4 Creative Bar Professionals Reinvent 1920s Cocktails for 2020

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Riffing on classic cocktails provides operators and their bar teams the opportunity to tell a story, engage with guests, and help them discover their new favorite drink.

Storytelling has become an integral element for branding, F&B programs and the guest experience. Altering a classic gives guest-facing team members the chance to tell the story behind the original and the new creation.

Doing so also allows skilled bartenders to improve upon original recipes, finding ways to balance the unbalanced or use spirits and other ingredients that were, at the time, unknown. This opens the door for guests to discover new favorites and become loyal to a particular venue, increasing visit frequency.

We reached out to four elite bar professionals, including award-winning Erick Castro of Raised by Wolves and Polite Provisions, and Nightclub & Bar Show 2020 speaker Armon Noori, and asked what legendary 1920s cocktails they’d remake for 2020.

Bee’s Knees

The original recipe for this Prohibition Era classic calls for two ounces of gin, three-quarter ounces fresh lemon juice, a half-ounce of honey syrup, and a lemon twist. Armon Noori, one of the most creative (and fastest) bartenders in Las Vegas, has a simple but elegant way to bring this drink into 2020.

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“We modernize it by swapping out the base spirit—gin—and adding fresh, seasonal fruits, making it a modular, individualized cocktail.”

Blood & Sand

When asked what 1920s cocktail he’d like to bring into 2020, world-famous bartender and operator Erick Castro chose the Blood & Sand. The traditional recipe calls for equal parts—three-quarters of an ounce each—of Scotch, sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering and orange juice, garnished with an orange peel. It’s that equal parts that Castro has identified as reason this drink isn’t quite as balanced as one would assume.

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“Anyone who has ever had a Blood and Sand knows that making this classic never results in quite what you want it to be. It always comes off a little flabby and uninspired. The OJ just doesn't have the acidity needed to carry the drink, while the equal parts don't provide the heft needed to make the cocktail shine. So, what several bartenders (such as myself) do is spike the cocktail with a quarter-ounce or so of lemon juice (or even a dash or two of citric acid) to give the orange juice some structure and backbone. In addition, kicking up the Scotch to an ounce or even an ounce-and-a-half truly brings the cocktail to life.”

Champagne Cocktail

Tim Rita is a beverage and mixology specialist who currently works at the Las Vegas outpost of the iconic NoMad. He’s also one of the “bar chefs” who has elevated what a drink program can be at a stadium, crafting artisanal cocktails and carving ice at T-Mobile Arena, home of the Vegas Golden Knights. He provided his advice and recipe for transforming the Champagne Cocktail for 2020. The original recipe is fairly simple: douse a sugar cube with Angostura bitters, drop it into a flute, and top with Champagne.

“I like soaking the sugar cube with an Amaro—Montenegro in particular—instead of bitters. And to add a bit of roar in this case, smoke with a touch of mezcal. Also, using Prosecco instead of Champagne—its dryness balances nicely with the amaro and sugar. And, of course, the cost is much better.”

Tim Rita’s Prosecco Cocktail

  • 0.25 oz. Mezcal
  • Amaro-soaked sugar cube
  • Prosecco

Build cocktail in a Champagne flute in order: Add mezcal, then add sugar cube, then top with Prosecco.

Clover Club

This drink recipe is more than a century old. It predates Prohibition but certainly came into its own during that era. The traditional ingredients are two ounces of gin, a half-ounce each of fresh lemon juice and raspberry syrup, and an egg white. Gene Samuel, the innovative bartender behind the sophisticated Crazy Horse III cocktail program in Las Vegas, is a fan of the original and wants more people to “discover” it.

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“Before we begin, I think the Clover Club is perfect the way it is, and really needs to be reintroduced to the world.

“First separate the egg white from the drink and twist the egg white emulsification with flavor and depth. I would play around with the battle of senses, meaning I would keep the base cocktail strong, tart and assertive while adding nuance to it. I would [use] a strong gin that could handle the expectations, like Junipero, No. 3 Gin, or Malfi, using a high-grade grenadine specifically produced with pomegranate juice.

“Second, I would add herbaceousness to the base, such as teaspoonful of Angostura or Old Fashioned bitters. I would make sure my lemon juice is around 24 hours old after pressing before use to really bring the brightness out.

“For the egg white foam, I would use an iSi canister, mixing orange cream citrate, sugar, egg white and No². Every sip you take you get lush, sweet orange meringue followed by first an electric jolt of acid, tartness that has a multitude of layers with the hefty barspoon of bitters, refined simple syrup and Meyer lemon juice, and of course, the gin. Serve up and ice cold!”

Ready to mix things up at your bar or restaurant? Armon Noori will be at Nightclub & Bar Show 2020, participating in the panel discussion “The Rise of Zero-Proof & Low-ABV Drinks” with Anjali Kundra of Partender, Lorelei Bandrovschi of Listen Bar and Juyoung Kang, lead bartender at The Dorsey. Steve Schneider and Emily Yett will present “Executing High-Volume Cocktails,” and there will be many more opportunities for attendees to learn from the best in the industry to elevate their F&B, guest experience, operations, marketing and promotions, staffing and technology. Don’t miss out—register today!

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