Rosie Schaap, writer of the monthly "Drink" column in "The New York Times Magazine," and author of the memoir, "Drinking with Men," shares thoughts on refreshing summertime drinks, bartending at home, and why women should go to bars alone.
CC: That's very good advice. So while we’re talking about classic cocktails that are making a comeback, I wanted to talk a little bit about two-ingredient cocktails. I feel like sometimes people get a little bit overwhelmed when they start bartending at home, and make the mistake of pouring in a jigger full of something that maybe just needs to be a rinse. So it’s sometimes good to start with the basics. So what are some good two-ingredient cocktails?
RS: I totally agree with that. And I feel the same way about so much food. In some ways, the fewer ingredients, the better it’s going to be. There’s no need to dump everything into a glass. There’s a time and place for that, maybe. I’ve had some good, balanced drinks to go back to that worked, that do have three or four, or even five ingredients, but that’s tricky--and not all of our home bars are equipped to do that kind of work, anyway.
So for just a two-ingredient drink, as I was saying, I’m really enjoying the chartreuse and gin combination. There are other things that I think go really nicely with gin, something a little sweet or something a little anise or caraway flavored. I’ve been interested in these anise-y things lately, like pastis and like ouzo; they just add a little depth and a little strangeness, and I mean that in a way I really like, in a drink.
I think because gin has so much going on in it already, it doesn’t need a lot to create something really terrific. So mixing gin with one other spirit—and a pretty small quantity, maybe something a little bit heavier or a little bit sweeter, maybe going easy on it—is great.
And then there are classic things. When we think of a Manhattan, just some good bourbon or another kind of whiskey, or vermouth, is always great. I love these different kinds of fortified aperitif wines, like lillet and dubonnet. Things I think of my mom drinking in the seventies that are still really inexpensive and mix really well with all kinds of spirits. I think that’s a good way to go.
Part of what people who love vodka love about vodka is that you can do just about anything to it. To me that’s what makes it a little less fun, in some ways, but I think there’s really not anything you can’t mix with vodka. The darker liquors are maybe a little bit trickier with that, and I haven’t had great success mixing rum with other alcoholic components--unless you count bitters, and that’s a real stretch. Usually, I’ll just stick with juices, and soda water, and simple things if I’m using rum, which I also love in the summer. But sticking to two--and no more than three--alcohol ingredients in a cocktail is probably a good rule of thumb.
CC: So I’d love to have you talk a little bit about your book, "Drinking With Men," and the story behind it.
RS: I’ve always been a bar person. I love bars. I’ve always felt very safe in bars, and I think media and pop culture tell women not to feel safe in bars. And I noticed for me, the opposite was always going on. If I was feeling stressed out or feeling unhappy, I’d go to a good bar--and when I say good bar, there are lots of kinds of good bars, but what I mean is a neighborhood bar. Often a corner bar, a place where there are regulars, and where you don’t have to get dressed up, or be expected to be in a great mood, or be expected to wear anything in particular, or to be a writer, or to be this or to be that. Just a good, solid neighborhood bar.
These have always been places where, whether I’m in a good mood or a bad mood, I’ve felt I can be myself in a really full way. And at a certain point, I noticed that even though I’d been feeling that way for years, and being a regular in one bar or another since I was a teenager, it occurred to me fairly late in the game--I looked around, and I said, 'There aren’t that many other women here." And that’s when I realized that maybe there was something a little anomalous and a little strange about how I was living my life, and I decided I should write about that and try to figure out what I was doing.
CC: Yeah, that would be a good cocktail trend to bring back–women going to bars alone.
RS: It would be! And I like to think that my book has encouraged some women to do that.
Photo of Rosie (c) M. Sharkey. Photo of book courtesy of Penguin Random House. Photo of cocktail courtesy of Shutterstock.