Cocktail Rehab

The way we drink our alcohol is changing every day.

Craft beers, local spirits, and classic cocktails have all enjoyed a boom in the last few years, and are more prevalent than ever. As classic drinks take hold however, the disco-age drinks are likely here to stay and rub elbows with them. And why not? There is no reason a Long Island Iced Tea and a Negroni can’t be served in and on the same bar.

But with that said, there are some detractors with the common bar drinks that we’ve seen over the last 30 years. They’ve grown stale after decades of being the only bar staples. We set out now to rehab these drinks, all with good intentions, and rather than turn our backs on them in favor of craft drinks, perhaps find the qualities that have kept people drinking these drinks for decades, finding ways to incorporate some craft elements to bring the drinks into the new era of drinking. Let’s rehab and drink up!

A classic re-imagining of three modern bar staples

Rehab The Long Island
The Long Island Iced Tea is a notable drink for two reasons: it tastes pretty close to iced tea, and it gets one intoxicated quickly. I like the idea of the drink: a boozy tall glass that is both easy to make and drink, but I’ve never been on board with the idea that you can’t really taste any of the booze. If you’ve never seen the drink claim a victim after unwittingly drinking 3 or 4, you probably do not spend much time in bars. Taking the basic formula of booze+sour mix+coke, we can reinvent the drink to be less potent, and more flavorful, still retaining the flavor of tea, but with the addition of vermouth and Italian bitters, a drink that also gives more herbal qualities, and becomes more of a drinking experience than a drunken experience.

Italian Iced Tea
1/2 oz. Dry vermouth
1/2 oz. Cynar
1/2 oz. Fernet Branca
1/2 oz. gin splash of sour mix (1/4 oz. lemon and 1/4 oz. simple syrup)

Pour ingredients into a highball glass over ice and top with coke, preferably Mexican Coke, or another cola made with real sugar.


Rehab Jägerbomb
The Jaeger-bomb, a shot or drink consisting of Jägermeister and Red Bull, is becoming a relic of the 2000s. It still is fairly common to see it ordered in rounds, or drank in a tall glass over ice. The Jäger is high enough proof that it gives the drinker a slight buzz, and the highly caffeinated Red Bull gives one a sudden burst of energy and alertness that is often necessary in the early hours of the night, when the soporific effects of dinner are colliding with the prospect of nighttime revelry.

I recommend a shot of Fernet Branca to take the place of all bombs, in all circumstances. A shot of Fernet is high enough proof (80) to be potent, yet its herbal ingredients have a way of soothing the stomach, curing early evening lethargy. Taken neat or on the rocks, Fernet has properties that cure indigestion, and its flavor will linger on the palate for a good 15 minutes, making it a true experience. San Francisco, where one can order Fernet in even the crummiest dives, is considered the Fernet capital of the U.S., and Columbus should follow suit. Fernet belongs in every bar and in every mouth in the city of Columbus.

Branca Bomb
Pour 1 1/2 oz. of Fernet into a shot glass or into a rocks glass over ice.


Rehab Tequila Sunrise
A Tequila Sunrise is ordered because of the way it looks. While tequila and orange juice are a good match, the prickly vanilla flavor of a good blanco tequila blends incredibly well with orange, and the grenadine that gives the drink its distinctive “sunrise” look is often a sugary abomination that doesn’t really lend the drink any flavor any way. There is a quick remedy: use Campari instead of grenadine. The Campari compliments the orange extremely well, and helps bring out the qualities of the tequila. Especially when somebody is ordering a Tequila Sunrise with Don Julio or another high quality tequila, the orange juice should be as fresh as possible, and the grenadine should be in a different room. While the Campari will not quite give the drink the hypnotic and hazy look that one might expect in the Tequila Sunrise, its bitter flavor will make the drink a true experience and be a subtle introduction to the world of Campari and Italian bitters, which are essential for good living.

Bitter Sunrise
Pour 1 1/4 oz. 100% de Agave blanco tequila over ice in a rocks glass, top with orange juice and finish with 1 oz. of Campari, which will float to the bottom

Classically trained behind the bar and behind a piano, Joe Peppercorn is a musician, a father of three and a cocktailsmith at Curio and Little Rock.