Saturday, January 2, 2016

:: fred's picks for the top cocktails of 2015 (in) ::

I will complete my sixth annual trilogy of year end wrap up posts by picking out the best recipes we tried at our home bar this year. Given my schedule of working nights, I find myself having the home bar as the only drinking option available, so I definitely put a bit more focus on my closest and dearest bar. I used to also tack on the best of my own creations at the end of the post, but I think I covered that in the first part of the trilogy (and you can see the whole collection here). Thus, this list is dedicated to the best recipes created by bartenders, living, deceased, and unknown, from around the world all brought to me at my home bar (where pants are optional).

January: To start the year off, I selected the Turn Signal by Portland's Sean Hoard and Daniel Shoemaker as a great fruity, bitter, and Bourbon drink. Luna de Cosecha by Justin Noel of 1534 in NYC with a stirred bitter and chocolatey tequila Manhattan and the strange early 1900's cassis for Maraschino Martinez, the Marblehead got honorable mentions.

February: Despite the name, 50 Shades of Maguey captured my attention with the ever delightful passion fruit-Campari pairing. Seattle's Scott Diaz's A Simple Quandry as a gin and aquavit 1919 Cocktail of sorts and Central Provisions' Schooner Punch that they created up in Portland, Maine, to show off a classic punch style have my attention as well.
March: I rather enjoyed Natalie Jacob's Jake Barnes for combining the Jack Rose with the pineapple-laden Jersey City. March's secondary honors go to Jeremy Oertel's Haunted House from The Old-Fashioned book with its use of Swedish punsch as the sweetener, and the sherry and orgeat Youngs from Pioneers of Mixing in Elite Bars: 1903-1933.

April: April was quite a Manhattan-filled month. First, I was quite impressed with the gin-pineapple-IPA beer combo in Thomas Waugh's Strange Brew from The Death & Co. Cocktail Book. Next, for runners up, Phil Ward's R'Cobbler -- a Rosita riff he created at Mayahuel, and Jesse Vida's Square Root -- an earthy Paper Plane-like equal parter that he created at Dead Rabbits.

May: May brought things back to Boston with Ryan Lotz's Benny & the Jets Tiki-style drink that he created for a Beachbum Berry event in town. Keeping with the Tiki theme, one of the second spots goes to Pleasure Island by Seattle's Ryan Lobe. And on the elegant side, Morning from Boothby's 1934 book captured elements of the Brandy Crusta without all the peel and sugar rim.
June: Tiki did continue on with the 1961 Puka Punch as a top pick, and Blair Reynold's Hilo Hala that he created before he even opened Hale Pele as a runner up. The other runner up, the Baltimore Cocktail, was created by Andrew Willett as a Madeira and spice variation using the Vieux Carré structure. The photo above was also from this month, the 1946 Zombie, which was also delightful but the photo and garnishing were more top notch than the variation recipe.

July: The month was a tough one to narrow down, and the top nod will be shared by two bartenders mentioned already. One was Scott Diaz's The Count's Swizzle which veered from the Negroni into Swizzle-land but still kept the Campari; and the other was Jeremy Oertel's Cynar and fire Artichoke Hold. For honorable mention in July, Jessica Gonzalez's Night Watch from The Death & Co. Cocktail Book made for a great nightcap. A garnish nod to myself went to my pirate ship on Blackbeard's Ghost.

August: It was easier to narrow the pack down to three than it was to pick a top drink. Perhaps Seattle's Connor O'Brien's Unique Bird that split the difference between a Jungle Bird and a Daisy de Santiago and graced the pages of Paul Clarke's The Cocktails Chronicles book. The Spiced Park Swizzle from Tiki Drinks: Tropical Cocktails for the Modern Bar and a leftover recipe from Tales of the Cocktail, the Sip Sip Hooray from San Diego's Noble Experiment, both were solid drinks.
September: Jason Alexander's Golden Shellback offered Tiki with elegant Benedictine and Swedish punsch notes for September's pick. Next, Maksym Pazuniak's A Moment of Silence still holds up after all these years since Beta Cocktails was published, and Gregory Buda's update of the Japanese Cocktail -- the Orientation at Dead Rabbits both deserve some recognition.

October: When Will Isaza of Fairsted Kitchen competed for Bacardi Legacy in Boston, I went home and made his winning drink the Paraiso at home to show myself why it was top dog. October also found me drinking a lot of quirky banana liqueur drinks with the Banana Boulevardier from the Anvil being one of the better ones. And for the other runner-up, a strange Daiquiri variation using an already taken name -- the White Lion from the irreverent Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933 reminded me of a little of a Periodista.
November:Hale Pele's Mindy Kucan crafted one of the better seasonal drinks this year with the Nutty Like a Fruitcake. Silver and bronze medals (in no particular order) go to Eric Witz's Last Word-Widow's Kiss hybrid the Widow's Word and Boothby's 1934 dry vermouth elegant yet tropical egg white Pantomime.

December: Another great seasonal drink came from Chicago's The Whistler with Billy Helmkamp's South Pole Swizzle. A nod should be given to a pair of egg drinks, namely Griffin Lawler's Treaty of Paris with its Earl Grey tea notes and Pip Hanson's Angophile with a hearty dose of Angostura balanced and complemented by the vanilla-driven Licor 43.

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