Three Classic Cocktails, Revisited

Boozy bliss from your friendly resident vegan bartender

Want a cocktail veganized? Bought a bottle of something and don’t know what to do with it? Need a cool mocktail? Want to make your own liqueur? We’ll drink to that. Bartenderly is here to make all your vegan drinking dreams come true.

There are any number of classic cocktails named after our friends from the animal kingdom, and while downing one of them doesn’t necessarily mean you’re consuming animal products — unless your drink of choice is a Grasshopper, those things are loaded with cream — I nevertheless thought it would be fun to make you punched-up variations of some well-known examples. If you don’t have a cocktail shaker at home, and there’s no reason why you should, simply shake your ingredients in an empty, clean jar with the lid on, or any other small, likely-looking container. In all cases, 1oz = 1 shot = 30ml = 2 tablespoons. I used the website Barnivore as a reference here and highly recommend it for your own use — it’s a comprehensive listing of most available brands of alcohol and whether or not they’re vegan.

Many iterations of we’d now refer to as just “spirit and mixer” started life as the height of elegance. For example: the Horse’s Neck, which is just a brandy and dry with a characteristic long, curled lemon peel garnish. It got people so excited that it was name-dropped in several films from the 1930s on and held particular popularity amongst the Royal Navy in the 1960s, but these days it’s less feted.

I decided to spruce up this old-timey cocktail by adding clear apple juice and using ginger beer instead of ale for a more rounded drink — it’s sweet, but it’s got dimensions to it. Brandy is derived from fruit wine and its flavour can be somewhat polarising, so feel free to substitute your preferred liquor — this would be great with rum or bourbon — and if you want to go without altogether, the crisp pairing of apple juice and ginger beer with the brightening effect of the lemon peel would make a great mocktail.

I have named this drink Respectful Distance since that’s precisely where I like to be in relation to horses.

Respectful Distance

Respectful Distance

  • 1oz brandy (I used Napoleon — vegan-friendly and wallet-friendly)
  • 2oz clear apple juice
  • 3oz ginger beer
  • Long strip of lemon peel, for garnish

Pour all the ingredients over ice in a tall glass, stir gently to combine, and then garnish with the lemon peel. I left mine as it is, but if you want to make it curly, wind the peel carefully around a skewer to coax it into shape.

The Yellow Bird is a classic rum drink, comprising white rum, Galliano, Triple Sec and lime juice, and while its origins are unclear it seems to be adjacent to the Tiki cocktails of the fifties and sixties. Possibly it was named for the Harry Belafonte song — a banger, by the way — or one could assume its name refers to the colour that the Galliano lends it. There’s nothing to stop you making the original, but I confess, Galliano is not to my personal taste. I wanted something more vibrantly tropical, and so leaned into the hue of the title with passionfruit syrup, and golden rum instead of white. This gives you a wonderfully sour-sweet sunshine-coloured cocktail that I’ve named Big Bird, after that most yellow of our feathered friends. The passionfruit syrup I used is the kind you can buy from the supermarket for use in baking and desserts. If you have real passionfruit to hand you could definitely use that instead, but stir in a tablespoon of sugar till it dissolves, to counteract the fruit’s tartness. If you can’t get hold of orange bitters, feel free to leave them out, but they add a certain depth to the finished drink.

Big Bird

Big Bird

  • 1oz golden rum (I used Havana Especial)
  • ½ oz Cointreau
  • 1oz passionfruit syrup
  • ¾ oz lime juice
  • ¾ oz lemon juice
  • 3 dashes Orange Bitters (I used Angostura)

Add all the ingredients to one half of a cocktail shaker tin. Fill with ice, place the second tin on top tightly, and shake hard. Open the shaker and dump everything straight into a short glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint, a lime wedge, or whatever you have to hand to make it look cute.

The Monkey Gland is a classic from the 1920s, but its very particular name is possibly why it hasn’t enjoyed the same resurgence as other cocktails of its era. I mean, I’m not easily grossed out yet I have no desire whatsoever to ask for it out loud, though its ingredients are intriguing: gin, orange juice, grenadine and a lick of absinthe.

Unfortunately, there’s no subtext with this, as it was named quite literally for the doctor Serge Voronoff and his misguided beliefs in the health-boosting power of monkey testicles. Thankfully, his practices quickly fell out of favour, but the name of the drink lives on.

I’ve tweaked both the ingredients and the title, swapping the orange juice for Cointreau and lime juice — the liqueur gives added richness and body and the lime juice gives a more intense citrus freshness. The hint of absinthe lends complexity and a subtle herbal backdrop in contrast with the sweetness of the bright-coloured grenadine. Altogether a beguiling and very pretty drink. Grenadine is a common bartending ingredient, essentially a sweet pomegranate syrup, but if you can’t find it, you could substitute raspberry syrup or dissolve sugar into pomegranate juice at a 1:1 rate. I call this the Dr. No, which was a 1962 James Bond film, but for me, also a direct response to the man who inspired the original cocktail.

Dr. No

Dr. No

  • 1oz gin (I used Beefeater)
  • ½ oz Cointreau
  • ¾ oz grenadine
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • A dash of absinthe (I used Hapsburg, but Pernod or Ricard can be used as a substitute here.)

Place everything except the absinthe into one half of a cocktail shaker tin, fill with ice, close the second tin on top, and shake it hard. Drop the absinthe into your serving glass — I used a coupe here — and roll the glass around so the absinthe coats the inside. Open the shaker tin and strain the liquid through a small sieve into the serving glass. I garnished it with a dehydrated lemon slice, but the drink is perfect on its own.

All photos taken at Laundry Bar in Wellington, New Zealand.

Food blogger and author from New Zealand. Writing at; Twitter at @hungryandfrozen; and exclusive stuff at

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