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Every year in June I make the 7-hour drive due north from Chicago to Eagle River, Wisconsin, where my parents, Gary and Anne, live.
Not only is it Father’s Day, but also my mother’s birthday.
People might gasp at such things today, but I grew up in a cocktail culture where cocktails and afternoon cocktail parties were the norm for family get-togethers. And the 1960’s-70’s, when I was in my formative years, were no different,
The cocktail has always been a part of Wisconsin culture. But over the time period of cocktail Dark Ages in the U.S., the drinking culture also devolved with the use of poor quality spirits, technique and mass-produced mixers. But even during this dark period, Wisconsin continued to maintain solid links to the old school cocktail culture that was completely lost in most of the country
My grandpa August Appel carried a bartending case with him when he and my grandma Mitzi came to visit. He always assumed the role of bartender and would ask the folks, uncles and aunts, friends and cousins old enough to drink, what cocktail they would like. Gimlets, Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, and Martinis were the standard even if they were made with E&J Brandy, Fleischman’s Gin or Kessler Whiskey. Angostura was always there. Kiddie cocktails were made for those under 18.
I had no idea at that time that one day I would begin honing the craft of bartending and cocktail creation, so these memories mean even more to me now.
We still love cocktail hour in the Northwoods surrounded by great Wisconsin cheeses, sausages, relish trays and fish fries. The only difference today is the quality of spirits and drinks along with a richer cocktail menu.
Pitcher of Manhattans
Favorite cocktails for the early evening pontoon boat cruise around Bass Lake.
I generally make a pitcher of Manhattans for my father, myself and anyone else who wishes one. I mix one cocktail each to carry on board and then pre-batch a pitcher so I can stir them on the boat since the ride will last longer than a single Manhattan.
My mother loves gin, so she often orders a Martini, so I will also bring an extra few in another pitcher for her and other guests.  We almost always drink these cocktails on the rocks. They last longer and are sippers, rather than gulpers.
On a hot day cocktail cruise we more often stretch the spirits out by making long drinks.
Refreshing variations on Rickey’s and other Gin sodas, tonics, bitter lemon or rum cocktails are the norm.
1 oz Rye Whiskey (Generally Rittenhouse or Templeton up North)
1 oz Cognac (They just call it brandy in Wisconsin) Pierre Ferrand 1840
.5 oz Carpano Antica
.5 oz Dolin
Angostura Bitters
Homemade Door County Cherry (from the Cherry Bounce we make every year)
This recipe might seem a bit convoluted, especially for a minimalist like me, but I love the sweetness and fruitiness of the cognac mixed with the dry, spicy rye whiskey. The same goes for the Carpano and Dolin. The Carpano is exquisite vermouth and I love it, but can overpower the base spirit. I like to mix vermouths here, rather than just use a lighter ratio. Why not? This is like the meeting of two Manhattans. A strong and bold Manhattan and a light, sweet, fruit forward Manhattan.
Add all spirits to a cocktail pitcher (multiply quantities by the number of drinks desired) filled with ice. Stir until chilled and ice forms on the glass. Pour over iced rocks glass and add two cherries and a half a spoonful of the cherry bounce. It’s not part of the official recipe, but somehow always gets in there
Gin and Bitter Lemon

2 oz London Dry Style Gin (Beefeater 24, Tanqueray or Fords Gin)
1 oz Grapefruit Cordial
Club Soda
Grapefruit Peel
Splash of Campari or Cocci Americano
This is such a simple and beautiful long drink, light and refreshing and full of botanical and grapefruit aromas. Perfect on a hot summer day. A few small, key techniques are necessary to make it perfectly.
It is very important to chill the cordial and gin before pouring onto the iced tall glass and on hot summer days that step takes on even more significance. 
This ensures that the room temperature spirits and mixers do not attack the ice and unduly melt it. I find this as important to this style drink as using chilled cocktail glasses for up drinks.
The soda must be fresh and also well chilled.
Making sure you use chilled ingredients gives your in-glass-ice a fighting chance, especially on a hot day. It also ensures that your soda maintains its carbonation. Warm soda on cold ice makes a mess and immediately saps all the carbonation when it hits the ice.
This drink is easily riffed upon by adding some bitter element that pairs well with grapefruit and gin. Campari, Aperol or Cocci Americano.
This can also be made into a Summer Negroni. The grapefruit works well with all the Negroni ingredients and the chilled soda stretches the drink out and makes it lasting and refreshing for a hot summer day.
1.5 oz Beefeater or other quality London Dry Gin
.5 oz Campari
.5 oz Carpano Antica for a stronger bitterness or Dolin for a lighter sweetness
1 oz Grapefruit Cordial
Grapefruit Peel
Same instructions as above Gin Soda
Always feel free to modify this and other drinks to your own taste

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