This is another in a series recapping answers that I’ve given to various cocktail questions on Quora. This answer covers some liqueurs most people may not be familiar with that are useful for making interesting cocktails.
The question: What are some of the most unusual cocktails?
There are a ton of options to put here, and I think the answer is heavily dependent on how deep you are in the cocktail scene already. The original asker mentions the Mojito and Long Island Ice Tea, which suggests relatively basic knowledge of the cocktail scene and a desire to learn about things that can be easily made in most normal bars. To cover this group and people with more experience, I’ve divided my suggestions into a couple tiers.
A Complex Basic Cocktail Most People Haven’t Heard Of
The Negroni – Not at all unusual to anyone who has been in a good cocktail bar, but the flavors expressed in a negroni will be unusual to anyone who is only familiar with mojitos, long islands, and martinis. You’ve got fruit, bitterness, and botanicals combining together in a very interesting and complex combination, and, on top of that, the drink is very easy to make. Just gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari in equal parts. To make it right, garnish with an orange twist. Can be served up or on the rocks.
A Few Things in The Middle
My thought here is to emphasize ingredients that are less well known but create complex flavors.
Fernando – This cocktail comes from the Speakeasy book by Jason Kosmas & Dushan Zaric of Employees Only in New York. 1.25 oz Fernet, 1.75 bianco vermouth, 0.75 oz Galliano, and garnished with a sprig of mint. This is a good intro to Fernet cocktail, because while it contains the complex and minty flavors of Fernet, they are somewhat subdued by the other ingredients in the drink. If you don’t know what Fernet, then you should try that. While not a cocktail, it’s definitely unusual.
Trinidad Sour – This cocktail uses an Angostura bitters base, which makes it fairly unusual. There are others that do as well, but this one seems a little more common and more frequently ordered at the cocktail bars I frequent. I’ve seen various recipes, but I’d go with 1oz Angostura, 1oz Orgeat, 0.75 oz lemon juice, and 0.5 oz Rye (Rittenhouse or another high proof rye is good).
Anything with good Mezcal – Mezcal is an agave-based spirit from the Oaxaca state of Mexico. It has the same basic flavor profile as tequila, but with much more smokiness and complexity. There is a big difference between good and bad mezcal however, so you need to be picky here. I would go with any of the Del Maguey single village varieties. An old fashioned made with Mezcal is a good way to get started, and there is plenty of room to grow from there.
Something Unusual (but not crazy)
Acid Brothers – This is a cocktail from Second Bar + Kitchen in Austin, TX. I don’t know the proportions, but it contains Cruzan rum, sloe gin, lime, and acid phosphate. Complex drink with an herbal start and spice finish. The waiters always double-check to make sure you want something a little crazy before you order it, so you know it’ll be different.
Common Carre – Not sure where this one comes from…I had it at Singlebarrel in San Jose, CA but its off menu and I think not their creation. 1 oz Genever (dutch gin), 1 oz Cognac, 1 oz Punt e Mes, 1 Barspoon Fernet. All of the flavors are apparent but none dominate. The raisin flavor I associate with genever is apparent with some sweetness from the cognac in the middle, and the Fernet mint on the finish.