Are you mad for Manhattans? Gaga over gimlets? Nuts for Negronis? Do you fantasize about sipping a martini — shaken or stirred — with James Bond in some exotic location, or spending an afternoon with Don Draper of AMC’s “Mad Men” knocking back old-fashioneds?
If you fancy yourself a member of the Cocktail Culture Club, you might want to be in Louisville Feb. 12-14 when New York Times columnist and spirits expert Robert Simonson will be in town to promote “A Proper Drink,” his latest book which delves into the revival of the cocktail culture in America between the 1980s and today.
To tell the full story of the cocktail renaissance, Simonson interviewed hundreds of bartenders, mixologists and what he terms the “unsung heroes” of bar culture.
“Americans invented cocktails and have been drinking them for 200 years,” he said in a recent phone interview.
Prohibition interrupted the love affair with the cocktail, but Simonson says that in the late 1990s, a group of bartenders banded together for a dual purpose — to “revitalize their profession and to bring back cocktail making as an art form.”
Starting in London in the early 1990s, the movement began here a few years later in cities such as New Orleans, San Francisco and New York, about the same time, Simonson says, that a renewed interest in spirits such as Scotch and bourbon arose.
“New Orleans, where the cocktail was said to have been invented, never actually abandoned it,” says Simonson, “and the other two cities were in the forefront of the renaissance.
“Today, we’re drinking the best cocktails we’ve ever drunk in the country’s history,” he says.
During his Louisville visit — the first stop this year on his book tour — Simonson will host two events. On Feb. 12, he will be at Copper & Kings Distillery to discuss the book and mingle with bartenders, chefs and the general cocktail-loving public from 5 to 7 p.m.
The $25 ticket, which can be ordered at copperandkings.com/events, includes a cocktail and a signed copy of Simonson’s book.
On Feb. 13, head to the Brown Hotel from 6 to 7:30 p.m. for a Sip & Study Cocktail Party, an event Simonson describes as “an extended cocktail hour.”
Guests will sample several classic cocktails and visit food stations with accompanying classic bar snacks and small bites. They will also have an opportunity to chat with Simonson about what he’s learned during his extensive research for the book, lauded as one of the best beverage books of 2016 by such publications as “Imbibe” and “Departures.”
Tickets for the event are $35 and can be ordered by calling 502-583-1234.
As for Simonson’s own favorite cocktail, he says “it’s the Old Fashioned, made the old-fashioned way.”
Based on Simonson’s recipe, it certainly seems like Don Draper couldn’t do it any better.
Patti Nickell is a Lexington-based travel and food writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert Simonson’s Old-Fashioned
2 ounces rye or bourbon
2 dashes Angostura bitters
In a rocks glass, wet the sugar cube with the bitters and one bar spoon of warm water. Muddle until sugar dissolves. Add whiskey, stir and add one large ice cube. Stir until well chilled, about 30 seconds. Express orange twist over the drink and slip it into the drink.
¾ ounce rye
¾ ounce Cognac (or Copper & Kings brandy)
¾ ounce sweet vermouth
1 bar spoon Benedictine
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass three-quarters filled with ice. Stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled Old-Fashioned glass filled with ice.
1 ounce Copper & Kings brandy
1 ounce gin
1 ounce lime cordial
1 dash Angostura bitters
4 ounces chilled ginger beer
Mint sprig, for garnish
Orange wheel, for garnish
Combine all the ingredients except the garnishes in a rocks glass filled with ice. Stir until chilled. Garnish with the mint sprig and orange wheel.