Logan R. Brouse, proprietor and mixologist of Logan’s Punch and Tacolicious, has run bars and clubs in Shanghai for over eight years. In between hangovers, he puts pen to paper in his column for That’s to record his pontifications on the drink industry.
Tom Collins, John Collins, Juan Collins, Phil Collins - these are all variations on a drink (and one is an awesome singer). A Tom Collins is a classic grandpa drink that is made from gin, soda, lemon and sugar served in a highball glass (aka collins glass). To make a John Collins one would swap out the gin for vodka. For a Juan Collins, you would swap out the gin for tequila. And for Phil Collins you hit play on ‘Something in the Air Tonight’.
“Are all drinks in collins glasses called a Collins?” you ask, while pouring a shot of aquavit into a collins glass and staring menacingly at me with your beady Swedish eyes. No, strawman that plagues my articles. If you serve a base spirit with some soda and ice with the optional addition of citrus wedge in a collins glass, you get a highball. Whiskey, vodka and tequila can all join the highball family once you add ice and soda water. Add sour mix, and you have a Collins.
Most bar orders are variations on themes. Let’s start simple. If you order a whiskey neat that means you want your booze straight up with no ice. If you ask for a dry (or bone dry) martini, you are letting your bartender know that you want less (or much less) vermouth with your chilled base spirit (vodka or gin).
This basic knowledge helps us see themes on cocktail menus. If something is called Mexican, there’s a good bet it will feature tequila or mezcal. For example, a Mexican mule replaces a Russian mule’s vodka with tequila. Similarly, Irish coffee is spiked with whiskey. As for me, I contain so much Irish and Italian liquor in my system that I’d be considered mixed.
From there we can delve a bit deeper. Cosmopolitans, margaritas and sidecars are all in the same family. Their base spirits (vodka, tequila and cognac) are combined with orange-based liqueur (usually Cointreau or Grand Marnier) and tart fruit juice. That’s usually citrus, but as in the case of the cosmo, it can be cranberry.
At the risk of sounding like an even more deranged Willie Wonka, there are flips, juleps, daisies, coolers and more in this world of pure liquid imagination. You might remember from a previous column that any drink can be a punch (shout out) if it contains liquor, citrus, spice, sugar and water.
Image via Pexels
Or you can stay in the no stress category of booze and juice cocktails. A greyhound is just gin and grapefruit juice, while adding a salt rim makes it a salty dog. Cape Codders are just vodka, cranberry and lime. Heat them and the combination of spirit, sweetener (usually honey), citrus and hot water is called a toddy.
This leads to the simple favorite that I’ve been drinking all month – the mixture of orange juice and vodka referred to as the screwdriver. They were invented by American oil workers in the Persian Gulf, and named for the tools they used to stir them. I can imagine the guys from the epic 1998 Michael Bay blockbuster disaster film starring my doppelganger drinking many out on the oil rig.
The point is that cocktails are versatile, and understanding how to order them gets you the exact beverage you want. So, take a traditional screwdriver and throw in some sloe gin (which is gin steeped in sloe berries and needs to be a hit out here in China) and it becomes a sloe comfortable screw. Or keep the vodka, add Galliano float and we have the disco-era classic Harvey Wallbanger.
So, what’s with all the names? I think a lot has to do with being creative in a loud bar setting that needs to set itself apart. Doesn’t a name like a screwdriver evoke more of an image to you than just vodka with orange juice?
We all have our reasons for going to a bar: sometimes it’s for friendship or love; to celebrate or to mourn; and maybe also for a bit of escapism. Fancy names make the experience seem more special than saying, “Hey barman, I’ll have some distilled potato water and ginger ale,” when you want a Moscow Mule. So, learn the lingo and take a liquid flight of fancy while singing along to Phil Collins with friends and strangers in the darkness of this city that you love.
2 shots of Jameson whiskey
2 shots of Fernet
2 shots of vodka
1 bottle of orange juice
Take a highball (or Collins) glass and fill it with ice. Then add the vodka, before topping with juice. Remember: you always go booze first in a cocktail. Drink the other shots, then enjoy your screwdriver.
[Cover image courtesy of Pixabay]
See more of Logan's columns here.