Cover The Paper Plane is a modern classic (Source: @chilled.soup.photo/Instagram)

Order these old and new classics to prove you're a cocktail connoisseur

We've all had our fair share of Old Fashioneds, Negronis and Aperol Spritzes, but what about what bartenders drink when they visit a bar? There's a good chance it's a cocktail that comes with a perfect mix of slight obscurity, an interesting backstory, specialist ingredients and unexpected flavours. So pop by your local bar and test their mettle tonight by ordering the following cocktails to look like a true pro. 

1. Aviation

Coloured an alluring pale violet hue, the Aviation is a gin-based, pre-Prohibition classic that was first created in New York in the 1910s, largely lost to time in the middle of the century, then rediscovered during the cocktail renaissance of the 2000s when bartenders, transfixed by the scarcity of its two central ingredients—maraschino liqueur and crème de violette, which gives the drink its distinctive colour—elevated the Aviation to mythical status. When drinks manufacturers began making both liqueurs again in the late '00s, the Aviation subsequently saw a boom in popularity at artisanal cocktail bars the world over. While it's since fallen slightly out of favour again, this cocktail is still a must in any self-respecting bartender's handbook.

2. Hanky Panky

Dating back to 1925, the Hanky Panky originates from the hand of Ada "Coley" Coleman, head bartender at the legendary American Bar at London's Savoy Hotel. As the story goes, English stage actor Sir Charles Hawtrey asked one day for “something with a bit of a punch”, to which Coleman responded with a martini made using sweet vermouth, and an all-important splash of Fernet Branca. This bitter Italian amaro is itself a love-or-hate cocktail ingredient due to its unforgiving peppermint character, although in the Hanky Panky, its addition adds a touch of liveliness to the familiar one-two combo of gin and sweet vermouth.

3. Fifty Fifty

The balance of gin to dry vermouth in a martini has always been a point of contention, but throughout history the dry Martini has always been the more dominant style, with English playwright Noel Coward famously saying, "a perfect Martini should be made by filling a glass with gin, and then waving it in the general direction of Italy". In recent years, however, the Fifty-Fifty, a martini made using equal parts gin and vermouth, has been gaining traction. Coinciding with the trend for healthier and lower-ABV drinks, this easy-drinking martini really allows the vermouth to shine alongside the gin, making for a more complex cocktail overall. The garnish, as always, is up to personal preference.

4. Last Word

Lauded for its perfect balance of four ingredients—gin, Green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and lime juice—in equal parts, the Last Word is a bartender's favourite. It's highly modifiable recipe allows for the creation of new cocktails by substituting one ingredient for another: replace gin for mezcal and you get the Closing Argument; while swapping for rye whiskey and lemon juice makes a Final Ward. Green Chartreuse is also a much-loved cocktail ingredient. First created by Carthusian monks in the 16th century as a health elixir, the liqueur is still made by the same monastery today, and features a secret recipe of over 130 herbs, plants and flowers. The Last Word is topped off with a maraschino cherry—making the mic drop of the cocktail world a little easier to swallow.

5. Paper Plane

Of the Last Word variations, the Paper Plane is perhaps the most famous, having been elevated to "modern classic" status. Created by Sam Ross of legendary New York bar Milk & Honey (who also dreamt up another modern classic, the Penicillin), the Paper Plane is inspired by the M.I.A. song of the same name and mixes bourbon, Aperol, lemon juice, and the somewhat obscure Nonino Quintessentia amaro in equal measures. Crowned as the unofficial cocktail of Toronto, this is certainly one cocktail that has flown far beyond expectations.

6. Twentieth Century

First conceived of by British bartender C.A. Tuck, this pre-Prohibition drink is named after the express train line of the same name that ran between New York and Chicago from 1902 to 1967. Comprised of gin, Lillet Blanc, crème de cacao and lemon juice, the Twentieth Century seems like a quirky mix of ingredients, but in actuality is an easy drinking cocktail that carries the best qualities of its bright and slightly floral cousin, the Corpse Reviver No.2, with the addition of chocolate notes in the crème de cacao. 

7. White Negroni

We all know exactly how a Negroni tastes, but you might not be aware of its paler twin. The White Negroni was only invented in 2001 by the then-director of Plymouth Gin, Nick Blacknell, while passing through the French town of Bordeaux. As a result, the three-part cocktail uses gin, Suze (a gentian liqueur), and Lillet Blanc in the place of sweet vermouth and Campari, resulting in an enticingly yellow-hued cocktail that is honeyed and herbal but not overpowering, with little resemblance flavour-wise to its famous forebear.

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