Cocktail Survivors

The classic cocktails that stand the test of time

Drinks such as the martini and the Manhattan can be had at damn near any bar in the world. They’ve been around for more than a century, and it’s unlikely they’ll ever fall from grace.

Then there’s a second tier of cocktails that might not be as well-known as these all-stars, but nevertheless they’ve stood the test of time, and they crop up on menus with astonishing regularity. (It seems that recipes that show no trace of non-alcoholic ingredients are particularly durable.)

The Vieux Carré — rye, brandy, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine, and both Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters — is one of these survivors. It was dreamed up in the late 1930s by Walter Bergeron, head bartender at the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans.

Similarly, the Hanky Panky (pictured above) — gin, sweet vermouth, and Fernet-Branca — has been strong enough to be relevant for more than 100 years. It was created in the early 1900s by Ada "Coley" Coleman, head bartender at the American Bar at London’s Savoy Hotel, for Charles Hawtrey, a famed actor of the day. The concoction got its name when Hawtrey took his first sip and exclaimed, "By Jove, Coley, that’s the real hanky panky!"

Another robust quaff that’s been with us for a good long while is the Remember the Maine, which is featured in Charles H. Baker, Jr.’s 1939 book The Gentleman's Companion. It commemorated the 1898 sinking of an American battleship, the USS Maine, which set off the Spanish-American War.

The Remember the Maine calls for rye, sweet vermouth, cherry brandy, and absinthe, so it’s also a stout-hearted potion, and this is one of the few cocktails that comes with very detailed instructions on how to put it together: "Stir briskly in clock-wise fashion — this makes it sea-going, presumably!" advises Baker.

Three survivors with nary a splash of fruit juice in any of them. It’s little wonder that they’ve stuck around. I’ll take one of each, please.

Get the recipes for the Vieux Carré, Hanky Panky, and Remember the Maine on

Gary Regan is the author of numerous books about spirits and cocktails, including The Joy of Mixology and The Bartender’s Gin Compendium. He is also host of and a advisory board member.

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