Reviving Three Classics From Grandma’s Liquor Cabinet

Starting with the Pink Squirrel.

Old drinks don't die. They just retire to your grandparents' basement and low-key dives, occasionally ordered by someone named Marge whose lips are permanently pursed in a pre-cigarette-drag scowl. I know because I once worked in an out-of-the-way tavern in a one-horse town, and once a month I'd have to go digging for an aged bottle of green crème de menthe or endure the unsexiest people ordering (wink) Sex on the Beach. Certain drinks, though, don't deserve to fall out of fashion. These drinks have their own merit and flair, and shouldn't be shelved just because they haven't evolved with our newly found taste for spirits. Delicious is as delicious does. I don't hate myself for loving these silly drinks—and neither should you. One of my guiltiest pleasures sounds too frisky to be a cocktail: the Pink Squirrel. The original recipe is a small, after-dinner drink, served in a cocktail glass, no doubt drunk only by ladies already hopped up on pills. (Maybe it was the perfect calmer for a stomach full of 'ludes.) Pink Squirrels taste like the soft, creamy center from a Whitman's chocolate sampler. The original recipe contains one ounce each of crème de noyaux, white crème de cacao, and half-and-half. You shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. I don't know a bar in town that carries crème de noyaux, a bright-red almond liqueur. I substitute the same amount of amaretto and a splash of grenadine, even though that might just make the drink even lower-brow. Use this recipe to create two more mothers' little helpers of the 1950s: Swap brandy for the crème de noyaux and you've got a Brandy Alexander, or use green crème de menthe for a Grasshopper, the adult version of a Shamrock Shake. Classy. But like shots of tequila or movie popcorn with extra butter, ordering a Pink Squirrel every now and again is a cheeky pleasure I won't give up. The 1970s brought us cocktails that made the tiki drinks of Trader Vic's era seem understated by comparison. Like the era's furniture, mustaches, and porn, '70s cocktails are a bit hard to stomach. A Sloe Comfortable Screw Up Against a Wall personifies the cheesy excess of the decade. It's a hybrid of the Harvey Wallbanger and the Sloe Comfortable Screw, two almost-respectable cocktails popular around the same time. The SCSUAAW includes sloe gin, Southern Comfort, vodka, orange juice, and Galliano. Talk about a little much—it's the equivalent of chewing a fistful of strawberry, orange, butterscotch, and licorice Jelly Bellies. I've always preferred the Wally Harbanger, which tastes like a sidecar, only with a little of Galliano's anisette punch in place of the usual orange liqueur. Mix 1 ounce of the brown liquor of your choice (brandy, bourbon, rye), ½ ounce of Galliano, 1 ounce of lemon juice, and simple syrup to taste, and pour over ice. If you want more period wantonness, float a little sloe gin or Chambord on top. The most misunderstood classic of all time is the Tom Collins. The Tom C. isn't a bad drink—most bartenders just screw it up or make it with vodka. For the best Tom Collins, start with a pint glass full of ice and add 1½ ounces of gin, the juice of half a lemon, and a tiny bit of simple syrup. Give the glass a light shake and strain into a rocks glass full of ice. Top with mineral water; most bars use club soda off the gun, which is hella sweet and tastes flat. I even add a few dashes of bitters. The proper proportions of mixer to booze should yield a fizzy, tasty lemonade. These unfashionable little numbers all share an easy-drinking nature. No wonder they've fallen out of style, what with our snotty preferences for the baroque. Get into the spirit of these reclaimed bygones by trucking to a straightforward bar like the Metropolitan Grill during happy hour, ordering some mini–beef dips, and getting as cheesy as you like.

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