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Cocktails

Our Favorite Cocktails of 2021

December 17, 2021

Story: Punch Staff

photo: Briana Balducci

Cocktails

Our Favorite Cocktails of 2021

December 17, 2021

Story: Punch Staff

photo: Briana Balducci

From an Italian Martini to a Cynar-laced Manhattan, here are the most memorable drinks we threw back this year.

This was supposed to be the year we “returned to normal.” Or, in a more optimistic view, the year in which we collectively leveled up to something better than our old normal. That, of course, didn’t happen. Because we, like so many others, had our travel plans thwarted this year by spikes and surges, our annual list of our favorite cocktails from the previous 12 months is necessarily pulled from close to home (and in one case, literally at home). But the list is exciting nonetheless, if not for geographic diversity then for its demonstration of an industry not only persevering but meeting the moment with the types of cocktails we all want and need right now. So, without further ado, here are our favorite cocktails of 2021.

Martini at Ci Siamo | New York City

At chef Hillary Sterling and Danny Meyer’s new Italian restaurant, Ci Siamo, bar director Matt Chavez (formerly the head bartender at The NoMad) has crafted an incredible list of Italian-leaning spins on classics and clever, minimal modern drinks. While the Canio (cold brew, amaro, marsala, citrus) and the Bitter Giuseppe (Cynar, Punt e Mes, lemon, salt) are worthy of this list in their own right, it’s the Martini that tops my list of the most memorable drinks I had this year. A blend of Bordiga’s Occitan gin, Boatyard gin, Lustau's sherry-based blanc0 vermouth, Bordiga dry vermouth and orange bitters, it's a terrific argument for endless Martini tinkering. —Talia Baiocchi, Editor in Chief

Little Italy at Long Island Bar | Brooklyn, New York

I was able to finally join the Punch team for a night out after over a year of working together remotely. We ended our night at Long Island Bar with amaro encylopedia, Brad Thomas Parsons, who introduced me to the Little Italy cocktail. Together we all enjoyed an expertly prepared Tiny Italy, a mini rendition of the Manhattan riff that brings Cynar into the mix. It felt like the perfect cocktail for the moment—a collision of all things Punch. People, place and the ground we cover, all in one tiny glass. —Peter Romero, Business Development

Microdose at Magnus on Water | Biddeford, Maine

It’s most impressive to me when a drink achieves complexity in restraint. A prime example is Brian Catapang’s Microdose, served at Magnus on Water in Biddeford, Maine. The drink works from a simple concept—“salty watermelon on a patio”—executed with razor-sharp precision. Fresh watermelon juice is bolstered by the slight salinity of fino sherry, the fruit notes of pisco, the acid of lime and an added saline jolt from a tincture of habanero and dulse seaweed. Like all cocktails strive to be, it’s far greater than the sum of its parts. —Chloe Frechette, Senior Editor

Snake Eyes at Grand Army | Brooklyn, New York

Featured on Grand Army’s Nicolas Cage–themed menu and named after the critically panned 1998 conspiracy thriller, Robby Dow and Ally Marrone’s smoky salt lick of a cocktail builds on the Scotch and coconut combo popular in the Caribbean. Understated and subtly tropical, it drew me back to the bar through the summer. Now that its run on their themed seasonal menu is over (they’ve moved on to Cats), the pared-down spec means the recipe has also been in heavy rotation at my home bar. —Allison Hamlin, Associate Director of Network Development

Recipe

Ci Siamo Martini

A blend of two types of gin, two types of vermouth and two dashes of orange bitters.

Little Italy Cocktail Recipe
Recipe

Little Italy

Audrey Sanders' modern classic take on the Manhattan.

Coconut Highball
Recipe

Snake Eyes

A mezcal take on the Caribbean staple of Scotch and coconut water.

Gibson at Gage & Tollner | Brooklyn, New York

It’s no surprise that Team Punch enjoys a Martini now and then, and I’d be remiss not to mention the seven variations of the drink available at Brooklyn’s Gage & Tollner. My favorite of the bunch, and the one that I’ve been returning to on each visit, is the restaurant’s take on the Gibson. Not only is it probably the best version of the drink that I’ve ever had, I’d dare say it’s one of my two favorite Martinis in the whole city (looking at you, Sakura). —Lizzie Munro, Art Director

The Rebujito at Home | New Orleans

The Rebujito! What a gift this was. Anytime sherry makes its way into my world, I’m grateful. But mix it with fresh citrus and lemon-lime Spindrift and it’s like the Andalucian hard seltzer of your (that is to say, my) dreams. —Leslie Pariseau, former Features Editor

Spritz at Sociale | Brooklyn, New York

This year I indulged in everything from extravagant tiki drinks to the chardonnay found in my mother’s refrigerator, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that my most reached-for cocktail of 2021 was the ever-reliable spritz. After the 2020 realization that I do, in fact, enjoy my own company, I would take myself out for spritz-and-reading dates during the steamy Brooklyn summer months. While the spritz is delicious in all its forms and riffs, I frequented a new neighborhood spot, Sociale in Carroll Gardens. As much as I would ponder trying something new on the convenient one-minute walk from my apartment to the barstool, it would always be a classic Aperol Spritz for me. —Liina Paavonpera, Photo Assistant

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