Cocktails can sometimes serve as liquid gateways to the world. International drinks reflect diverse global cultures: Consider the multicultural melting pot that makes up London’s Covent Garden district, shaping the drink menu at Dirty Martini Cocktail Bar.
“We didn’t plan to have an international theme,” says Matthew Greenwood, the bar’s general manager. “But we found that with the diversity of products and ingredients available in London, it would be a good way to go.”
Angostura 1919 Rum, which was developed in the West Indies, inspired one of Greenwood’s favorites, The Old Trinidadian. “The chocolate and maple flavors work well together and it is an excellent sipping drink,” Greenwood says.
At Zahav Restaurant in Philadelphia, Michael Solomonov, named best chef (Mid-Atlantic) by the James Beard Foundation in 2011, draws on Eastern European, North African and Persian influences. “[Solomonov] is constantly interpreting tradition to create dishes, and I embrace this same philosophy,” says Zahav’s sommelier, Brian Kane. “We feature international cocktails because our inspirations come from all over the world, specifically the Middle East,” he says. “The beauty of Middle Eastern cuisine is thbroad range of ingredients involved and the spices used in various preparations. This provides me with a wide range of possibilities.”
Kane’s top picks include The Last Wood (American oak barrel-aged gin, Chartreuse, lime and Aperol); A Life Aquatic (barrel-aged vodka infused with coriander, Carpano Antica and Campari) and A Wee Saint’s Dram (Scotch, honey, elderflower syrup, lemon and dry vermouth).
Understanding culturally diverse cocktails is mandatory for any good bartender, says Jim Meehan, co-author of Speakeasy Cocktails: Learn from the Modern Mixologists (openairpub.com) and founder of the bar PDT (Please Don’t Tell) in New York City. “The canon of classic cocktails includes numerous international recipes such as the Negroni, sidecar and daiquiri,” he explains.
Meehan also cautions that when ordering cocktails abroad, tourists should expect variations.
“Cocktails, especially international drinks, are typically adapted in one way or another wherever they’re made. Adaptation and improvisation are part of the DNA of mixed drinks, so next time someone mixes one of your favorite drinks in an unfamiliar manner, make sure to taste it before you judge it. This is how cocktails evolve and tastes shift over time.”