The best cocktail is the one you know by heart – The Denver Post

By Rebekah Peppler, The New York Times

Imagine a cocktail you know how to pour without referencing a book or the internet. A cocktail that uses ingredients already stocked in your bar — backup bottles at the ready. A cocktail you shake with ease whether you’re alone at the end of a long day or when you’re looking to impress someone on a third date. This venerable, default drink has a name: the house cocktail.

Any drink you love can become your house cocktail, but the best house cocktail lies at the intersection of easy to make and easy to remember. Memorizing cocktail ratios makes this achievable, even for the easily distracted. Here are three equal-parts drinks to get you started.

The Negroni, best suited to bitter-leaning palates, gets an upgrade by splitting the vermouth so you use half sweet, half dry (rather than sweet vermouth alone). The resulting drink is nuanced and adaptable to the spirit of your choice. Fresh, potent and perfectly balanced, the mezcal-tequila margarita combines equal amounts of mezcal, tequila, orange liqueur and fresh lime juice (plus a bit of simple syrup) and is served in a glass rimmed with earthy sal de gusano, or worm salt. Finally, if you prefer your house cocktail to be frisky in both name and spirit, pick up the bottles — namely gin, sweet vermouth and fernet — to make a Hanky Panky.

House cocktails can and should be easy to pour a la minute. That said, if you’re looking to mix in bulk and in advance — whether it’s for a weekend crowd or for your future self — stick to stirred-style drinks that don’t require fresh ingredients. The aforementioned Any-Spirit Negroni or Hanky Panky both work well in scaled-up batches. Just don’t forget to add a bit of distilled water to properly dilute your drinks if you’re batching.

Other equal-parts drinks that make excellent house cocktails include the Vieux Carré, the Corpse Reviver No. 2 and the Last Word. But, again, any drink you love has house cocktail potential, and it can be year-round or change by the season. Whatever you decide on, stock the bar and commit it to memory. Then, at the next cocktail hour, raise a glass to — and with — your go-to drink.

Mezcal-Tequila Margarita

Ingredients

For the cocktail:

  • 3/4 ounce mezcal
  • 3/4 ounce reposado tequila
  • 3/4 ounce orange liqueur (such as Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao, Cointreau or triple sec)
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 ounce simple syrup
  • Ice

For the salted half rim (optional):

  • Sal de gusano (worm salt) or kosher salt
  • Lime wedge

Preparation

1. Prepare the salted half rim, if using: In a small shallow bowl or plate, sprinkle a thin layer of the sal de gusano. Run the lime wedge along half of the rim of a rocks glass, then dip the rim into the salt mixture.

2. In a shaker, combine the tequila, mezcal, orange liqueur, lime juice and simple syrup. Add ice, cover, and shake vigorously until the drink is well chilled, about 15 seconds.

3. Fill the glass with ice, then strain the margarita into the glass. Add the lime wedge; enjoy immediately.

Any-Spirit Negroni

Ingredients

  • Ice
  • 1 ounce spirit of your choice (gin, rum, tequila or bourbon or rye whiskeys all work)
  • 1 ounce red bitter liqueur, such as Campari, Cappelletti or Contratto Bitter
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • 1 2-inch-long piece of orange or lemon peel, for serving

Preparation

1. Fill a mixing glass with ice, and add the spirit, red bitter, sweet vermouth and dry vermouth. Stir for 30 seconds, then strain into an ice-filled lowball glass. Garnish with the citrus peel.

Hanky Panky

Ingredients

  • Ice
  • 1 1/2 ounces gin
  • 1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fernet, such as Fernet-Branca, Contratto Fernet or Faccia Brutto Fernet Pianta
  • 1 2-inch-long piece of orange peel, for serving

Preparation

1. Place a coupe or Nick and Nora glass in the freezer to chill for at least 15 minutes and up to an hour. (Alternatively, fill the coupe with ice and water, stir for 30 seconds, pour out the ice and water, and pour the finished drink into the now-chilled glass.)

2. In a cocktail shaker or mixing glass filled with ice, combine the gin, vermouth and fernet. Stir until very cold, about 30 seconds, then strain into the chilled cocktail glass. Hold the orange peel by its long edges, skin facing down into the glass. Pinch the peel to express the citrus oils into the glass and garnish with the orange peel.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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