There comes a point in every man’s (or woman’s) life when crushable beer just doesn’t do it for you anymore, and you’re ready to move on to something a bit more, shall we say, sophisticated.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with something domestic, light, and cold. After all, the first four beers of my life came to me via a keg of Busch Lite at a party in college. To this day, I still prefer to wrap up a long night at the northeast Minneapolis karaoke bars with a tallboy of PBR, Lone Star, or Old Style — if I can’t get something From The Land of the Sky Blue Waters, that is.
Hesitant to trade in your Michelob for a martini? Join the club. There’s a time and a place for everything, as they say, and that’s never more true than when it comes to enjoying a cool, refreshing adult beverage.
If you are ready to dip your little toe into the wide world of cocktails — or are at least curious — here’s a good place to start. The following three cocktails require only two simple ingredients (plus ice), are almost impossible to screw up, and are oh-so-delicious, each probably deserves its own black-and-white commercial complete with a sing-along theme song.
Dark and Stormy
Part of the fun of making cocktails for me is they can often look just as good as they taste, and the Dark and Stormy is the perfect example. The name comes from the look of the drink, as the black rum floating at the top of the cloudy ginger beer resembles dark, ominous clouds at dusk.
It’s a versatile drink, too: rich and complex enough to play in the colder months, yet light and refreshing enough for warm weather. Or, better yet, enjoy it in a thunderstorm.
Speaking of versatile, if you’ve got any ginger beer left over, there are any number of variations on this theme that are just as easy to make. Swap out the rum for vodka (and a little simple syrup) and voilà: you’ve got yourself a Moscow Mule.
1.5 oz black rum: Gosling’s is the classic (and it’s cheap!)
6 oz ginger beer: I prefer the craftier kind, like Reed’s, although Gosling’s or the like works just fine, as well.
- Fill a 12 oz collins glass with ice
- Fill halfway with ginger beer
- Add 1.5 oz black rum
- Top with ginger beer
a. Add a splash of lime juice (optional)
a. Garnish with a lime wheel or wedge (optional)
Many an Italian tourist has wondered about the orangy sodas being enjoyed on patios around the peninsula, especially in Venice and elsewhere in the northeast. That same tourist may also have noticed that each town — or at least region — of Italy tends to have its own variation on the theme. That’s because there are many different Italian liqueurs unique to their locales with slight variations in flavor and color.
What do they have in common? Each are some combination of sweet and bitter with a bright red coloration that turns to reddish orange or even pink when mixed with soda water, as you do if you want to make a classic Italian Spritz. And whether you serve it with dinner, before to whet your appetite, or after to help digestion, you can’t go wrong. As they say in Italy, cin cin!
2 oz Italian liqueur: Aperol is the sweeter brand, while Campari is perhaps the most bitter.
4 oz club soda: Canada Dry works just fine
You can also use a prosecco (sparkling Italian white wine)/soda mix if you’d like.
Prosecco: I prefer a dryer (brut) variety, and when you’re mixing it, quality isn’t as important.
Lemon rip: a strip of lemon peel about 1” x 2.5” made with a simple potato peeler (or paring knife).
- Fill red wine glass with ice
- Fill halfway with club soda
- Add 2 oz of Italian liqueur
- Top with soda (and/or prosecco) to taste
a. Or, optionally, a soda/prosecco mix
a. Garnish with a lemon rip (optional)
If you’ve ever had a mimosa, you know the simple joy of making something good — like orange juice — even better, simply by adding a sparkling wine. And if you’ve ever been to a French or French-inspired cocktail bar, you know the possibilities are pretty much endless when it comes to champagne cocktails. If that sounds intimidating at all, don’t you worry. You don’t have to love the taste of champagne nor be willing to spend your allotted weekly drinking budget to enjoy a champagne cocktail.
In this case, we’re taking a very accessible sweet herbal (elderflower) liqueur and adding a sparkling wine. The elderflower is given some spunk from the champagne (or cava or prosecco), and the sparkling wine is toned down a bit and sweetened with an approachable, yet delightfully complex flowery essence and flavor of elderflower liqueur.
1.5 oz elderflower liqueur: St-Germain is the most popular brand (with a cool bottle), while St. Elder offers a similar enough experience at a great value.
3 oz sparkling wine: Tell your friends it’s champagne but buy a brut (dry) cava or prosecco instead.
Grab a small bunch of your favorite green spice (I’d recommend thyme, although rosemary would work as well) to really take your Instagram level up a notch.
- Fill champagne flute with a couple cubes of ice (optional)
- Fill halfway with sparkling wine
- Add 1.5 oz liqueur
- Top with sparkling wine to taste
a. Insert thyme sprig (optional)
So even if you have “Dilly Dilly” tattooed across your chest (and perhaps especially so), I dare you to give one of these a try. If you need to pick just one, try the Dark and Stormy and thank me later.
Don’t worry, you can always return to your favorite crushable beer after you finish belting out Bohemian Rhapsody.