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

Isn’t it funny how, if you wait long enough, the past will repeat itself, and what once was out of style becomes cool again?

I was recently looking at a picture of my nephew and his buddy on Facebook, and they both have haircuts straight out of the ’70s. My pal and fellow writer Jason “Cork Dork” Zuliani has insisted on having a retro-Beatles look for the past five years; I call him Ringo in jest.

How about fondue? Back in the ’70s fondue was all the rage (my director of catering remembers fondly eating cheese fondue while watching The Muppet Show). More restaurants (including The Skinny Pancake in Burlington) are offering fondue, and we’re seeing it come back in a big way here at The Essex. (We’re offering it as a reception for our wine dinners coming up in April).

My point: Vintage is in. What’s old is new. I think part of this has to do with the war and the recession. When times are tough, people tend to gravitate toward things that make them comfortable or safe. And subconsciously, in some cases, eating fondue and wearing charm bracelets are ways to get there. It also explains the rise of TV shows such as AMC’s Mad Men, and it certainly helps explain the return of the classic cocktails.

Look around bars today or at any trade magazine, and I guarantee that you’ll see classics making a comeback, albeit with a little twist here and there. Take, for instance, the Old-Fashioned. This drink is credited with being the first “cocktail.” With roots dating back to the early 1800s, it was created as a bourbon drink (though more often than not it uses rye whiskey) for gentlemen, and it incorporates a process known as muddling. Muddling means using a mortar to macerate fruit with sugar or to break apart herbs and release oils (you can get one real cheap at any kitchen store, or use a bowl and the back of a screwdriver).

At first, the recipe for the Old-Fashioned required a lemon peel and sugar, but as more ladies started to enjoy the drink, bartenders began to use maraschino cherries and oranges to macerate the sugar. The old-fashioned (excuse the pun) thought was ladies needed a fruitier drink to enjoy alcohol.

These cocktails are coming back with a vengeance. So are drinks such as the Side Car (essentially a brandy margarita), Singapore Sling (gin, cherry brandy, and lemon juice), Martini (though they’ve been in for a while), Sazerac (of New Orleans fame) and a host of others.

I’m including a recipe for the Old-Fashioned and Side Car because they are really tasty, (though very potent, so be careful). We all have times of stress to deal with… and different comforts that help us deal with them. As for me, I’ll be enjoying some cheese fondue in the den while watching The Muppet Show reruns with an old-fashioned. To each their own. Enjoy!

The Side Car
1 ½ oz. brandy
½ oz. Cointreau
3 oz. sours mix
½ oz. lime juice
Sugar

Put your sugar on a small plate, run a sliced lime around the edge of a martini glass, and dip glass in sugar. In a large pint glass, combine brandy, Cointreau, sours mix, and lime juice. Shake vigorously. Strain into the cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime.

The Old-Fashioned
1 ¾ oz. whiskey (some folks use brandy)
2-3 oz. soda water
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
½ slice orange
1 maraschino cherry
1 tsp. sugar (raw is the best)

Place orange and cherry at bottom of rocks glass. Add sugar. Add bitters. Muddle the ingredients together with a pestle. Once combined and macerated, add whiskey and top with soda water. Garnish with orange slice. The alternative to this recipe is to omit the cherry and orange, and use lemon rind.

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