Pisco sour at Amaru
As with many lip-smacking cultural touchstones, the birthplace of pisco is a hotly debated subject, with both Peru and Chile laying claim to the distilled grape brandy, which is, in either case, a legacy of vine-planting conquistadors in the 1500s. While its home country may never be agreed upon, the story of the spirit’s most famous cocktail is fairly settled. In the 1920s, at Morris Bar in Lima, American expat Victor “Gringo” Morris put his own twist on a whiskey sour, subbing in local hooch for the brown stuff, along with lime juice, egg white and sugar. Many American joints make the tipple with lemon instead of lime, but at Peruvian pisco bar Amaru, the barkeeps hew to the old country’s formula, shaking the drink with the traditional citrus, musky Macchu pisco, an egg white and a gomme syrup infused with clove, cinnamon and orange peel. The foamy white crown of this tart warm-weather refresher is decorated with aromatic Angostura bitters streaked into the shape of a flower. 84-13 Northern Blvd between 84th and 85th Sts, Jackson Heights, Queens (718-205-5577). $10.
Coffee Cocktail at Clover Club
Despite its name, this classic after-dinner nip contains no java, but it does sport a café au lait complexion (presumably the explanation for its misleading moniker). The first-known recipe appears in Jerry Thomas’s 1887 Bartenders Guide, and it calls for just three ingredients: cognac, port and egg yolk, shaken together with ice. At Clover Club, head bartender Tom Macy uses high-proof Pierre Ferrand 1840 cognac to add caramel tones and alcoholic punch to a whole egg, and Sandeman ruby port to cut through the richness with palate-cleansing berry acid. A grating of earthy nutmeg finishes the luxe drink. 210 Smith St between Baltic and Butler Sts, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn (718-855-7939). $12.
Joker’s Wild at Death & Company
Riffing on the crimson-hued sloe gin fizz, head bartender Thomas Waugh replaces the sweet British spirit with the drier anise-flavored Spanish liqueur, pacharán, which is also made with the wild blackthorn plums known as sloe berries. He amps the hooch’s fruity notes with an elegant, floral pisco and its licorice flavors with a dash of absinthe. Fragrant vanilla syrup and lemon juice balance the drink, and an egg white and seltzer add extra froth. 433 E 6th St between First Ave and Ave A (212-388-0882). $13.
Nardini sour at Dell’anima
Owner Joe Campanale puts an Italian spin on the classic pisco sour, substituting the South American nectar for grappa—the two spirits are both distilled from grapes, and they share a fruity funkiness. Campanale shakes up potent Nardini grappa, made outside of Veneto, with bright lemon juice and an egg white until the beverage is aerated and satiny. Instead of the pisco sour’s traditional decorative finish—rust-colored drops of Angostura on its snowy head—the slightly-sweet-and-sour aperitivo is finished with another bitter, an herbaceous drizzle of aromatic amaro, also made by Nardini. 38 Eighth Ave at Jane St (212-366-6633). $14.
Swiss flip at Maison Premiere
Absinthe’s mysterious appeal may be tied to its Parisian boho past, but it was first commercially produced in Switzerland—not France—in the 18th century. At French Quarter–inspired saloon Maison Premiere, head bartender Maxwell Britten honors the liqueur’s true homeland with this sultry tipple, using Kübler, a traditional clear-style Absinthe Suisse Blanche, instead of the better known emerald-hued elixir. Britten mixes the potent, herbaceous spirit with a whole egg and crème de cacao, repping the country’s chocolate-making traditions. A pour of heavy, dark porter bolsters the cocoa and nut tones, turning out a sophisticated drink that channels a chocolate egg cream with a cool mintlike tingle. 298 Bedford Ave between Grand and South 1st Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-335-0446). $11.
Rebel champagne flip at Milk & Honey
This elegant quaff might look aristocratic, but it has hardscrabble roots. In colonial taverns, flips were made with only rum, eggs, sugar and ale, and heated with a red-hot poker from a roaring hearth until it frothed and “flipped.” But the category has since grown to include many variations, hot and cold, showcasing a range of ingredients. To wit: this cool, bubbly upgrade from barkeep Samuel Ross. Beginning with a rich base of yolk and heavy cream, Ross adds Elijah Craig 12 Year bourbon and sweet, vanilla-fragrant Licor 43. A touch of honey and a hearty shake provide body, and a pour of champagne gives the drink a lacy cap and a dry, biting finish. 134 Eldrige St between Broome and Delancey Sts (mlkhny.com). $16.
Earl Grey MarTEAni at Pegu Club
Cocktail maven Audrey Saunders dreamed up this modern classic as an ode to Empire pleasures both genteel (afternoon tea) and bawdy (gin drinking). Inspired by a pisco sour and a Victorian recipe for “egg tea,” which replaced milk with egg white, Saunders combined the two ideas into one drink. She first infuses juniper-heavy Tanqueray gin with loose-leaf Earl Grey from In Pursuit of Tea. She shakes the tannic tincture with lemon juice and an egg white, resulting in a frothy Arnold Palmer–like concoction, laced with the tea’s fragrant bergamot. In a nod to teatime accoutrements, the balanced sipper is garnished with a lemon peel and a sparkling half rim of sugar. 77 W Houston between West Broadway and Wooster St (212-473-7348). $13.
Sneaky Sour at the Shanty
“Can you make that with vodka?” is an oft-heard refrain from gin-averse drinkers. To win over those finicky barflies, this gin-boosting drinkery, attached to a distillery producing two different styles of the spirit, has taken a page out of the Sneaky Chef cookbook, which peddles recipes for picky kid eaters that hide healthy ingredients in comfort foods for picky kid eaters. The bartenders here spike a vodka quencher with gin’s dominant botanicals via a juniper-coriander syrup and citrusy Bittermens Boston Bittahs. The concoction is rounded out with nutty Carpano Antica vermouth and fresh lemon juice, shaken until frothy with an egg white and garnished with a brandied cherry. 79 Richardson St between Leonard and Lorimer Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-878-3579). $11.
Silver Lining at Silver Lining
Joseph Schwartz created this variation on the classic Silver rye fizz in 2001 at Milk & Honey by swapping out simple syrup for the sweet Spanish spirit Licor 43. Its notes of vanilla and caramel play off the high-proof rye whiskey’s caraway tang, and the boozy combo stands up to the mix of lemon juice, egg white and soda water. The effervescent elixir, named after Chet Baker’s version of “Look for the Silver Lining,” has become a signature for Schwartz, following him to Little Branch when it opened in 2007, and to his new Tribeca bar, Silver Lining, which shares aits own name with the fizzy favorite. 75 Murray St between West Broadway and Greenwich St (212-513-1234). $14.
Ramos gin fizz at King
The cardio-intensive preparation of this regal New Orleans libation is legendary—early reports called for 10 to 12 minutes of vigorous shaking, a daunting task even for the most seasoned bar hands. Its originator, Henry C. Ramos—who showcased it first at the Imperial Cabinet Saloon around 1888, and later at the Stag Saloon—was said to employ a crew of shakerboys, who took turns shaking the mixture of egg white, dry gin, milk or cream, sugar, lemon and lime juices, and orange flower water, before it was topped off with a seltzer. Today, many gin joints adhere to the prolonged shaking tradition, but as it turns out, it’s completely unnecessary. At King, the barkeeps shake the drink with a handful of ice and the spring of a cocktail strainer, which acts like a whisk, for about 30 seconds. Instead of topping the mixture with seltzer, they pour it over the carbonated water, so that the drink, like lemon meringue pie in a collins glass, bubbles up with a tall, fleecy head. 5 King St at Sixth Ave (212-255-0700). $12.