Drink Like Mad Men With These Classic Cocktails
If you measure time in Netflix minutes, “Mad Men” is ancient TV history — but it’s had a lasting effect on our taste for classic cocktails.
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Even if you couldn’t pick Don Draper out of a lineup, or you think Betty, Joan, and Peggy sound like characters from Archie comics, you still benefit from "Mad Men" culture. Back in 2013, several seasons into the blockbuster AMC series about admen in the 60s, New York City bartenders were already commenting about "the Mad Men effect."
"We’re seeing more people ordering Manhattans, or any of your classic drinks, because they know what it is," bartender Rosser Lomax told the New York Post. As the series came to a close in 2015, NPR mused, "the booze of Mad Men has spawned an online industry that suggests a viewership that's as much in love with the look, feel, and lifestyle of this show as it is with its story." The cosmo of Sex in the City had given way to Mad Men cocktail recipes that were more retro, more refined. And it wasn’t just the men who drank, either. Women, it seemed, were "leading a classic cocktail renaissance," per Today.
Male or female, Mad Men cocktail recipes take all comers. And here are a dozen of the best.
Classic Old Fashioned Cocktail
It’s the most-consumed classic cocktail on the show — and a good place to start. In this classic Old Fashioned cocktail recipe from CDKitchen, they promise: "You will suddenly become the most interesting person in the world." Perhaps. Don’t forget the orange twist and maraschino cherry.
"It just may be the perfect cocktail," says Bon Appetit, of their take on the Manhattan. They mix bourbon, sweet vermouth, angostura bitters, plus the de rigueur orange twists and cherries — except the cherries, here, are fresh. Serves four, over ice.
You can thank Peggy Olson for this throwback. While some recipes include Cognac or creme de cacao, this take from Martha Stewart features brandy, heavy cream, cocoa, and ice — served up, in a martini glass.
"When Peggy Olson made her move to break into the boy's club of Sterling Cooper, whiskey was her way in," is how Food & Wine put it — whiskey sours to be exact. This popular recipe, also from Martha Stewart, skips the simple syrup in favor of fresh orange and lemon juice and serves eight.
Classic Tom Collins
This was Betty Draper’s drink of choice — perhaps because the straightforward mix of lemon juice, simple syrup, gin, and club soda is so light and drinkable. As one Yummly reviewer said of this recipe by Culinary Ginger, “It’s like a fresh lemon juice soda” — just one with a bit of kick.
The Original Mai Tai
Megan Draper, Don’s second wife, liked a Mai Tai — and really, who doesn’t? This super popular recipe, from Chowhound, features orgeat (a syrup made from almonds and rose water) and curaçao. The original Mai Tai traces its roots all the way back to the 1930s, by way of Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron Jr.
Classic Kentucky Mint Julep
Betty Draper served classic Mint Juleps at little Sally’s birthday. As any Mint Julep aficionado will tell you, the bourbon really matters in this one. And Camille Styles suggests lots of ice in those signature chilled silver cups.
The White Russian was Roger Sterling's favorite drink, which he affectionately called his "milk." The White Russian is more or less equal parts vodka, Kahlua, and milk or cream served over ice in a cocktail glass. In this recipe, from Smitten Kitchen, Deb Perelman uses both.
Once you’ve got a straightforward Mad Men-era gimlet recipe in your back pocket — like this one, from CDKitchen — there are endless, more modern variations that feature basil, cucumber, jalapeño, pomegranate, and even saffron.
Three martini lunch, anyone? Keep 'em coming with this basic recipe from Liquor.
Just like a martini, the Gibson (like this one from The Spruce) is a simple mixture of vodka and dry vermouth, but features cocktail onions instead of olives or twist of lemon.
The Original Bloody Mary
So simple, young Sally Draper would sometimes make these for her parents. While plenty of contemporary Bloody Mary recipes get wild with the garnishes — um, fried chicken?! — this classic, from Every Day with Rachel Ray, sticks with the basics: vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, cayenne, Worcestershire sauce, and a stick of celery.
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