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Cocktails

Master the Modern Classics

September 15, 2021

Story: Punch Staff

photo: Eric Medsker

Cocktails

Master the Modern Classics

September 15, 2021

Story: Punch Staff

photo: Eric Medsker

Twenty-one recipes for the second generation of must-know cocktails, from the White Negroni to the Death Flip.

Penicillin. Paper Plane. White Negroni. One would be forgiven for thinking these familiar menu items with seemingly timeless builds were creations of the Golden Age of cocktails at the turn of the century. But these household names belong to a more contemporary cohort: modern classics, a group of drinks whose popularity has transcended their bars of origin to become the second generation of canonical cocktails.

In his column Modern Classics, Robert Simonson sought to chronicle the stories of these drinks, detailing what sets this class apart. According to him, traveling beyond the bar where it was created is a central pillar to the success of a modern classic. And it’s reinforced by another key characteristic—a straightforward ingredient list that allows these drinks to be thrown together easily, ensuring a seamless transition to any bar, anywhere. In this way, there’s a certain universality to these drinks, almost as if they’ve been plucked from the pages of a long-lost recipe book. 

That is certainly true of the Kingston Negroni, Tommy’s Margarita or the Oaxaca Old-Fashioned. These contemporary classics bear all the hallmarks of their original namesakes—widely appealing, minimalist, timeless—but have gone on to inspire countless riffs of their own, much like the classics they themselves were based on. The Paper Plane, Sam Ross’ equal-parts, bittersweet sour, for example, has given way to a whole fleet of Paper Planes, while the smoky-spicy Penicillin has become one of the most riffed-on modern classics of all time. 

Of course, as Simonson observes in his piece on the topic, “The final litmus test of a modern classic cocktail is that it must, of course, be popular.” All the drinks listed below have hit that mark and then some. After all, who doesn’t want a Pornstar Martini?

The Modern Classics
Gin Basil Smash Cocktail Recipe
Recipe

Gin Basil Smash

The best selling cocktail at Hamburg's famed Le Lion.

Tommy's Margarita
Recipe

Tommy’s Margarita

This industry stalwart omits orange liqueur in favor of agave syrup.

Recipe

Piña Verde

Erick Castro’s herbal, modern-classic play on the Piña Colada.

jasmine cocktail recipe
Recipe

Jasmine

This Pegu Club riff uses Campari in place of Angostura bitters, and swaps lime juice for lemon.

Siesta Cocktail Recipe
Recipe

Siesta

A tequila-based spin on the Hemingway Daiquiri.

White Negroni cocktail Recipe
Recipe

White Negroni

The fairer Negroni made with Lillet and Suze in lieu of Campari.

Chartreuse Swizzle
Recipe

Chartreuse Swizzle

The traditional Caribbean Rum Swizzle rejiggered with green Chartreuse.

Gold Rush Cocktail Recipe
Recipe

Gold Rush

Honey syrup shines in this Whiskey Sour update.

French Pearl
Recipe

French Pearl

Audrey Saunder's bold pastis-laced spin on the Mojito.

paper plane cocktail recipe
Recipe

Paper Plane

Sam Ross's straightforward equal-parts modern classic.

Recipe

Breakfast Martini

One of the most famous examples of jam as a cocktail ingredient.

Cable Car
Recipe

Cable Car

This spiced rum-based Sidecar became the signature of San Francisco's Starlight Room.

Oaxaca Old-Fashioned
Recipe

Oaxaca Old-Fashioned

The modern classic that helped spark a boom in mezcal cocktails.

gin blossom cocktail recipe
Recipe

Gin Blossom

Julie Reiner's aromatic play on the Martini with apricot eau de vie, bianco vermouth and gin.

Modern Classic Old Cuban Cocktail
Recipe

Old Cuban

Audrey Saunders' remixed Mojito gets topped with Champagne.

Kingston Negroni
Recipe

Kingston Negroni

Joaquín Simó's funky spin on the Negroni.

Pornstar Martini Cocktail Recipe
Recipe

Pornstar Martini

The British-born modern classic.

Penicillin Cocktail
Recipe

Penicillin

A spicy, smoky turn on the Whiskey Sour.

Revolver Cocktail recipe
Recipe

Revolver

A coffee liqueur-laced twist on the Manhattan.

Espresso Martini Recipe
Recipe

Espresso Martini

Dick Bradsell's modern classic has traveled under many names, but has never waned in popularity.

Death Flip Modern Classic Cocktail Recipe
Recipe

Death Flip

“You don’t wanna meet this cocktail in a dark alley.”