Is there anything better than a good, stiff cocktail? I’m talking about one made with quality booze, not all muddied up by neon mixers and too much sugar. The kind of cocktail where one is fun, two will really get the party going, and three will end it right then and there.
In our former life, we enjoyed a real cocktail hour at least a couple of times a week (see photo carousel below for a brief look at our imbibing history). I favor simple recipes, leaving the foams, smoke, and custom bitters to experts like our dear friend Tom, a San Francisco-based cocktail genius. It’s both a science and an art … one that requires much patience, of which I am usually in short supply when waiting for a drink at the end of a long day.
That’s why my go-to cocktail is the Whiskey Sour – it can’t get any simpler. A classic sour calls for fresh lemon juice, whiskey, and simple syrup. I make mine with bourbon and grapefruit juice, and if I’m feeling fancy, some cherry simple syrup (either my own or this amazing stuff). My friend Nathan, also a cocktail guru, turned me on to it, and, I promise, it is one of the best things you will ever taste in your life. Use in cocktails, with just plain soda water, on top of ice cream, in milk shakes, or straight from the crock with a spoon. Consider yourself warned about my double-dipping habits.
Anyway, the recipe goes like this: mix one part juice, one part syrup, two parts bourbon in a highball glass (tip: use the same ratios for killer margaritas, subbing in lime for grapefruit … or not). Top with ice. The end.
Unfortunately, Vietnam is not know for its cocktail culture, though a few exceptions can be found in bigger cities (for Western prices, of course). So, we drink mostly beer and some wine, leaving us with a hankering for something stronger. Something that packs a little punch. Something adult.
Enter: the Backpacker Whiskey Sour. No cherry simple syrup here. No real glasses even – it’s plastic class all the way. No matter. It’s a proper cocktail, a taste of home, and it gets the job done.
Backpacker Whiskey Sours
This recipe makes enough for two travelers to get a good, warm buzz going. If you’re looking to, ahem, forget the world or are making these for a crowd, buy bigger water bottles – as long as the ratios remain the same, you’re golden. For folks at home, this makes a fabulous entertaining cocktail – whip up a big pitcher just before guests arrive (not too early, as the juice should be as fresh as possible). Pitcher cocktails=freedom from playing bartender all night long. Just make sure you accurately judge how much you’ll need – otherwise, you are faced with the terrible choice of running out or pulling yourself away from the party to make another batch, half-drunk. Life is so hard sometimes, isn’t it?
- 2 small 500 ml. water bottles
- Small utility knife (Swiss Army, Leatherman, etc.) if you are making your own juice
- Enough unsweetened citrus juice to fill half of one bottle (anything will do as long as it’s tart and fresh-squeezed) – either squeeze your own into a hotel room cup, or find a restaurant or hotel to do it for you
- 1 small bag of sugar – can be found at major and small markets almost anywhere; if not, ask your hotel again
- A few ounces of purified water
- 1 bottle of the highest quality whiskey or bourbon you can find – can be found almost anywhere in Vietnam besides small villages
Make your sugar water, the poor man’s simple syrup. Fill up a quarter of one water bottle with sugar, then top it off with purified water until you reach the halfway mark (you could make it sweeter by doing two parts sugar to one part water, but I find a 1:1 ratio is plenty sweet). If you’re a masochist and/or in need of an arm workout, shake until dissolved. For the rest of us, let sit overnight, shaking occasionally until sugar is dissolved.
Procure or make your juice and add to the sugar water bottle until full. Shake to mix. Pour half of this mixture into the second bottle. Top both off with whiskey until full.
Enjoy in a glass, over ice if you can find it. If you haven’t had a good cocktail in months, you probably won’t care and will drink it at room temp, straight from the plastic bottle. Or so I’ve heard.
Peace, love, and boozy happiness –