Classic cocktails are classic because they were good enough to stand the test of time. They pleased the palates of the masses. They caught the popular imagination. They provide us with a ready-made drinks list. There are hundreds, if not thousands of mixed drinks found and lost and found again throughout the decades, centuries, even millennia (anyone whipped up a batch of hypocras lately? Great stuff).
But the classics provide us with something even more essential. They testify to countless bartenders testing and re-testing recipes -- rebuilding them to suit shifting tastes, ingredients, technologies, and fads. It is said in the kitchen that you don't truly know a dish until you've cooked it a thousand times. How many thousands of times, by how many thousands of bartenders, has the Manhattan cocktail been tested and varied? And we still find points to debate (I don't give a damn what anyone says, I like my Manhattans shaken until the bitters turn foamy. The right way to make a drink is the one the pleases the drinker). It is this foundation of knowledge that supports the platform for debate. It also supports the platform for creativity an experimentation. Know today's classics and you are capable of creating tomorrow's.
Unfortunately, the following drink is not likely to live up to any of what I just said. It was delicious. It was fresh and balanced. Perhaps it needed a dash of orange bitters. Perhaps I should have marinaded the strawberries in Cointreau.
40ml Beefeater Gin
20ml Carpano Antica or other sweet vermouth
2 fresh strawberries
Combine gin, vermouth, Aperol, and one strawberry in an ice-filled shaker. Shake very hard. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the other strawberry.