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Diageo Reserve World Class Special Classics for the 2000s

In this seventh installment, we explore the idea of “twisted classics,” and provide tips and ideas on updating classic cocktails.

The easiest way to create interesting new drinks for today's consumers is by twisting classic recipes, and although this is a relatively simple process, it's important to understand the ingredients you're working with.

If, for instance, you take the recipe for the Oriental Cocktail—Rye Whiskey, Sweet Vermouth, Curaçao, and fresh lime juice—you have a few options to consider.

Which ingredients are you going to switch out?

If you choose to replace the Whiskey, choose another straight spirit such as Brandy, or a rich, aged Rum. Don't replace the Whiskey with a Liqueur—you'll throw the drink out of balance.

There are many options these days in the Sweet Vermouth category, so calling specifically for, say, Punt e Mes or Carpano Antica Formula, instead of generic Sweet Vermouth, is another way of reinventing a classic cocktail.

If you decide, instead, to replace the Curaçao in the drink, look for a similar Liqueur such as Cassis, for instance. Don't replace a sweet ingredient with something like a Dry Vermouth or straight Tequila—it just won't work.

And if you want to further differentiate your twist on this classic, think about adding some aromatic bitters, a couple of dashes of Absinthe, or perhaps a drop of Chartreuse or Bénédictine will make your drink stand out.

Another way of bringing classic drinks up to date is by simply adding some fresh new ingredients. Try muddling a little lemongrass with sugar syrup, for instance, then using the syrup to make a Daiquiri.

You could do similar things with fresh ginger, pink peppercorns, star anise, basil, honey, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, cumin and even kaffir lime leaves. Let your imagination run wild.

Use these flavors to put your own touch on Margaritas, Daiquiris, Champagne Cocktails, Martinis, Manhattans, and any other classic cocktail you can think of.

Here are a few examples of twisted classics:


Glass: Rocks
Garnish: Slender orange slice
Method: Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into an ice-filled glass.

Concept: This was a variation of the timeless classic, the Negroni, dedicated to a famous Italian aristocrat. It's the personification of an era of simple elegance and this cocktail twist works beautifully with Zacapa. It was created by Mark Huang from Taiwan who won the Gentleman's Drinks Challenge at the Diageo Reserve World Class Global Final in 2011.

The Dean

Glass: Martini
Garnish: Sicilian orange twist
Method: Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled glass.

Concept: This drink is a nod to Dean Martin’s Sicilian heritage and is a 21st century twist on his favorite dry Martini (made with Tanqueray London Dry Gin).

Blue Zinger

Glass: Rocks
Garnish: Orange zest, vanilla pod and finely grated tonka bean
Method: Gently stir all ingredients in a rocks glass over large ice cubes, until mixed and chilled. The Whisky should be added in last in small increments.

Concept: A subtle variation of the Old-Fashioned with a nod to the Sweet Manhattan, two of the most legendary cocktails and stalwart drinks of the Mad Men era. This cocktail balances the Scotch with the light aromatic Wine notes of Dubonnet, a hint of bitter-sweet chocolate Liqueur and is finished with vanilla grains and fine-grated tonka bean.

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