In theory, even slight variations on classic recipes can result in new cocktails. The sours category of drinks is the easiest example: Take a Margarita, swap out the tequila for gin, and you have a Gimlet. Or use vodka instead and you have a Kamikaze; sub in rum and you have a Daiquiri.
This is clearly an oversimplification of the creative process and simply moving pieces around in a recipe doesn't make you a great bartender, but finding a drink that works as well as the Manhattan Project ($12, High West Silver Oat Whiskey, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, Duquesne Rhum Agricole, orange bitters) shows there is still plenty of gold in those mines.
See also: Prospect's Catcher in the Rye
Prospect's bar manager Davin Affrunti created the drink when looking to serve a variation on the White Manhattan, a twist on the classic Manhattan first made popular at NOPA by barman Neyah White. Inspired by the fresh cane flavors in an agricole rum from Martinique, Affrunti's drink is both crisp and familiar, yet with herbal undertones that make it something completely different and worth making a stop at the bar.
But the menu isn't all takes on classics, instead a large majority of the list is made up of seasonally focused and original cocktails like the Il Terranova ($12, Cynar, Square One Botanical Vodka, cucumber agave nectar, lime) that is lightly vegetal and bitter from the artichoke based Cynar, but lightened in intensity by the cucumber without tasting too light. The drink is great alone, but goes even better with some of Chef Pam Mazzola's bar snacks, like the Caesar 'd Deviled Eggs ($7 for four).
Affrunti may not be as familiar a name as opening bar manager Brooke Arthur, but the talented barman has been in the restaurant industry since he was 14. He cut his teeth at Aziza before working his way around different bars, including working in Mammoth Lakes before coming back to the Bay Area. Working closely with the kitchen and the produce that comes in, expect to see the menu evolve through the seasons. We not always be aware of what season it is on the calendar, but we can at least drink it in.
1 ½ oz. High West Silver Oat Whiskey
1 oz. Dolin Blanc vermouth
½ oz. Duquesne Rhum Agricole
2 Dashes orange bitters
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until cold and strain into a coupe or martini glass. Garnish with a speared brandied cherry.
Prospect, 300 Spear (at Folsom), 247-7770