copper mining village making the most of its limited resources. “And then of course I always say I’m just joking,” he admits.
He’s all business when it comes to crafting the classics for his customers, though. “We muddle fresh-pressed ginger with fresh lime juice in the copper mug,” he says. “We add ice and then our Russian standard vodka and top it off with ginger beer.” Building the drink in the copper mug helps keep the ice from melting. Though the main ingredients are vodka and ginger beer, Voss says it’s an easy drink to adapt to the seasons: cranberries, apple jack vodka and a cinnamon stick in the winter; pear puree, lemon juice and pear vodka in the spring.
“I love the old fashioned,” says Voss, a self-proclaimed “bourbon guy” whose favorite drink changes depending on the occasion and his companions. “With my dad or buddies, a good craft brew; dinner with my fiancée, I start with a Manhattan or Old Fashioned. [And] I always enjoy a snifter of Grand Marnier with coffee and dessert.”
The Old Fashioned is making quite a comeback because of higher quality ingredients that were not readily available in the 1940s and 50s. Even a few years ago, at the country club, Voss used a regular maraschino cherry, a pack of sugar, a little water, some bitters and an orange to make the basic whiskey drink. “Here at Table Six, it’s all about the freshness,” he says. “We have Amarena cherries—imported and much more luxurious, richer [than maraschino]—an orange, fresh bitters, and fresh-made simple syrup—basically liquid sugar. Then we muddle it together, strain it, shake it, put a lot of love into it, and it’s a great tasting drink.”
This classic of classics is also easily adapted to the season or a guest’s particular tastes because of one particular ingredient: the bitters. “People are coming out with boutique bitters—pear, orange, plum flavored—that give another level of complexity to the drink.”
Voss believes the resurgence of classic cocktails is connected to the recent food renaissance, focused on fresher ingredients and careful crafting. He also thinks nostalgia plays a part. “[These drinks] remind [people] of a bygone era, and besides, they taste great. Our grandparents really knew what they were doing.”
Nineteen 10 — Kent
[ bartender: Spencer clark ]
1910 was a big year for Ohio. The Wright brothers undertook the first-ever air freight shipment, Haley’s Comet was visible in April, and the city of Kent founded its first normal school—which would soon become Kent State University.
That’s why the bar where Spencer Clark works as a bartender and weekend manager is called Nineteen10. The bar is connected to the KSU Hotel and Conference Center, but it’s open to the public. “All our signature cocktails incorporate a Kent theme,” says the Louisville native and current graduate student in KSU’s hospitality management program.
The Kent Smash is Clark’s version of a Whiskey Smash, a cocktail that dates to the most famous drink recipe book in the U.S.: Jerry Thomas’ “Bar-Tender’s Guide,” published in 1862. Clark muddles four lemon wedges and four mint leaves in a cocktail shaker, then shakes the mixture with simple syrup and two ounces of whiskey before the final flourish. “Take the mint that you’ll use to garnish, hold it in one hand and give it a nice clap [to] release the essential oils in the mint,” Clark says. “That’s the smash part.”
As for the whiskey, Clark prefers Maker’s 46 because “it is a single malt straight bourbon, more of a premium whiskey, [that] is aged a bit longer [and] gives that smoky flavor.” The result is a drink that “feels like a summer day in a glass—takes me to the beach, something that is refreshing and not overly sweet.”
As locals know, the black squirrel is the unofficial mascot of Kent. Clark found inspiration in this furry fellow for another of Nineteen10’s signature cocktails, The Black Squirrel. It’s a modern twist on the Mojito, a Cuban classic that dates to the 16th century and Francis Drake’s unsuccessful attack on Havana.
Clark’s take on the drink starts with blackberries muddled in lemon juice and a splash of simple syrup. He then adds vodka—rather than the traditional rum—shakes the whole concoction with mint, and strains it into a highball glass over ice. “It’s got a gorgeous color to it,” Clark says. “I garnish with lemon and a mint sprig I clap and smack to get the oils out. [It’s] the perfect warm weather drink.”
As for why the classic cocktails are making a comeback, Clark believes it’s related to the recent “foodie” movement. “People are leaning toward viewing their drinks as works of art, just as they want their food to be works of art,” he says.
With all the fresh ingredients available from the farm-to-table movement, Clark’s guests don’t mind waiting for his well-crafted drinks. “People like to see you putting in that effort to make that delicious drink, like a delicious meal,” he says.
Corkscrew Saloon — Medina
[ bartender: Jen King ]
The huge red-brick Victorian building at the corner of W. Liberty and S. State Streets has been a Medina landmark for 125 years. Originally built in 1881 by a wealthy Connecticut transplant, it housed a few different businesses in the late 20th century before its current incarnation as the Corkscrew Saloon.
“I’ve been with the Corkscrew for six years,” says Jen King, the bar manager who’s been tending bar for 11 years total. “I fell in love with bartending [because] I love talking with [people] and getting to know their personalities.”
Though Absinthe is not technically a cocktail—it’s an anise-flavored spirit—it is considered a classic because of its storied history with artists like Picasso and Van Gogh. Wild tales of Absinthe producing visions of green fairies or other hallucinations are probably myths, but King thinks they’re part of the reason for its popularity. “I think people were curious and ended up liking it.”
Absinthe is a high-proof alcohol, normally 90 to 140 proof, with spicy or botanical notes, and a characteristic sweet fennel flavor. “The one we carry is Lucid,” King says. “That one’s a good mix between the floral and spicy flavors.” Though King doesn’t care for the taste herself, she serves it in the classic way: in a reservoir glass, with a fancy slotted spoon balanced on top holding a sugar cube, and a side of ice water. The water is slowly poured over the sugar, melting it into the liquor below. The result is “strong,” says King, “kind of like sipping on a bourbon but a little stronger.”
The Manhattan may be the most well-known of the classic cocktails and is one of the simplest. Its traditional recipe is rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters. Like other classics, though, mixologists often modify that. “What we started doing a couple years ago is barrel aging cocktails,” King says. “The Manhattan is the first one I did.”
King attended a bar show in Las Vegas about a year ago where she learned about barrel aging as a way of enhancing flavors in individual liquors that can be added to cocktails. She came back to Ohio, bought some charred oak barrels and began experimenting.
Because aging deepens the color of the liquor, clients often think the taste will be too strong for them, but King says the process actually smooths and balances it, bringing out more of its sweetness. And King will often add sweet vermouth to the bourbon and let the combination age, so all she adds to the final drink is the bitters. The result, she says, is smooth and very drinkable.
“Sometimes people just want something simple that they know,” King says of the resurgence of the classics. She also thinks the classic cocktails are a bit more refined, as they often employ higher-shelf liquors. Besides, “you know it’s a good cocktail or it wouldn’t still be around.”
Crafted Cocktail Company — Wadsworth
[ bartender: Scott Sauer ]
“I’m a run-of-the-mill cocktail nerd,” says Scott Sauer of the Crafted Cocktail Company in Wadsworth. Originally from West Akron, Sauer has tended bar for about seven years at places like the Galaxy in Wadsworth and The Main Street in Medina. What he likes about his current job is its openness to craft and experimentation. “We welcome anybody, especially if you’re open to learning and trying new things,” he says. “These may be twists on classics you’re used to ordering, but they will taste different.”
The Singapore Sling is a very popular Polynesian classic because of its pleasant tartness and nice balance of flavors. The basic recipe dates —once again—to Jerry Thomas’ “Bar-Tender’s Guide.” The ingredients listed are gin, dry cherry brandy, Benedictine, lemon juice, orange bitters, Angastura bitters and a little soda. But Sauer likes to put his own spin on it.
“We use Plymouth gin, one of the oldest distilleries out there,” he says. “Also fresh Regan’s Orange bitters No. 6.” Why so specific on the bitters? “It’s a newer recipe,” Sauer says, that combines traditional orange bitters with a recipe found in another old drinks book, Charles H. Baker’s “Gentleman’s Companion” of 1939. The result? “Instead of just a plain old orange, you’ll have notes of clove, cardamom and a spiciness that really comes through in the drink.”
The Sidecar is another popular cocktail that dates to the Prohibition era with a basic formula of brandy, lemon juice and sugar. Sauer prefers the Brandy Crusta, a version of this that pre-dates the Sidecar by several decades, also taken from Thomas’ “Bar-Tender’s Guide.”
Sauer uses the peel of a full lemon and sugar, but not just any cognac. “Courvoisier VS has a big history behind it,” he says. He then adds a little bit of bitters and orange Curaçao, “and maybe a little less of the lemon juice than might be traditional for the Sidecar.” By tweaking these ingredients, Sauer says the drink becomes “much more complex, as the flavors are completely meshed together. The brandy comes through, and then a little sweetness, but the finish is very citrusy—gets your whole mouth watering and wanting more.”
Sauer believes the classics have become popular again because of people’s newfound passion for learning, fueled largely by the advent of the internet. This has led to a parallel passion for craft.
“Whether it be online forums or locally, there are so many knowledgeable bartenders around that take their craft seriously,” Sauer says. And this taps into his own passion for learning—and bartending. “What gets you hooked isn’t always the drinks,” he says. “It’s the people, and sharing this passion with people.”