Three with three: A tribute to Robert Simonson’s 3-ingredient cocktails

Back in July, Naren Young wrote a piece for us about how COVID had pushed simplicity to the forefront of cocktail lists. While acknowledging the place for highly intricate and complex drinks, he posed the question:  “Does anyone really want those high
concept, over-thought, exotic or esoteric drinks right now?”

And of course, it’s not a new question. The old adage of returning to the basics swings back again and again. So on that note, we revisited Robert Simonson’s brilliant cocktail book entitled 3-ingredient cocktails – an opinionated guide to the most enduring drinks in the cocktail canon.

In Simonson’s own words: “One ingredient, you’ve got a nice dram. Two, you’ve got a highball. Get three things to marry together, you’ve likely got a cocktail on your hands. More than three and you’ve got a more complicated cocktail, not necessarily a better one.”

White Negroni

It’s absolutely fair to say that the Negroni holds a special place in the 
heart of the bartending fraternity. It’s the aperitivo of choice with 
its perfect balance of bitter and sweet.
But this riff on the Negroni has stood the test of time according to Simonson. 
He says: “One of the great modern twists on the Negroni model, this drink 
has shown a lot of staying power since Wayne Collins, a British bartender, 
invented it on the fly in 2001.”
Story goes that Collins was in France and charged with making negronis 
but couldn’t get his hands on the necessary Campari and sweet vermouth. 
So he subbed in some quality French products and voila! 
The White Negroni was born.

1 ounce gin
1 ounce Lillet Blanc
1 ounce suze
Combine all ingredient in a mixing glass and stir. 
Stain in to a chilled coupe. 
Express grapefruit twist over drink and drop into glass.

“Rum manhattans are not rare beasts,” says Simonson. 
“They are served up regularly in tiki bars, and, if you are talking to a rum-head, 
they may be the only kind of Manhattan he or she drinks.”

1.5 ounces of aged rum (Simonson calls for Cruzan Single Barrel)
1.5 ounces of sweet vermouth
1 dash orange bitters
Combine in mixing glass filled with ice and stir. Strain into a chilled coupe.
Japanese Cocktail

This one here comes direct from the godfather of classic bartending, 
Mr Jerry Thomas himself. According to Simonson, it is “one of the oldest 
and most perfect of three-ingredient cocktails”.
“The strong combination of strong brandy and thick, rich orgeat can knock
 you on your heels at first sip,” he says, going on to describe it 
as the ‘ultimate nightcap’.

2 ounces cognac
1/2 ounce orgeat
2 dashes aromatic bitters
Combine in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. 
Strain into coupe. 
Express lemon twist over drink and drop into the glass. 
(For a bit of a variation on Simonson’s recipe and to show 
the diversity of uses of this drink, we have served it in a highball filled with ice.)