Drink of the Week: The Classic Cocktail

The Classic Cocktail.Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Moving on, I must admit that I’ve been a bit distracted to the point where it only just occurred to me after finishing this post that it would go live on America’s second biggest drinking holiday. I honestly can’t say that there’s anything remotely Irish about it, but I suppose you could try it with Irish Whiskey instead of brandy. No one’s stopping you!

Anyhow, it’s not an original thought of mine that the name of this week’s drink invites “Who’s on first?”-style comic confusion. After all, this blog is largely devoted to the kind of drinks from the past that have been slowly but steadily gaining an increasing foothold throughout the early days of this still young century. Still, when we’re talking about the Classic Cocktail, we’re not┬átalking about the classic cocktail but a classic cocktail, if you follow me.

Like last week’s DOTW, the Classic Cocktail comes to us originally from Harry Craddock’s depression era mixed drink ur-text, “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” as filtered through founding cocktailian Gary Regan’s 2003 “The Joy of Mixology.” However, I’m much more found of this week’s entry, which is a bit more elaborate but also tastier. It could also easily be thought of as something of a souped-up Sidecar. It’s definitely a very nice variation on the theme. See what you think.

The Classic Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces brandy
1/2 ounce triple sec or Cointreau
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
sugar (for rimming the glass, strongly recommended)

Chill a cocktail glass and wet the edges with a lemon slice (a tiny amount of water will also work) and place the ridge of the glass in a plate of sugar — I use superfine sugar, which has its advantages — and simply spin it around. It’s similar to rimming a margarita glass with salt, except it’s sugar.

Put your glass aside and combine all the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice cubes. Shake vigorously for maybe 15 seconds and strain into your chilled and rimmed cocktail glass. Contemplate the distinction between the words “classic,” “old” and “excellent.” How ancient does something need to be “classic.” And how tasty does it have to be?


Like I said above, I’m rather fond of this drink, especially as it seems to be a pretty sturdy combination that works consistently with whatever brands you’re using — and you don’t need to use the most expensive ingredients to have a good result. Indeed, I had the very best version of the Classic Cocktail when I employed nothing but the cheapest choices I had on hand: Paul Masson VSOP brandy, Bols triple sec and Maraska maraschino. It was a sweet but very mellow and well-balanced combo. Still, using slightly higher end Reynal brandy (with offices in Cognac, France), Luxardo maraschino and Cointreau (substantially more expensive than the super-inexpensive Bols) was more than tolerable, but not quite as delightful. In any case, any combination of these that I tried also worked well enough.

I will say, though, that while the sugar rim can be hassle, it’s bordering on essential here for those who are, like me, not superfond of supertart flavors. It takes the edge off in just the right way.

And here’s a classic by any definition. (And, for what it’s worth, Lou Costello was about 1/8 Irish.)