Beer winds up as the default beverage of the summer in large part because of its relatively low alcohol content. Plenty of us enjoy cocktails, but on a hot day, imbibing a small, sweaty tumbler of mostly whiskey or gin can make us even more dehydrated than the weather. Alcohol is a diuretic, and stronger, less diluted drinks like martinis and Manhattans pull even more water out of our bodies than their more stretched-out cousins like a rum and tonic or vodka and soda. The mojito might be considered a good summer cocktail because of mint’s cooling effects, but as much as that, it’s refreshing because it contains a good amount of seltzer to dilute its rum.
So, if you want to skip the beer during a hot late summer (or early fall) day, but you don’t want to wipe yourself out, the trick is to make sure you’re consuming something that isn’t too strong per volume. (Of course, failing all that, you can just try to match each cocktail you drink with a tall glass of water, but that ruins the point of this post.) This week’s cocktail, pulled from the Savoy Cocktail Handbook, is a decent example of that. We’re using a mix of sweet and dry vermouth as a base, so the drink we end up with will be about half as strong as a liquor cocktail would be. A splash of bitters and of absinthe adds to the herbal/botanical flavors you’ll already find in your vermouth, and a good shake over ice helps to thin this drink out enough to keep it refreshing.
As often as possible, I try to remind our readers that the best way to improve their cocktails is by stepping up the quality of the less expensive ingredients they are using, like vermouth; obviously, this cocktail, built almost entirely of the stuff, takes that idea to the extreme.
1 oz. dry vermouth
1 oz. sweet vermouth
3 dashes absinthe
3 dashes angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice, and shake thoroughly to combine and chill. Strain drink into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.