8 Classic Cocktails Reinvented

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Every seasoned drinker has a favorite classic cocktail — a go-to that every bartender, from the swanky craft cocktail lounges to the seedy dives, should know how to make. The even better bartenders, be they professionals or at-home amateurs, know how to transform these classics in a way that still celebrates the original recipes while giving them a modern twist.

We turned to bartenders, food bloggers, and home experimenters to round up our favorite reinventions of the following classics, including the Cosmopolitan, Manhattan, martini, and Negroni. Some get a slight update with fresh fruits and vegetables, while others are more provocative thanks to ingredients like squid ink and marijuana. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

The Perfect Bacon Bloody Mary

It seems like everyone and their mom thinks they know how to make a decent Bloody Mary, but this actually couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, according to the
American Chemical Society, its delicate balance of flavors make it the most complicated cocktail in the world. That said, if you do learn how to make it right, there are any number of ways to reinvent the recipe. Our favorite? A bacon-infused version with an extra spicy kick. Just swap out the regular vodka in our Perfect Bloody Mary for bacon-flavored potato vodka and use a zesty tomato juice with hints of onion, garlic, and jalapeno. See recipe

Cucumber Cosmopolitan
Great Bay, an upscale seafood restaurant in Boston’s Kenmore Square, may have closed its doors several years ago, but their reinvented version of the Cosmopolitan lives on. Hendrick’s gin provides the refreshing flavor of cucumber and rose petals, while the use of white cranberry takes the tartness of a traditional Cosmo down a notch. The outcome is less one-dimensional in flavor than the original, and more elegant in appearance than the traditional shade of in-your-face pink. See recipe

Pot Manhattan

Weed aficionados everywhere have long been inventing creative ways to partake of their pot, and now that includes cocktails and one of the most famous ones at that. This Manhattan is more or less your traditional recipe, except for one very big difference: regular whiskey is replaced with cannabis-infused rye. Should you be bold enough to try this substance-mixing concoction, we strongly recommend you do so on an evening with no important plans. See recipe

Grilled Pineapple-Jalapeno Margarita
Everyone loves a good margarita, but if crafted incorrectly, it can easily lean towards being too sour or too sweet. That’s where this dynamic creation by Erin Lynch of Platings and Pairings comes in. Thanks to jalapeno-infused tequila, caramelized grilled pineapple, and a hint of agave and vanilla, it’s the perfect blend of spicy, smoky, sour, and sweet. You can make a big batch of the infused tequila ahead of time and use in place of all your favorite tequila recipes. The concoction should hold up in the freezer for about a year. See recipe

Squid Ink Martini

San Francisco bartender Duggan McDonnell is known for his wild and wacky creations, but this might just be the most out-there one yet. A classic vodka martini gets extra dirty with the addition of pitch-black squid ink. Just a few drops not only turns the clear drink a mysterious shade of slate gray, but it adds an unctuous complexity with a hint of umami. See recipe

Champagne Mojito
Leave it to New Orleans to take a traditional Southern cocktail and make it even more festive than it already is. Celebrity chef John Besh known for his Louisiana-inspired creations at hotspots such as August, Borgne, and Lüke — puts a simple yet brilliantly special twist on the classic mojito with a splash of sparkling wine. See recipe

Brine Negroni

Created by Neil Rudnick at Brine Oyster in Newburyport, Massachusetts, the Brine Negroni is a must-try for anyone who’s a fan of the classic Negroni. While gin will always be the base of the drink, the update here comes from both the vermouth and the aperitif. Instead of traditional sweet vermouth, Neil reaches for Carpano Antica Formula, a rich and fruity creation of the utmost quality. Perhaps the biggest difference, however, comes from the use of Cynar — another of Italy’s singular aperitifs, made even more unique by it’s primary ingredient, artichokes. Together, the Antica and the Cynar play beautifully to create a slightly sweet beginning that eases into a softly bitter finish. It might just be better than the original. See recipe

Orange-Carrot Piña Colada
A Thai curry of coconut and carrot is what inspired master bartender Todd Thrasher to create this unforgettable Far East-meets-Caribbean concoction. Unlike other tiki-style drinks that can be cloying fruity and sweet, this updated version of the piña colada offers a depth of flavor thanks to the meatiness of the coconut, the tang of the orange, and the sweet earthiness of the carrot. You’ll find yourself going back for it again and again. See recipe

Photo credits: Courtesy of Platings & Pairings, Some rights reserved by Anthony; Some rights reserved by Jessica Reeder; Courtesy of Barchetta; Courtesy of ChefBikeski.com