In our recurring series “That’s Debatable,” we take a controversial topic of the day and present two compelling arguments – one for and one against. Previous episodes of the series can be viewed here.

Honestly, the pandemic has been going on all year: no, no, no – bars I can’t go to, people I would like to have a drink with, travel, and other things I can’t do. No, not now, no.

So my cocktail must be an exhalation of pure hell, yes, right in the middle of it. It is a testament to how the day reaches three quarters and allows me to cross the finish line. A scoop of whiskey is no match for this moment of joy. For me, it’s a Manhattan or a flop.

Only the ritual of making cocktails can put me back together.

The perfect thing about Manhattan is that it’s not hard to make and doesn’t require many bottles: just whiskey and sweet vermouth. My version usually starts with a bourbon (although a Manhattan on rye is nice too) and ends with one or three Luxardo cherries. This gift dipped in bourbon at the bottom of the glass is a delightful reminder that the world is not quite off the rails yet, and neither am I.

Only the ritual of making a cocktail can bring me back together. As soon as I take the glass of the mug off the shelf and put it in the freezer, I’m halfway there.

I’m at the kitchen counter with bourbon, vermouth and Angostura. Maybe I’ll take a bottle of amaro to make a slightly bitter Black Manhattan; maybe it’s an evening of spooning with extra syrup from a box of Luxardo for a sweeter version.


What is your favorite cocktail at the end of the day? Join the discussion below.

I measure out the liquids in my precious Yarai mixing glass. (Remember, a cocktail is also a license to play with shiny tools and toys!) And I focus on the satisfying ice cream top as I chase it through the mixing glass with a bar spoon with a long handle. During nearly a full minute of meditating, I certainly don’t think about unread emails or what’s for dinner.

The glass now looks like a very tempting frozen root beer. I take it out of the freezer,


Make a cherry on the bottom and strain the cooled bourbon into the bowl. The pandemic is no time to skimp on resources, my friends. Let it bloom, show you care! A well-made cocktail is as much about form as function.

Speaking of function, Manhattan is a solid drink, as the first invigorating sip proves. One of these cocktails is all I need to get back to civilization. Sometimes it’s the size of my head, but generally I try to focus on drinking better, not more.

Now don’t ask me to give up my fancy cocktail ritual. It’s not even about the alcohol. I’ve also been experimenting with different non-alcoholic and low-alcohol bottles and I’m glad to have them in my rotation. It’s a whole experience that gives me strength, the freedom to say yes to every cherry in the bottom of my drawer until I can boldly say yes to everything the world has to offer. -Kara Newman

Cocktail Capsule Collection

Making drinks the right way is fun, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Tyson Buehler, National Beverage Manager for Cocktail Bars at Death & Co. offers this collection of rigorously preserved bottles and the drinks you can make with them.


1. Gin like Beefeater London Dry A classic citrus gin profile with just enough juniper bitterness.

2. Bourbon, e.g., Bourbalot Trace A working whiskey that combines caramel and spice.

3. Sweet vermouth wines such as Dolin Rouge A relatively light style that goes well with a wide range of spirits and is not too authoritative.

Clockwise from top: Barspoon Teardrop, $34,; Japanese-style jigger, $15,; Yarai mixing glass, $33,; Yukiwa Cocktail Filter, $12,

Percussion Tools

Bar spoon: The drop-shaped weight at the end of the spoon facilitates stirring.

2. Cocktail Shaker: Whether you choose a two- or three-piece set with a strainer, a cocktail shaker is used to shake drinks (usually drinks that contain juice, dairy products or other non-alcoholic ingredients). It can also be a brilliant show-stopper.

3. jigger: to measure out liquids. The most versatile has 1 ounce on one side, 2 ounces on the other.

4. glass mixer: for stirring drinks. The decorative faceted glass versions of the Japanese Yarai are particularly beautiful.

5. filter: used to stop ice or deform fine particles


It’s a classic for a reason,” Buhler says, referring to the drink’s “simplicity and straightforwardness of taste.”


  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Luxardo cherries, for garnish


  1. Mix all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir into a chilled coupe or Nick & Nora glass.
  2. Garnish with Luxardo cherries

-adapted recipe from Death & Co.

This drink is also refreshing, topped with ice and sparkling water, in what is known as Southside Fizz.


  • A handful of mint leaves, plus a leaf for garnish.
  • 2 ounces London Dry Gin
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • ¾ ounce simple syrup (1 part sugar: 1 part water)
  • 1 dash of bitter Angostura


  1. Crazy mint on the bottom of the shaker.
  2. Add the other ingredients and ice. Shake well and then strain into a chilled glass cup.
  3. Garnish with mint leaves.

-adapted recipe from Death & Co.

This versatile drink, developed by bartender Phil Ward for Death & Co, works with a variety of spirits.


  • 2 ounces gin or bourbon
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • ¾ ounce simple syrup
  • 1 dash of bitter Angostura
  • Soda water
  • 3 Luxardo cherries on cocktail stick, for garnish


  1. Shake all ingredients except the soda and ice cubes, then strain into a highball glass filled with fresh ice cubes.
  2. Soda above.
  3. Garnish with cherries and serve with a straw.

-adapted recipe from Death & Co.

This sour version of whiskey looks particularly dashing when served with a large piece of ice. Mr. Buehler suggests freezing large cubes or balls in silicone molds and then placing them in individual ziplock bags to prevent odors or flavors from affecting the ice.


  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • ¾ 1 ounce honey syrup (2 parts honey : 1 part water)
  • ¾ ounce lemon juice


  1. Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Pour into an old-fashioned double glass over a large piece of ice.

-adapted recipe from Death & Co.

Other classic drinks that can only be made with these 3 bottles: Bee Knees / Brown Derby / Fitzgerald / Gin and Tonic / Gin and It / Gin Rickey / Gimlet / Hot Toddy / Mint Julep / Old Fashioned / Ramos Gin Fizz / Tom Collins / Whiskey Sour

To discover and find all of our recipes, visit our new WSJ recipe page.


There was a time, not too long ago, when I had ideas for cocktails. You might even call them standards! Back then, I enjoyed going to faraway stores in search of a new ambiance, preparing syrups for my liquor cabinet, and selling luxury vintage cutlery on the serving trolley. But during that plague year – probably when I stopped wearing clothes with zippers or buttons – my attitude toward tea parties changed. If a drink requires more than a bottle and a glass, there’s 0% chance I’ll make it.

To be clear, my appreciation for a well-made cocktail has not changed. I look forward to the day when I can once again take a seat on a padded stool under the golden lights of New York’s Bemelmans Bar, or at one of the legendary outposts of culture and civility I frequented in the days of the Do Times, and accept an ice-cold garment from the generous hands of a bartender. But until then, you’ll find me at 5 p.m. on my kitchen counter, among a pile of cookie crumbs, drinking wine from a glass of juice.

Give me a drink that asks absolutely nothing of me, or give me nothing at all.

Here’s the problem: I’m tired. Maybe you are, too. The oft-repeated adage about the pandemic – “It’s a marathon, not a sprint” – may sound like a cliché, but that doesn’t diminish its veracity. At the end of Day 320, after leaving Zoom and making sure my child has downloaded his spelling tables, the last thing I want to do is pull out the jigger. I want easy drinks that I can drink while making dinner and during an evening of laziness. Give me a drink that asks nothing of me at all, or nothing at all.

Vermouth is good for that. First, it’s ubiquitous, so chances are you already have a bottle in the fridge, so you don’t have to put on a mask and rush to the liquor store. Second, the low alcohol content (usually 13-24%) makes it safe in case you feel like refilling (or three). Finally, the mixture of bark and spices that gives vermouth its unique flavor is also a clever way to add complexity to your glass.

For sweet vermouth these days, I make a healthy pour in a glass filled with sparkling tonic water ice, topped with a slice of citrus. (Is there any lime left over from last night’s tacos? A slice of grapefruit for breakfast? Clementines about to dry out? It may not seem like much, but I swear this drink is a treat every time.

For dry products, I keep it even simpler and finish a few grams of vermouth with a layer of soda. In Meehan’s Bartender’s Handbook, the star bartender…

Jim Meehan.

People recommend getting the same restorative properties from a drink called “nurse” with a slice of cucumber, which I like to whip up whenever the contents of my vegetable drawer allow. But it’s okay to add a lemon slice or nothing at all. What if even those options seem too complicated? There’s no shame in distancing yourself from the reliable force that tempers a cold can of beer with a bit of lime or a sip of shaving lotion-style lemonade.

So grab a box of Triscuits, search the pantry for toppings, and accept this warm invitation. Until we succeed, here’s how we’ll proceed. Let’s call them séance cocktails for the soul. -Sarah Karnasiewicz

Blessedly simple drinks


F. Martin Ramin/Wall Street Journal

1. dry vermouth

Dry vermouth (2-3 oz) + ice in a large wine glass. Top up with soda. Stir gently. Garnish with a slice of cucumber.


F. Martin Ramin/Wall Street Journal

2. canned drinks

1 can of sweet/lager beer (such as Bud or Narragansett). Pour or drink a third of the beer, then fill the lemonade barrel (as in San Pellegrino Limonata). Garnish with lemon peel.


F. Martin Ramin/Wall Street Journal

3. sweet absinthe

Put sweet vermouth (2-3 oz) + ice cubes in a glass with ice cubes. Pour over with tonic. Stir gently. Garnish with a slice of citrus or a wedge of lemon.

Light cocktail as an appetizer

Nothing is easier and tastier than filling cookies with all the ingredients you have at home.


F. Martin Ramin/Wall Street Journal

1. soft blue cheese + shaved celery + hot sauce

2. strong cheddar + pear + honey

3. goat cheese + Spanish olives

4. hot mustard + sardines in butter

5. tuna marinated in oil + swiss sal + black pepper, cooked.

6. cream cheese + spicy mango chutney + sesame seeds

7. pepperoni + mini balls of mozzarella + roasted red peppers

8. butter + prosciutto (or ham) + cornucopia

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Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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