Stretching Out Classic Cocktails & Flavours
Cocktails are flexible and you can play with them to create unique tastes. Read on and learn how to give a fresh twist to classic cocktails.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
‘Stretching out’ drinks take existing recipes, usually ones that are traditional or ‘classic’ (typically, quite spirit-forward by nature), and applies their flavours or ingredients to a new format such as a highball.
To ‘stretch out’ a recipe, there must be a deep understanding and familiarity with the drink in question. When someone has served a drink countless times, they understand and appreciate the flexibility in the cocktail’s character – what can stretch, what works and what won’t work.
A drink’s new format is often built for longer consumption (‘stretched out’) and this is reflective of changing attitudes to conscious drinking. Not only does this give older recipes a new lease of life, but they can help a bar’s bottom line as they’re often lighter in ingredients and well suited for volume sales.
I’ll usually add a few ‘stretched classics’ to our menu in the summer months, so here are a few of my favourites.
The key to mixing unique and flavourful cocktail serves is experimenting with different cocktails and flavours. Here, we explore three classic cocktails and how you can stretch them out.
The history of the Rusty Nail is so convoluted with legend and folklore; it has acquired a cult-ish status among bartenders. Under the guise of multiple names and ratios, this two-ingredient banger has collected origin stories spanning the early 1930s to the mid-1960s.
My favourite Rusty Nail story is that the cocktail was created in Hawaii sometime around 1942 for the artist Theodore Anderson. I love the thought of someone in the climate of Hawaii giving the world a drink that, to me, evokes images of cold nights and cosy fireplaces.
The traditional recipe is quite spirited, so I wanted to take the Rusty Nail’s bold flavour profile and create a more sessionable drink. My riff relies on the simplicity of the drink and its Polynesian “heritage”. The tropical fruit notes in Johnnie Walker Black Label make the drink sing, while the inclusion of the coconut and lavender makes it dance.
Blood & Sand
Pulled straight from the legendary Savoy Cocktail book of 1930, the history of this drink dates even further back to 1922. Eight years before making it to print, the drink earned its name from making its debut at the premiere of Fen Niblo & Dorothy Arzner’s bullfighting film, ‘Blood and Sand’.
Naturally, this matador chose red for this one. Johnnie Walker Red Label is perfect for ‘stretching out’ this cocktail. It’s vibrant and playful, and there’s just enough length on the finish, with a crackle of spice and a touch of creaminess, to add complexity to a longer version of the drink.
I love the idea of Blood and Sand being enjoyed as an aperitif by Hollywood's elite, so I wanted to focus on lifting some of the heavier elements but retaining the original flavour profile. A dry cava adds a big citrus lift to the bolder notes at play and that little touch of rosemary ties everything together nicely.
This contemporary classic hails from Milk and Honey in NYC. Created by Sam Ross around 2009, it was originally designed as a rye-forward cocktail. The talented Mr Ross describes the drink as a ‘summertime Manhattan’, but I think he’s selling his creation short – it’s delicious all year round.
My twist on this is going all out and cranking up the summertime sentiment with the addition of fresh citrus and soda. I’ve incorporated the fundamental flavours of a Cobble Hill into a longer and lighter version by switching out the rye in favour of Johnnie Walker Red Label’s zesty notes.
Packed with cinnamon and spices, there’s enough body to support Montenegro but not dominate. The late arrival of the cucumber adds a crisp balance to the outcome. Every ingredient should bring something to the party. If it doesn’t, don’t invite it.
- Longer drinks are growing in popularity around the world – allowing for lower ABV serves.
- ‘Stretching out’ drinks can benefit your bar by encouraging high-volume service whilst providing guests with familiar flavours in new formats.
- Taller drinks often provide a bigger canvas for bartenders to get creative.
- The challenge in ‘stretching’ traditional flavour profiles to contemporary palettes is finding a balance and working to those ratios.
- It’s important to understand the original recipe before experimenting – they’ve earned the status of ‘classics’ for a reason, riffs should enhance, not replace, the flavours at play.
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