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‘Mad Men’ Cocktails


Posted on November 29

Shady Lady Saloon’s Mint Julep
Shady Lady Saloon’s Mint Julep Photography by Gabriel Teague

Cocktails are an essential part of the scenery in “Mad Men,” AMC’s  hit TV series about a Manhattan ad agency in the 1960s. Devotees of the show and flat-out fans of old-school mixology can find many retro drinks at local bars these days. “What’s old is new again,” says Shannon Cannon, a bar manager at The Park Ultra Lounge. 

The bar: Torch Club 904 15th St., Sacramento 
The drink: Slow Comfortable Screw (vodka, orange juice, sloe gin, Southern Comfort) 
The lowdown: “It’s a little sweeter than a normal screwdriver,” explains Torch Club’s Don Jensen, a bartender for 41 years. It can be ordered with racy add-ons, such as Galliano (making it a Long Slow Comfortable Screw Against the Wall). Says Jensen, “I don’t make a whole lot of them these days, but when I bring it up, people laugh.”
The price: $7
The show: The screwdriver was senior copywriter Freddy Rumsen’s reported drink of choice in the episode that cost him his staff position at Sterling Cooper. He wet his pants, passed out and missed a client meeting.

The bar: Shady Lady Saloon 1409 R St., Sacramento
The drink: Mint Julep (mint, bourbon, sugar, water)
The lowdown: “Traditionally, most of these spirit-driven cocktails were meant as an aperitif, a precursor to your meal,” says Alex Origoni, co-owner of Shady Lady. “It was more of a sitting-on-the-porch, late-afternoon classic.”
The price: $8
The show: Agency founder Roger Sterling hosts a Kentucky Derby party, replete with silver mint julep cups and fancy hats. But let’s be clear, advises mega “Mad Men” fan Lori Madden, a Sacramento nurse practitioner: “Roger is really a martini or ‘out of the bottle’ type of guy.”

The bar: Owl Club 111 Church St., Roseville 
The drink: Pink Squirrel (crème de noyaux, crème de cacao, light cream) 
The lowdown: The 21st-century iteration includes vodka, but Owl Club manager Will Warn prefers the traditional combo. He doesn’t make as many as he did a decade or two ago, though he appreciates the alchemy. “Once you add the half-and-half, it almost bubbles and swirls.” 
The price: $5
The show: Hardcore fans quibble about whether the Pink Squirrel belongs in AMC’s official “Mad Men” cocktail guide, since the almond-flavored drink hasn’t played a prominent role on set. If it did, though, it would make a good fit for ever-evolving agency staffer Peggy Olson.

The bar: The Park Ultra Lounge 1116 15th St., Sacramento
The drink: Sidecar (Cognac, Cointreau, lemon juice)
The lowdown: Bar manager Shannon Cannon hails the Sidecar as an ideal way to enjoy dark liquor without the bite. “It’s strong enough for a man, soft enough for a lady,” she says of the fusion of brandy and orange-flavored liqueur. 
The price: $10
The show: This smooth, sophisticated blend is just right for Joan Harris. Whether the Sterling Cooper secretary would drink it with her husband or her former love interest (and boss) is anyone’s guess.

The bar
: The Purple Place 363 Green Valley Road, El Dorado Hills
The drink: Bloody Mary (vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce)
The lowdown: The house recipe calls for pepperoncini and marinated spicy green beans, along with fresh lime and the obligatory celery stick. “We do Saturday and Sunday brunch, and those Bloody Marys fly out of here,” says manager Pete Apicella.
The price: $7.50
The show: The Bloody Mary gets so much screen time that it should be nominated for an Emmy. Nobody mixes like Sally Draper (nine parts vodka to one part tomato juice). Not too shabby for a kid. Sally has had plenty of experience tending bar for her parents in the show’s four seasons.