Reinventing Retro Cocktails with twists on traditional drinks

retro cocktails

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Words: Matt Looker

To some people, the mention of ‘cocktails’ doesn’t bring to mind Martinis, Old Fashioneds or Vodka Sours, but rather Sex On The Beaches, Tequila Sunrises and Strawberry Woo Woos.

retro cocktails

These often luminous libations are a product of a cocktail revolution that occurred throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s. At a time when society was changing with more free expression and even more free love, the drinks industry – like everything else at the time – rejected the stuffy traditions of old to pursue more exciting and imaginative ventures.

This saw a boom in vibrant liqueurs and syrupy mixers in place of classic traditional spirits, appealing to drinkers enjoying an increasingly more playful pop culture.

This burst of bright colours and sugary sweet Schnapps forms the basis of an embarrassingly naff era of mixology that the industry would now rather forget. By modern mixology standards, drinks like the Singapore Sling, the Grasshopper and the Harvey Wallbanger seem simplistic and gaudy, lacking the nuance and complexity of the craft cocktails produced today.

But, as jazz musicians and Terminators know all too well, sometimes the best way to be a revolutionary of the future is to make changes to the past.

Reinventing original recipes, such as by adding spice and herbal flavours, or simply by toning down colour or substituting simple sweeteners, can produce some truly impressive drinks.

Below are some examples, where you can compare the original formulae to my adapted versions.

As always with cocktails, which version you prefer is just a matter of taste...

Seabreeze

Traditional:
  • 45ml Pink Grapefruit Juice
  • 90ml Cranberry Juice
  • 60ml Vodka
 
Twist:
  • 60ml Rock Sea Salt Flavoured Vodka
  • 90ml Fresh Grapefruit Juice
  • 30ml Wild Cranberry Liqueur
  • 30ml Chilli Pepper Liqueur

Method: Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a salt-rimmed lowball glass filled with ice. Garnish with grapefruit peel.

New York Sour

Traditional:
  • 60ml Bourbon
  • 30ml Lemon Juice
  • 15ml Sugar Syrup
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • 25ml Red Wine
 
Twist:
  • 60ml Barrel-Aged Gin
  • 30ml Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 15ml Sugar Syrup
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • 25ml Bloody Shiraz Flavoured Gin

Method: Shake the first four ingredients with ice, strain into an ice-filled glass then float the last ingredient around the surface. Garnish with lemon peel.

Screwdriver

Traditional:
  • 60ml Vodka
  • Orange Juice
 
Twist:
  • 60ml Cardamom and Clove Infused Vodka
  • 2 ripe Nectarines (peeled and chopped)
  • 15ml Homemade Cinnamon Syrup

Method: Muddle the nectarines, add ice and the other ingredients and shake. Strain into an ice-filled long glass, garnish with more nectarine.

Check out our latest blog posts for more cocktail hints and tips!
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