|Sazerac - a brandy Old Fashioned with an absinthe twist
I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to cocktails. All mixologists enjoy creating new drinks and playing riffs on the well-known ones, but I get as much enjoyment out of tracing a cocktail back to its origins and serving it as it was first served (as far as possible). There's a lot to be learnt about cocktail-making by learning the classic versions of the recipes. It teaches you how to structure a drink, what effect different methods of mixing have, and the advantages and disadvantages of certain garnishes or glassware.
To make significant changes to ingredients, in my opinion, is to create an entirely new cocktail, rather than a twist. When the gin in an Alexander was replaced by Cognac, it gained the additional description "Brandy" Alexander, in the same was that a vodka Martini is one made with vodka, but one made with gin is just a Martini.
The Negroni, itself a development on the Americano and Mi-To cocktails, has seen many a new variant. You can watch me make a white Negroni in the video above. My two favourite variants are the Negroni Sbagliato, made with Prosecco in place of gin, and the Boulevardier, in which the spirit used is Bourbon.
The Manhattan cocktail was inspired by the Martini, but has no ingredients in common with that cocktail any more. I'd like to share my recipe for a sweet Manhattan, with a chocolate-hazelnut twist. It employs all the methods of subtly changing cocktails we have discussed.
Put a couple of large ice cubes in a mixing glass. Add a dash of Angostura bitters and two dashes of chocolate bitters, then add a teaspoon of Frangelico liqueur and 25ml of sweet, red vermouth. Stir these briefly together before adding 50ml of good Bourbon. Stir for another 20 seconds or so and strain into a short tumbler. Garnish with a toasted hazelnut, which you have gently impaled onto the end of a cocktail stick.