DIY Cocktails: 5 Iconic Destination Drinks to Make at Home

by Kelsy Chauvin

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday August 24, 2020

DIY Cocktails: 5 Iconic Destination Drinks to Make at Home
  (Source:Getty Images)

Travelers thirsting for faraway discoveries may delight in channeling their cravings directly into cocktail glasses. In my home, we've practiced the "art of the pour" to conjure sunny beaches of the Caribbean (Pina Colada), the agave farms of Mexico (Margarita), the salty harbor of Oakland (Mai Tai), and the rosy side of Minneapolis (Cosmopolitan).

Alas, no beverage tastes quite as good at home as in the actual destination. But it sure is fun to try! Here's a shortlist of classic drinks to summon the spirits of each origin city.

Milan: Americano

Some call it the father of the Negroni, but the Americano cocktail (not to be confused with the espresso drink) excludes the gin and exalts the Italian herbal bitter that is Campari. As a rich red aperitif, Campari is served before a meal to stimulate the appetite. Mix it with sweet-dry red vermouth and soda water to tone down the bitters, and presto! You'll be sipping an Americano, which, despite its name, truly is a beloved Milanese libation.

The world's most influential queer travel experts and allies will be descending upon Milan in May 2022 for the rescheduled International LGBTQ+ Travel Association Convention. For your own pleasure, head to the old-school Camparino bar near the city's Duomo. You can savor an Americano in its 1915 birthplace, served by dapper Italian bartenders in white jackets.

Americano recipe

1.5 oz. Campari

1.5 oz. red (sweet) vermouth

3 oz. soda water (to fill the glass)

Garnish with a lemon twist or orange slice

Pour the Campari and vermouth into a rocks glass filled with ice cubes. Top with soda and garnish.

London: Tom Collins

There are a few theories about the origin of the Tom Collins. One involves a running gag that barflies would play on another. Another version is that the moniker comes from an old English song. Yet another suggests it's the name of the bartender who invented it. But it seems likely that the 1860s-ish cocktail originates from its use of Old Tom gin, not Holland gin (aka genever) that's used in a "John" Collins.

Regardless, this zingy spirit-forward drink is a great summer sipper thanks to its citrus, bubbles, and chilled serving glass. More than one may even inspire your best English accent to emerge. It's easy to sample Tom Collins across London, but the American Bar inside the Savoy Hotel seems fitting for poured perfection.

Tom Collins recipe

2 oz. London dry gin

.75 oz. lemon juice

.5 oz. simple syrup

1 cup ice

2 oz. soda water

1 lemon wedge

Fill a Collins or highball glass with ice and let it chill in the freezer for less than a minute. Combine gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add a cup of ice, cover and shake, then strain into the chilled glass. Top with soda water and garnish with a lemon wedge.

New York City: Manhattan

Quite a few cocktails have sprung from the world's biggest boozy metropolis. But the Manhattan reigns supreme both in name and potency. Even more meta, the libation was first poured at the Manhattan Club during the late-19th century Gilded Age.

This cocktail is quite similar to an Old Fashioned (which migrated from Louisville to NYC in 1880). While both use bitters and whiskey (or another brown spirit such as bourbon or rye), the Manhattan replaces the sugar/simple syrup with sweet vermouth for a bit more herbal pizzazz. In the Big Apple, tipplers will find this among the most consistently well-made cocktails, especially in classic establishments like Tribeca's Odeon, the West Village's Employees Only, and any number of LGBTQ haunts across the island.

Manhattan recipe

1 cup ice

2 oz. whiskey (rye and bourbon work too)

.5 oz. sweet vermouth

1-2 dashes bitters

Maraschino cherries

Orange peel (optional)

Put ice in a cocktail shaker, add whiskey, vermouth, and bitters and shake. Rub the orange peel around the rim of the cocktail glass and strain into the glass. Garnish with cherries.

New Orleans: Vieux Carr

Like the Big Apple, the Big Easy is the birthplace of many enticing tipples. The Vieux Carr, however, stands out as quintessentially New Orleans thanks to its name (meaning "old square," another name for the French Quarter), and for its 1930s origin at the Hotel Monteleone.

[READ: How to Drink Like You're in New Orleans at Home]

Like the city itself, the Vieux Carr blends cultures of France, Italy, the Caribbean, and America with its brandy, liqueur, vermouth, bitters, and rye whiskey. A connoisseur will appreciate the drink's sweet and bitter, smooth and boozy balance, unleashing aromas of the Bndictine's flower, herb, and spice infusion. In New Orleans, sip a perfect Vieux Carr in the Vieux Carr at the Monteleone's famed Carousel Bar.

Vieux Carr recipe

1 oz. rye whiskey

1 oz. cognac

1 oz. sweet vermouth

1 teaspoon Bndictine D.O.M.

2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Maraschino cherry or lemon peel

Combine all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled, strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry or lemon peel.

Paris: French 75

It serves a certain kind of nostalgia to sip a cocktail from 1910's Paris. Back then, the French 75 was named for its kick, thought to be as powerful as the French 75mm cannon used during World War I. Admittedly, this champagne cocktail packs a punch thanks to its gin base, which sometimes is replaced by the deeper flavors of oak-aged cognac. Regardless, it sure goes down easy, thanks to a bit of simple syrup and bright, sparkling bubbles.

Legendary Scottish bartender Harry MacElhone and namesake of Harry's Bar poured the first French 75 in the swanky 2nd arrondissement (also home to the Paris Opera). Harry's dates back to 1911 and was a go-to bar for Hemingway, Fitzgerald, George Gershwin, and even James Bond, and is still shaking up cocktails today.

French 75 recipe

2 oz. London dry gin (or cognac)

.5 oz. simple syrup

.5 oz. lemon juice

2-5 oz. brut champagne (or dry sparkling wine, Mionetto Prosecco Brut is a good choice)

Lemon peel

Combine gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously, strain into a large flute (or Collins glass with cracked ice). Top with champagne, garnish with a lemon twist.

Kelsy Chauvin is a writer, photographer and marketing consultant based in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in travel, feature journalism, art, theater, architecture, construction and LGBTQ interests. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @kelsycc.