Today's cocktail is a simple twist on a basic sour, along with some tips on creating your own drinks following its example.
A 'sour' is a basic cocktail format that is not actually sour, but sweet-and-sour. Most any drink with citrus will fall into the sour category, because you need sugar or another sweetener to balance the citrus' sourness.
Take the Gimlet for example. It has an alcohol base component (gin or vodka), and a match of sour (lime) to sweet (simple syrup). The Margarita is also a sour: tequila and lime with triple sec as the sweetener. A Whiskey Sour is whiskey, lemon, and simple syrup.
The basic recipe for a sour is two parts of alcohol to one part each of sweet and sour components (2:1:1). But every bar has their own take on that ratio, from extra sweet (2:1:1/2) to extra sour (2:1/2:1). I like mine slightly sour, but pretty close to equal parts sweet and sour. Once you find your preferred ratio, you can build on the drink.
As in the case of the Margarita, you can use a liqueur as the 'sweet' component in the sour. So you could make an Orange Whiskey Sour by merely substituting triple sec for simple syrup, for example, or a Berry Whiskey Sour by using creme de cassis.
For lemon or lime, substitute grapefruit, yuzu, or other sour citrus to add new flavors to the drink. (Orange juice is actually quite sweet, so if you use that as your citrus component you'll probably need to sour it up with lemon.)
From that basic format, you can add other flavor modifiers: Muddle in some fruit or berries, or add spices or herbs as in the Antoine's Cocktail below.
Andrew Friedman of the bar Liberty in Seattle begins with a very strong and sour Vodka Sour (1.75: .5: .25) and adds rosemary for an aromatic element, plus extra citrus by pressing lemon peels against the bottom of the glass to release the oils from the peels. When you release the oils from citrus by this method or simply by twisting a lemon peel over the top of the drink, you get that real zesty, fresh, aromatic citrus aroma that you can smell across the room.
Sour drinks with lots of citrus and sweetener are often served 'up' in a cocktail glass. However since Friedman has chosen to make this a spirit-forward drink with small quantities of sweet and sour, he has chosen to serve it over one big ice cube that will slowly melt. This cocktail is more of a slow sipper than a summer slushie - but if you're so inclined, feel free to double or triple the lemon and simple syrup and throw the whole thing in the blender.
By Andrew Friedman of Liberty in Seattle
1.75 fl. oz. Vodka
.5 fl. oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
.25 fl. oz. Simple Syrup
2 Dashes Peychaud's Bitters
1 Rosemary Sprig (plus one for garnish)
3 Thin Lemon Peels (plus one for garnish)
Place in a mixing glass the lemon peels, then the rosemary, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Press with a muddler or wooden spoon the mix with enough force to really break out the lemon oils from the peels, then add the vodka & Peychaud's bitters. Add ice, shake, and strain (leaving behind the solids) over one big ice cube. Garnish with a thick twist of lemon and rosemary sprig as in the included picture.