Retro repeat | VailDaily.com

Retro repeat

Melanie Wong
mwong@vaildaily.com

In an age of molecular mixology and ever-more exotic ingredients, those who belly up to the bar might be noticing a new kind of libation — the retro cocktail.

Yes, as much as bartenders like to play around with foams and purees that you'd be loathe to make at home, there's also a strong resurgence of drinks and liquors that were popular during the turn of the century, the post-Prohibition '30s and '40s and even the tiki-lounge culture of the 1950s. Most of these classics are relatively simple and celebrate liquors such as gin and chartreuse.

"The modern trend is for drinks to be a bit more involved, with more purees, prickly pear and essences of carrot and lavender," said Pollyanna Forster of Dive restaurant in Edwards. "Most classics don't have a lot of ingredients. They're simple, but delicious."

Several drinks at Dive are direct throwbacks to the Prohibition and Depression eras, the Corpse Reviver and Boulevardier.

"I think drinks were simple then because there were speakeasies and dive bars, and you went and if you were lucky enough to get a base spirit, it had to be something simple but delicious, and you're probably in a little bit of a hurry and hoping you're not busted," Forster said.

The resurgence has also opened the doors for mixologists to experiment and create new twists on old favorites.

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"I find this trend with the revitalization of classic cocktails very exciting. Many of these classic cocktails have recipes that you can substitute one ingredient for another making the back pocket cocktail list seem almost endless," said Donovan Sornig, bar manager at Mountain Standard in Vail. "This is why I personally find it fun making classics and their variations at the bar, the possibilities are endless and it's not taking 20 minutes and 20 ingredients to get that drink over the bar."

Old meets new

Forster sees the resurgence of these older drinks as part of the artisan cocktail movement. Forster definitely abides by the belief that there's a right and wrong way to make a good drink, and many of Dive's retro-inspired drinks come straight from "The Savoy Cocktail Book," a 1930s tome of cocktail recipes written by famed American bartender Harry Craddock. It is still the bible for many mixologists today.

Mixologist Mark Summers at The Rose in Edwards points to the '30s and '40s as a bit of a golden age in the cocktail world.

"After the Prohibition, all the mixologists came back from Europe where they had gone, and they started remaking cocktails with cordials and liquors that they'd had access to," he said.

He's seeing drinks like the pre-Prohibition Manhattans and Old Fashioneds making a comeback, along with rum, which was very popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Summers said he's enjoying playing around with liquors from different eras, and a current favorite at The Rose is the Sloe Gin Fizz, a classic drink made from a British liquor. The drink, which hearkens back more than a century, contains regular gin, along with sloe gin — a tart cordial made with sloe berries — egg white, citrus and sugar.

Tiki time

Summers also points to another comeback trend, from a slightly different era — the tiki bar. Tiki drinks were popular through the mid-20th century, buoyed by famous California bars like Trader Vic's and Don the Beachcomber.

"They're very misunderstood drinks. Most people think of tiki drinks as rum with some sweet juice and a big umbrella served in a cool looking glass," Summers said. "They're actually very complex and can have three different rums and eight to 10 ingredients. I think we'll start seeing those coming back into style."

Mountain Standard currently has its own riff on a tiki drink called Something in the Whey that contains rum, cointreau, Velvet Falernum (a mixer made with over-proofed rum, notes of ginger, clove), fresh lime juice and lemon whey.

Not that modern drinks are going anywhere. At Dive, the drink menu sports half retro-inspired drinks and half newer concoctions, depending on what you're in the mood for.

"Some people want a nice classic cocktail, and others want something more involved, that's fun and even healthful," Forster said.

So whether you like your drinks with a paper umbrella, or shaken, not stirred, there's sure to be a drink that suits your 2015 tastes. Sornig, for one, is glad to see the classics en vogue again.

"My passion lies in the classics, and currently we are seeing guests embrace them," Sornig said. "Cocktails like the Old Fashioned, Manhattan and Negroni are becoming common orders in all establishments. And I, for one, can appreciate this history repeating itself."

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and mwong@vaildaily.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

Retro-inspired drinks

Sloe Gin Fizz

Courtesy of Mark Summers of The Rose in Edwards

1 ounce sloe gin

1 ounce regular gin

1 ounce lemon juice

1 ounce simple syrup

½ ounce of raw egg white

Shake and serve in a Collins glass on the rocks. The egg white will give the drink body and froth. Serve with a lemon wedge as garnish.

Boulevardier

Courtesy of Dive restaurant and bar

1.5 ounces rye whiskeya

1 ounce Campari liqueur

1 ounce Vermouth del professore

Measure liquors into a mixing glass. Add ice and mix with spoon. Transfer to cocktail glass if desired and garnish with orange peel twist.

Dive Into a Zombie

Courtesy of Dive restaurant and bar

1 ounce Appleton rum

1 ounce Parce rum

½ ounce Chartruese

1 ounce grapefruit juice

1 ounce simple syrup

Measure and shake all ingredients. Fill a glass with ice and strain drink over ice. Garnish with a mint sprig, maraschino cherry and pineapple.