For many drinkers, the colder the cocktail the better, and they’ll gleefully knock back martinis and daiquiris so thoroughly chilled down they’re near frozen, glistening with ice crystals. Leave it to the many fine cocktail wizards we have across the country to then move in the complete opposite direction with room temperature cocktails.
ROOM TEMP RULES
This may seem unusual, but think about the way you would drink a whiskey neat in order to detect maximum flavor from the spirit. You’re not thinking that you’re having a “room temperature” whiskey, but that’s exactly what you’re doing. As such, for those looking to notice the full flavors of the different spirits and liqueurs in a cocktail, serving them at room temperature starts making more sense.
“Room temperature cocktails have an amazing balance when done properly, and the complexity and nuances are showcased perfectly,” says Bryan Tetorakis, bartender at Polite Provisions in San Diego.
Cocktail Taps at Polite Provisions in San Diego
“Room temp cocktails have nowhere to hide,” adds Erika Ordonez, bartender at Slowly Shirley in New York. At one point, Slowly Shirley had an entire portion of their menu dedicated to room temperature cocktails. While no longer listed, the ingredients and knowhow are still on hand, so feel free to request one of the below listed cocktails on your next visit.
KEYS TO BALANCE
Room temperature cocktails will sometimes include a portion of water to get the right level of desired dilution without the presence of ice. “The dilution has been predetermined by the creator for a very clear vision,” says Ordonez. “There’s a consistency that is guaranteed.”
Other times they don’t. “While some may need to have elements that mimic the dilution you get from ice, the Fifth Season [see below] does not,” explains Torrence Swain, head bartender Washington D.C.’s Bourbon Steak. “Each component melds in a way that’s best served alone and at room temperature.”
Certain ingredients show up time and again in room temperature cocktails, such as amaro, sherry and other fortified wines, while others, such as citrus, are avoided. For the latter, it’s due to the fact citrus drinks are typically shaken with ice. “I have yet to see actual citrus in a room temp cocktail or attempt it myself,” says Ordonez.
With a few rules out of the way, here’s a collection of room temperature drinks from across the country:
By Torrence Swain, Bourbon Steak at Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC
“The melody of [the Fifth Season’s] ingredients are best served at room temperature without the introduction of water or ice—both of which would dilute and dampen its flavors,” says Swain.
Fifth Season cocktail at Bourbon Steak in Washington, DC
Pour Ma Gueul
By Justin Lavenue, The Roosevelt Room in Austin, Texas
– 1 1/2 oz Bombay Sapphire
– 1 1/2 oz Dolin Dry vermouth
– 1 1/2 oz Ice-cold Water
– 1/4 oz Maraschino liqueur
– 1/4 oz Verjus blanc
– 3 dashes Orange bitters
– 2 dashes St. George Absinthe Verte
The cocktail’s name Pour Ma Gueul is “for my mouth” in French. This term is used by French vintners for wine that is so good, it’s kept for personal usage as opposed to being bottled and sold to the public. In addition to the above ingredients, Lavenue smokes the glass with a combination of cassia bark chips and dried lemon peel.
And yes—this one is slightly below room temperature, but still warmer than a traditional cocktail. “This one is cool because it’s zero waste—the used peels and cassia bark are composted,” says Lavenue. “And served just below room temp, which I’ve been seeing more and more and really digging as of late.”
Polite Provisions in San Diego, California
Equal parts Bourbon and Cynar
While typically offered as a shooter, the Bronar is served through Polite Provision’s draft cocktail system. With a combination of Cynar and bourbon, it also features a more sippable, cocktail-worthy ingredient list than your typical shot, so feel free to enjoy this one at your leisure.
“With the Bronar, it’s a 50/50 balance of the vanilla from the bourbon and the herbal qualities from the Cynar,” says Tetorakis. “We experiment pretty frequently with 50/50 combinations that mix spirits with low-ABV liqueurs, they make for great shooters because they minimize the strength and complement the flavor of a straight spirit.”
Room Temperature Cocktails at Slowly Shirley in New York City
The Sun Also Rises
By Jim Kearns, Slowly Shirley in New York
– 3/4 oz water
– 1/2 oz Amontillado sherry
– 1/4 oz Laurent Cazottes Wild Quince
– 1/4 oz Baines Sloe gin
– 2 oz Blanche Armagnac
– Grapefruit twist
Stir all ingredients and serve in a wine glass.
Note: Just twist the grapefruit garnish over drink and discard. Don’t add to drink.
By John Henderson, Slowly Shirley in New York
– 1 1/2 oz Ron Zacapa XO Rum
– 1 oz water
– 1/4 oz Amaro Averna
– 1/4 oz Aperol
– 1/4 oz Demerara
– 2 dash mole bitters
– Lemon swath
Stir all ingredients and serve in a wine glass. Garnish with lemon swath.
Ready to start making your own room temperature cocktails?