Good Libations

Front Range bartenders resurrect classic cocktails.

April 2009

If the old-fashioneds that Don Draper swills on Mad Men and the reintroduction of old liquors like absinthe to the U.S. market are any indication, vintage cocktails are on the comeback. Along the Front Range, mixologists like Sean Kenyon, bar manager at Steuben's, and Bryan Dayton, bar manager at Frasca Food and Wine, are filling their cocktail menus with old-school drinks such as the Clover Club and the Moscow Mule. "There are a lot of hungry bartenders out there with a need and want for mixology to be great," says Dayton. "There is a source of pride with looking back to old times."

Those old times, specifically, go back to the pre-Prohibition era. During Prohibition, drinks were diluted with water, juice—just about anything—to cover up the raw flavors of moonshine and bathtub gin. Along the way, old-time cocktails (made simply with a base spirit, a sweetening agent like bitters, and a citrus element) were discarded and generations missed out on classic drinks like the Aviation.

In looking back, however, these present-day bartenders are also breaking new ground, crafting cocktails that pay an epicurean homage to drink history. To wit: Kenyon's Figgy's Manhattan is made with Colorado's Stranahan's whiskey that is infused with mission figs and served in a glass rimmed with crystallized maple sugar. It's got all the elements of the Manhattan, but the remake is giving the original a run for its money.

Recipes from Local Mixologists

Rye Whiskey: Sazerac
Gin: Negroni
Rum: Daiquiri
Vodka: Harvey Wallbanger
Bourbon Whiskey: Manhattan