Each issue, FLOOD asks one of the country’s most outstanding barkeepers to give us the lowdown on their favorite drinks. This installment: multi-talented bartender Harry May-Kline of The Varnish, Los Angeles’ preeminent speakeasy, which has been topping “Best of” lists with its encyclopedic list of well-crafted cocktails since opening in 2009.
A Varnish original, created by Mikki Kristola. Bitter, citrusy, and refreshing. A good low-ABV choice.
1 oz. Suze gentian root liquor
1 oz. blanc vermouth
1 oz. lime juice
¾ oz. simple syrup
Served in a Collins glass with ice, topped with soda and a grapefruit twist
A pre-Prohibition cocktail from the Waldorf Astoria. It might be named after the Scottish poet Robert Burns; however, it’s speculated that the drink is actually named after a cigar salesman who was a regular at the time. A sweet, rich, and lightly smoky variation on the Manhattan.
2 oz. blended scotch
½ oz. sweet vermouth
¼ oz. Benedictine
Stir in a mixing glass, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a shortbread cookie
Maybe my favorite cocktail—it appears in both The Stork Club Bar Book and The Bartender’s Guide by Trader Vic. A funky and sweet Daiquiri variation that goes down good every time.
2 oz. Jamaican rum
¾ oz. lime juice
¾ oz. honey syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
Shake ingredients vigorously, strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a lime wedge for extra acid
Another Waldorf Astoria classic. This drink was named after the peacock alley between the two hotels, where socialites would strut and preen. It’s a dry, herbaceous cocktail with a little bite on the end.
2 oz. cognac
½ oz. China China amer
1 dash absinthe
Build ingredients into a rocks glass, add ice, stir, garnish with a lemon twist
My hangover cure. Sometimes all you need is a savory beer. You can also add a little cilantro on top.
1 lager or pilsner
2 oz. Clamato
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes Cholula hot sauce
1 pinch salt and pepper
Build ingredients in a beer glass, add beer, enjoy