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5 Distinguished and Historic Cocktails Inspired by Family and Heritage


Scott Heins | Edwina Hay | May 1, 2018
Bartenders share the intergenerational wisdom that helped them dream up their captivating concoctions.

Mixologists draw inspiration from many disparate sources when crafting custom cocktails, and one way is to honor the wisdom and memory of those who came before them. The delectable concoction in your glass just might have a story behind it that harkens back decades — even centuries.

Here are seven such august intergenerational drinks that use flavors and techniques that have been passed down from one age to the next. For those interested in ordering up a taste of bygone times, whether shaken or stirred, these drinks that will take you back with every sip.

“The Persian Rose” by Zad Farahvash

In Iran, food tends to have very strong flavors, whether sour, bitter, or sweet. Zad Farahvash called on his Iranian heritage to create The Persian Rose, which combines deep notes of pomegranate, honey, and rosewater with the sharp flavor of saffron.

“Saffron is a staple of Persian cooking, and it’s also one of the main ingredients in Fernet-Branca,” Farahvash says. Growing up, his home always smelled of saffron and turmeric from his parents’ cooking, and he has continued the tradition with his own burgeoning food business, a vegan pop-up called Café Zarathustra. “I used to work in bars and then moved on to a career as a music booker,” he says. “When I started taking my mom’s Persian recipes and turning them vegan, it brought me back to my roots and back to the world of food and drinks.”

“The Tornado Warning” by Lindsay Arden

A new twist on the Manhattan born of free-spirited necessity, Lindsay Arden’s Tornado Warning is just the drink you want the next time you’re partying in a repurposed factory turned art loft. “The Manhattan itself has a very old heritage,” Arden says, “and this drink is a product of the historic places I serve it in.”

Made from Carpano vermouth, Templeton Rye whiskey, bitters, lemon, and soda water, Tornado Warning is Arden’s go-to cocktail for the many semi-secret parties where she tends makeshift bars. “It’s essentially a Manhattan, but lighter,” she says. “The soda and lemon in it really lighten things up.”

“In a World” by Alex Cooper

It’s a mentality that has sustained civilizations throughout the ages: Make the most of whatever you can find. Inspired by historical invention through necessity, Alex Cooper has thrown just about everything into his Fernet-Branca-tinged Manhattan/Old Fashioned redux, which sports the dramatic-movie-trailer-voice title In a World.

Rye whiskey, fresh lemon juice, Fernet-Branca, ginger liqueur, vanilla syrup, yellow chartreuse, black walnut bitters, and hibiscus jasmine syrup all get shaken over ice and served in a lowball glass garnished with an orange peel. The result tastes — well, like everything good tossed together. “As I was making it, I just wanted something worldly,” Cooper says, “with flavors you wouldn’t necessarily think of going together. It makes me think of how, generationally, people have often used specific ingredients that they wouldn’t usually call on.”

“Mountain Negroni” by Ben Zorn

They say smell is the sense most closely tied to memory, and for Ben Zorn, the Mountain Negroni conjures up the verdant aroma of his good old days. Zorn grew up in Colorado, where the onset of spring means blooming wildflowers and fresh pine floating on the breeze. And although he’s been living in Brooklyn for years, he’s still mixing drinks that remind him of taking walks with his folks in his home state.

Combining Fernet-BrancaCarpano, Malfy gin, and fortified wine with lavender and pine notes, the Mountain Negroni has almost none of a traditional Negroni’s bitterness — it’s all floral sweetness, down to the last drop. The drink is nicely balanced in a soothing way, recalling sweet tea with a more complex flavor profile. “For me, springtime in the mountains pulls out a lot of those notes,” Zorn says. “Wildflowers, lavender, and pine. They give off a ‘summer’s coming’ memory.”

“Smoked Herring on Rye” by Ben Zorn

image by Tetra Images via Shutterstock

When a cocktail boasts a “savory” flavor profile, that often means it’s got a smoky taste. But Ben Zorn’s Smoked Herring on Rye offers all the salty, breakfast-y goodness of a Brooklyn bagel, shaken and served straight up as a tangy and full-bodied margarita.

“My family is all German and Austrian Jews, and this cocktail is inspired by [family] meals when I was young,” Zorn says. Living in Colorado near his Brooklyn-born grandmother, Zorn was treated to a steady diet of home-baked rye bread and pumpernickel bagels bought at the same bakery every weekend. “In Boulder, there was just one bagel place that approached my grandmother’s standards,” he says. The drink’s savory taste comes from kümmel, a German caraway-seed liqueur, which gets shaken with lemon juice, simple syrup, and mezcal. A bit of muddled cucumber completes the bagel-ish mood.

Visit some of the oldest heritage families behind food & drinks here.

To read about chefs preserving family traditions through food, go here.

For stories and wisdom from Edoardo Branca, go here.

To read about sisters making new business traditions, click here.

To try more unique cocktails, head to Taste | Fernet-Branca

Scott Heins is a writer and photographer born in Minnesota and living and working in New York City. He loves bourbon, coffee, neon lights, hip-hop, bicycles, and soup dumplings.

Edwina Hay is a New York City–based freelance photographer whose work has appeared in BrooklynVegan, Gothamist, Gawker, The Village Voice, and other outlets. She was the Photo Editor at Impose Magazine from 2012–2015.


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