Recently i watched an episode of Good Eats in which Alton Brown claimed you only need know how to make three drinks and you can make any cocktail. Maybe. This might be true. His key cocktails were the Martini, the Daiquiri (the real thing, not the frozen blender thing) and a Mint Julep. He also briefly touched upon highballs. So four drinks might be more accurate. If you can make one highball you can make them all. Cuba Libre, G & T, Rye & Ginger, Screwdriver, all really the same. So first we have the Martini. Gin, vermouth, olive. Aside from the obvious variations-gibson, vodka martini, dirty martini, smoky martini, etc-it does transform easily into other drinks. Leave the gin alone and change the vermouth to Rose's Lime and you've got a Gimlet. Change the gin to whiskey and the dry vermouth to sweet and you have a Manhattan. Change the whiskey to scotch, pour the whole thing over ice and you've got a Rob Roy. Now, replace the scotch with vodka and the vermouth with Kahlua and you've got a Black Russian. Change that vodka to brandy and the Kahlua to creme de menthe and it's a Green Hornet. Remove the ice and make it clear, i.e. uncoloured, creme de menthe and you have a Stinger. Change the brandy back to gin, take out the vermouth and add bitters: Pink Gin. Supposed stomach settler. I could go on. I won't. Let's talk about the Daiquiri instead.
The invention of Hemingway, or The Floridata, so they say. Rum, syrup, lime juice. YUM. :-)
This drink must be shaken. The previous could be stirred. Has to do with the ease of homogenisation. Anyway, change the rum to tequila, the syrup to cointreau and you have a Margarita. Another drink often, disgracefully, made in a blender. Take the margarita, replace the tequila with brandy, the salt with sugar and you're drinking a Sidecar. Put in creme de cacao instead of cointreau, cream instead of lime and it's a Brandy Alexander. Change the brandy to creme de menthe and your alexander becomes a Grasshopper. Leave the cream, but replace the creme de menthe with vodka and the creme de cacao with Kahlua and you've got a White Russian. ;-) [Anyone for a B-52?] Change the cream back to lime, the Kahlua to syrup, the creme de menthe to gin. Shake it. Pour it over ice. Top with soda. It's a Gin Fizz. Stir instead of shake and it's a Tom Collins. Change the gin to another liquor and it's a Collins of a different name. (You can look them up). Leave out the fizz, add cranberry and it's Carrie Bradshaw's favourite: the Cosmopolitan.
Alright. That's quite a few drinks. More than enough to please a crowd. I'm just not sure how useful the Mint Julep is as a "blueprint drink". It begets the Mojito. ..........and the Caipirinni .............i suppose. Let's see:
Muddle mint/key limes with sugar. Add ice. Pour in Bourbon/Cachaca. Top with soda. Refreshing. That's three drinks. But how much muddling can one bartender do?
Let's recap shall we. Rum & Coke leads to "____" & "_____" drinks. And all highballs. Martini leads to Manhattan and any drink that can be stirred. Daiquiri leads to Margarita and any drink in need of shaking. Mint Julep leads to different kind of Mint Julep, ...........................and toddies. Change mint to orange slice, include cloves as well as sugar, keep bourbon, change ice and seltzer to boiling water. Administer to invalid. Maybe he's on to something......