Through the course of history, there have been countless drinks to come and go without leaving as much as a trace in our memory banks. Then there are the beverages that stand the test of time — the true classics.
This recipe breakdown will take you on a tour of some essential Southern cocktails worth remembering. A few favorites, such as the Sazerac, go back as far as the 1800s, while the list’s two original formulas use staple spirits and ingredients from the South. Go from Kentucky to Louisiana, then all the way down to FLA.
For more cocktail recipes, be sure to check out my recurring CL column, On the Sauce. There's a new one every Wednesday.
A Southern variation on a vodka classic that calls for bourbon.
2 ounces Kentucky bourbon
4 ounces ginger beer
Lime wheel, for garnish
Fill a copper mug with ice, bourbon and ginger beer. Garnish with a lime wheel.
This New Orleans mainstay is likely the oldest cocktail on our list.
2 ounces rye whiskey
1 splash simple syrup
2 dashes bitters
1 ounce absinthe
Chill a rocks glass by filling it with ice. In a second rocks glass, add rye whiskey, simple syrup and your favorite bitters. Dump out ice from first glass, add absinthe and move glass around to rinse, and then discard. Fill second glass with ice and stir until glass is frosty. Strain into absinthe-washed glass. Garnish with a lemon peel twist.
An original that uses the earliest of Southern boozes.
3-4 ounces cherry moonshine
6-8 ounces pomegranate juice
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Fill a Mason jar with ice. Add moonshine and pomegranate juice. Squeeze in lemon, and then stir.
Skip the Derby races and make this beloved sipper at home.
10 mint leaves, plus 1 mint sprig for garnish
2 teaspoons sugar
2.5 ounces Kentucky bourbon
Soda water (optional)
In a copper mug or rocks glass, add mint and sugar. Muddle until mint is broken down, and then fill with ice. Add bourbon and stir until copper mug is chilled. Garnish with a mint sprig. For those not up to drinking straight bourbon, top with soda water, if desired.
I cook with my senses, not my brain: taste, texture, scent, appearance, sound. That’s how we make this other original, a Southern-y spin on the mojito. —Cathy Salustri
1 container strawberries, sliced
2 counts simple syrup
5 counts rum
Cover bottom of a cocktail shaker two layers deep with strawberries. Add torn basil and mint (enough to cover the red but not so much that some red doesn’t show through), and then simple syrup. Muddle before adding ice and rum. Shake vigorously. Add soda, or regular, water to fill glass. Serve over ice.