At this point in cocktail history, more than two decades into the revival, just about every Golden Age recipe—and Dark Age recipe, for that matter—has been rediscovered, revived and reintroduced to the drinking public. But despite the endless poring over of Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book and Jerry Thomas’ How to Mix Drinks by bartenders seeking drink-making inspiration, a number of recipes have remained unappreciated—seemingly too odd, unlikely or downright weird to warrant a second look. But for the bartenders spotlighted in our “D List” column, which covers history’s forgotten drinks, these formulas possess the trappings of something worth keeping around, unorthodox ingredient list and all.
For some, the intrigue lies precisely in each drink’s seemingly incongruous makeup. Take, for example, the Metexa, whose very description, “tequila aperitif”—let alone its oddball combination of the agave spirit, Lillet and Swedish punsch—might raise an eyebrow. The Chauncey, meanwhile, is a supercharged equal-parts combo of whiskey, gin, Cognac and sweet vermouth from the 1934 Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book. “The whiskey-gin mix, you don’t see that too often,” notes bartender Frank Caiafa. “But then there’s also Cognac—three lead ingredients, in equal parts, softened and modified by vermouth. Anything like that really gets your eye.”
Equally unlikely is the Yellow Parrot—a mix of absinthe, yellow Chartreuse and apricot liqueur—that has stood the test of time to become a fan favorite at Brooklyn’s Maison Premiere. The Cloister cocktail likewise proves that what might sound overly bold on paper can, in fact, come together in the glass. When Christina Rando first served the heady mixture of yellow Chartreuse, gin, two types of citrus and simple syrup from the pages of the Playboy Bartender’s Guide, she recalls, “the guest was so happy that she ordered three more.”
Other recipes feel so well-suited to modern drink-making that it’s a wonder they aren’t on more menus today. An absinthe-laced Martini riff, a little-known Whiskey Sour variation and a proto-Daiquiri all come to mind—each recalls a time-tested classic and subverts our expectations of it.
But on paper, few drinks rival the absurdity of the Creole-Rum Sazerac, a ’70s-era concoction typically consisting of Pernod, two types of rum, Angostura bitters, lemon juice and a hit of bottled hot sauce. To bring it up to snuff without losing its character, bartender Drew Pompa leans on a split base of Guyanese and Jamaican rums. “The Sazerac is a very serious drink,” he notes of its namesake. But “flipping it, twisting it, and doing a total, all-out fuckup of the original ... resulted in a very delicious cocktail I would be proud to serve to any guest.”
Get to know these cocktails, and more underrated drinks from the history books that deserve a second chance, through the 32 recipes below.