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Joseph Mailander of Martini Republic's Top 10 Cocktails from 2006

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Joseph Mailander is editor of Martini Republic, a local blog, a national blog, a political and cultural blog, but most of all, a toper's blog at heart. Beyond Joseph, Dr. Cocktail (Ted Haigh), Tod Mesirow (of Monster Garage fame) and anonyblogger Alex DeLarge (an obvious surly drunk) all monitor the beverage industry there with the kind of scrutiny that puts them at the top of all beverage industry blogrolls. MartiniRepublic's fabled drinks blog is here; it's a blog that "spills over" into their other blogs all too often.

Here are Joseph's Top Ten Cocktails from 2006:

10. The Vesper

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Bond: "But who would want to kill me, sir?" M: "Jealous husbands, outraged chefs, humiliated tailors...the list is endless!" When James Bond wasn't busy humiliating tailors, he was often (but far from exclusively) busy drinking Vespers, a drink actually invented by Ian Fleming for the Scottish peasant turned Cold War hero. Originally, it went something like this: Three measures of Gordon's gin, one measure of vodka and a half measure of Kina Lillet as shaken in a together until ice-cold. Serve in a deep champagne goblet with the ubiquitous large thin slice of lemon peel. The most recent incarnation has sent bartenders scrambling for Lillet, which is fine with me, as I love the stuff; but be advised the old Kina Lillet included quinine, and today's Lillet Blanc, far sweeter, does not. Someone wishing to taste a Vesper as it tasted circa 1953, Casino Royale's publication date, would use a more formidable gin than Gordon's, and also would be tempted to drop a pinch of quinine powder into the concoction. For more tips on how to live the well-Bonded life, see the Commander, and more on what Bond actually drank, see The Dossier. And of course, you should never be drunk in public, but willing to act drunk should the situation warrant it.

9. Campari on the rocks

Visit your local bar, and if you're attentive to what's new, you'll see a half-gone bottle of Campari up in the slot near the liqueurs, maybe misplaced, maybe placed accurately next to the Fernet Branca despite its signature Campari-red glow. Not fair to say that it's like anchovies, "You either love it or hate it"; no, not fair at all, for far more people like anchovies. But Americans, sensibly rejecting the overly-sweet from a spirits-biz that's force-feeding them sugar drinks, are warming to the taste of bitterness like never before, and Campari is the lead exemplar of suave bitter this year. Bi-curious? Rocks and an orange wedge does it nice. of 2006

8. The Jack Rose

In the general beverage biz, this was the year of the pomegranate (but not, alas, the year of Rose's Grenadine, stuff that works to sweeten drinks but that actually has next-to-no pomegranate juice in it---and you could look it up). The venerable Jack Rose is the sturdiest drink around that features grenadine; it caught its own wave via the resurgence of interest in Apple Jack on the east coast. Take the time to try one. A great recipe here. And it may have never occured to you to make your own grenadine, but if you catch the fever, here are some helpful hints.

7. The Dirty Stoli Martini

The exceptional exception: purists have long maintained that gin and only gin goes in a martini. But it doesn't make sense, quite frankly, to muddle strongly-flavored gin with olive juice. It does make sense to do this to vodka, and Stoli's rigorously mellow clarity makes most sense of all for the purpose. Bonus: just the way it rolls off the tongue says much, as "Dirty Stoli Martini" works way better than any other possible vodka construction. This is the year vodka officially became acceptable as a martini-variant base (see Vesper, above), and Ketel One and Stoli have led the charge.

6. The Ketel One Martini

One of the most popular ways to order a martini, despite the cocktail's gin legacy---and the absolut [sic] last reference we'll make to a brand herein. Chances are better than two-to-one, if you ordered a called drink in a bar, this was it.

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5. The Mojito.

This was the one that caused the most trouble this year. Mojitos have been a top ten drink for almost a decade now, so widespread now that many sneer at them the way they sneer at cosmos and lemon drops. But this is an Honest-to-God drink and remains ever so, no matter who orders one, and Bacardi (whoops--another brand!) is lovin' it. When you're tending bar in the backyard and asked for a mojito, you had better serve one up--or brace yourself for a long afternoon.

5. The Manhattan

The anti-mojito, among other maginificent things. This seemed to be the year that the top tier of the baby boomers became their parents at last. They sneered at cosmos, jeered at mai-tais, and even the drink they've abused more than any other, the margarita, lost favor among the greying set at last. But ah, the Manhattan! Whiskey! Bitters and a touch of sweet! It was a great year for whiskey, with new single barrel and limited issues, and lots of people requiring less party and more comfort of their drinks. Maraschino cherries aren't embarrassing any more; turns out they're comfort food.

4. The Cuke

A bona-fide, honest-to-God new cocktail with legs for 2006, first spotted in Manhattan. I don't know if the NYTimes beat us or if we beat them on The Cuke's wide bandwagon, but there it was, and it was in LA by April, at the Hungry Cateven earlier, and the HC here in town has a signature one.

3. The Tom & Jerry.

A very logical twist on egg nog, which gets dull after a decade or so. It only helped the drink along that Joseph Barbera of Tom & Jerry (the cartoon) fame passed away this yearin the middle of Tom & Jerry season---but the drink came along well before the cat and mouse. It is sweet to think that they will peacefully co-exist from here on out; and if you have to experiment with alcohol and eggs (as so many errantly do in edibles rather than potables), this is the way to go.

2. The Bloody Mary.

You know it's true. What other drink can you have in polite company for breakfast in America? (The mimosa is not a drink, it is a mere prelude to drinking).

1. The Sazerac.

The sesquicentennary cocktail, so key to the Crescent City, the Sazerac jumped from bayou to Bakersfield this year, and justly so. Lots of people still have never heard of this drink---truly, the world's first cocktail. You may already know the rubric: "Heah in New Orleans, darlin, tourists drink hurricanes, but natives drink Sazeracs." It's not purely true, like any conventional wisdom (although Hurricanse are certainly for tourists). But the Sazerac is, for starters, the world's first cocktail by most accounts, and its sine-qua-non ingredient, Peychaud's bitters, has endured as long as the drink, even if other components have not (Absinthe is contraband heah, darlin, so try Pernod instead, or Herbsaint, a popular Big Easy choice). One thing for sure: your Sazerac requires rye, usually Old Overholt, but you can even use cognac if you bring enough respect for the drink and the French legacy of the town that gave it to us.

Addendum: a couple to watch for in 2007:

The Grasshopper. It's so far out it must certainly be in, anytime soon.

The St. Louis Blizzard. This drink cannot be held back much longer.

And remember, this year and every year: drink less, but better.

top photo of the martinis by kayepants, middle photo of joseph with ann coulter by emmanuelle richard

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