I think it was my trip to New York—where they have perfected the cocktail—that made me realize just how good a mixed drink could be. Sitting at a table on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and overlooking Central Park while enjoying a lavender martini will make anyone appreciate the art form of mixology. At that moment I realized that I, once just a wine-or-beer kind of person, had fallen in love with the cocktail.
It started with that delicious lavender martini, but it evolved into an interest in smooth vodka, the smell of gin, and the enticing flavor of a good Manhattan. It was around that time that I began to appreciate the cocktails of different cultures, and how much these drinks are an essential part of a culture. The following are a few cocktails which originated in Europe but can easily be recreated or ordered in the US.
Feeling a little “French” tonight? Try an aperitif like Lillet. On its most basic level a white wine flavored with spices, Lillet is delicious on the rocks with an orange peel or mixed with sparkling wine. It is a delicious and palate-cleansing drink to start a meal, and a great substitute for a hard alcohol cocktail if you are going to move on to wine (hard liquor will kill your palate, so drinking something as strong as a martini before a good bottle of wine is always a “no-no”).
The French are also known for their Kir and Kir Royale drinks, which consists of Cream de Cassis with chardonnay (Kir) or sparkling wine (Kir Royale). The drinks are a beautiful purple color and a great way to start your meal.
Perhaps you are in the mood for something Italian. If you like gin and enjoy bitter flavors like grapefruit, I highly suggest an Italian cocktail called the Negroni. Campari (a slightly bitter orange liqueur), gin and sweet vermouth are mixed and served either on the rocks or up with an orange peel.
The Italians are also to thank for a drink called the Americano, which is Campari, sweet vermouth and club soda. It is a delicious and refreshing before-dinner drink which is just a tad lighter than the Negroni.
I love classic martinis, and the Manhattan is probably my favorite drink (aside from perhaps a good old fashioned gin and tonic), but these French and Italian cocktails are fun ways to incorporate a little more of these cultures into your next meal or dinner party. As always, don’t be afraid to try new things: you never know what you will come to love! And you don’t always need a stunning view of New York’s Central Park to make you realize it.