Cocktail recipes to get you through the pandemic
Hard times call for hard liquor, historically speaking.
In our own weird new world of coronavirus, alcohol is at the forefront of many minds: as a comfort, as a treat or as a potential worry.
This is not new. Past periods of suffering and adversity - wars, global depressions - have proven when the going gets tough, even the tough turn to drink.
Sometimes, with interesting results - as we've recorded at our terrific new section, Delicious Drinks.
A century ago when Spanish flu ravaged the globe, the panicked masses turned to alcohol - as well as onions and opium - to ward off the disease.
In her book Pandemic 1918: Eyewitness Accounts from the Greatest Medical Holocaust in Modern History, academic Catharine Arnold reports sales of whisky, a popular home remedy for colds and flu, soared.
In the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, "One brave soul … recommended 14 straight gins in quick succession as a cure for Spanish flu."
Others took a more sophisticated tack. London's Savoy Hotel reputedly created the modern version of the corpse reviver during the pandemic.
Versions of the cocktail had been recorded since the mid-19th century, but The Savoy wrote the definitive recipe using Cognac, Calvados apple brandy and sweet vermouth.
Simply stir over ice, strain into a chilled glass and garnish with a twist of orange peel (umbrella optional).
The name referenced its powers as a hangover tonic rather than anything flu related, but corpse reviver proved a darkly apt title for the times.
The Savoy Cocktail Book published in 1930 recommends its consumption before 11am "or whenever steam or energy is needed".
In wartimes, too, we've reached for the bottle. Australia's Orlando Marzo, crowned the world's best bartender in the 2018 Diageo World Class cocktail competition, cites the French 75 as one example.
Conceived in Paris and named after a World War field and anti-aircraft gun, its potent mix of gin (and Calvados in early recipes) shaken with lemon and sugar and topped with Champagne prompted the American author Irvin S Cobb to remark: "I had my first of these in a dugout in the Argonne. I couldn't tell whether a shell or the drink hit me."
Marzo, beverage director at Melbourne's Worksmith, a co-working and resource hub for the hospitality set, said the Spanish-American War in 1898 also inspired some spirited drinks.
The most famous was the Cuba libre, said to be born in Havana when an army captain ordered rum with Coca-Cola (only properly launched in 1892) and a wedge of lime.
The daiquiri was another by-product of that war, Marzo said.
Its precision blend of shaken citrus, Cuban rum and sugar is perhaps the Caribbean's most enduring gift to the world's drinkers. Hemingway was a big fan.
TIPS TO TRY
While some parts of the hospitality industry are slowly opening up, most real bars and pubs will still be off limits for the foreseeable future, so many of us might like to try some of these tips at home - and if you are lucky enough to be allowed out, enjoy finding some great cocktails as part of your new-found freedom.
The most comprehensive reference for aspiring home mixologists is the 1876 Bartenders Guide by larger-than-life American barman Jerry Thomas.
His guide lists dozens of recipes for punches, juleps and smashes, wine cobblers and crustas (cocktails with sugar and lemon-crusted rims), toddies and slings, smashes and shrubs, fixes and sours.
There's enough inspiration to keep the liquor cabinet busy every day, and the good news is you can find it all online by clicking here.
Marzo advises keeping "something fizzy" on hand for highballs - tonic, lemonade, and ginger ale or beer are all savvy options, as is sparkling wine.
He also recommends brewing up homemade sugars, honeys or jams as well as infused syrups - basically a sugar syrup (2:1 sugar and water over low heat) macerated with fragrant botanicals such as lemongrass. Perfect for a floral martini.
Bitters, the staple ingredient of most early cocktails, are easy to make, too.
Grab some 100-proof vodka (Absolut and Smirnoff both make them) as the base and add aromatics such as citrus, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise and cloves.
"The best tip that I recommend to make a staple for your home, to have all the time, that is delicious … everyone has fruit, right?" he said.
"Peel oranges or lemons, cover the peel with sugar. Leave for a day and then strain and press into an airtight container, cover with oil and refrigerate."
This oleo saccharum, or oil sugar, will enhance any base spirit and make it taste as though you've made some sort of effort.
And it's very versatile - add citrus juice and you've got a sherbet, add vinegar and it's a shrub.
For those still flush enough to order in, various companies are offering drinks for home consumption - including deliveries from your local.
Sticking to the historical theme here, The Everleigh bar founder Michael Madrusan has been working on a range of citrus-forward "medicinal" cocktails to "lift the spirits in a time of doom and gloom".
His Everleigh Bottling Co, best known for its bottled martinis, negronis, Manhattans and old fashioneds, is now offering a pandemic inventory which includes the penicillin (Scotch, fresh lemon and ginger, honey and peated whisky) and medicina latina (tequila, fresh lime, fresh ginger, honey and mezcal).
He has also revived crowd-pleasers such as the piña colada and a dark and stormy with house-made ginger beer.
"We want to bring out the bangers and let everyone enjoy them," Madrusan said.
"There's no time to panic right now; it's time to just get busy and push through."
Originally published as Why many turn to alcohol when times are tough