Woodbury Old-school Cocktails

Naomi Baird
Three Woodbury bartenders share their favorite elegant old-school cocktails.
Naomi Baird

Name: Naomi Baird
Bar: The Tavern Grill
When to visit her: Weekdays during happy hour (3-6 p.m. and 9 p.m.-close)

Old-school cocktail of choice: Gin Rickey
Mixing a cocktail doesn’t get much simpler: this drink is made with Boodles gin, the juice of one whole lime and a splash of simple syrup, topped with club soda and garnished with several fresh lime wedges.

Why she likes it: “Because of the light, tart taste. Nothing beats the tastes of fresh lime, and the splash of simple syrup helps sweeten the drink just enough for the gin to really shine through.”

Old-school cocktail of choice: Vodka Martini Up with Bleu-Cheese Stuffed Olives
This drink is made by filling a shaker with ice, adding vodka and a dash of olive juice, and shaking until a light frost forms on the tin. Pour a dash of vermouth into a chilled martini glass, swirl until the glass is lightly coated, then toss the excess vermouth away. Strain the vodka and olive juice into the martini glass, and garnish with three olives. “A wise bartender once told me that two olives are bad luck,” Baird says.

Why she likes it: “I enjoy this creation most during the colder months. Sipping on one of these classics while you’re sitting watching the snow fly will warm you right up. The tanginess of the bleu cheese and olives, together with the smoothness of the vodka, is a perfect pairing for some of winter’s heavier fare.”

About Baird: A bartender for seven years, Baird has been at The Tavern Grill in Woodbury since its opening. “Of all the places I’ve worked in the past, Tavern is my home,” she says. “All of the people involved, from the owners down to the bussers, are dedicated to their guests and their guests’ experience.”

Baird likes the fast-paced environment of bartending. “I enjoy being able to multitask throughout the shift,” she says. “Bartending challenges me; I am constantly learning new techniques and new recipes. And I enjoy crafting classic cocktails because the simplicity of the ingredients lets the flavor of quality liquors really take the stage.”

The Tavern Grill, 772 Bielenberg Drive; 651.578.3000.

Name: Alyssa Rick
Bar: Cravings Wine Bar and Grille
When to visit her: Five-six nights per week, after 3 p.m.

Old-school cocktail of choice: Campfire Manhattan
This manhattan can be served on the rocks, but Rick prefers it in a martini glass. Ingredients include High West “campfire” whiskey, sweet vermouth and two dashes of bitters combined in a shaker with ice and strained into a martini glass; garnish with a stemless cherry.

Why she likes it: “This is a new cocktail this fall at Cravings, and it’s a top seller—men go for it. This particular whiskey is really smooth with a smoky campfire taste. The campfire manhattan pairs well with a steak, heavy pasta, burgers or a heavier fish.”

Old-school cocktail of choice: Lemon Basil Mojito
This refreshing cocktail is made with two basil leaves (grown fresh at Cravings), two lemons and one lime, muddled into a glass, with simple syrup and the key ingredient: Rain Organics Cucumber Lime Vodka. Rick first rims a highball glass with sugar, fills it half-full with ice, pours the contents over the ice, adds more ice and then tops with soda water, garnishing with a lemon and basil leaf.

Why she likes it: “This is by far my favorite cocktail—fresh, smooth, doesn’t even taste like vodka but with a zing,” Rick says. “This mojito pairs well with seafood, salads, light pastas and appetizers such as a flatbread pizzas and cheese plates. It’s more popular in summer but we serve it all year.”

About Rick: On Fridays and Saturdays, Rick, front-of-house manager, bartends with her father Greg Rick, owner of Cravings. “It’s really cool working with my dad; he’s my best friend, and our relationship has transformed here,” Rick says. “I grew up with Cravings and have bartended in Woodbury the past five years. Some people sit at the bar to watch my dad and me; it’s the father-daughter show and we always hug at the end of the night. Since we don’t have TVs, I guess we’re the entertainment.”

Rick serves a lot of fine wine and craft beers at Cravings, but she also enjoys serving old-school cocktails. “It’s all about the ratios, just like a chef is a master at proportions,” she says.

Cravings Wine Bar and Grill, 775 Bielenberg Drive #108; 651.528.6828.

Name: Chuck Pascua
Bar: Sunsets of Woodbury
When to visit him: Weekdays 4:30 p.m.-1 a.m.

Old-school cocktail of choice: Vodka Gimlet
The vodka gimlet is a simple, sophisticated cocktail. Two ingredients—vodka and fresh lime juice—are combined in a shaker with ice, then strained into a glass filled with ice, with a lime whedge for garnish.

Why he likes it: “It’s a pretty simple drink, and that’s the reason I like it. The Vodka Gimlet is a staple that withstands the test of time: It’s still here, and people still drink it. I serve it year-round and it goes well with a lot of foods, such as fish, light pasta and salads.”

Old-school cocktail of choice: Old Fashioned
This classic American cocktail, brought back to life by Mad Men’s Don Draper as his cocktail of choice, is usually made with whiskey, but Pascua says that some people like a brandy old fashioned. It’s made by muddling an orange wedge, a cherry, sugar and two dashes of bitters, then adding ice, followed by (or brandy), then soda, with a cherry for garnish.

Why he likes it: “I serve this more in the cooler months; it’s a darker drink and goes great with steak. It’s often older people that tend to drink an old fashioned—they know this is a winning cocktail.”

About Pascua: Pascua has been a bartender at Sunsets of Woodbury since its opening in April 1997. “Sunsets’ atmosphere offers families a place to come in and enjoy a meal; it’s also a great place for sports fans and fine dining as well,” Pascua says. “The people you meet while bartending are awesome. They tell you stories of what’s going on in their lives, and you learn and laugh from them. I enjoy meeting new people; you never know what’s going to happen.”

Old-school cocktails are definitely making a comeback at Sunsets, Pascua says. “It’s fun for me as a bartender to make those. Anyone can pour a beer out of a tap; when I get those classic drink orders, I get excited, for sure.”

Sunsets of Woodbury, 700 Commons Drive; 651.735.1997.