I often give talks on cocktail trends around the country and around the world, but only rarely mention the biggest trend of all: that cocktails are getting better everywhere.
In the coastal and other big cities cocktail ingredients come and go in and out of fashion as fast as, well, fashion. The slower, but larger change is that bartenders far from these cities are relearning the classics and using fresh ingredients in drinks. Fresh juices, homemade sweet-and-sour mix, and real grenadine are replacing artificially-flavored and bottled versions in bars. Herbs, berries, and citrus are being muddled into cocktails a la minute. Bartenders are once again treating the profession as a respected career choice rather than something to do between band gigs.
This change is happening not just in fine dining environments but in small venues, chain restaurants, and even in the place that has to appeal to all palates: Las Vegas.
Last year I visited the new CityCenter hotels and casino and had original cocktails with fresh ingredients at several bars and restaurants. This year the Cosmopolitan hotel also opened and is promoting their better drinks as well.
Below is the recipe for one such cocktail served at the Vesper Bar at the Cosmoplitan hotel. It's a spin-off of the classic French 75 with fresh raspberry and sage. It calls for Ransom Old Tom gin that has a pretty unique flavor, but you can substitute your regular gin (or genever if you happen to have some around) in the drink, as well as using a different inexpensive sparkling wine in place of the Cinzano.
With drinks like these, let's hope that what happens in Vegas keeps spreading around the nation.
Created by Andrew Pollard for the Vesper Bar at the Cosmopolitan
6- 8 Raspberries
3- 4 Sage leaves (torn)
1 fl. oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
1 fl. oz. Simple Syrup
½ fl. oz. Luxardo Maraschino
1 ½ fl. oz. Ransom Old Tom Gin
Cinzano Brachetta to fill
In a mixing glass, combine lemon juice, syrup, sage and raspberries. Muddle until emuslified. Add Maraschino & Gin, shake vigororusly for 20 seconds and double- fine strain. Top with the Brachetta. Garnish with two raspberries and a sage leaf.