There’s a great scene in the Mad Men episode "The Summer Man" where Peggy and her team are working on a campaign for Mountain Dew, a then new beverage. In trying to come up with a cocktail that features the soda they mix it with vodka. It’s a hit. Except for Peggy. “You need three ingredients for a cocktail. Vodka and Mountain Dew is an emergency.”
A few years ago my friend Dan got me a variety pack of Fee Brothers bitters. Sadly, they’ve gone mostly unused. Starting this year I got more into cocktail mixing. Starting this month, I’ve doubled down in my research and practice. One of the first uses of these bitters I discovered is still my favorite.
You fill a Tom Collins glass with ice. Shake some lemon bitters over the ice. A few shakes will do it. Pour in a shot or two of vodka. Fill the glass with lemonade or limeade. Stir. Adding these bitters to what is otherwise a simple drink is like properly seasoning a dish with salt. It doesn’t make it taste different, it just makes it taste better.
I love lemonade. I love limeade even more. Limes are kind of the best thing ever. Margaritas, tacos, limeade, lime curd, they’re green. Next time you have a lime, roll it on the counter for a few seconds with some heavy pressure. Then smell it. Like I said. Best. Ever.
If you have a lady or a gentleman over for a drink this is the perfect thing to make. It’s quick, involves very few ingredients, isn’t fussy, and tastes so good you drink it, really fast.
One of the reasons I’ve gotten into cocktails is their great history. It’s fascinating how important getting fucked up has been to all cultures, throughout history. Sadly, a lot of the romance is gone. How many cocktails do most people know how to make? Vodka sodas and Long Island Iced Teas have ruined us. Fancy cocktails are making a comeback at expensive bars but they’re still a niche. I like the idea of everyone having a home bar stocked with the basics and a working knowledge of the dozen or so basic cocktails.
Baby steps. We can’t all decide to be mixologists and start whiping up sazeracs the first day. This lemonade cocktail is a great, easy place to start. But start with limeade, because it’s awesome.
Update: Here’s a bad video of me making a variation on this with tequila and Orangina. There are no rules!