That’s the Spirit, Vol. II: Civic Cocktails

The stories behind the most iconic cocktails in eight cities

“What am I putting in my mouth? Where is it from?”

Bad questions to ask in most situations.

Perfectly acceptable at a bar.

Today, we’re answering those queries while serving up some history.

Behold: That’s the Spirit, Vol. II, a compendium of recipes for the most iconic cocktails in eight destination-worthy cities, along with the curious origin stories that birthed them.

From the traditional tipple of London's prestigious All England Club to the L.A. drink built to cure a man who came in "feeling like the walking dead," here's what to order the next time you hit the road.

SLOE GIN FIZZ | PORTLAND, OREGON

“Well Portland Oregon and sloe gin fizz / If that ain't love then tell me what is.” It’s a line from “Portland, Oregon,” a song featuring Jack White from Loretta Lynn’s 2004 record Van Lear Rose. Aside from being one helluva tune, the song cemented the pairing of the sloe berries-infused spirit and the original "keep weird" city. But why? Theories abound. In any case, Portland’s finest cocktail bar, the Teardrop Lounge, offered up their take. “The Winterhawk Fizz is a great sloe gin fizz variation for the Pacific NW,” says bar manager Alejandro De La Parra. “The warming flavors of our local apple brandy and honey will make any gloomy day (Portland has plenty) feel nice and cozy.”

1 oz. Sloe Gin (preferably Hayman’s)
1 oz. Apple Brandy (preferably Clear Creek)
3/4 oz. lemon
1/4 oz. lime
3/4 oz. Honey syrup
1 egg white
2 dashes Angostura
2 oz. soda water

To make the honey syrup, take two parts honey to one part water and heat them in a saucepan until the honey melts into the water. Combine citrus and egg white into shaker tin and shake without ice. Add spirit, sugar and bitters; shake vigorously with ice. Strain into collins glass over soda water.

LA PALOMA | TEQUILA, JALISCO, MEXICO

While possibly named after the folk song “La Paloma,” the simple pleasures of the Paloma arrive courtesy of Don Javier Delgado Corona, the owner of La Capilla — an unassuming bar south of the border in the town of Tequila in Jalisco that’s secretly one of the world’s 50 best bars. Worth noting: La Capilla translates to “my chapel,” and you better believe it’s worth the pilgrimage. You’d be wise to also know Corona is the inventor of the batanga, which is essentially Coke, tequila, lime and salt.

2 oz. reposado tequila
1/2 oz. lime juice
Grapefruit soda (preferably Squirt, or use fresh grapefruit juice and soda)
Pinch of kosher salt

Combine tequila, lime juice and salt in a highball or Collins glass. Top with ice, then top off with grapefruit soda. Garnish with a lime and serve with a salted rim.

SAZERAC | NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

The official cocktail of New Orleans and possibly the oldest known American cocktail, the Sazerac was created in 1838 by Antoine Amedie Peychaud as a cognac drink in a French Quarter bar (the cognac was called Sazerac). That recipe eventually replaced the cognac with American rye. The cocktail was later popularized by the Roosevelt Hotel, which opened the Sazerac Bar in 1938.

1 sugar cube
3 dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters
1 1/2 oz. of Sazerac Rye Whiskey
1/4 oz. Herbsaint (Absinthe)
Lemon peel, for garnish

Pack an Old Fashioned glass with ice. In a second Old Fashioned glass place a sugar cube and add three dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters, then crush the sugar cube. Add the 1 1/2 oz. of Sazerac Rye Whiskey to the bitters and sugar mix. Empty the ice from the first glass and coat the glass with 1/4 oz. of Herbsaint, then discard the remaining Herbsaint. Empty the whiskey/bitters/sugar mixture from the second glass into the first glass and garnish with lemon peel. Be sure to strain the mixture.

PIMM'S CUP, LONDON, ENGLAND

The Kentucky Derby has the Mint Julep. The Masters has the Gin and Tonic. And across the pond, Wimbledon has the Pimm’s Cup. But you don’t have to know a forehand from a backhand to enjoy the quintessential British summer drink. While Napoleon’s House in New Orleans has the rights to its Stateside origins, Pimm’s is assuredly English — an herbal digestive created by a London oyster bar owner named James Pimm back in the 1830s. Soon thereafter he’d create a gin-based concoction called “Pimm’s No. 1 Cup,” a light, sessionable cocktail that to this day pairs best with warm weather and sunshine. A recipe from Dustin Macmillan at London’s Mark’s Bar is below.

1 oz. Pimm's
1/2 oz. Somerset Pomona aperitif
1/2 oz.  apple juice
2 1/2 oz. lemonade
3 blackberries
3 strawberries
1 mint sprig

Place half of your fruit in a highball glass with cubed ice. Pour all the ingredients apart from the lemonade in the glass and stir for ten seconds. Top with lemonade and garnish with fruits and fresh mint.

MANHATTAN | MANHATTAN, NEW YORK

You might have heard that the Manhattan was invented at the Manhattan Club in N.Y.C. It's a popular tale. Legend has it that the recipe was created in honor of an 1874 soiree at the club in honor of one Jennie Jerome (aka Lady Randolph Churchill, aka Winston Churchill's mama). But it's hogwash. According to serious spirit history book Imbibe!​, Lady Randolph was nowhere near the city at the time, but actually about to give birth to Winnie in England. The truest account around hails from a story written by William F. Mulhall, a bartender at the legendary Hoffman House for some three decades beginning in the early 1880s. He states, “The Manhattan cocktail was invented by a man named Black, who kept a place ten doors below Houston Street on Broadway in the [eighteen-] sixties — probably the most famous drink in the world in its time." Given its shadowy history, we called upon N.Y.C. speakeasy PDT to dissect their house Manhattan.

2 oz. Rittenhouse Rye
1 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass, stir with ice and strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass. If you want to geek out, you want to stir the drink until it's quite cold — this point is usually reached after 1 oz. of the ice has been diluted to water — so, you'll start with 3 oz. of volume and end with 4 oz. Garnish: three brandied cherries on a pick.

ZOMBIE | LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

Sometimes it’s best to hear it straight from the bartender’s mouth, so to speak. Here, Pablo Moix of Old Lightning (and Scopa, Chestnut Club) offers up his take on the Zombie, and its origins: “The rumor is a gentlemen came by the bar looking like the walking dead or called the next day and said he feels like the walking dead. Either way, in the story it’s said Don Beach created this cocktail for him on the spot. I don't believe that’s true, as Don was known for pouring many, many liters of booze down the drain testing his drinks over and over and over again.”

1/2 oz. Hamilton St. Lucia rum
1/2 oz. Hamilton Jamaican gold rum
1/2 oz. Hamilton Jamaican black rum
1/2 oz. Hamilton 151 rum
3/4 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. grapefruit juice
2 bar spoons falernum syrup
1 bar spoon clement cane syrup
2 bar spoons grenadine
1 bar spoon pastis
Float of 1/2 oz. Hamilton 151 rum

Build all ingredients in glass and add crushed ice. On top, float 1/2 oz. of Hamilton 151.

OLD FASHIONED | LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY

When it comes to the Old Fashioned, there’s one name to know: Colonel James E. Pepper. A third generation bourbon man from Kentucky, Pepper frequently traveled to New York promoting the whiskey distillery his grandfather started during the American Revolution. In 1881, a bartender at Louisville's Pendennis Club was the first to use the term “Old Fashioned” for a drink made in Pepper’s honor. The colonel promptly brought the cocktail to the Waldorf Astoria, a spot he frequented so often that he died there, and the name stuck. Down One Bourbon Bar & Restaurant is the only bourbon bar located on the historic Whiskey Row in Louisville, Kentucky. Their classic Old Fashioned recipe is below.

1 medium/large Turbinado sugar cube
2-3 dashes orange bitters
2 oz. bourbon (we are currently using Weller Antique 107)
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
Cherry (we use our house recipe soaked cherries)
Orange peel

In a mixing glass, add your sugar cube, soak with 2-3 dashes of orange bitters, and muddle sugar and bitters. Add bourbon and a generous scoop of ice. Stir the bourbon and sugar for 30-45 seconds or until diluted to your preferred taste. Strain the bourbon and sugar into a rocks glass and add one large cube of ice. Top with 2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters. Flame an orange peel over the top of the drink. Garnish with a skewered cherry.

IRISH COFFEE | SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

Irish coffee: making day drinking safe in San Francisco since 1952. Not every alcoholic beverage can trace its lineage quite so neatly, but Irish coffee is the exception. S.F.-based travel writer Stanton Delaplane discovered it at the former Foynes Airport in Ireland, which was served to him when his flight returned after encountering bad weather on the way to the U.S. Weary travelers were greeted with cups of spiked coffee — and Delaplane, suitably impressed, brought the process home with him, partnering with the owner of the now-century-old Buena Vista Café. Sixty years later, the preparation is the same: Hot black coffee is poured over two sugar cubes. Whiskey is added. Sometimes the classics just aren't that complicated.

6 oz. brewed coffee
2 sugar cubes
1 1/2 oz. Irish whiskey (preferably Tullamore D.E.W.)
Heavy cream, lightly whipped

Preheat a six oz. stemmed glass with hot water, then empty. Pour in hot coffee until 3/4 full. Drop in sugar cubes. Stir until dissolved. Add whiskey. Float a layer of whipped cream by pouring gently over a spoon.


A big thank you to the fine folks at Montana’s Trailhouse for allowing us to shoot at their lovely location. All mixology by Andrew Porteus. All glassware by Simon Pearce. Photography by Mike Falco.

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