The “Mad Men” and Their Cocktails: A Guide


Mad Men
, the acclaimed AMC drama that recreates the smoky world of a 1960s Manhattan ad agency, returns on Sunday after a hiatus of nearly a year and a half. It's a great show: rich and textured, with sharp writing and strong acting. Plus, they drink a lot!

In case you're thinking about throwing a Mad Men cocktail party to celebrate the show's return — or if, like me, you're just planning on drinking along — here are easy recipes for some of the drinks that Don Draper and friends loved to imbibe.

Rogeranddon

The Manhattan is one of the best drinks you'll see on the show, and Don's daughter, Sally, mixes a mean one — but she always forgets the bitters.

Manhattan

2 oz Bourbon or Rye Whiskey
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Can also be served on the rocks. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

 

Don_draperOutside of the bedroom, Don tends to be a pretty conservative guy. So it comes as no surprise that his favorite cocktail is the Old Fashioned.

Old Fashioned

2 oz Bourbon or Rye Whiskey
1/4 oz Simple Syrup
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice in an old fashioned (rocks) glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

 

A favorite of Roger Cooper, the Gibson is a Martini made with a cocktail onion instead of an olive. It's traditionally made with gin — but if Roger's trying to land the Heublein account, maybe he'll order it with vodka instead.

Gibson

2 1/2 oz Gin or Vodka
1/2 oz Dry Vermouth

Stir with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cocktail onion.

 

Betty Draper Francis, Don's ex-wife, may have lousy taste in men: but she knows a good cocktail when she sees one. She's partial to the Gimlet.

Gimlet

2 oz. Gin
1 oz. Rose's Lime Juice

Shake (or stir if you'd rather) with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

 

Madmen_julepIn Season 3, Roger and his wife throw a Kentucky Derby party, where naturally they serve Mint Juleps (the race's official drink). This Southern classic is a sweet and delicious treat.

Mint Julep

2 oz Bourbon Whiskey
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Leaves from 4-5 Mint Sprigs

Add simple syrup and mint leaves to a silver julep cup or collins glass. Muddle gently. (Be careful not to work the mint too hard.) Add bourbon, then fill with crushed ice. Garnish with mint sprigs.

 

Joan Holloway is a fan of one of my favorite drinks: the Tom Collins. Cool and refreshing, it's the perfect summer drink — but it also goes down very well in March.

Tom Collins

2 oz Gin
1 oz Simple Syrup
3/4 Lemon Juice
Club Soda 

Shake with ice, then strain into a collins glass filled with ice. Top with club soda. Garnish with a half orange wheel and marschino cherry.

 

Peggy_bloodymary
The Bloody Mary is the perfect drink for brunch, and this classic hangover cure has appeared in several episodes. But as Peggy Olson shows above, it can be enjoyed at other times as well.

Bloody Mary

1 1/2 oz Vodka
4 oz Tomato Juice
1/4 oz Lemon Juice
2 Dashes Worcestershire Sauce
2 Dashes Tabasco Sauce
1 Pinch Kosher Salt 

Roll with ice (i.e., pour back and forth) between both halves of Boston shaker. Strain into ice-filled highball glass. Garnish with celery stalk.

 

In one episode, Peggy and the boys brainstorm ideas for a Bacardi marketing campaign, during which they drink Rum and Cokes (Cuba Libres).

Cuba Libre

2 oz White Rum
Cola

In an ice-filled highball glass, add rum, then top with cola and stir. Squeeze a lime wedge into the drink, then drop it in. 

 

I don't recall if anyone's ever drunk a Daiquiri on the show, but it's definitely the type of cocktail that would have been popular at the time, especially with the show's female characters. 

Daiquiri

2 oz White Rum
1 oz Simple Syrup
3/4 oz Lime Juice

Shake with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

 

Liquorbottles

Here's what you need to get for your party (total cost of the liquor is around $110 if you just get one of the whiskeys):

  • Bourbon Whiskey — Maker's Mark ($23) is the perennial crowd pleaser. (Don has a fondness for Canadian Club, which is Canadian Whisky, but not many people drink it these days.)
  • Rye Whiskey — Rittenhouse ($23) or Wild Turkey Rye ($26) are both good brands. 
    • (If you don't want to buy two types of whiskey, you can interchange bourbon and rye in most of these cocktails. Rye has a spicier flavor than bourbon; bourbon is smoother than rye. Rye is less than ideal for a Mint Julep, although it was long the preferred preparation in Maryland.)
  • Vodka — Smirnoff ($15) would be most appropriate for the era. If you want to go upscale, get Stolichnaya ($22), which Roger mentions in one episode. (He declines to share the contraband vodka with a guest.) For a good, cheap, modern alternative, get Sobieski ($11).
  • Rum — Bacardi ($13) would have been the popular pour of the day, and it featured prominently in one episode, but their modern product leaves something to be desired.  Buy some Cruzan Light ($13), a good, affordable alternative.
  • Gin — Beefeater ($19) or Tanqueray ($20). Both are excellent — get whichever's on sale. (Beefeater was more popular at the time, but Tanqueray actually appears in one episode.)
  • Sweet Vermouth — Martini & Rossi ($5) is a good brand. Buy a half bottle.
  • Dry Vermouth — Noilly Prat ($5) is my favorite. Buy a half bottle, if you can find one.
  • Lemons and limes. Squeeze them fresh for juice.
  • Orange and celery for garnish.
  • Tomato juice. Yes, you can use bottled. (Cook's Illustrated says Campbell's is the best.)
  • Simple Syrup — Make it yourself. Heat 1 cup of water in a saucepan and dissolve 1 cup of sugar in it. Don't let it boil.
  • Maraschino Cherries — Try to find a brand without high fructose corn syrup, if possible.

See you Sunday night!

5 thoughts on “The “Mad Men” and Their Cocktails: A Guide

  1. Note that bitters aren’t necessarily bitter. More often they’re bittersweet, if anything. They’re a flavor enhancer, like adding salt to french fries. They amplify and meld the flavors of the other ingredients.
    In the case of Angostura bitters, the flavor is primarily that of the “Christmas spices,” like cinnamon, allspice and cloves.

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