A good cocktail is meant to be an invitation to unwind, but some recipes are jaw-clenchingly complicated: precise measurements of this particular spirit or those exact bitters. If you don’t have the right bottle readily available, you can’t make the drink at all. It makes you want to throw up your hands and walk away.
Luckily, some drinks are made with a freer structure. They lend themselves to riffing and breezy improvisation. Tristan Willey made his name at high-end New York City bars like Booker & Dax and The Long Island Bar, where he discovered that drinks like Martinis and Manhattans work well when the rules are relaxed.
By playing with proportions, for example, what ends up in the glass “wasn’t a recipe that existed in my brain, but it works great,” he says. “I’ve fallen in love with this concept, the total looseness of it.”
Prefer a drink stronger, or perhaps sweeter? Do it. Have rum instead of whiskey? That’s fine. Life is complicated enough. Relax. Exhale. The drinks that follow are as forgiving as can be.