A love letter to classic cocktails


By Kirstie Addis

Ahead of Valentine’s, I’ve been ruminating on things I love about the hospitality industry. The list is extensive. I love so much about our industry, and I find it quite impossible to reduce it down to one specific factor. There are so many aspects I enjoy.

First, the camaraderie of working as part of a team who become more like family than your own. You spend forty plus hours a week together. You either wake up together on shift and nurse a coffee, or they can be the last face you see in the day as you lock up at night.


Second, the variety and inspiring connections you create with customers. You can become someone’s therapist in the blink of an eye, and they treat you as a confessional. No two days are ever the same in hospitality. The restaurant is all things to all people at all times. For instance, it’s Friday 4pm, and you scan the restaurant floor. There’s a divorce about to occur on table 1, a woman announces her pregnancy on table 2, and an engagement is toasted on table 3. It’s varied, tumultuous, but it is quintessentially human.  Lifelong relationships can occur from working with your colleagues, and serving your regulars.

The final and enduring thought I had was cocktails and cocktail culture; all the drinks I have learned how to prepare and studied over the past decade. In particular the legends that surround and inspire them. Cocktails and their history are fascinating.

The stories which inspired the Classics in particular, I love. For this reason, I will recount the tales which have inspired my favourite cocktails.

Essentially a gin Manhattan, the Martinez is scrumptious. It maintains a fine balance of being both light in character, yet it retains plenty of depth too. It isn’t cloying, so it can be enjoyed as both an aperitif and digestif and served up garnished with a twist. It combines gin, sweet vermouth and maraschino liqueur.

Somewhere between 1850 and 1860, bartender Jerry Thomas invented the drink at The Occidental Hotel in San Francisco. Legend has it Jerry was serving a group of miners who were commissioned to travel to Martinez, California for work. A miner set a gold nugget on the bar and asked for something delicious. Jerry created the Martinez in homage to the miner’s journey.

The Martinez is the precursor to the Martini. The Martini is one of the most popular cocktails the world over. No cocktail is as celebrated in popular culture as the Martini, apart from maybe the Negroni Sbagliato, with prosecco added thanks to Emma D’Arcy. But more of this later.

Dorothy Parker penned the lyric: I like to have a martini, Two at the very most. After three I’m under the table, After four, I’m under my host. H.L. Mencken described the Martini as the “only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.” Author Alec Waugh quipped “I am prepared to believe that a dry martini slightly impairs the palate, but think what it does for the soul.”

F0F72178-B48D-4337-9F91-763427AEC1F5Bartender Martini di Arma di Taggia whilst at the Knickerbocker Hotel, NY is credited with the inception of the Martini. It is said that the drink was created in 1911 for John B. Rockefeller, co-founder of the Standard Oil Company and America’s first billionaire. The ‘three Martini lunch’ soon became a standard amongst business executives for years. It is recorded that Rockefeller enjoyed his Martini bone dry with gin, dry vermouth, bitters, lemon peel and one olive.

The Martini is such a simple, clarified, clean and crisp cocktail. However, there is such versatility created with different garnishes: Olive, lemon twist or onion.

The Gibson Martini features an onion, it has a different profile to a Martini garnished with a lemon peel or briny olive. It is bright, earthy and vegetal which compliments the citrus quality of dry gin. The Gibson was invented when American illustrator Charles Dana Gibson asked a bartender at The Players Club in Manhattan to update his Martini – to which the bartender responded by dropping an onion in his drink.

The Paloma, Spanish for dove, is a cocktail which is imbued with intrigue and obscurity. Nobody can agree on precisely who and where it was created. Many agree it was Don Javier who owned La Capilla bar in the town of Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico in the 1950s. Javier was explicit in his instructions to his bar team: you always stir the cocktail with the same knife you use to cut the limes. Legend has it Javier was quite the showman and the knife he used to stir Palomas resembled more of a sword.

The Paloma features five simple ingredients : Blanco tequila, grapefruit, lime, soda and salt. The Paloma truly packs a punch, as these ingredients all work together and against each other. It manages to be sweet, sour, bitter and salty all at once. Served tall over ice as a highball is refreshing too. It is the perfect antidote to a parched throat on a summer’s day. Even better when you close your eyes and imagine you’re in Mexico.

1E75246E-1DAD-4BAC-A05B-D03F01E80EC6Next, I look to Cuba to discuss the classic Daiquiri. The Daiquiri is eponymous for the town it was created in on the South Eastern tip of Cuba. Allegedly, it was created by an American engineer Jennings Cox in 1898. Legend has it Cox was hosting a cocktail party for friends, and he was preparing Gimlets (a cocktail combining gin, lime, and sugar). Apparently, Cox ran out of gin which was in short supply in Cuba. So he switched the gin for rum, Cuba’s national spirit and in plentiful supply.

What Cox created is clean, crisp, and sessionable. It is incredibly simple in its composition, like the Martini and both cocktails are robust and full of flavour. Writer Ernest Hemingway (pictured) spent much of his time writing in Cuba.

Reportedly, whilst searching for a bathroom in El Floridita, he spied a bartender preparing frozen daiquiris. Never one to refuse a drink, he took a sip and exclaimed “double the rum, and scrap the sugar.” The Hemingway daiquiri was thereby born which features blanco rum, lime, ruby red grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur. Maraschino is an Italian liqueur composed of Marasca cherries which imbue a slight sweetness to the daiquiri, but ultimately highlight the sour nature of the lime juice.

B4FB8784-35EA-4020-B790-9524A20B3039Like many of the stories surrounding the cocktails I have discussed, the origins of the word cocktail itself have been widely debated. The term was recorded as early as 1798 and is referenced in newspaper publications. Although references to these mixed drinks can be traced back to the 18th century, it isn’t clear where the first cocktail was created. Perhaps we will never know.

Like history itself, the drinks we have grown to love and enjoy are susceptible to the same interrogation through the passage of time. But it is the legends and intrigue, and human stories that make the drinks all the more delicious. Cheers!

Category: Features, News
Tags: classic cocktails, daiquiri, The Martini, The Paloma