Written by Chris Benjamin, director of food and beverage at the Essex Resort and Spa

I get asked frequently “Do you come up with all these recipes yourself?” Depending on the person, place and who’s listening, the answer will often vary. The simple answer is: yes and no.

In the culinary world, the invention of a truly new food or drink is the dream of every mixologist and chef, and it’s virtually impossible. The reason it’s difficult is because most recipes are an adaptation of something done before. Sure, alligator shepherd’s pie with artichoke hearts and tomatoes might be an unusual and creative way to serve shepherd’s pie, but it’s still an adaptation of someone else’s creation.

The same goes with cocktails. Bartenders aspire to create a totally new, never-before-seen cocktail. But booze has been around for a long time, and there is a finite amount of flavors that actually work together. So when you’re sipping a cocktail that’s never been seen before, chances are it’s really a spin-off of something else.

Take the screwdriver, for example. The first written account of the screwdriver came from a Time magazine article written Oct. 24, 1949. Supposedly, this cocktail was created by American engineers working in the Middle East, who added vodka to small cans of orange juice. Of course, they had to stir it up so they used screwdrivers to do it.

Now that you know the history of the screwdriver, it’s easy to trace the beginnings of a host of other cocktails derived from this. Take the greyhound, for example. Replace the OJ in a screwdriver with grapefruit juice and you have the greyhound. Take the greyhound and rim the glass with salt, and it’s a salty dog. Want a left-handed screwdriver? Add gin instead of vodka. Or perhaps you prefer something a touch sweeter? Take your screwdriver and add a touch of Galliano — now it’s a Harvey Wallbanger (incidentally, the story here is that a surfer won a major contest and created this drink to celebrate. When he left the bar, he kept running into walls).

Want me to keep going?

Cut out the vodka and add amaretto for a bocce ball, or add sloe gin for a cobra, or even peach schnapps for a fuzzy navel. As you can see, it’s hard to say that any drink is any person’s when you really are deriving it all from one drink that started it all.

So when I’m asked if these cocktails are all created by me, the answer is yes and no. First, I get a lot of help from my talented bar team. Second, we try to create very good cocktails from fresh ingredients, and put an interesting twist on the drink. Take this week’s cocktail, the peach limoncello madras. The madras is a knockoff of, you guessed it, the screwdriver. All you do is cut the OJ in half and add cranberry juice (cut your vodka by a third, and add peach schnapps, and you have a sex on the beach). At The Essex, however, we go the next step beyond. So instead of straight vodka, we use Stoli Peachik and, as a bonus, we throw in a little limoncello. We feel the added acidity and citrus makes a more lively cocktail.

This cocktail is great for not only those of you heading off the slopes, but also for those who just want something light, refreshing and a little tropical. So try one of “our” cocktails. It may not be totally original, but it certainly is delicious.

Peach Limoncello Madras
1 ½ oz. Peachik Stoli Vodka
½ oz. Limencello
Equal parts orange juice and cranberry juice

Combine ingredients over ice. Shake or stir well and garnish with a lime. Enjoy.

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