1. Flight of Heraldry: The Negroni, Contessa, and Patrician
One thing that John was involved in at No. 9 Park was making up cocktail flights. The first I remember was the Flight of Aviation that traced the drink through the decades as different ingredients became less available and as tastes changed. However, one that preceded it, the Negroni-inspired Flight of Heraldry, was one that he had a hand in creating and includes two drinks that are still made around town to this day. Perhaps tack on the Negroni as one of the other classics that John helped to inspire me to love (and I have to include Ben Sandrof in on this for serving me a Negroni made with xanthum gum-infused Campari for a richer mouthfeel). With the Negroni being so hot these days, it is good that John's contributions were captured in Gaz Regan's The Negroni book. And as a show of influence, my Negroni Knickebein appears in that book as well!
The Helsingor is a transitional cocktail of sorts. It was created once John opened up Drink, but was based off of a No. 9 Park cocktail the Copenhagen. I cannot recall who crafted the Copenhagen, but unlike No. 9 Park, Drink lacked the necessary Gamel Dansk. Therefore, John generated this Angostura-heavy riff back in 2009 for one of his old No. 9 regulars Tyrone. A half ounce of Angostura Bitters either does or does not seem like a lot of bitters now, but back then, it definitely was. True, the Trinidad Sour was kicking around as well as some classics from the literature. That level of absurdity carried on in drinks like the Mission of Burma, the inverse proportioned Pegu Club riff that John created for a Grand Marnier event. I am also thankful for John (technically, Jeff Grdinich) inviting Andrea and me to have a drink on that Grand Marnier event menu, namely the Lioness (of Brittany).
3. Means of Preservation
Of course, not everything memorable that John created at Drink was over the top, and the Means of Preservation is a fine example. Paul Clarke writing about the Ephemeral Cocktail back in 2009 inspired John to make his own riff. One of the key ingredients in both is celery bitters; however, they were not commercially available in Boston at that time. Luckily, I had been supplying Drink with my celery bitters since 2008 to make up that lack. In thanks, John let me "work" at Drink so I could compete at Tales of the Cocktail in 2009 in a bitters competition (I used the royal "we" a lot in describing on microphone how "we" used those celery bitters at Drink). Technically, I did bus our cocktail and water glasses once the night that he agreed to let me be a barback. And perhaps, I should have pushed back then to have actually get a job as a barback for real...
In preparing for a guest shift at Los Angeles' Edison, John created a cross between a Mai Tai and a Pisco Sour by taking the former and adding an egg white and Angostura Bitters as a garnish. John always enjoyed describing how Mai Tai was called that for being the Tahitian translation of "out of this world," and he took that one step further with his 1984 Newspeak name for this riff. He also opted for a white rum to give this drink a purity of color (save for the two Angostura Bitters plus-signs as garnish).
Nothing is as stunning as fire when it comes to garnishes or drink preparation. True, John helped to bring back the Blue Blazer, but I never took to the concept of hot, booze-depleted Scotch. The Krakatoa was a cooler drink that utilized a Fernet-colored Batavia Arrack Old Fashioned to extinguish flaming Green Chartreuse in the glass to generate something akin to a Don't Give Up the Ship or Toronto. John did similarly in expanding the 1895 Star Cocktail into the Super Nova.