A favorite hangout for Downtown Dad and me is a locally owned upscale restaurant called Mezzaluna. A group of us, numbering anywhere from 8 to 20, have been gathering there for Friday night happy hour for a couple of years now, dubbing ourselves “The Mezzalunatics.”
The staff and owners love us, and know us by name (probably because we tip well) in fact they reserve a couple of tables for us every week. I took exception to the word ‘reserved’ though, because the Mezzalunatics are anything BUT reserved. I took it upon myself to change one of the reserved signs to Rowdy, and they put it out on our table faithfully every Friday.
Our drinks of choice are well known by Mezzaluna’s world-class bartenders, sometimes arriving at the table before we even order. The cocktails they deliver are variations on standard drinks based on our own eclectic preferences, such as the Spidertini, a vodka martini with three blue cheese olives; or my favorite, a drink with no name, consisting of double rum, not much ice, and a couple of splashes of Diet Coke. Needless to say, by the end of the evening we have lived up to our name and the sign on our table.
In January, my youngest son, a law student and budding whiskey connoisseur, pointed out that by swilling the same drinks every week, I was wasting the talents of the aforementioned world-class bartenders. He suggested that I read up on classic cocktails, and then every week, instead of just exercising my elbow, I exercise the staff’s mixology knowledge by ordering something obscure.
I chose to ignore the swilling comment, but I was intrigued by the adventurous nature of his suggestion. I signed up for a weekly email from Liquor.com, which despite it’s name, puts out an entertaining, intelligent digest of commentary on drinks and their history, liquors and how to distinguish the good from the bad, and interesting places to sample these things.
I didn’t know where to start though, so being the first of the year with 52 weeks of opportunity ahead of me, I looked up a list of the Top 50 Most Popular Classic Cocktails. Coincidence? I think not.
Ironically, I decided that my first venture into the world of classic cocktails would be a drink called The Last Word. I told Omar, the head barkeep about my intention, and then gave him my order. His eyes lit up like I’d given him a gift, and he went straight to work on my drink.
According to a post on Serious Eats, you could call this drink the zombie of the cocktail world. It was created around the time of Prohibition, and then promptly forgotten for decades, rising from the grave, as it were, about four years ago when a prominent Seattle bartender began serving it.
More popular now than it ever was in its heyday, the Last Word is a surprisingly luscious balance of gin, fresh-squeezed lime juice, maraschino liqueur, and Green Chartreuse. It was tasty, complex, and refreshing, better suited I felt for a summer afternoon on a sunny deck, but a really great start to my tasting adventure.
I passed the drink around to my fellow ‘lunatics for tastes and sniffs, a few even ordered one for themselves. We discussed taste, seasonal appropriateness, and quantity, along with the drink’s backstory. It was a fun departure from gulping down our ‘usuals’ and it gave the group something new to talk about. Plus, it really made the bartenders happy to ply their craft, so a win/win situation!
It’s March now, and while sometimes I still order ‘the usual,’ I have tried a few drinks new to me such as French 75, and Blood and Sand. Some I’ve liked, others, not so much, but we always pass it around, and discuss its pros and cons. I’m just now getting around to writing about this now in what I intend to be a semi regular recap of my classic cocktail experiences.
Until then, Cheers!