There is a lot of talk about classic cocktails these days. But if you ask me – and I’m going to assume that by reading this, you’re at least mildly curious about what I have to say – we are currently experiencing a new Golden Age of the cocktail.
It’s more than fair to note that few concoctions greater than the Martini or Manhattan or Daiquiri have been hatched in the last decade. Perhaps none. These are still my go-tos when I belly up. However, in terms of the breadth of ingredients and quality spirits available, I dare to proclaim that we have surpassed what Jerry Thomas and his contemporaries had. Young bartenders these days are coming up all sorts of titillating tipples. Sure, some are just silly. Yet others are magnificent.
To wit: the Penicillin. It’s a mixture of Scotch, fresh lemon juice, ginger-honey syrup, and more Scotch on top, created by Sam Ross of Milk & Honey. A contemporary classic if ever there was one, I’ve seen this drink replicated (though not always faithfully) everywhere from dive bars to other cocktail lounges to old-school fine dining spots like One If By Land. Word of this smoky, gingery, citrusy, honeyed elixir has spread throughout New York and beyond like wildfire. I’ve even attempted to make it at home. (The trick is to use two different whiskeys: a peaty Scotch for the float, like Laphroaig or Compass Box’s Peat Monster, and something milder for the body, like the Yamazaki 12 Year, which is the house whiskey at Milk & Honey.)
Of course, cocktailians aren’t the only ones having their moment in the sun. Craft beer is also experiencing something of a Golden Age. Last year, craft beer sales grew faster than those of big beer companies. And the number of craft breweries has risen to some 1,625 across the country. So, what would happen if the worlds of craft beer and contemporary cocktails were to come together in a single, mind-blowing potation? Brooklyn Brewery may have an answer to that.
The latest release in its Brewmaster’s Reserve line is The Brooklyn Tonic, a beer based on Milk & Honey’s Penicillin cocktail. It uses English peat-smoked malt, in addition to English Pale and German Pilsner malts; and is infused with dried lemon peel, minced ginger, New York State wildflower honey, and organic lemon juice. The Tonic will be on tap in select bars and restaurants in early June. For drinkers of liquors hard and soft alike, it truly is a happy day.