A classic cocktail is a magical thing. It can be the gateway between a rough day at work and a lovely evening, and when you work from home, it can act as the separator between your desk and your couch. Once you’ve made yourself a deliciously crafted beverage (or asked someone else to), you will not go back to your computer, you will not be tempted to respond to after-hours teams messages on your phone (maybe), and you can turn your brain off of meeting mode and into porch swinging, sunset viewing mode.
- The Coffee or Espresso Martini
After long hours at a computer, sometimes a little pick-me-up is in order before the evening begins. That’s where number one on our list, the coffee-based cocktail comes in. There are dozens of coffee cocktails and versions of the storied Irish coffee, but my favorite is the simple coffee or espresso martini.
This drink is fairly simple. There’s no squeezing of fruit or muddling of herbs. Just straightforward shaking all of the ingredients until they make that perfect beige foam on top. You’ll need:
- 2 oz vodka
- 1/2 oz Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
- 1/2 oz chocolate liqueur
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 oz cold coffee or espresso
Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake very, very vigorously. Strain into your most gorgeous coupe or martini glass.
2. The Vesper
If you still want something stronger than beer or wine but don’t need the caffeine kick, something in the classic martini family is probably more your speed. The Vesper, made famous by a particular British super spy, is best with a top, or at least upper-shelf gin. It can be customized a bit, but if you want one made exactly by the book, Courtside Kitchen’s is the best (and honestly, I haven’t seen this one anywhere else though any good bartender knows the drink). The modern country club vibe of this new restaurant with pickleball courts is the perfect place to down one of these (pro tip: all of the cocktails here are nearly transcendent in their precision and attention to detail). Bonus points for the fact that it’s totally acceptable to be wearing workout clothes here, and if you do it right you’ll do at least 30 minutes on the courts before the reward of this liquid gold.
The vesper is made with gin and vodka, Lillet, a French aperitif wine that takes the place of a lesser martini’s plain vermouth, and a lemon twist.
I took a few liberties with my recipe, and used Empress gin, a purple-hued spirit that is as gorgeous as it is tasty, some muddled lavender and a squeeze of lemon juice. I also pour mine over a giant cocktail ice cube, which a martini purist will shake their head at, but I nurse my drinks and I like them to stay cold.
Here’s the recipe:
- 3 oz Empress gin
- 1 oz vodka
- 1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice
- 1 oz Lillet Blanc
- 1 tsp ground cooking lavender (grind it in a mortar & pestle)
- 1 sprig blooming lavender for garnish
- A two-inch section of lemon peel
Put all ingredients in a shaker over ice and twist the lemon peel before dropping it in. Shake vigorously, then double strain into your glass and garnish the lavender. Take big whiffs of the flower while you drink for an extra hit of relaxation.
3. Italian Margarita
If martinis aren’t your thing, and you live in Texas, your thing is probably a margarita. Very little is as refreshing as good tequila shaken with lime juice and there are hundreds of ways to tailor this drink to your liking. My favorite is the Italian margarita, made with Amaretto or an almond flavoring. Sometimes this version can be overly sweet, but it’s best to keep it on the drier side to let the almond flavor shine and complement the citrus. I first tasted this version years ago (how many, I don’t know) when local favorite Italian spot Sardine’s was still open. This beloved restaurant, which closed some years ago amid the 7th Street renaissance of the 2010’s, could only be described as “hole in the wall but make it fancy.” My husband and I used to frequent the bar area to listen to the piano player and eat plates of antipasti late at night — before we stopped being able to leave the house after 8 p.m. due to being responsible for small humans.
I’ve thought about the drink I loved at Sardine’s many times since, and while I don’t know exactly what the recipe was, I’ve perfected one of my own. This one takes a little bit of night-before prep, but it’s worth the trouble.
Here’s the recipe, for two:
- Fresh squeezed blood orange juice ice cubes (regular orange juice will work if it’s not blood orange season). Four or five small cubes per glass will work.
- 4 oz silver tequila
- 4 oz lime juice
- 1/2 tsp. almond extract (I use this in place of Amaretto to cut the sweetness)
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- 1.5 oz Grand Marnier or orange liqueur
- 1 oz orange juice (preferably squeezed fresh)
- Sparkling water, to top off
- Flaky kosher salt to rim the glasses
Wet the rim of your glasses and dip them in a saucer with the salt. Put all of the other ingredients except the sparkling water and the orange juice ice cubes in a shaker over regular ice and shake it until its foamy and ice cold. Place the orange juice cubes in two glasses, and strain the mixture equally over the cubes. Top off with the sparkling water. This drink is one of the few that tastes better after a half hour or so, when the orange ice cubes start to melt and give it more citrus flavor.
The only margarita with Italian flavors I’ve tried in Fort Worth that comes close is the limoncello frozen margarita at Zoli’s. It’s not the traditional amaretto version, but it’s second to none if you are out and about. It’s also one of the few frozen margaritas that’s not overwhelmed with sugar or a syrupy mix.
This is obviously a very short list of the best after work booze, but they only give me so much ink and I could go on for days. If you have one that should have made this list, post a picture of your happy hour favorite on Instagram and tag us at @ModernHippieKitchen and @FWBusinessPress!
About the cook: Once upon a time, shortly after graduating from TCU, Sarah McClellan-Brandt paid the rent by working as a reporter for the Fort Worth Business Press. Today she’s a social media specialist for a North Texas hospital system and in her spare time shares recipes and cooking tips with devoted followers of her Modern Hippie Kitchen blog,