You plonk $15 down on the bar. Given the choice of a dry martini or an aperol spritz, which would you choose?
Many might go for the bracing martini. Drew Lazor gets it. “I was basically conditioned to associate the value of a drink with its strength for a long time,” said Lazor, author (with the editors of the website Punch) of the forthcoming book “Session Cocktails: Low-Alcohol Drinks for Any Occasion” (Ten Speed Press, 2018) “If you have a drink that doesn’t get you tipsy after one or one-and-a-half, does that mean it’s a bad drink? I don’t think so.”
By Lazor’s definition, a session cocktail is one that you can sip over time without getting soused, and uses no more than 3/4 ounce of a strong spirit such as vodka or whiskey. Rather than an entirely new concept, these low-proof cocktails have lurked under our noses for awhile — since the 1800s, in fact, when cobblers and cups were the order of the day.
Some of the drinks in Lazor’s book will sound familiar, such as kir royale, Pimm’s Cups and even frosé. Others draw on ingredients many people might not keep on hand — for instance Suze, the bitter French aperitif. For building low-proof drinks, though, Lazor calls out sherry — which can be used in drinks such as a sherry cobbler — and vermouth, both sweet and dry, as the most versatile. “In terms of getting the most bang for your buck, vermouths are a great place to start,” Lazor said. They typically clock in at about 30 to 35 proof, and can serve as a base for drinks such as the Basilinia, a springy twist on the caipirinha.
From “Session Cocktails: Low-Alcohol Drinks for Any Occasion,” to be published on May 22.
3 basil leaves, plus extra for garnish
2 lime wedges, plus extra for garnish
2 ounces blanc vermouth (preferably Martini bianco)
Combine the basil leaves and lime wedges in a rock glass and use a muddler to lightly crush. Add vermouth, top with crushed ice and swizzle to mix. Garnish with lime wedge and basil sprig. Serves 2.