Classic cocktails can, for the most part, be grouped into just a few seminal families. Daiquiris, Sidecars and Margaritas are just different types of Sours, and a Collins is just a Sour with some soda water to lengthen it.
I’ve argued many times that a Negroni is nothing more than a twist on the original Martini recipe, and when you really think about it, the Mint Julep and Old Fashioned are nearly the same drink.
But there’s a class of drink that doesn’t necessarily belong to any one family - the Stunt Drink. A sort of orphanage of cocktails, the Stunt Drink category is filled with an assortment of cocktail misfits; some of them are good drinks from broken homes, but many of them are bad to the bone.
Either way, we’ve come to celebrate them all here today.
JELL-O SHOTS (AND PUDDING SHOTS)
Some of these can be as simple as grain alcohol and a packet of instant Jell-O or Jell-O pudding mix, or as complicated as a classic cocktail solidified with gelatin. Even Jerry Thomas provided a punch recipe that called for the addition of gelatin back as far as 1862. Nowadays, bleeding-edge molecular mixologists are taking the solidification of cocktails a step further and playing with spherification and cocktail caviars. But no matter what you call it or how you make it, it’s a stunt, and a fun one at that.
These are kind of the next rung up from a basic Boilermaker: traditionally a shot of whiskey with a small beer served alongside it, a “back”. With the Drop Shot, you take things one step further and drop the shot into the back. It can be as simple as a shot of Jagermeister dropped into a half-pint of Red Bull, a saké dropped into an Asahi, or as complicated as the infamous Flaming Dr. Pepper: a shot consisting of half amaretto, half 151-proof rum, set on fire and dropped into a cheap American lager. Spoiler alert: it actually kinda tastes like Dr. Pepper.
Poppers are both a quick delivery system and a sort of on-the-spot sobriety gauntlet, or at the very least a test of intestinal fortitude. They’re most often made with tequila as the base, but I’ve seen vodka and even whiskey used. A small amount of the spirit is poured into a small rocks glass, and the glass is topped up with either Sprite or Squirt. You then cup your palm over the glass tightly, and slam it down on the bar or table top. While the soda is still agitated and fizzy, the drink is swallowed in one brave gulp.
LAYERED SHOTS, OR POUSSE-CAFES
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Back in genteel Nineteenth-century France, it was quite a la mode to sip through layer after layer of sugary sweet liqueur before or after taking your coffee (it’s not quite clear from the name when in the dining process this actually took place). Fast forward to the mid-Nineties, and my friends and I were ordering layered B-52s at our college bars.
These drinks may be pretty to look at and serve little other purpose, but everyone has to try one at some point in their life. Though be warned: after a certain age, demanding any one of these in a bar is way off limits. Order responsibly.