Synonymous with old Hollywood glamour and the whiskey-soaked Mad Men era, drinks like the minty Stinger and Scotch-driven Rusty Nail have become icons of midcentury drinking. With subtle tweaks, today’s bartenders are upgrading these longstanding formulas, rescuing them from becoming mere relics.
The it-drink of the era was undoubtedly the Moscow Mule, which spurred its own namesake “Mule Parties” and inspired its very own copper vessel during its 1940s heyday. Kathleen Hawkins’ modern twist, the Lavender Mule, upgrades the vodka, lime and ginger construction with a floral, easy-to-make lavender syrup. In his contemporary take on the Tom Collins—another popular midcentury cooler—Shae Minnillo likewise tinkers with the syrup component, swapping the standard simple syrup for Giffard’s Crème de Pamplemousse Rose, adding a smack of grapefruit to the prescribed lemon.
Among more spirit-forward updates, Morgan Schick’s Polar Bear, a modernized Stinger, swaps the traditional gin base for mezcal for a smokier spin. While at Houston’s Tongue-Cut Sparrow, Bobby Heugel doubles down on the traditional Scotch base in his Rusty Nail, calling on a blend of three different expressions plus the standard Drambuie.
Though invented well before the middle of the 20th century, the Martini gave the Mule a run for its money in terms of midcentury popularity. With an aromatic lift courtesy of apricot eau de vie, which complements the botanical character of the gin, Julie Reiner’s update to the tried-and-tested formula, the Gin Blossom, only strengthens its longevity as a perennial favorite.