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Ask A Bartender: What's One Cocktail You're Really Proud Of?

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Kevin Thurston of Snack in NYC

Many of the best bartenders are constantly designing new drinks, revisiting old ones, and revamping the bar's menu. But every once in a while, there's a concoction that feels truly exciting. We asked our bartender crew about their best ideas in drinks and the cocktails they're truly proud of.

Here's what they had to say.

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Trent Simpson of La Urbana in San Francisco

"My cocktail, Gin Blossom, was my entry for the Bombay Sapphire/GQ Magazine Most Imaginative Bartender competition that took me to Vegas to compete against 50 of America's top bartenders. It contained Sapphire, lime juice, elderflower liqueur, and an infused honey that had ginger, basil, toasted coriander, and orris root, garnished with burdock root and Vietnamese mint leaf. I felt the cocktail was formidable and well-balanced with a bit of intrigue." — Trent Simpson (La Urbana)

"I made an Old Fashioned that I gelatinized in an orange peel. It's cut like an orange wedge and served alongside a neat pour of whisky." — Justin Fairweather (Evelyn Drinkery)

"My favorite cocktail at work is the Sparta Side Car—Metaxa (a Greek brandy), Michter's bourbon, triple sec, and our mint infused lemonade. It's a refreshing twist on the classic sidebar and it perfectly reflects our restaurant's mix of Greece and NYC." — Kevin Thurston (Snack EOS)

"Anytime I make a cocktail with no more than 3 ingredients, I am proud." — Erik Sorensen (Freddy Smalls)

"Yuzu margarita with a black salt rim." — Jaime Pait (E&O Asian Kitchen)

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Ergys Dizdari from Filini Bar and Restaurant in Chicago

"I like to infuse flavors into different spirits. Most recently, I made the cocktail called The Bramble & Buck, which is made with one ounce of apple and blackberry-infused gin (which infuses for two weeks), half an ounce of lime juice, topped with housemade ginger beer." — Ergys Dizdari (Filini Bar and Restaurant)

"My Little Rascal is made of bourbon, Cynar, tamarind, and club soda. I love that it uses simple ingredients but still has a complex flavor." — Josh Berner (Zentan)

"We are really liking our barrel-aged program and the results you get from that. It isn't a new phenomenon, but it is fun for us because we get to take some great ingredients and manipulate them much the same way a winemaker or distiller gets to with their final product." — Jimmy Marino and Stephen Shelton (The Lexington House)

"Dark Depths—Woodford Reserve, espresso-vanilla syrup, chocolate bitters. Makes a great after-dinner drink." — Dan Andruss (312 Chicago)

"The Elder Statesman: 1 1/2 ounces rye, 3/4 ounce bianco vermouth, 1/4 ounce Sambuca, less than a bar spoon of créme de cassis. Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with star anise." — Scott Brody (Presidio Social Club)

John McCarthy of the Greenwich Project in NYC

"I'm infusing Brugal Extra Dry white rum with Sichuan peppercorn, and using that as the base for a drink with pomegranate and lemon. It makes for a frothy, tingly, dry cocktail. It's a little naughty, and it's called the 'Mr. Tingles.'" — John McCarthy (Greenwich Project)

"The 'Elegance and Grace,' a cocktail inspired by legendary actress Grace Kelly, the princess of Philadelphia—3 ounces rosewater-infused Ketel One Vodka, 1/2 ounce rose nectar, 3/4 ounce Demi Sec Rose Champagne" — Pablo "Papi" Hurtado (The Rittenhouse)

"The Bayou was just recently published on the Men's Journal website and I was particularly proud of that one. Pine-infused rye, smoked honey, green Chartreuse, and egg white, garnished with garden lavender." — Derrick Bass (Willie Jane)

"The Secretariat. It's a citrus whiskey cocktail inspired by the Brown Derby, using Old Overholt Rye, lime, grapefruit, Peychaud's bitters, and a hopped Aperol cordial made from Cascade hops and grapefruit peels." — Chris Amirault (The Eveleigh)

"We recently did an inverted julep that I loved. We infused moonshine with chamomile, served it chilled with a splash of simple, then floated a tea made of mint and bourbon chips on top." — Dan Bronson (The Strand Smokehouse & Crescent & Vine)

Nate Howell of Cusp in Pasadena, CA

"I love our Ron Burgundy cocktail. It has Scotch, obviously, fresh lemon and grapefruit, brown sugar syrup, and orange and Angostura bitters. Rich and refreshing." — Nate Howell (Cusp Dining & Drinks)

"The Willamette Weak Sauce: We recently got a less-than-favorable review from a local hipster street paper. In retaliation, I designed a cocktail to be delicious, sophisticated and affordable. It caught on and is one of our top 10 selling drinks. The best part is: the editor's best friend came in and spotted the drink and asked about its origins. He loved the drink and the story behind it so much that he told the editor. A month or so later, they showed up in our bar to try the drink and actually do some research on our tavern. The follow-up was much better—they said it was a sincere pleasure to be insulted with such articulacy." — Brandon Lockman (Red Star Tavern)

"Crescent Moon—qamar al-din (a stewed apricot drink) with whiskey, orange flower water and a hint of cinnamon. It's great for people who don't normally order brown spirits." — Lauren Lathrop Williams (Jsix Restaurant)

"I'm really excited about the Anejo Carrito—a 'translation' of Sidecar in Spanish. It uses dark rum instead of brandy, and instead of Cointreau, we use a housemade brown sugar-roasted pumpkin puree that really celebrates the flavors of the season. To rim the glass, we combine pumpkin pie spice and brown sugar." — Gianni Cionchi (FishTag)

"The Serpent King: Ruby Port, bourbon, St. Germain, honey, chamomile, and hibiscus water.  On its own, it's pretty sweet, but we add a touch of malic acid (derived from apples) to perk it up. Makes it taste like a fresh red apple." — Jonathan Harris (Firefly)

Jen Queen from Saltbox Dining & Drinking in San Diego.

"Easy Pilgrim: housemade pumpkin reduction, rye whisky, angostura bitters." — Jen Queen (Saltbox Dining & Drinking)

"One of our newest cocktails at The Bazaar is called the North Side Boogie, which is made with pisco, lemon verbena syrup, lime juice, and vermouth. For me, this cocktail brings together a myriad of beautiful flavors and aromas." — Juan Coronado (The Bazaar by Jose Andres at SLS Hotel South Beach)

"I created a new cocktail for Upstairs called the Bittered Sling—rye whiskey, amaro, Fernet, bitters, freshly squeezed lime juice and honey.  The sweet-bitter flavor makes this a delicious drink to sip on at the bar or cozy up to next to the fireplace." — Miri Kolici (Upstairs at the Kimberly Hotel)

"Strawberry Black Mission Fig Old Fashioned. Muddle fresh strawberries and cherries.  2 ounces of rye. Add two dashes of black mission fig bitters. Stir, double strain and serve up.  Actually, I made it over the summer, but I'm still pretty proud." — Thomas Gebbia (Thistle Hill Tavern)

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Kevin O'Reilly from Castle Hill Inn in Newport, RI

"I filled a mason jar with dried figs, topped it off with vodka, stuck it in the armrest of my truck and literally forgot about it for a month. It was summer and the car got up to 100 degrees some days. When I re-discovered the concoction it was incredible. We are combining it with Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, Amaretto, and walnut bitters. It only takes a couple of months to make!" — Kevin O'Reilly (Castle Hill Inn)

"The Old Armchair. I wanted to make an all-spirit cocktail with no citrus or syrups. Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac, Pierre Ferrand Orange Curacao, Fernet Branca, Rittenhouse Rye, and Peychaud's bitters. Served over one big rock. It's sort of Sazerac-inspired cocktail with some twists. One of the top pieces of prose in the year 1840 was a poem called the Old Armchair—hence the name." — Dan Rook (South Water Kitchen)

"Everything on the menu at Play. I'm really fond of the Miller's Crossing (jalapeño-infused tequila, highland tequila, celery bitters, Suze, lime, cane syrup, cucumber, and IPA) and the Bearing Straight (mezcal, sparkling nigori sake, yuzu, ginger, and Kiuchi No Shizuku, a beer distillate from Hitachino brewery)—but don't tell the other 22 drinks." — Jim Kearns (PLAY)

"2 ounces Woodford Reserve infused with Rare Tea Cellars loose leaf Sakura Kyoto Cherry Blossom
, 1/4 ounce Luxardo Maraschino, 
3/4 ounce simple, 
1/4 ounce yuzu juice,
 1/4 ounce lemon juice, 2 dashes Fee Brothers Cherry Bitters. Shake it all and serve over fresh ice." — Ryan Prevost (Kabocha)

"A recent cocktail that I created was the Pear Paradiso. It consists of vodka, apricot brandy, fresh pear, fresh lemon, and tarragon. You have the pear and the brandy as a sweetener, balanced out by the lemon juice, and finished off with a nice anise flavor from the tarragon." — Kris Doyle (Trattoria Neapolis)

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