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Three Cheers for the Return of Cocktail Hour!

The at-home cocktail hour is making a comeback, and I’ve got 3 classic drink recipes to make yours extra indulgent.

Well friends, 2020 is finally, mercifully, drawing to a close. That alone is reason enough to pour yourself a drink. But if there’s one thing 2020 has shown us, it’s how precious traditions are.

In past years, we could take them for granted. But this year, I think we’re really craving the feeling of nostalgia. Routines and faces we’ve missed. Family traditions we’ve upheld for years. The amazing Christmas morning breakfast casserole only your mom knows how to make.

And while recreating nostalgic memories in our own homes is no replacement for the loved ones we’re missing right now, there is something really comforting in carving out intentional, consistent routines. In creating traditions in your own home, here and now, that provide a sort of touchpoint as you go through your weeks. Especially those that force you to slow down and pay attention to sensory experiences.

We recently invested in a turntable and have found ourselves slowly building our new vinyl collection with albums from our childhood. The warm, vintage crackling sounds of Dolly, the Beach Boys, and The Stones have been filling our home as part of a new evening ritual.

As the nights have gotten colder, another ritual has crept in: cocktail hour. Now I know we’re not alone in this. The New York Times recently explored the resurrection of the at-home cocktail hour during the pandemic. This is partly because ‘at home’ is really the only place we’re allowed to be, and partly because I’m feeling the need to slow down and appreciate the simpler moments in life. To allow myself the time to sip a cocktail and enjoy a scratchy old record — and be happy in the simplicity of that moment.

But I think, most importantly, it’s the structure of a regular ritual — something we can count on when the rest of the world feels so out of our control — that gives us a piece of the comfort we’re all craving.

So with that in mind, I hope this post encourages you to slow down. To put on a beloved album or playlist or curl up in your favorite chair and read something that inspires you. And, if you’d like to sip a delicious, handcrafted cocktail as the week draws to a close, I’ve got three tried-and-true drink recipes for you to try.

Fair warning: these are spirit forward, classic cocktails. No Lemon Drops or chocolate martinis here. Save your sweet tooth for Christmas cookies and settle in a few warm winter sips.

The Best Way to Chill a Stemmed Cocktail Glass

Before we get into the booze, the proper prep is key. Because no matter how top-

shelf your liquor, if it’s in a sad lukewarm glass, it just doesn’t cut it.

To get the perfectly-chilled stemmed cocktail glass, you need 2 ingredients: ice and club soda. Why use club soda to chill a glass? I got this hot tip from a bartender: the carbonation in the club soda helps to quickly melt the ice and transfers the chill from the ice to the glass more rapidly.

To chill your cocktail glass, fill with ice cubes and top with club soda. Let the glass chill while you mix up your drink.

To chill your cocktail glass, fill with ice cubes and top with club soda. Let the glass chill while you mix up your drink.

A Hot Take on Choosing the Right Cocktail Glass

Many restaurants and bars serve these cocktails in a martini glass. I wholeheartedly oppose this. Strong words about glassware, I know, but I will die on this hill.

Martini glasses are so impractical — it’s essentially a trough on a stem. One minor bump and half your drink is on the floor. No one should have this kind of stress or baggage in their life. Not ever. And certainly not in 2020. We’ve been through enough.

So along with the cocktail recipes below, I’ve included my barware recommendation for each. Feel free to swap them out, but for the love, just don’t serve them in a martini glass.

My Favorite Manhattan Recipe

To me this is a quintessential classic cocktail - simple, elegant and delicious. I’ve spent much of the last decade trying to perfect. It’s pretty much my go to for happy hours in the winter months.

Although I’ve seen (and tasted) a hundred versions of a Manhattan, the differences are often very slight. And, interestingly, it hasn’t changed much in the 140 years since its invention.

*Fellow bartending aficionados: Here’s a deep dive on the history of the Manhattan.

Traditionally a Manhattan is made with rye whisky. I actually prefer bourbon for its slightly sweeter, caramel flavor profile. There’s really no right or wrong answer when it comes to your selection — it’s really about your spirit of choice. In the end, this cocktail comes down to its preparation as much as (maybe more than) its ingredients.

Here’s my take on the classic Manhattan:

I always (and forever) use a coupe for drinking Manhattans. This is because a martini glass is maybe the most impractical design for a drinking vessel ever. (See above). Also, the shape of the coupe shows off the gorgeous color of the cocktail and the long stem prevents your hand from warming the glass.


  • Ice cubes

  • 2 ounces bourbon (I’ve grown quite fond of Four Roses Small Batch Select)

  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth (I’m in love with Cocchi Storico Vermouth Di Torino — an Italian sweet vermouth — although any French sweet vermouth is perfectly acceptable)

  • 2-3 dashes angostura bitters

  • 1-2 cocktail cherries (I use Fabbri Amarena cherries)

  • A few drops of syrup from the cherries


A note on shaken vs stirred: I personally prefer a shaken Manhattan, although it seems the internet would disagree with me. I shake because it slightly enhances the flavor of the vermouth and bitters, plus it dilutes the bourbon a bit — and I love the subtle foaminess the shaking creates.

Also, in my defense, one of the original known recipes in Jerry Thomas’ 1887 book “The Bar-Tender’s Guide or How to Mix All Kinds of Plain and Fancy Drinks” calls for a shaken Manhattan. So, history is on my side.

  1. Fill a metal cocktail shaker with ice.

  2. Add bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters.

  3. Shake for about 20 seconds.

  4. Discard ice and club soda from the chilled coupe, add 1-2 Fabbri Amarena Cherries along with a few drops of syrup.

  5. Strain over cherries and enjoy!

How to Make the Best Gin Martini

The classic martini is nearly identical in preparation, and similar in proportions, to a Manhattan. There are even more variations — most of which I’m not a huge fan of — save the classic dirty martini with olives and their tasty brine.

When it comes to gin vs vodka in a martini there’s no contest for me. I’m a huge fan of the complex, botanic flavor of gin and nothing shows it off better than the gin martini. Gin is also the traditional choice.

The glass prep for a martini is identical to the Manhattan (ice in glass then top with club soda). Again I’m going to snub the impractical martini glass for a petite Nick and Nora cocktail glass because, well, I like my cocktails to make it all the way to my mouth.


  • Ice cubes

  • 2 1/2 ounces gin (I prefer Esme for it’s bold botanical notes)

  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth (I keep it tried and true with Dolin from France)

  • Garnish with a fresh lemon twist


I also typically shake my martinis. Creature of habit, I guess. For preparation for this article I did try a stirred Martini which was absolutely lovely, so mixer’s choice!

  1. Fill a metal cocktail shaker with ice.

  2. Add gin and dry vermouth.

  3. Shake (or stir) for about 20 seconds.

  4. Discard ice and club soda from the chilled Nick and Nora.

  5. Strain in glass, garnish with fresh lemon twist, and enjoy!

Recipe for a Simple Vodka Gimlet

This is a cocktail, like the martini, where vodka and gin are pretty interchangeable based on your taste, but sometimes vodka’s burn is just what you need to keep warm on a chilly LA evening.

Although many bars (remember bars??) will make this cocktail with Rose’s lime cordial, I prefer using fresh lime juice. This is mostly for the taste — either option seems to be historically accurate. I also typically make a simple syrup for my cocktails. But in the spirit of keeping things quick and easy, store bought is perfectly fine.


  • Ice cubes

  • 2 ounces vodka (I usually go with Belvedere or Grey Goose)

  • ½ fresh squeezed lime juice

  • ½ simple syrup


  1. Fill a metal cocktail shaker with ice.

  2. Add gin, lime juice and simple syrup to shaker

  3. Shake for about 20 seconds.

  4. Discard ice and club soda from the chilled Sherry glass

  5. Strain in glass, garnish with a circle of fresh lime, and enjoy!

Find your favorite classic cocktail recipes for at-home happy hour

And those are my go-to drink recipes for cold weather cocktail hours. I hope you’ll join us in creating your own weekly ritual at home. Whether you mix up a drink to unwind at the end of the week, or make it a virtual happy hour with friends, I think these classic cocktails provide a great starting point for upping your bartending game.

So cheers, friends.

Until next time,


P.S. Need a last-minute gift idea? My family ditched traditional gifts long ago in favor of consumable/experiential gifts. Pick a cocktail above and assemble the ingredients to make a “Happy Hour Kit” for friends and family. P.P.S. If you’re looking for an alternative, or a healthy daily indulgence, check out this list of delicious alcohol-free drinks the whole family can enjoy.


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