Jeremy Allen of MiniBar in LA had a dream.
He wanted to help drinks of the pre-cocktail revival era prove that they were better than just their sometimes syrup-y, generally sour mix debilitated versions of yore. From the Fuzzy Navel to the Greyhound, the Harvey Wallbanger to the Rusty Nail, here are five drinks from long ago that Allen has revisited with aplomb.
MiniBar is an intimate space with a sort of ’70s player vibe, right down to the music.
As Allen recalls, “The original, wider concept for the menu was disco-era drinks to match the room. Kind of a misguided but well-intentioned, classy approach to fun. Fun being the operative word, versus fuss.”
But just because these drinks are fun doesn’t mean that they lack quality. Gimmicks are crowd-pleasers but not without craft to go along with them.
The menu format was developed after the concept. “Two drinks each in four different categories,” notes Allen, who is both bartender and certified sommelier.
“We were trying to make a menu that is user-friendly, so just organized by type. Too many cocktail menus today are just lists of ingredients, and don’t really give you any idea what you are actually going to get- what kind of glass, up or on ice, sweet, refreshing, strong and stiff etc. We just wanted to make it easy to order something delicious, no surprises.”
Fuzzy del Navel
In Allen’s words: “I wanted a Fuzzy Navel on the menu all along, and tried versions with peach for fuzz and oregano for fuzz, and vodka and gin and Tang even, and a few different peach liqueurs. The Tang and peach and vodka one was actually pretty good, but left an aftertaste I didn’t like. The first part of the year I was working out of the office above Little Dom’s, and would go downstairs and use their bar to prototype recipes. For one version, something sparked me to try pisco. I saw instead they had Singani, which is similar from a different country. I tried it, it worked perfectly. We do a bar spoon of hibiscus tea on top to dry it out and make it pretty, looks like fruit punch. And then we give it an umbrella and a paper straw, so no mistakes, it is a fruity drink.”
- 1 oz. Singani 63 Bolivian Grape Brandy
- 1 1/2 oz. Rothman and Winter Apricot Liqueur
- 1 oz. Orange Juice
- 1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
- Barspoon Hibiscus Tea
Preparation: Shake cold and strain into collins over ice.
In Allen’s words: “The Godfather was a ’70s drink that gently disappeared with the 70’s, rightfully. The recipe is generally (officially) half amaretto and half scotch. In the hotel, there are tons of autographed Hollywood headshots, and I was doing menu work at the same time I was fearing the somm test, and it all kind of came together. Now it’s our top seller. And it’s still a little sweet but the scotch is bright enough to push through.”
- 2 oz. Bank Note 5 Year Blended Scotch Whisky
- 1/2 oz. Angostura 7-Year Rum
- 1/2 oz. Lazzaroni Amaretto
- 2 dashes Angostura Aromatic Bitters
Preparation: Stir all ingredients briefly in a rocks glass.
In Allen’s words: “This is another one we knew we wanted to do all along. I thought we could just do a fun and novel version, like a deconstructed version, super simple and interactive. Tried a few things, both gin and vodka, served on ice with a collins glass and then a soda on the side. I was really hoping for the Orange Crush to work, to keep it era-appropriate. We tried Orange Crush, we tried Grape Crush, we tried Orangina, we tried San Pellegrino blood orange. Turns out though that once you’ve outgrown sugary sodas it’ s hard to come back. The chemicals taste like chemicals. And then one day I did the obvious and tried (duh) FRESH JUICE. And guess what, it worked.”
- 1 oz. City of London Dry Gin
- 1 oz. Galliano
- 2 oz. Fresh Orange Juice
- 2 dashes Lemon Bitters
Preparation: Shake and strain over ice into a collins glass.
Regal Beagle Twinkle Toes
In Allen’s words: “To be honest I wanted to do a Greyhound with whiskey and call it Regal Beagle. I tried Crown Royal, I tried Royal Canadian, Chivas Regal, but nothing really tasted, good, and, in a few, you could taste the caramel color. I don’t know when the idea popped into my head to combine the Greyhound and the Kir Royale, but to bridge those two “bloodlines”, we had decided to use sloe gin. This is one of those that I tasted, and tasted, and tasted, and then the glass was empty. That’s how you know it works, when the tasting glass is empty and you want more.”
- 3/4 oz. Hayman’s Sloe Gin
- 1 1/2 oz. Grapefruit Juice
- 2 dashes Jujube Bitters
- Sparkling Wine, to Top
- Lemon Twist, for Garnish
Preparation: Shake and strain into flute, top with sparkling wine, garnish with lemon twist.
This Old House
In Allen’s words: “I wanted to do a Rusty Nail, and didn’t want to mess with it too much. So we didn’t. We just added the absinthe-rinsed glass, and a teaser of rosemary to wake up the nose. This one we just build in the glass, on ice, super simple. It’s one that gets better as it melts too, and the flavors spread out. Sip it slow if you can… If you are old enough to remember Bob Vila, you are lucky enough to appreciate the beauty of the Rusty Nail.”
- 2 oz. Bank Note 5-Year Blended Scotch
- 1/2 oz. Drambuie
- Absinthe, to Rinse Glass
- Rosemary Sprig, for Garnish
Preparation: Rinse glass with absinthe and add ice to glass. Stir scotch and Drambuie briefly in glass. Garnish with a rosemary sprig; it’s optional to spray rosemary sprig with absinthe too.