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The Riff: Revising the Rickey

The Riff: Revising the Rickey
Written by Lia Grabowski | Photos by Brett Winter Lemon

In Roanoke, Virginia, a gin classic gets a revamp

Hunter Johnson, bar mastermind behind Lucky, Fortunato, and Stellina in Roanoke, Virginia, spent the better part of a year intricately crafting the cocktail menu for the latter, a cozy Neapolitan pizzeria, before its opening in 2015. But one addition came about nearly by accident. When friends stopped by one Sunday, Johnson looked to what he had on hand—plenty of gin, mint growing in his garden, a lime in the fridge—and built on the basic gin rickey. He dubbed the new version the Dangerous Beauty, and it went on to become one of the restaurant’s top sellers.

Classic Gin Rickey

Hunter Johnson opts for Tanqueray Rangpur Gin, which has citrus notes that play well in a rickey. Want to add a little pizazz? Johnson suggests a couple dashes of Peychaud’s bitters.

The Dangerous Beauty

The Dangerous Beauty is a testament to the way cocktails can evolve from a simple framework—in this case, the classic gin rickey, an easy-drinking combo of liquor, lime, and fizz. Jazz it up by swapping in a splash of vermouth and cooling fresh mint.

Want to take your cocktail game a step further? Taylor Mann, the head bartender at Lucky, has you covered. Named for the staff’s attitude on making it through the trials and tribulations of 2020, Mann’s Going the Distance punch builds on the gin-lime-bubbles concept in a big way. Orange and grapefruit add a floral element; coconut oil brings smooth texture; and the anise notes from the Lebanese arak pair well with the botanicals in gin.

Going the Distance

You can make the punch ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve—or sip on it throughout the afternoon like they did in the old days. “Historically, punches were the long-distance runners, whereas cocktails are your sprinters,” Mann explains. 

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