I think like many of us, my college drinking experience was largely driven by vodka and all of its versatile applications—with soda, tonic, cranberry, OJ. It’s no secret that vodka has become ingrained into America’s culture over the years, due to its ability to add an easy kick to any liquid. But in the cocktail world, where each ingredient plays an important role in the essence of the drink, it simply lacks the flavor to make a cocktail interesting. Think about trying to make risotto with water instead of broth. There’s something missing.
However, if there is was one cocktail I could point to that would have expanded my vodka-soaked palate years ago it is the Eastside—introduced to me at Little Branch in New York’s West Village.
Hailing from the Daiquiri family of cocktails, this drink is really just a modern-day Gimlet, with the addition of mint and cucumber. Refreshing and a summertime favorite, while also useful in warding off scurvy (as the British Navy found in the 1800′s), this variation is great year-round.
In addition, this recipe of 2-parts spirit, 1-part lime, and 3/4-part simple syrup can be expanded very easily to many spirits: with rum it’s a Daiquiri, with tequila it’s a Margarita, with gin you could shake lightly and pour it into a tall Collins glass with ice and soda to make a Rickey.
Fresh juice is always best (sorry, no Rose’s), and to make the simple syrup, just pour one pound of sugar into a one liter or quart container and fill the remaining space with water, then shake it up to combine. Contrary to popular opinion, there’s no need to heat it—leave the stove pots for your risotto, with chicken broth and shallots, of course.