Ever heard of the "suppressor" cocktail? These light-alcohol cocktails are built around low-proof spirits like vermouth and sherry, and flavored with things like aromatic bitters and muddled fruit. The term "suppressor" was reportedly coined back in 2010 by Atlanta restaurateur Greg Best, who wanted to create a high-end line of cocktails that would be easier on the liver and on his driving clientele. Now you can find these elegant, artisanal cocktails—also known as shims, low-proofs and sessions—at the most elite bars in the country. The best part is, you can indulge in several and still make it to work the next day.
1. The Cobbler
Peter Vestinos, beverage director at The Betty in Chicago, likes low-ABV cocktails so much he serves two: The Cobbler, a classic made from sherry and a seasonal fruit syrup; and The Americano, Americano!, made from Campari and Sweet Vermouth and topped off with Fever Tree Bitter Lemon Soda. "People are more comfortable drinking earlier and longer these days, but don’t always want to feel the effects of it,” says Vestinos. “Now you can even have a drink at lunch.” Or three.
2. The Hot Blonde
At Anfora, restaurateur Joey Campanale’s New York City restaurant and bar, bartender Libby Winters serves The Hot Blonde, a light and refreshing mix of Fino Sherry, Amontillado Sherry and a splash of Laird's Bonded Apple Jack. It's finished with fresh lemon juice and simple syrup and served in a rocks glass with a large ice cube and a twist of lemon. As if the name alone didn't have us sold.
3. Ma-Ti Cobbler
At the Cliff’s Edge in Los Angeles, the Ma-Ti Cobbler is a riff on the traditional Cobbler, made famous in the 1830s. The secret to this must-try version? It's made with Cocchi Rossa, syrup, cactus fruit puree, lime juice, Angostura bitters and Opuntia Prickly Pear Spirit.
4. Love at Sea
At Bon Marche in San Francisco, bar director Eric Quilty has curated a cocktail menu inspired by vintage French cinema. His suppressors include Love At Sea (carrot-infused Campari, Benedictine, and Dolin Dry Vermouth) and La Grand Illusion (apricot-infused Oloroso Sherry, Alessio Vermouth and bitters). “Sherry balances cocktails with its nervy acidity while remaining delicate and austere," says Quilty. "If it's lushness or a slightly sweet nuttiness you're after, sherry has you covered."
5. Frutteto Fizz
Chef Hugh Acheson and his team at The Florence in Savannah, Georgia, are huge fans of suppressor cocktails. One of the best on their drinks menu is this beauty, known as the Frutteto Fizz. Made with Contratto Bianco, Pear Eau di Vie, lemon, Earl Grey bitters and sparkling wine, it's guaranteed to "add longevity to the night out," says beverage director Kellie Thorn.
6. Brunch on the Danube
Bryan Dayton, beverage director and co-owner of OAK at fourteenth (Boulder, CO), Acorn, and Brider in Denver, serves three to four low-alcohol cocktails. A current favorite is Brunch on the Danube, made with Zwack (an herbal liquor made in Hungary), Niepoort Tawny, Nux Alpina Nocino and ginger beer. Considering Colorado's altitude, these drinks make even more sense than they do at sea level. Order up one or two, and let the oxygen-challenged air up there give your light buzz a little more momentum.
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