A Rose Margarita. (J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

Signature cocktails that never get old

You can enjoy your party a lot more if you offer a signature cocktail or two.

You’re having a party? Sounds like fun.

But you don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen making drinks for everyone, like Spencer Tracy in “Father of the Bride.” You can enjoy your party a lot more if you offer a signature cocktail or two.

The trick to successful signature cocktails is to make them early in the day so you can just pour them from a pitcher during the party. That saves time and makes the evening stress-free, especially if you don’t have much to do at the last minute. Just add a splash of soda to the drink, perhaps, or maybe a maraschino cherry.

I also like to make signature cocktails with relatively few ingredients. The simpler the combinations, the more likely you are to please your guests. For that same reason, it is best to stick to ingredients that are accessible and popular. Don’t use mixers with too bold a taste because it will put off most of your guests: no ouzo, no elderflower liqueur, even no horseradish vodka, though I truly love it.

Of course, you could keep it easy by making a pitcher of a popular classic. For instance, you could make Manhattans (two parts of bourbon or rye to one part sweet vermouth, with a dash of Angostura bitters per glass, served over ice with a maraschino cherry).

Or you could make martinis (traditionally you would use two parts of gin to one part dry vermouth, though the current taste calls for more gin, with an olive). Or Gibsons (same drink, but with a pickled onion instead of an olive).

A mixture of vodka and dry vermouth, incidentally, is properly called a kangaroo, not a vodka martini. You could also make those.

But I like to give my guests something unusual, something a little unexpected, something of my own. And if it is not specifically of my own, then it might come from the local Queen of the Cocktail, Jen Kubiszewski, who happily offered a couple of her favorites.

Kubiszewski’s New Old-Fashioned is not unlike a regular Old-Fashioned, with one difference. Well, two, but one big one.

A New Old Fashioned. (J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

Regular Old-Fashioneds mix together bourbon or rye with simple syurp (or a sugar cube) and a muddled slice of orange and a cherry. Kubiszewski’s version cleverly substitutes a simple syrup made from brown sugar. The molasses in the brown sugar serves to heighten the caramel notes in the bourbon or rye.

The New Old-Fashioned also uses unmuddled fruit, both for the purity of flavor and also as a way to save time. If your guests want, they can just squeeze in the orange slice themselves.

Kubiszewski calls her other drink, the Rose Margarita, “my signature poolside cocktail.” It is the perfect way to cool down while lounging in the hot sun, and it’s even pink. Kubiszewski said, “Pink makes everything better.”

The color comes from rose, an often disdained but delicious summertime wine that is undergoing a resurgence. The other ingredients are three-quarters of a margarita: tequila, lime juice and simple syrup (made from granulated sugar this time).

The rose makes it lighter than an ordinary margarita, and more festive. It’s just delightful.

The first signature cocktail I ever created was called the Southside Strangler, named for the brutal serial killer who terrorized my neighborhood in Richmond, Va. The drink itself is infinitely more felicitous than its namesake.

The Southside Strangler is also a summertime drink _ though it’s good all year _ because it is made with fresh juice from an orange and a grapefruit. The fruit theme continues to a lesser extent with lemon vodka and a bit of orange liqueur, such as Cointreau. All you need to finish it is a cherry, to make it pretty.

With all that fruit, you can tell your guests that it’s healthy.

If you buy lemon vodka for a Southside Stranger, you may as well go ahead and use it in a Cosmopolitan, too. Cosmos were inescapable in the late 1990s due to their prevalence on the show “Sex and the City,” but that was 20 years ago. I say it’s time to bring them back as a signature drink, especially because I happen to make the best Cosmos in the world.

I can’t take credit for them, though. The version I make was conjured by the genial genius Derek Watridge, who lives in Annapolis, Md. After considerable trial and error, Watridge came up with the perfect proportion of ingredients _ and the right brands to use, too. If you serve it at a party, I promise your guests will be pleased.

The next signature cocktail is one that I made up _ except that I just looked it up and it turns out to already exist. The existing version is called a gin sour, but I had never heard of a gin sour until now. It also turns out to be a Tom Collins without any soda water and, unfortunately, I’ve heard of a Tom Collins.

So the cocktail, which I am calling an Unoriginal Idea, is not my own creation at all. But it is still light and refreshing and utterly charming. How can it not be? It is a simple combination of gin, lemon juice and superfine sugar.

My final signature drink recommendation is named for one of St. Louis’ classiest icons. I call it the Grable, as in Betty. It combines two of my favorite liquors, bourbon and Grand Marnier. That’s a little heavy, so I lighten it up with a healthy splash of soda water.

A Grable. (J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

It’s sophistication in a glass. It’s all you need to take a gathering and turn it into a party.


Unoriginal Idea

Yield: 16 servings

1 (750 ml) bottle gin

1 cup lemon juice, preferably fresh-squeezed

1 cup superfine sugar, see note

Note: To make superfine sugar, place granulated sugar in a blender and blend until powdery, about 10 seconds. Can be stored indefinitely in an airtight container.

Mix together gin, lemon juice and superfine sugar in a pitcher. Refrigerate before serving or serve over ice.

Recipe by Daniel Neman


Yield: 16 servings

1 (750 ml) bottle bourbon

1 { cups Grand Marnier

Soda water

16 maraschino cherries

Mix together bourbon and Grand Marnier in a pitcher, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. To serve, pour over ice in an old-fashioned glass, fill with soda water and add a cherry.

Recipe by Daniel Neman

Rose Margarita

Yield: 8 servings

1 bottle rose

1 cup tequila

1 cup lime juice, preferably fresh-squeezed

1 { cups simple syrup, see note

Note: To make simple syrup, mix 1 { cups granulated sugar and 1{ cups water in a small pot and heat to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Mix wine, tequila, lime juice and simple syrup in a pitcher, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. To serve, pour into a salt-rimmed margarita glass and garnish with a wedge of lime.

Recipe by Jen Kubiszewski

New Old-Fashioned

Yield: 12 servings

1 (750 ml) bottle rye or bourbon

1 ounce (2 tablespoons) simple syrup, see note

{ cup water

12 dashes Angostura bitters

12 maraschino cherries

12 slices orange

Note: To make simple syrup, mix equal parts sugar and water in a small pot and heat to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. For this recipe, brown sugar works best. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Mix together rye or bourbon, simple syrup, water and bitters in a pitcher; stir until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. To serve, pour a generous 2 ounces (\ cup) mixture over ice and garnish with cherry and orange slice.

Southside Strangler

Yield: 16 servings

1 (750 ml) bottle lemon (or citron) vodka

3 cups orange juice, preferably fresh-squeezed

2 cups grapefruit juice, preferably fresh-squeezed

1 cup Cointreau or other orange-flavored liqueur

16 maraschino cherries

Mix together the vodka, orange juice, grapefruit juice and Cointreau in a pitcher, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. To serve, pour over ice and garnish with a cherry.

Recipe by Daniel Neman


Yield: 16 servings

1 (750 ml) bottle Absolut citron (lemon) vodka

1 { cups Cointreau

2 cups cranberry juice

2 cups Rose’s Lime Juice

16 lemon rind twists

Combine vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice and Rose’s Lime Juice in a pitcher. Stir well and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate. To serve, pour over ice and garnish with a twist.

Recipe by Derek Watridge

This story was written by Daniel Neman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

(c)2019 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Food and DrinkFood and Wine

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Dr. Vincent Matthews, superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, said Tuesday that student would not be back in school before the end of this calendar year. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Superintendent: City schools will not reopen before the end of the year

San Francisco public schools won’t reopen to students for the rest of… Continue reading

A Muni-inspired prop bus stands near Ghirardelli Square as Marvel Studios films scenes for its upcoming movie, "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. (Samantha Laurey/Special to S.F Examiner)
Marvel Superhero film now shooting in San Francisco

It’s the first feature film to return to The City since the pandemic

The Telegraph Quartet is pictured during its SF Music Day 2020 recording session at the striking, beautifully lit and almost empty Herbst Theatre. (Courtesy Marcus Phillips)
SF Music Day goes virtual with Herbst broadcast

Performers pre-record sets in empty, iconic theater

The admissions process at the academically competitive Lowell High School is set to change this year due to coronavirus restritions. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Lowell’s selective admissions process put on hold this year — and more changes may be in the works

School board votes unanimously to use normal student assignment lottery for competitive school

San Francisco has failed to reduce traffic deaths enough to meet its Vision Zero goal. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
San Francisco not on track to meet Vision Zero goals by 2024

Hamstrung by state laws, dwindling budget and limited resources, SFMTA tries to chart path forward

Most Read