Drinking with Don Draper - where to find Mad Men's classic cocktails
March 23rd, 2012
06:30 PM ET
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Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.

Drumroll, please. The feverishly awaited premiere of Mad Men’s newest season is almost here. Hopefully you’ve all been drinking like Don Draper in anticipation of the moment (Sunday, March 25th at 9 pm ET, if you’re synchronizing your countdown). In fact, it’s increasingly easy to drink like the Old Fashioned-swilling star of show.

According to statistics from the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, last summer more than five million barrels of bourbon and other whiskeys were aging in Kentucky. That’s the highest inventory since 1982. To celebrate Mad Men’s new season with Old Fashioneds, or some of the show’s other signature drinks, here’s a guide to places that specialize in them, plus some scenes from Mad Men that made them famous.

Mint Julep - Julep Bar: Boston, Massachusetts
One section of the cocktail menu at this new vintage bar and lounge is dedicated to Vintage Classics & Crafty Cocktails. That includes the classic, simply titled The Julep. It’s made with Bulleit bourbon, fresh mint and simple syrup, shaken and served over shaved ice. No fancy tricks. The bar menu has some classic throwbacks, too, like the Old School Wedge Salad - though if you want more real-time dishes, there are Kobe meatball sliders.

Mad Men’s Mint Julep Moment: In Season 1, Betty and Don Draper throw a springtime birthday party for their daughter, Sally; Betty makes a tray of Mint Juleps for the adults.

Mai Tai - The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar: San Francisco, California
The Tonga Room claims to be the nation's first tiki bar; indeed it made its first umbrella drink at The Fairmont San Francisco in 1945. Recently, it’s been looking spiffier, thanks to a $1 million renovation, but there are still periodic simulated rainstorms and their signature Tonga Mai Tai (dark rum with triple sec and fruit juices), which they like to call "a coconut cup of South Seas hospitality."

Mad Men’s Mai Tai Moment: In Season 1, unsatisfied client Rachel Menken (who owns an upscale department store that’s considering Draper’s agency Sterling Cooper for its advertising) drinks a Mai Tai while Draper tries to win back her account and attempts to seduce her.

Tom Collins - The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co.: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The cocktail list at this amazing bar, which fronted the country’s largest alcohol-smuggling ring during Prohibition (wow), is action-packed with interesting contemporary mixes. (The Midnight's Children cocktail = Old Grand Dad 114, rum, Pedro Ximenez sherry and house mulled wine syrup.) They call their retooled Tom Collins a “John Collins”: It’s made with genever, lemon juice and orange bitters, and served tall with club soda.

Mad Men’s Tom Collins Moment: In Season 2, Draper instructs his young daughter, Sally, on the art of mixing a Tom Collins for him and his neighbor Carlton Hanson: "Okay, you don't smash the cherry on that. Just plop it in at the end. Try to keep it in the top of the glass. Gin."

Old Fashioned - Jbird Cocktails: New York City
The New York Times recently called out this new spot and its six variations on the classic drink. Jbird uses a definition from 1806 as the benchmark: “Spirit, sweet, and a dash of bitter, stirred and served over hand-cut ice.” Among the versions at this Upper East Side place are the Coco Viejo, made with coffee-bean-aged rum, cane syrup and grapefruit bitters; and the Honey-Nut Old Fashioned, a mix of roasted-peanut-infused bourbon, honey syrup and bitters.

Mad Men’s Old Fashioned Moment: Lots of those. But the defining one, when we learn that it’s Draper's go-to drink before we even learn his name, comes in the first scene of the first episode of Season 1, when he tells the waiter in a smoky bar (where he's brainstorming ideas for a Lucky Strike campaign), "Do this again – Old Fashioned, please."

Vodka Gimlet - Bar UnCommon: New Orleans, Louisiana
The gimlet at this bar in the Pere Marquette Hotel is as simple as it should be - Grey Goose, lime juice and simple syrup. Fourth-generation bartender Chris McMillian is the guy who put that classic on Bar UnCommon’s menu; he’s the co-founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail, which is also in New Orleans, if you’re shopping for something to do besides getting smashed on gimlets in a bar.

Mad Men’s Vodka Gimlet Moment: The Gimlet is Betty Draper's drink of choice. After a Season 1 dinner with her husband's boss Roger Sterling and his wife, when she’s queasy in the car, Betty notes: “Lobster Newburg and Gimlets should get a divorce. They're not getting along well."

More from Food & Wine:

50 Best Bars in America

Best Pizza Places in the U.S.

Best Burgers in the U.S.

Classic Cocktail Recipes

Easter Recipes

© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. MKE Somm

    The Old Fashioned never died off in popularity in Wisco. If we had an official "State Cocktail", that would be the run-away winner. Supper clubs and Old Fashioneds, most of our state never left the '60....

    March 27, 2012 at 2:12 am | Reply
  2. freelance7

    Where to go to find a bar that's departing from the current trend of craft cocktails to make classic cocktails to sync with the media falling all over itself for Mad Men's 5th season premiere.

    March 26, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Reply
  3. Gin

    No mention of Roger Sterling's favorite lunchtime special, the Gibson? Martini with onions instead of olives. Stupid article.

    March 26, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Reply
  4. Jem

    Seriously......to Boston for a Mint Julep!??!? Methinks this article is a tad predisposed to North of the Mason Dixon line.

    March 26, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Reply
    • For True?

      Exactly! Go to New Orleans for a vodka gimlet, but Boston for The Cocktail They Serve At The Kentucky Derby?

      Come on, y'all.

      March 26, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Reply
  5. jj

    I drink wine almost exclusively now, but remember these drinks well from the 60s.

    March 26, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Reply
  6. Curtis

    Remember folks. You are defined by what you drink. It makes up who you are, just like the car you drive and the suit you wear. And if you don't wear a suit, well then, you're just not worth as much. Keep printing this tripe cnn.com. Some real news here.

    March 26, 2012 at 10:19 am | Reply
    • Fun Police

      Good catch! How dare they run an article about cocktails under the banner of "eatocracy". I'd say you have a big career as an editor ahead of you!

      March 26, 2012 at 10:36 am | Reply
  7. Morgan

    "Whre to drink like a Mad Man" CNN This is the link I followed here, might want to edit a little bit.

    March 26, 2012 at 8:03 am | Reply
  8. For True?

    OK, I really don't mean any offense, but you're telling me to go to Boston for the quintissential Southern cocktail?

    Meh.

    March 23, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Reply
  9. Mike

    I have drank at Bar UC on a few occasions (living in New Orleans), they use Grey Goose in their gimlets – overpriced hipster crap-vodka. Seriously, Grey Goose? It's for uppity Frat Boys trying to get laid by impressing retarded co-eds.

    March 23, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Reply
    • Dr. Ricky Bobby

      D@mn frat boys! Those are MY co-eds! Shake and bake!

      March 26, 2012 at 8:56 am | Reply

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