Cocktails, like music, clothes and hairstyles, are destined to change with the times. Ingredients go in and out of fashion, as do the tastes of the public. Some recipes fade from our collective memory for good reason. Others slip away, lost gems. Luckily, the resurrection of historic liqueurs, from crème de cacao to amaretto, makes it easier to revisit forgotten treasures. You'll also want to dust off—or stock—those bottles of Drambuie and Bénédictine if you're going to do these throwback recipes right.
1. Amaretto Sour
This ’70s flashback was characterized by a syrupy sweet profile that became dated once palates started craving more sophisticated cocktails. With a bit of tinkering with proportions and ingredients, you get a guilty pleasure worth drinking. Jeffrey Morganthaler’s version, which balances out the sweetness with cask-proof bourbon, takes the bones of this potentially cloying cocktail and allows the amaretto to shine without overpowering the rest.
2. Bobby Burns
With scotch, sweet vermouth, and Bénédictine as its only ingredients, the Bobby Burns is something of a riff on a Manhattan, although distinctive in its own right. And, despite the twee-ish name, in honor of Scottish poet Robert Burns, the cocktail is solid. Ingredient-swap alert: While The Savoy Cocktail Book offers the recipe with Bénédictine, David A. Embury suggests using Drambuie in his 1948 cocktail book, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.
3. Brandy Alexander
The combination of cognac, crème de cacao, and cream might lead the Brandy Alexander to resemble a boozy chocolate milkshake. At its best, though, it’s a frothy nutmeg-topped sipper ideal for brunch or the holidays. Like the Amaretto Sour, it enjoyed major popularity in the 1970s, despite it being created in the early part of the 20th century. A riff on the original Alexander cocktail, which called for gin, the brandy recipe shows up in Hugo Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks from 1917. Brandy works just fine. But if you use a good cognac, the drink will show its truest colors.
Depending on where you order it, this drink can span the rainbow from a soft minty hue to scary Day-Glo green. Like so many other sweet drinks, the Grasshopper enjoyed rampant popularity in the 1970s. But it was most likely created in the 1920s by Philibert Guichet Jr., owner of Tujague’s in New Orleans. The restaurant still serves the drink, made with white and green crème de menthe, heavy cream, white crème de cacao and a brandy float. (If you could do without the cream, try a Stinger.)
5. Pink Squirrel
Everyone should order one of these at least once in their lives. Come on, it’s named after a rodent! The Pink Squirrel, with its crème de cacao and cream, has a good deal in common with the Brandy Alexander and the Grasshopper. Where it differs is the inclusion of crème de noyaux, a once-popular but relatively forgotten liqueur that is similar to amaretto. The liqueur's red color usually comes from cochineal, and the flavor has a singular herbal-meets-bitter almond quality.
6. Remember the Maine
If you appreciate a good Manhattan, the Remember the Maine should likely find a home in your drinks repertoire. The cocktail comes from Charles H. Baker, Jr.’s 1939 The Gentleman’s Companion and is notable for its use of cherry liqueur and a touch of absinthe. While the original recipe calls for Cherry Heering liqueur, Luxardo Cherry Sangue Morlacco offers an even more intense Marasca cherry flavor.
7. Cobra’s Fang
Fassionola syrup, used in such Tiki drinks as the Hurricane, was lost to history until Cocktail & Sons’ Max Messier bottled a version of it made with strawberries, pineapples, mango, passion fruit and hibiscus flower syrup. The Cobra’s Fang, created at Don the Beachcomber, also uses falernum. Amusing side note: The drink's Wikipedia entry suggests using Hawaiian Punch drink mix in place of fassionola. Ignore that advice.
8. 20th Century
British bartender C.A. Tuck created this drink, naming it for the 20th Century Limited train which ran between Chicago and New York City from 1902 to 1967. The recipe was first published in the Café Royal Cocktail Book and originally called for Kina Lillet, which no longer exists. Cocchi Americano is an efficient substitute; for a less bitter profile, use Lillet Blanc.
9. Rusty Nail
Cocktails don’t come much easier than the Rusty Nail, which has been around since the late 1930s. Stir some scotch and a dose of honeyed, herbal Drambuie into a rocks glass with a chunk of ice—and you’re done! A lot of recipes suggest equal parts, but we like a 2:1 ratio, scotch to liqueur. Pour yourself one tonight and you’ll be channeling the Rat Pack in no time.