Reviving midcentury standbys like the Bobby Burns will keep the cocktail hour interesting—and clear out some dusty bottles. (photo by Gecko Studios)

Every well-stocked bar has a few bottles that don’t get pressed into service regularly. And now that we’re all beginning to exhaust our repertoire of things-that-keep-us-from-going-stir-crazy, it’s a good time to pull those old soldiers to the front. Dust them off, deploy them, and discover why they were in the cabinet in the first place.

Got a bottle of Bénédictine liqueur sitting around? Stir up a Bobby Burns: 1 measure scotch, 1 measure sweet vermouth, 1/2 measure Bénédictine, topped with a lemon twist. And since you’ve come this far, you may as well take a crack at the Vieux Carré.  This Big Easy standard—birthed at the the Hotel Monteleone in the 1930s—will put a dent in your Bénédictine, as well as that underused stash of Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters gathering dust in your liquor cabinet. Celeb chef Bobby Flay serves up his own riff on the classic. 

While you’ve got the vermouth out, maybe add the Bronx Cocktail to your rotation (2 ounces gin, 1/4 ounce dry vermouth, 1/4 ounce sweet vermouth, 1 ounce orange juice). And remember, many of your not-every-day bottles can stand on their own—or with just a mild assist. Top shelf vermouth with a splash of soda and a twist makes a fine apéritif. Ditto Campari—and any good quality amaro. “Fernet Branca is a favorite of mine that always has a place in my home bar,” shares Chris Riley, Beverage Director at Jake Melnick’s in Chicago. “When you’re done savoring cocktails for the night, sip some neat.”

Finally, there is that classic dusty bottle that once appeared on every bar cart in the land: Disaronno. The Italian liqueur’s square profile has graced bar backs since about 1970 (though its origins begin centuries earlier) and it deserves a renaissance.

An ad for the legendary liqueur, circa 1971.  (photo courtesy of the brand)

Liz Pearce, co-owner and beverage director of Chicago’s wonderful Flora Fauna recommends the Amaretto Sour. “Serve it with a dash of bitters over the top, add a brandied cherry, and an orange or lemon peel,” she says. And if you want to add a bit of dimension, Pearce suggests a slug of bourbon, rye, or brandy. Clearly, you don’t have to be wildly inventive to keep your palate pleased. Just inclusive.

     Amaretto Sour,  from Liz Pearce of Flora Fauna

     2 oz good amaretto

     .5 oz bourbon/rye/brandy/rum (optional, but more delicious)

     1 oz fresh lemon juice

     .25 oz simple syrup

     Pinch of egg white 

Place all ingredients in a shaker, shake vigorously, strain over fresh ice (or serve up). Finish with a dash of bitters over the top, add a brandied cherry, orange peel, lemon peel, or whatever you’ve got in the fridge!

If you feel like getting fancy you can always muddle in some berries, sprinkle some cinnamon or nutmeg over the top, or even garnish with toasted coconut. This is a great cocktail that meshes with lots of different flavors.