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July 20, 2022 News » Cover Story

Salt Lake Cocktails 

Tried and true vs. shiny and new

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Word has it that younger drinkers have been gravitating toward oldschool drinks. And if they are, it makes sense—a strong drink like a martini certainly offers bang for the strapped Gen Z buck—or for anyone's buck, really.

After nearly a decade of "craft cocktail" rule, it's refreshing to lean into simple, three-ingredient drinks. But fear not, the craft scene remains alive and well in its own right. Whether your taste buds are drawn to predictable old standards—shaken, stirred, over or neat—or something creative and brand-spankin' new, read on for classic cocktail tips as well as the latest experiments in the tippling scene.

Always In Style
Why do we love classic cocktails? One reason is that most are made with only a few ingredients. And once you find your one true drink, you can easily learn to make it at home.

One of the most celebrated cocktails is, of course, the Old Fashioned, made with 2 ounces of bourbon, a quarter ounce-ish of simple syrup, three dashes of bitters (typically angostura) and an orange-peel garnish.

Pro tip: The orange peel should include a little of the white pith. Once you've sliced the peel, flex it so the outer skin expresses its oils onto the surface of your drink (you'll be able to see the oil specks), then run the expressed outer skin around the inner rim of your glass. Drop it in. This is how you get that wonderful orange scent on this drink, and the same trick can be used for any other cocktail that wants a citrusy scent, which adds to the flavor.

Also along the Old Fashioned vein is the Manhattan, which uses rye whiskey instead of bourbon, sweet vermouth instead of simple syrup and cherry instead of orange peel. Or try a whiskey sour, which uses bourbon, simple syrup, lemon juice and, often, a frothy, shaken egg white.

Then, there is the more complex, bitter Negroni, the off-red drink that people call a "one-and-done" because of its three-part doozy of gin, sweet vermouth and the aperitif Campari. Its cousin, the Boulevardier, swaps gin for whiskey.

With gin, cocktails become even simpler. A gin and tonic instantly refreshes; use local Caribbean tonic by Van Kwartel to make it more tropical. A gimlet and a Tom Collins both add citrus to gin—lime and lemon, respectively—the latter tops it with soda.

The varying Vesper can include either gin or vodka for a martini-like creation that includes Lillet Blanc (a crisp, botanical French aperitif wine used in cocktails the same way vermouth is) and a lemon twist.

Then there's the Martinez, which falls between the Manhattan and the martini—it's Old Tom gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur and angostura bitters.

Not ready to make it yourself? You can ask for any of these classic cocktails at Salt Lake cocktail bars and any finer dining establishment in the area.

With a Twist
So who is bucking tradition and re-imagining what a cocktail can be? Speaking again of the martini, perhaps because of its simplicity, it is ripe for experimentation.

At the newly opened bar and restaurant The Pearl (917 S. 200 West, SLC), Vietnamese flavor is the order of the day. Their Matsuura martini features Suntory Haku Vodka, Roku Gin and Cocchi Americano (an aperitif wine flavored with quinine, which is the distinctive ingredient of tonic water). Not only is the cocktail a successful experiment, but it's the kind of martini you want to order three of.

Another Pearl cocktail, the Plum Job, finds Japanese Suntory Toki Whisky combined with lemon, honey and a float of some of Shades Brewing's Plum Sour Ale—a whiskey sour, essentially. For fans of Kahlua cocktails, there's the Ca Phe, a spiked Vietnamese coffee drink made with the caramelly Amaro Averna, Robusta coffee and chicory.

Though it opened as a waiting room with booze for Takashi next door, Post Office Place (16 W. Market St., SLC) has become a go-to for quaffable and inventive beverages. Their cocktails understandably highlight top-drawer Japanese booze brands.

The Natsu Gin Tonic includes Roku Japanese Gin, Hakutsuru Plum Wine, tonic, ginger, sansho pepper and grapefruit peel. Their menu features a Peruvian influence—on the food and booze side—notably with the Square Watermelon Pisco Sour, which includes Pisco Logia, watermelon shrub, Hakutsuru Plum Wine, lime, egg white and pickled watermelon rind.

Then there's Curiosity (145 E. 900 South, SLC), a new, zero-roof cocktail and espresso bar that specializes in cocktails the same way all the other ingredient-crazy craft bars do, only sans the alcohol.

Whether they admit it or not, many who imbibe in cocktails do so more for the blend of flavors rather than the effects of alcohol. Curiosity riffs on that. While they offer some dupes, like their Livener Margarita—which goes for the warm, upper sensation that tequila provides by using the brand Three Spirit's brain-electrifying botanicals—they shine with their original creations.

The Nick and Nori is made with cold brew, yuzu, maple syrup, nori, bitters and salt, served up in a classy little glass. Another sober-alt bev worth mentioning is the Nuova Negroni, which features alcohol-free gin from Dhos (of the Ransom gin family), Dhos's rhubarb aperitif (rhubarb is the base of Campari), a housemade zero-proof vermouth and, in a traditional twist, orange and celery bitters.

Not only is it an excellent Negroni, it's one that won't make you feel like actual death the next day. Curiosity is making sober socializing freshly glam and delectable, and they're also expanding upon the cocktail genre in ways where flavor and fun are front and center.

When it comes down to it, isn't the flavor and the fun the point of any cocktail? We think so.

Complet List of Utah Distilleries

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Thomas Crone

Erin Moore

Erin Moore

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Erin Moore is City Weekly's music editor. Email tips to: music@cityweekly.net.

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