Consisting of just two ingredients—Seagram’s Seven Crown and 7Up—the 7&7, as the combination is better known, is not the sort of drink that typically shares menu space with emblematic modern classics like the Oaxaca Old-Fashioned or the Revolver. But at New York’s Porchlight, it does just that.
“I’ve been bartending for 16 years now and I remember that being a common call at the sports dive bar out in the Hamptons that my uncle owned,” says beverage director Nick Bennett, of the nostalgia that motivated his decision to tinker with the chiseled-in-stone 7&7.
It’s one of several once-popular call drinks, like the Long Island Iced Tea and Jack & Coke, that Bennett has reimagined for the rotating menu of draft cocktails at his Chelsea bar. “If it was something like a Gin & Tonic, the problem would have been that someone already knows exactly what they want,” explains Bennett of the liminal position of the 7&7, which is recognizable without being burdened by guests’ particular brand preferences.
This unique position allowed Bennett enough space to create his idealized 7&7, a process that took two months to complete. “Once I decided I wanted to put this on the menu, I would go out to a bar once or twice a week and just order a 7&7—I had to really remind myself what it was that I wanted to taste.”
Given the drink’s minimalist, two-ingredient construction, neither component can afford to be an afterthought. For the soda element, Bennett calls on a house-made lemon-lime, 7Up-inspired syrup drawn from Porchlight chef Anton Nocito’s book of syrup recipes, plus water for dilution.
For the whiskey base, which is typically composed of the light, innocuous Seagram’s Seven Crown, Bennett splits the spirit into a medley of five different expressions: Mellow Corn, Dickel, Canadian Club Rye, Old Overholt and Corsair Triple Smoke. “They all bring something really interesting to the table,” explains Bennett. Mellow Corn brings, well, corn, but without excessive barrel-aged flavor; Dickel contributes “lovely whiskey flavors without being super oppressive”; Old Overholt imparts what Bennett describes as a “floral quality”; Canadian Club offers “a grassy rye flavor”; finally, Corsair Triple Smoke, of which there’s only a trace amount, brings a subtle smokiness to the drink.
“The ultimate goal was to have seven, but once I got past those key five it started to get muddied and I didn’t really taste the nuances of each whiskey anymore,” explains Bennett of his final blend, which he claims doesn’t deviate too far from the recognizable blueprint. (At Porchlight, he runs the whole thing through the bar’s tap system, which offers consistent carbonation and takes the time consideration out of what would be a seven-bottle pickup. For a home bartender rendition, he suggests simply topping the whiskey and syrup with sparkling water.)
Lastly, he garnishes the drink with a traditional lime wedge, counting on guests to squeeze it into the drink for a final burst of brightness. “With a drink like the 7&7, whether they know it or not, people are going to squeeze the lime,” explains Bennett. “For a long time we were doing lime wheels, but it just got all over people’s hands,” he recalls. “The lime wedge fills that void.” Plus, the rudimentary citrus cut acts as a visual callback to how the drink used to be served. “It harkens back to my early days of bartending,” says Bennett, “which were much less elevated, but not any less fun.”
Building Porchlight's 7&7