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The drinks pro at the Four Seasons Oahu shares his twist on 5 classic cocktails

If you can't make it to the Four Seasons in Oahu, you can at least drink like you're there

A working bartender.
Viktor Fj /EyeEm / Getty Images

When it comes to classic cocktail recipes like the Negroni, rules can be broken. Sure, you have to honor the original but without a little added creativity, it’s just another drink.

We reached out to Mike Milligan for some twists on some classics. He’s the bar manager at Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina, on the island’s stunning west coast. He not only offered a handful of great recipes — ones patrons adore while sipping at the bar at Noe — but some priceless tips too. In terms of the best resort drinks, the following deserve a spot towards the top of the list.

By all means, get out to Hawaii. There’s no better winter experience than sun, surf, and a good cocktail. But if you can’t make it to the Rainbow State you can at least drink like you’re there.

Tramonto cocktail.
Mark Stock / The Manual

Tramonto

An adaptation of a gin sour, this cocktail is a pretty pink thanks to a berry addition. As Milligan points out, you can play around with the shrub. “Feel free to experiment with other fruits and discover combinations including different herbs (basil, thyme, rhubarb etc.),” he says. This one takes advantage of Italicus bergamot liqueur, a real bar cart gem.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 ounces Malfy Lemon Gin
  • 1/4 ounce Italicus
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ounce housemade strawberry shrub*
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 dashes Peychauds bitters

*Strawberry Shrub: Clean 8 pounds of fresh strawberries with tops removed. Slice into 1/8-inch pieces and place in stainless or glass bowl, add 2 cups granulated sugar, cover with saran wrap and place in refrigerator for 72 hours. Add water to reach ideal viscosity along with apple cider vinegar to taste, strain solids, bottle and place in refrigerator. Use within 2 weeks.

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake.
  2. Strain into a coupe.
  3. Garnish with orange oil expressed, swath inside and hibiscus gin mist.
Person holding an espresso martini glass placing coffee beans as a garnish.
Kike Salazar N / Unsplash

Espresso Martini

Arguably the breakout drink of 2023, the Espresso Martini continues to dazzle bar-goers. This version utilizes some Hawaiian and inputs, from a macadamia nut liqueur to Kona coffee.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 ounces Tito’s Vodka
  • 3/4 ounce Kahana Macadamia Nut Liquer
  • 3/4 ounce Kahlua
  • 2 ounces fresh Kundalini espresso
  • 3 Kona coffee beans for garnish

Method:

  1. Build in a chilled tin and shake.
  2. Strain into a Martini glass and garnish with coffee beans.
Fumo Nero cocktail.
Mark Stock / The Manual

Fumo Nero

The beauty here lies in the treatment of seemingly standard-issue spirits. Milligan uses smoke from a local Hawaiian tree to impart some added character in the local whiskey. If you can’t get your hands on Kiawe wood, go with another slow-burner like mesquite. There’s a process to get the right amount of smoke, but it’s worth the effort. If you want something simpler, opt for staves or wood chips. Either way, as Mike says, it’s a great way to mimic barrel aging.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces broiled Kiawe wood-infused Paniolo Whiskey*
  • 1/2 ounce Montenegro Amaro
  • 1/2 ounce Tahitian vanilla bean-infused Carpano Antica*
  • 2 dashes black walnut bitters

*Brioled Kiawe wood-infused whiskey: Place wood in broiiler until it’s on fire, remove and place in a stainless steel barrel. Pour whiskey of choice over smoldering wood and steep for 3 weeks. Use a chinois and coffee filter to remove any particles and bottle.

*Tahitian vanilla bean-infused Carpano Antica: Score 1 vanilla bean lengthwise just enough to break outer membrane and steep inside Carpano Antica for 24 hours. Remove and return Carpano Antica to refrigerator. Keep for up to 2 weeks.

Method:

  1. Build in cocktail glass with large cube and stir.
  2. Add 2 dashes of bitters.
Il Calore cocktail.
Mark Stock / The Manual

Il Calore

A riff on an Old Fashioned cocktail, this drink is ideal for a night up on the mountain in front of the fireplace, according to Milligan. “Slightly sweet with a little heat is the jam here,” he says.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 ounces Whistle Pig 10-year Rye
  • 1/8 tsp Demerara sugar
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 dashes mango chutney tincture
  • 2 dashes Calabrian chile tincture

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients in shaker with ice and shake.
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass, add bitters, and garnish with a small pepper.
Negroni
Nuff ./Unsplash

Negroni

“It’s actually Italian for breakfast, lunch, or dinner,” jokes Milligan. He says the versatile drink can change its appearance like a chameleon. “Ours at Noe was created with breakfast in mind hence the 100% Kona coffee infusion,” he says. While Tanqueray works great, the barkeep says his favorite involves Malfy Gin con Limone.

Ingredients:

  • 1 part Tanqueray no. 10
  • 1 part coffee-infused Campari*
  • 1 part Tahitian vanilla bean-infused Carpano Antica (see above)

*Coffee-infused Campari: Combine a 1/2 cup or so of coffee beans with Campari in container and steep for 24 hours. Remove beans.

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a glass with large cube and stir.
  2. Garnish with orange peel.

With the above cocktail recipes, you can bring high-end resort sipping to your own bar. Try them out for size and have fun experimenting with different spirits brands until you find your own sweet spot. Think about seasonal garnishes too, like citrus, rosemary, and more.

If you’re thirsty for more, we have you covered. Check out our favorite winter stouts and the best hot cocktails to warm up with this season.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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