Timeless elegance is the theme of this month’s Mixology Monday Challenge and Special 100th Edition. With the resurgence of cocktail culture in the last 15 years, it’s interesting to note that we seem to have gone though a cycle. The old classics were rediscovered, elevated, tweaked, riffed on. Eventually we got a bit side-tracked with exotic ingredients, molecular mixology, or 20-component cocktails. Now the trend seems to be for simple yet memorable cocktails.
One person though always stayed the course, and his vision of perfectly crafted cocktails inspired countless bartenders all over the world. That person, of course, is Sasha Petraske, who passed away a few days ago. It’s quite incredible how much of a deep impact he had on the cocktail world as a whole. So many bartenders I admire have worked in his bars, or have been trained by people who worked in his bars. Many of them have opened or managed successful and influential bars.
At the core of his philosophy was the desire to provide the customers a great experience by taking the time to understand their likes and dislikes, and giving them a tasty cocktail that they could enjoy in a comfortable environment. The preparation of the drink is important, and each step is given a lot of thought. Glasses are chilled, good-quality ice is used, juices are fresh, ingredients are measured, garnishes are carefully prepared, etc. These principles were a revelation when Milk & Honey was opened in 2002. Nowadays it’s a given that every good cocktail bar follows them.
Sasha Petraske was very fond of the classic Daiquiri, so the cocktail community will have one (and many more) in his honor on August 31. In the meantime, I decided to revisit a few of his creations that illustrate his point of view quite well.
The Business (Sasha Pretraske) | 2 oz gin | 3/4 oz lime juice | 3/4 oz honey syrup | shake | strain into coupe
First up, The Business is a take on a fresh Gimlet with honey as the sweetener. It’s the lime version of the classic Bee’s Knee, hence its name I suppose. A touch of honey doesn’t seem like much but it adds depth and interest to the drink. Of course, using different honeys, from light to dark, will result in a slightly different drink, so it’s easy to have fun with this cocktail. It’s fresh and interesting.
Ginger Cocktail (Sasha Petraske) | 2 oz gin | 1/2 oz lime juice | 3/4 oz ginger syrup | shake | strain into coupe
The Ginger Cocktail is based on the same fresh Gimlet template, this time with ginger syrup as the sweetener. Of course it’s a completely different drink since ginger is so distinctive. It adds a kick that is very pleasant. Paired with the sharp and biting Dorothy Parker (gin), it’s a perfect match.
Gordon’s Cup (Sasha Petraske) | 2 oz gin | 6 lime wedges | 3/4 oz simple syrup | 3 slices cucumber | muddle in shaker | add ice | shake | dump into old-fashioned glass
The last one is so simple that you wonder why you didn’t think of it first. In the summer, everyone enjoys a Caipirinha, the cachaça-based Brazilian classic. How do you adapt that drink while respecting its spirit? When in doubt, gin is the answer. Gin and lime are great as we have already seen from the two previous drinks. A touch of muddled cucumber to round off the juniper edges of the gin, and here is a wonderfully fresh new classic, the Gordon’s Cup.
Thanks to Paul Clarke, the creator of Mixology Monday. To Fred Yarm for taking the torch in 2012. To all the participants who have been keeping the party alive for the past 9 years. It’s a fun group of people, and always an inspiration!
- Sasha Petraske, 42, Dies; Bar Owner Restored Luster to Cocktail Culture; New York Times, August 2015
- ‘He Didn’t Follow Trends’: How Sasha Petraske Reinvented Cocktail Culture and Created a New Bartending Community, Grub Street, August 2015
- The Bar Heard Round the World, PUNCH, May 2014
- 7 Cocktail Party Tips from Sasha Petraske of Milk & Honey, NYC; Serious Eats, February 2012
- Bartenders Only: Sam Ross Has Some Frank Opinions About Classic Cocktails, Liquor.com, July 2105