Although only one page long, the list is daunting. Satan's Whiskers, Monkey Gland, Blood & Sand, Corpse Reviver #2, Death in the Afternoon, Widow's Kiss, El Diablo: one could almost mistake the cocktail names for santería ingredients. And the sheer breadth of the different cocktails is mesmerizing; some with egg, some with absinthe, some with champagne, some with rum. And each of them a classic cocktail, in the truest sense of the phrase.
This is Anvil's 100 List, a compilation of cocktails that everyone should try at least once in their lives. Bobby Heugel and Justin Burrows, the master mixologists behind Anvil Bar & Refuge, created the list as a means of educating their customers on the long, fascinating history of cocktails. The list itself is printed on a yellowed piece of legal-size paper, with this admonition at the top: "We at Anvil would be remiss in our duties if we did not mention that there are certain libations we feel you should try at least once in you life...for better or worse."
The list launches straight into the first cocktail -- an Absinthe Drip (just absinthe and water over sugar) -- and doesn't let up until the Zombie (which tastes better than it sounds, made with Jamaican rum, lime, lemon, pineapple, passion fruit syrup, brown sugar and angostura bitters). Along the way, you cross over 400 years of history from drinks like the Port Flip (No. 73) -- which dates back to at least 1887, although Flips themselves date to the 17th century -- and the Toddy (No. 92), which dates to the 18th century.
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Along the way, you'll also run across a vast selection of familiar faces -- a Sidecar (No. 84), a Daiquiri (No. 24), a Mint Julep (No. 55) -- and some unknowns which will become your new friends -- a French 75 (No. 33), a Champs Elysses (No. 16), a Jack Rose (No. 41). You might meet a few you can do without and a few you can't live without, and that's the whole idea.
On this past Sunday night, the bar was pleasantly busy and buzzing with the chatter of eager cocktail connoisseurs as they debated the flavors and profiles of the various libations that Matt and Sebastian -- two of Anvil's weekend bartenders -- were intently preparing. Patrons happily perused the long list, deciding which ones to check off next, while contrasting their current drinks with strangers. At the end of a night at Anvil, you're almost guaranteed at least one new friend.
Keeping track of the cocktails you've tried is easy -- Anvil will hand you a card with 50 spaces, front and back, to get stamped every time you try one on the List. As to what prize you'll receive upon completion of the list? That's not really the point. The prize, after all, is a cocktail education you won't receive anywhere else and -- if you're lucky -- a few friends that you've picked up along the way.