Every fall, an endless parade of cookbooks is released, and that includes a good number of cocktail books: books from shadowy, plush speakeasies across the country, focusing on the storied pasts of the world’s greatest spirits, full of elaborate and intricate concoctions.
Beautiful and informative as they are, very few of these books feature simple cocktails. You know, the ones you make at home using the bottles you have on hand, a few ingredients served over ice on a Friday night after work. So it was with great relief that I cracked open Robert Simonson’s new book, 3-Ingredient Cocktails and found it jam-packed with simple drinks that I'll be making on Friday nights and beyond.
Why three ingredients? Simonson quotes Peggy Olson from Mad Men: “You need three ingredients for a cocktail. Vodka and Mountain Dew is an emergency.” Or, as he puts it, “One ingredient, you’ve got a nice dram. Two, you’ve got a highball. Get three things to marry together, you’ve likely got a cocktail.” More than that? Personally, I’m paying someone else to make it for me. At least on a Friday.
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Here are some great ideas for simplifying your at-home cocktail game:
3-Ingredient Cocktails Are Classic
“If the Manhattan had eight ingredients, nobody would be making it today,” writes Simonson. “At least, not at home and probably not at many bars.” In other words, it’s a classic because of its simplicity. Come to think of it, when was the last time you had a Manhattan? Maybe it’s time.
3-Ingredient Cocktails Are Old Fashioned
Literally. Simonson calls the Old Fashioned the “3-ingredient grandaddy of the cocktail world.” Comprised of sugar, bitters, and a spirit, this boozy wonder is as classic as it gets. Try yours with traditional bourbon or rye, or mix things up with rum or cognac.
3-Ingredient Cocktails Are Modern
Of course, there are still new 3-ingredient combos to be found. Like the Red Hook, a combination of rye, maraschino liqueur, and Punt y Mes that was first served at cocktail bar Milk & Honey. Or perhaps you want to experiment with your own creations? Simonson divides 3-ingredient cocktails into two camps that you could potentially use as rough guidelines for your own creations: spirit + sweetener + bitters or spirit + sweetener + citrus.
Whatever your favorite 3-ingredient cocktail may be, though, the best part about them is that they make stocking up on ingredients easy. So try a few of Simonson’s offerings, pick one you like, and keep those three bottles on hand. Friday night happy hour, solved.
Paula Forbes has reviewed cookbooks for nearly a decade for sites like Epicurious, Eater, Eat Me Daily, and now Food52. She's currently working on a cookbook about the foods and restaurants of Austin, Texas.