Whether you’re having a COVID-safe outdoor gathering with friends, celebrating the end of lockdown where you are, or staying at home and dreaming of a holiday, these travel-themed cocktails will take you far. I’m a girl who likes simple classics so there’ll be no creamy nonsense here, nor any saccharine-sweet concoctions, just mighty tasty, time-tested recipes to get the party started. Of course, always drink in moderation.
Much of the advice here has been learned from Richard Godwin, for me the greatest drinks writer in the world. His book The Spirits is a fine investment.
The Aviation is a stone-cold classic. Indeed, stone-cold is the operative word for all the cocktails in this list, which need to be served stone cold, bone cold, ice cold in order to be palatable since drinking any decent cocktail is pretty much like mainlining alcohol. Remember your ice-cube tray is for ice-cube production, not storage. Empty your ice-cube tray right now, putting the cubes in a bag and back in the freezer, then refill the ice-cube tray immediately. Keep this up so you never run short of ice. Before making any cocktail, put your glass(es) in the freezer if possible.
The gin should not be so overly floral or botanical as to compete with the other ingredients. A good Plymouth or London gin will suffice. Lemon juice gives the Aviation a tongue-curling sourness, which is tempered by a light hint of cherry and violet. Violet, you ask? Yes. Believe me, it’s delicious and nothing like your granny’s knicker drawer. What’s more the colour of this cocktail, an ether-pale sky-blue, recalls the impossible glamour of the early days of aviation. You will feel as delectable and mysterious as Amy Johnson simply by holding it (by the stem of course).
- 50 ml gin, 15ml lemon juice, 10ml maraschino, 2.5ml of Crème de Violette.
- Shake with loads of ice. Double strain into an ‘up’ glass and garnish with a dark maraschino cherry. (‘Up’ glasses, whether the classic martini V-shape or a coupe, should be used for shaken or stirred cocktails that take no extra ice. ‘Down’ glasses are for drinks served with ice or ‘on the rocks’).
The Manhattan was apparently the first cocktail ever made with vermouth. Named for one of the world’s greatest destinations, perhaps invented by Winston Churchill’s mum, and making a guest appearance with Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot, how could it fail to make this list?
- 50ml bourbon, 20ml Italian vermouth, Dash Angostura bitters
- Stir with ice until the outside of your cocktail shaker has entirely fogged, then stir some more, before pouring into an up glass. My preferred garnish is an orange-zest twist, although you can use a cherry too.
Trip to the Caribbean anyone? Taking its name from a Cuban-mining town, the Daiquiri is basically a rum sour. (Any ‘sour’ cocktail involves a ratio of spirit, to citrus, to sugar). What grows together, goes together, and so it is that sugar and lime and more sugar in the form of rum will make you want to elope to the climes where these ingredients originate.
- 50ml light rum, 15ml lime juice, 10ml golden sugar syrup.
- Shake with ice, double strain into an up glass and garnish with a lime wedge.
NB: it is well worth making your own sugar syrup. Use 2:1 golden caster sugar to water and heat until the liquid turns clear.
4. Jungle Bird
It’s not often you’ll find me recommending a Tiki-style cocktail. They’re usually too much like a fruity punch and I associate them with ridiculous vessels and naff cocktail umbrellas. But when a drink is as seriously delicious as this, I’m prepared to overlook any attendant frivolity. Invented at the Kuala Lumpur Hilton in 1978 apparently. Enjoy!
- 45ml dark rum, 15ml Campari, 15ml lime juice, 15ml golden sugar syrup, 60ml pineapple juice.
- Shake everything with crushed ice and pour unstrained into a down glass (e.g. a short tumbler). Garnish with a pineapple wedge.
Another bird-themed drink, the Paloma is apparently drunk as a ‘road-side cooler’ in Mexico, and, frankly, I trust Mexicans in knowing how to put together something refreshing to make you forget the dust and heat of the day.
- 50ml tequila, ¼ lime, grapefruit soda
- Pour the tequila into a tall glass. Squeeze and drop in the lime and top with grapefruit soda such as San Pellegrino.
6. Barbara West
Barbara West was one of the survivors of the Titanic, so we honour such a traveller by including the drink named after her here. She returned to Britain as a baby and lived in Cornwall and went to Spain as a governess, which perhaps explains this beverage’s combination of gin and sherry. You’ll need the bitter-sweet hazelnut notes of an amontillado sherry to complement the lemon and Angostura.
- 25ml gin, 25 ml amontillado sherry, 15ml lemon juice, 10ml golden sugar syrup, dash of Angostura bitters
- Shake with ice and double strain into an up glass. Garnish with a lemon zest twist.
The Sidecar provides another mode of transport, and a drink associated with another great city: Paris, in the inter-war years. Anything made with brandy feels very grown-up to me even though this is one of the sweeter cocktails on the list. Godwin’s recipe, below, tweaks the original’s equal measures to arrive at something a little more sophisticated.
- 50ml brandy, 20ml Cointreau/Grand Marnier (or both if you have them, combined to your taste), 15ml lemon juice
I’ve searched and searched to understand why the Teresa, invented by Rafael Ballesteros in Spain, is called the Teresa. Is it named for the patron saint of florists and growers, the saint who believed in doing small things well and with love? She was famous for her raptures in which she would ‘levitate’? This drink, one of my all-time favourites, certainly makes me high. In this version, it’s almost a ‘perfect’ cocktail, meaning it has equal measures of its main ingredients and so is easy to remember. There’s something magical in it: bitter, sour, earthy and fresh all at once.
- 25ml vodka, 25ml Campari, 25ml lime juice, 10ml crème de cassis
- Shake with plenty of ice and strain into an up glass. Drop in a mint sprig to finish it off.
While British and Scottish exports are up the spout due to the dreaded ‘B-word’, perhaps there’s a chance for Irish whiskey to make a comeback after it was decimated by the Prohibition. Chartreuse contains a secret blend of 130 herbs and plants, including cinnamon, mace, arnica, peppermint and thyme. The small dose here zhuzhes everything up.
- 50ml Irish whiskey, 25ml Italian vermouth, 5ml Green Chartreuse
- Stir over ice and strain into an up glass.
10. Kerala Fizz
Never forget to think of those who might want to avoid alcohol. You need to make them feel as special at your event as your other guests. In fact, the Kerala Fizz is a non-alcoholic cocktail so excellent you should buy enough ingredients for everyone. I’m a huge fan of cardamom and here its aromatic camphorousness makes the pineapple and lime sing.
- A palmful of green cardamom pods, 50ml pineapple juice, 20ml lime juice, 10ml golden sugar syrup; fizzy water, dash Angostura bitters (optional).
- Crush the cardamom in the bottom of your shaker with your muddler. Add everything except the bitters and shake with ice. Strain into a tall glass with ice cubes, or do as I do and serve in a champagne glass – the pineapple juice will have frothed and when you top up with fizzy water, this feels really fancy. If a tiny bit of alcohol is acceptable, a dash of bitters over the top adds colour and a certain je ne sais quoi.