In The Spirit

Classic Remix

Making something out of something

By Tony Cross

Almost all cocktails on menus in today’s bars and restaurants are a spin on the classics — my keg cocktails are no exception. A few months back, my company debuted a spin on a vodka tonic. It wasn’t anything super fancy or anything — we added St. Germaine Elderflower liqueur and our small batch tonic syrup, TONYC. The result was delicious. Here’s how to make your own elderflower tonic at home followed by a couple other classics worth a tweak or two.

Elderflower Tonic

All you’re doing is adding three-quarters of an ounce of Elderflower liqueur. That’s it! Well, kind of. It seems like there are myriad tonic waters (and syrups, for that matter) on the market. Decisions, decisions. If you want the quick way out, Fever Tree tonic water is a no-brainer. However, this is how God intended you to make the drink, with the devilish addition of TONYC.

1 1/2 ounces vodka

3/4 ounce St. Germaine Elderflower liqueur

3/4 ounce TONYC syrup

4 ounces sparkling water

In a Collins glass, add all ingredients, give a quick stir, and then add ice; top with sparkling water, and lightly stir again; take the peel from an orange, expressing the oils over the cocktails, and placing peel into the glass. Cheers!

Jungle Bird

This tiki hall of famer (and I’m totally quoting on this) was created in the 1970s by bartender Jeffrey Ong at the Aviary Bar located inside the Kuala Lumpur Hilton. But it was tiki guru Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s book Intoxica that brought the Jungle Bird out of hiding. The drink originally called for “dark rum” and a ton of pineapple juice — four ounces. Berry switched the specs, calling for Jamaican rum, and scaling down the pineapple juice. The other three ingredients are fresh lime juice (which adds tartness), Campari (the amaro adds some bitterness), and demerara syrup (equal parts demerara sugar and water), to round everything out. Over the past decade I’ve seen lots of riffs on this drink, and they all look tasty. If you want to get jiggy on your own, perhaps try another amaro besides Campari, or you might want to swap out or infuse your rum. Banana infused rum could be delicious! What follows is Dante’s Jungle Bird from the Greenwich Village bar Dante NYC. I found this recipe on, which, by the way, has a ton of great cocktails on its website. The original recipe is shaken but Dante’s is not. Why? Probably because they only use one-quarter ounce of lime juice, instead of the traditional one-half ounce. That small amount of juice doesn’t need to be aerated, which is achieved by shaking your cocktail.

3/4 ounce rum (preferably Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple Rum)

1/2 ounce Campari

1/4 ounce Zucca Rabarbaro Amaro

2 1/2 ounces pineapple juice

1 barspoon lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a small water glass over ice; stir to integrate; garnish with orange wedge, Luxardo cherry and pineapple frond.


Brazil’s national cocktail is one of my favorite drinks. I love cachaça (a sugar cane-pressed rum native to Brazil) because of this cocktail, and it’s my go-to when I reach for the rum in my bar. Simple to make, the caipirinha has only three ingredients: cachaça, lime, and sugar. Easy enough, and lots of ways to make this your own. Any fruit that you enjoy could work — think strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, etc. You can also infuse a sugar syrup with the fruit, a move that would cut down on the amount of fruit smashed in your cocktail glass. Either way, there are lots of ways to tackle the caipirinha. Traditionally, the cocktail is built in a glass with the quartered limes and sugar muddled, the cachaça and ice added, and then stirring. I prefer to use a simple syrup, do a quick shake and dump everything into a rocks glass. Here’s a take I did on the caipirinha years ago, called “One Way Trigger.” By infusing my cachaça with pineapples and using a ginger syrup, I was able to completely transform the cocktail, while keeping it a three-ingredient drink. Here’s how to make it:

2 ounces pineapple-infused cachaça*

1/2 ounce ginger syrup**

6 lime wedges

In a shaker, combine limes and ginger syrup together and gently press (and twist) muddler, making sure to extract juice and oils from limes without pulverizing them; add pineapple-infused cachaça and ice; shake hard for 5 seconds and pour everything into your rocks glass.

*Pineapple-infused cachaça: Dice one pineapple, place in a container and add 750 milliliters of cachaça; seal container and let sit for five days; strain out pineapples through cheesecloth and add the infused cachaça back into the bottle; keep refrigerated for a longer shelf life.

**Ginger syrup: Take and peel 100 grams of organic ginger; dice and add to pot; add 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water; bring mixture to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes; let cool and strain out pieces of ginger; keep syrup refrigerated. Will hold for 2-3 weeks.  PS

Tony Cross owns and operates Reverie Cocktails, a cocktail delivery service that delivers kegged cocktails for businesses to pour on tap — but once a bartender, always a bartender.

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