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Stellar recipes for Oscar-party quaffs

Gin coffee tonic cocktail in the foreground with a bottle of gin, a shot glass and a lime blurred in the background.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Classic cocktails with a twist to sip while Hollywood honors its stars.

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With mask mandates changing throughout Southern California, people are going out more and gathering in larger numbers just in time for Hollywood’s biggest party of the year: the Oscars. If you’re entertaining, cocktails are certainly the way to start the evening. Which cocktails? Let current trends be your guide.

Updating your pour could be as simple as upgrading a classic. Try a Dirty G.L.T, a cross between a gin and tonic and a dirty martini. In another play on the martini, the Fino calls for sherry instead of dry vermouth and adds just enough orange liqueur to brighten things up. A ‘Gin’-ger Basiltini is made from cucumber-infused gin and basil simple syrup muddled with fresh basil and lime juice; it’s then shaken (not stirred) and poured into a chilled martini glass.

More than merely a modified classic, the robust Tequila Negroni taps into both the growing popularity of tequila and the current inclination toward bitterness, subbing tequila for gin and adding a more-bitter-than-sweet gentian liqueur. A classic Old School Manhattan calls for Angostura bitters, though Peychaud’s or any orange bitters would do the trick.

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More attention and creativity is being directed toward low and no-alcohol drinks, mixing coffee into cocktails as with the GCT (Gin Coffee Tonic), the Yuzu Spritzer mocktail, which has a sour, lemon-lime-grapefruit quality to it that is mellowed with a rosemary and bay-leaf simple syrup, and Sparkling Chile Lemonade — a bubbly, lemony, alcohol-free pick-me-up with a kick of heat.

These days, a growing number of fruits and vegetables are becoming part of the cocktail mix. The Satsuma Whiskey Smash muddles (you guessed it) Satsuma mandarin wedges with mint, whiskey, a lemon wedge and, to mellow the tartness, a hint of yacon syrup. The Strawberry W.C. Fields adds strawberry puree, cherry balsamic vinegar and cherry bitters to rye whiskey. (The drink was named after Fields because an early version of the drink’s garnish — a maraschino cherry in a strawberry — reminded its creator of the late comedian’s nose.) Poblano peppers and chipotle-infused salt give the Irish Poet its kick, which is complemented by the smoky flavor of mezcal.

Finally, if you’re looking for something a little bubbly, Lambrusco on the Rocks relies on reposado tequila, sweet red vermouth and Campari to cut through the sweet Lambrusco for a beverage that is both bitter and sweet.

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Dirty G.L.T.

This spin on a gin and tonic adds Lillet and olive brine for a salty-floral twist.
Time 5 minutes
Yields Makes 1 drink

Tequila Negroni

Tequila and woodsy gentian liqueur give this twist on a Negroni an earthy aroma.
Time 5 minutes, plus overnight freezing
Yields Serves 4

'Gin'-ger basiltini

Cucumber-infused gin, muddled basil, ginger simple syrup and fresh-squeezed lime juice make this a delicious brunch libation.
Time 3 minutes
Yields Serves 1
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Yuzu Spritzer

Yuzu brightens this refreshing spritzer, which balances sharp, spicy and smooth elements like any well-made cocktail. Fizzy and fresh, it gives a pleasure high.
Time 5 minutes
Yields Makes 1 drink

GCT

Coffee adds dark bitterness to the classic pairing of gin and tonic, all lifted with lots of muddled lime.
Time 5 minutes
Yields Makes 1 drink

Fino Martini

Fino sherry and orange liqueur add a moody sweetness to the classic martini.
Time 5 minutes, plus overnight freezing
Yields Serves 4 to 6
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Sparkling Chile Lemonade

This bubbly lemonade comes with a kick of heat from the chile lemon syrup.
Time 5 minutes
Yields Makes 1 drink