Making bad drinks good

 Grasshopper shake

Drinks of the 21st century - which often incorporate exotic infusions of herb and spices, feature high-quality craft spirits, and offer sophisticated flavors - have elevated cocktail hour from the days of sickly-sweet Cosmos and Amaretto Sours. Now bartenders are reimagining these and other much-maligned drinks like Midori Sours and the Grasshopper (a drink I recall from grandparent's supper-club days).

One of the leaders in this charge is Jeffrey Morgenthaler, author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique. His updated take on the Amaretto sour started life as a secret drink that he would serve only to friends. "It wasn't cool to say you liked amaretto sours," he said. "I didn't want to be excommunicated from the cocktail world for serving it." But when he opened his bar Pépé Le Moko in 2014, however, he brought this drink - and others like it - out from the shadows. "People were getting fed up with the cocktail nerd who would judge your drink order," he explained. 

The trend is catching on, with Chaim Dauermann, the head bartender at  the Up & Up, a Greenwich Village cocktail bar, taking on the challenge of updating the Midori sour. "I hate pretense," he said. "I particularly hate the dividing of products that happened for a time in our industry." 

The Midori and Amaretto Sours served at these bars bears only passing resembles to the overly-sweet concoctions of yore. Morgenthaler's Amaretto Sour, for example, uses bourbon to give the drink a stronger backbone, and Dauermann's Midori Sour contains gin, homemade lime cordial, and egg white, the last to give the drink more body.

The next time you are in a fancy cocktail bar, take a closer look at the menu. You might see some familiar names that have been given a 21st century makeover. Don't forget to search the EYB Library, too - many of these upgraded drinks can be easily made at home, like  Jeffrey Morgenthaler's grasshopper shake (pictured above) from Food52 by Jeffrey Morgenthaler.

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