How do you recreate a simple classic?
Classic cocktails became classics for a number of reasons, but simplicity is one of them. A basic three ingredient drink like a Margarita or a Manhattan can be made swiftly and perfectly, time after time, once proportions are learned and preparation mastered. Making them well is no mystery, and one doesn’t need a lesson in proper ice size, nor a hand-made shaker or cut glass mixing glass nor any unusual equipment, just practice and a little skill. They can also be made poorly, but that’s from lack of education, effort and care, not because the drinks aren’t easy to manage.
But some drinks seem too easy to improve. Take the Garibaldi. It’s not especially well known outside of Italian cafés, but it’s a simple two ingredient refresher: Campari and freshly squeezed orange juice. How do you improve on that? Well, at Dante in New York City, a former Italian café in Greenwich Village in New York, an aperitivo-led cocktail features the simple highball, the Garibaldi, reinvented by cocktail veteran Naren Young.
He found that squeezing citrus by hand in a high speed juicer, not an industrial quality machine but one that consumers have in their homes often, created a frothy orange juice, what he’s calling “fluffy” on the menu, and when served mixed with Campari in a short highball glass, served on a dish with a slice of orange, the drink has won over visiting Italians who find it among the best versions they’ve ever had, as well as striking a nostalgic note with long-time New Yorkers who recall the lively fizz of an Orange Julius, a sidewalk favorite made with orange juice, ice, diary and other ingredients and sold from open air snack bars.
Young is also offering frothy pink grapefruit juice in his Salty Dog, as well as a non-alcohol version of the Paloma, made with salted rosemary syrup and Perrier. But it’s the Garibaldi that has become one of the favorites of the Italian-themed Dante, and it shows that attention to detail and some creative tweaks can go a long way to making something fairly basic into a crowd pleasing signature drink.
There’s a reason customers are flocking to pay a premium for, say, cold-brewed coffee and tea, limited time craft beers, and other drinks that step outside the norm if only slightly. Experimentation is one reason, but it’s also true that as consumers learn how to make at home so many drinks that are now costing $12 or $15 in bars and restaurants, if there’s nothing special about the service at the bar, they may just move next door to where creativity makes the drink special.