Long scoffed-at as too sweet, ridiculously potent or just flat-out bad, several ’70s-era cocktails are now being revived (and seriously upgraded) by the best bartenders on the planet.
Cocktail historians wax poetic about the classics—the elegance of a martini or a perfectly balanced daiquiri. Rarely, however, do they extol the virtues of drinks popular during what many call the dark ages of cocktails: the 1970s.
Cue the disco and bring back the fern bar. Bartenders are revisiting this maligned era, updating cocktails for the modern palate and introducing them to a new generation.
Barmen James Tune and Greg Boehm at the new Golden Cadillac in New York’s East Village, are reclaiming antiquated cocktails, upgrading them with fresh-squeezed juices and farmer’s market ingredients, and serving them alongside bites inspired by ’70s issues of Gourmet magazine.
One such drink is Golden Cadillac’s namesake cocktail—equal parts cream, crème de cacao and Galliano liqueur. While it was created in the 1950s at Poor Red’s BBQ in El Dorado, California, it didn’t catch fire until the ’70s.
At Jimmy, a Chicago cocktail den “paying homage to film icons of the ’70s” located inside The James hotel, the once-popular sweet and herbal liqueur Galliano has been liberated after spending 40 years on the bottom shelf. Together with Tito’s Vodka and fresh-squeezed orange juice, it’s breathing new life into the venerable Harvey Wallbanger. Travis Bickle never had it so good.
Barman Nick Crutchfield, of Barrel in Washington D.C., challenged some of his drink-slinging buddies to update a few of these “horrible” drinks.
“With the amount of amazing ingredients that are available to us now, I think this might be a good time to at least look at the ’70s drinks as inspiration,” he says.
Barrel serves the Yellow Bird, giving Galliano a Caribbean twist, with fresh juices and crème de Banana.
At SoBou in New Orleans, Abigail Gullo serves a Hot Grasshopper.
She says she loves the grasshopper because it reminds her of her favorite “...walks into a bar” joke:
“A Grasshopper walks into a bar, and the bartender says, ‘Hey! We got a drink named after you!’ The grasshopper replies, ‘You got a drink called Irving?’”
Recipe courtesy Nick Crutchfield, Barrel, Washington, D.C.
1 ounce Blue Chair Bay White Rum
1 ounce Ron Zacapa 23 Rum
½ ounce Galliano
½ ounce crème de banana
2 ounces fresh orange juice
2 ounces fresh pineapple juice
Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish
Orange wheel, for garnish
Filthy Foods black cherry, for garnish
Combine ingredients in a shaker with crushed ice. Shake to incorporate. Pour into a tiki mug and top with more crushed ice, if needed. Grate nutmeg over ice and garnish with an orange wheel and black cherry.
Recipe courtesy Abigail Gullo, SoBou, New Orleans
2 ounces crème de cacao
1 ounces crème de menthe
Milk, steamed (for a topper)
Cherry-chocolate cream, optional (recipe below)
Dark chocolate, for garnish
Fill a mug with hot water. Place a tin filled with crème de menthe and crème de cacao in the mug with the hot water to warm the liqueurs. Dump the hot water and pour the warm liqueurs into the hot mug and top with steamed, frothy milk. For an extra decadent layer, top with cherry-chocolate cream and grated dark chocolate.
½ ounce crème de cacao
¾ ounce Luxardo cherry syrup
Dash of vanilla
4 ounces whipping cream
Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and lightly hand-whip.
Long Island Iced Tea
Recipe courtesy Jamal Robinson, Town Hall, San Francisco
½ ounce rum
½ ounce No. 209 Gin
½ ounce Cognac
½ ounce Bulleit Rye
½ ounce Averna Amaro
½ ounce Combier Triple Sec
½ ounce limoncello
2–3 dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon peel, for garnish
Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over one big ice cube and garnish with a lemon peel.