Hard-to-find ingredients and expert techniques are needed if you want to try these delicious recipes.

We’ve scoured the archives to bring you the most difficult, elaborate and worth-all-the-work cocktails from Western Living food and travel editor Neal McLennan’s Barfly column in our sister mag, Vancouver Magazine:(Photo by Cory Dawson)

Ramos Gin Fizz

Difficulty: Ingredients must be vigorously shaken to properly emulsify.Like Phillip Seymour Hoffman or the Holy Roman Empire, the Ramos Gin Fizz is so worthy you should use its full name. Born in New Orleans in 1888 in Henry Ramos’ Imperial Saloon, the RGF is the only drink that can challenge the legendary sazerac as the official cocktail of the Big Easy–it was Huey Long’s fave. But whereas the sazerac is all iron fist, the RGF is a velvet glove, and best taken at brunch. The key, as the nattily dressed Andre Benjamin once said, is to “shake it like a polaroid picture”—it allows the ingredients to emulsify producing a concoction that’s light and refreshing. Cowards might use a blender, which would be easier. But so would wearing sweatpants to work. — see recipe (Photo by Ola Cholewa)


Difficulty: White, amber, dark and 151 proof rum are needed.A drink with four—count ’em, four—types of rum is by definition event-specific: bat mitzvahs, probably not; Halloween, hell yes. Inventor Don the Beachcomber thought there could be no better way to celebrate the end of Prohibition than creating a drink that renders all who try it only a small step above comatose, all the while remarking how sweet and tasty their drink was. A word on playing with fire—you gotta do it. You’ve already crossed a line by having a Zombie, so don’t deny yourself a little pyromania. (If you can believe it, this version is the toned-down one.) — see recipe (Photo by Mark Cohene)

Vieux Carre

Difficulty: Easy to mix, but hard to swallow—the Vieux Carre is one stiff drink.Of all the famous cocktails that hail from New Orleans—the dark and spicy Sazerac, the fluffy Ramos Gin Fizz, the ridiculously over-the-top Hurricane—its the brooding and mercurial Vieux Carre truly gets under your skin. The drink was invented in 1937 at the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone (which is still around and still serving Vieux Carres) and it’s a drinker’s drink, by which we mean it’s four parts booze with two dashes of booze. That’s why we like to throw the slightly unorthodox orange peel in—for balance.— see recipe(Photo by Robyn Jamieson)


Difficulty: Challenging to pronounce (especially if you’ve had more than one).As a rule cocktail names should have as few syllables possible and never more than three. Ordering a “whisky” sounds slightly cooler than “whisky sour” and miles better than a “Cosmopolitan”. The very excellent Boulevardier (five syllables!) is the exception that proves this rule. It’s essentially a bourbon Negroni—the addition of whisky helps mellow the mean bite of the Campari. A summer cocktail that works best when the skies are slightly overcast. It’s only fault? The poncey sounding name, which is impossible to say while channeling Steve McQueen. But, if you have enough of them you’ll ascend to the pinnacle—ordering the “usual.” Problem solved. — see recipe (Photo by Kirsten Berlie)

Blue Blazer

Difficulty: Keep a fire extinguisher within arm’s reach.The Blue Blazer is the Iron Lotus of the cocktail kingdom. You can make your own wild thistle bitters, pair exotic Italian Amaros with gnocchi con funghi, and grow all manner of throwback facial hair, but if your really want to join the big leagues you have to master this drink. It’s a deceptively simple creation by the legendary “Professor” Jerry Thomas that consists of scotch, water, lemon, and sugar. Big deal you say. Light it on fire on throw the burning mixture back and forth between two tankards, we say. — see recipe (Photo by Jennifer Mackenzie)

Corpse Reviver #2

Difficulty: One word: absinthe.This drink has a name that sounds like it was invented by the wise men of Sigma Chi, Arizona State University Chapter, circa 1993, after a legendary bender…but it actually has a historic pedigree so solid that legendary The Savoy Cocktail Book (the bartender’s version of the New Testament) has two different versions of the drink. #2 has proved the test of time partly because its ingredients are still readily available and partly because it’s easy to make, but mostly because it’s bracing without tasting too boozy. It was originally a hair-of-the-dog tipple, but people were hopeless degenerates back then—it’s a nighttime drink now. — see recipe