The editor of the newly released “The New York Times Essential Book of Cocktails, Elevated and Expanded” shares how the collection came to be—and the role Northern Michigan plays in his love of mixology.

This article first appeared in Traverse Northern Michigan. Find this story and more when you explore our magazine library. Want Traverse delivered to your door or inbox monthly? View our print subscription and digital subscription options.

His work as deputy editor of The New York Times International Edition wrapped for the day, Steve Reddicliffe is carefully mixing four Mezcal Negronis at the kitchen counter in his Glen Arbor home—the once-upon-a-time family summer place where he has lived and worked since the pandemic. The fortunate recipients of the sexy, burnt-orange-colored cocktails are his wife, Connie, photographer/editor Allison Jarrell here to shoot this story, and me. As he hands them out—one chunky cube clinking in the middle of each rocks glass—we all slip out to the deck with its breathtaking view of Sleeping Bear Bay. While the sun lowers into sheer clouds, casting diffused sparkles over pewter water, Reddicliffe talks about his long career in journalism, and the cocktails that have been stirred, shaken and sipped throughout it.

Man with negroni

Photo by Allison Jarrell

Back in 2012, when Reddicliffe was the deputy editor of The Times Travel section, his friend and fellow editor, Michael Winerip, asked him to write a column called “A Quiet Drink.” It ran with the tagline: “Bars and restaurants where one can have grown-up conversation over a good drink.” Reddicliffe obliged, indulging in careful research primarily throughout the NYC area, but in one case, while visiting his in-laws at their Glen Arbor cottage, he departed, writing about Trattoria Stella in Traverse City. “It must have looked like I got hammered and went on an incredible jag to Michigan,” Reddicliffe says with a laugh. “I love that bar.”

A year or so later, Reddicliffe was asked to edit a definitive tome on cocktails for The Times. He agreed and launched into a two-year deep dive of the paper’s cocktail coverage, beginning with mint juleps in 1886 and including recipes from the renowned food editor, Craig Claiborne—a man who loved a good cocktail as much as a fine dinner. The first edition of “The New York Times Essential Book of Cocktails” was released in 2015. Five years later, the newspaper asked Reddicliffe to refresh it. Released last year, the “Elevated and Expanded” edition is packed with beautiful pictures of great drinks as well as a slew of new recipes.

Man and women clinking glasses

Photo by Allison Jarrell

In the meantime, the transition from New York life to Glen Arbor has been an easy one for the Reddicliffes; the colorful bar scene up here helps, they say, and they both love making the cocktail recipes from this very magazine’s Last Call section, pulling inspiration from the seasonal, fresh-picked ingredients. The couple has even been inspired to do a bit of Up North foraging. “This is a beautiful place with many cocktail possibilities,” Reddicliffe says. “Yes, snipping at dusk,” he says with a chuckle, recalling a lilac bush at the edge of the woods that he passed recently and a lilac cocktail syrup he wanted to make.

Over the decades, Reddicliffe has enjoyed cocktails around the world at places famous and not-so-famous (an Amore Amaro at Bar Sotto in Paris, The Victorian at Billy Sunday in Chicago, a Black Manhattan at Alice in Omaha all pop to his mind). Cherished also are his memories of the fine martinis he and Connie enjoyed with his parents, Violet and Don Reddicliffe, on this deck, when they owned the cottage. “Cocktails are a ritual. A punctuation at the end of the day,” he says. “They are fun to drink, fun to make and fun to drink with other people—people are just happier when you give them a good drink in a pretty glass.”

Mezcal Negroni Recipe

Yield: 1 drink

Americans have been ordering classic cocktails with mezcal instead of the typical spirits. One of the most popular is the mezcal Negroni, in which the gin is replaced with the smoky agave spirit. The switch works well because mezcal is as assertive in its flavors as gin is, and can stand up to flavorful tough customers like sweet vermouth and Campari. A number of different mezcals work well in this mix; Del Magueys Vida brand is a good place to start in your experimenting. —By Robert Simonson

  • 1 ounce mezcal
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • Orange twist, for garnish

1. Combine liquid ingredients in a mixing glass three-quarters filled with ice. Stir until chilled, about 30 seconds.
2. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
3. Squeeze the orange twist over the surface, then slip it into the drink. Alternately, this drink can be served in a rocks glass over ice, also with an orange twist.

Mezcal Negroni

Photo by George Etheredge

Batched 50/50 Martini Recipe

Yield: 6 (33⁄4-ounce) drinks

Martinis are bound to kick up strong opinions that tend to intensify as more martinis are consumed. Gin versus vodka. Shaken versus stirred. Dirty? How dirty? Olives, lemon twist or both? This batched recipe makes the biggest decisions for you: Gin — the spirit of choice — is paired with vermouth in equal measure, a ratio that means you and your guests can and should pour freely. From there, the drinker has full control to dirty and garnish to their heart’s content. —By Rebekah Peppler

  • 9 ounces dry gin
  • 9 ounces dry vermouth
  • 4 1⁄2 ounces filtered water
  • Lemon twists, green olives, olive brine, cocktail onions and orange bitters, for serving

1. Combine the gin, vermouth and water in a spouted measuring cup or pitcher, or a medium bowl. Pour the cocktail blend, using a funnel if needed, into a 750-milliliter bottle; seal, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to 2 weeks. (You can also freeze the 50/50 martini for several hours before serving.)
2. To serve, pour 3 3⁄4 ounces into a coupe glass and serve immediately with assorted garnishes.

NYT Batch Martini

Photo by Christopher Testani

Frozen Tom Collins Recipe

Yield: 6-8 drinks

Think of this frozen drink as a Tom Collins meets Italian lemon ice: It’s refreshingly sweet-tart, boozy and fully capable of giving you brain freeze in a painfully nostalgic way. Since colder temperatures can shift the way we perceive sweetness, frozen drinks read less sweet on the palate and thus require a bit more added sugar to balance flavors. This recipe employs a final flourish of syrupy maraschino cherries, stirred in to taste. If you’re skipping the cherries or don’t have time to run out to stock up, you can simply add a bit more simple syrup to taste while blending. You’ll lose the brilliant color contrast—and the outright fun of snacking on ice-cold, candylike cherries—but, like most good drinks, this one’s adaptable. —By Rebekah Peppler

  • 8 ounces gin
  • 6 ounces fresh lemon juice (from 3 to 4 large lemons)
  • 4 ounces simple syrup (see recipe below)
  • 5 to 6 cups cracked or crushed ice cubes
  • Maraschino cherries and syrup, preferably Luxardo, for serving

1. In an airtight container, combine the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup. Seal and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.
2. Transfer the chilled mixture to the blender, add the ice and blend until smooth and slushy.
3. Divide the mixture among 6 lowball glasses; garnish each with a few cherries and a drizzle of cherry syrup. Serve immediately, and store any extras in the freezer in a covered container until ready to enjoy.

Frozen Tom Collins

Photo by David Malosh

Simple Syrup Recipe

To be used in recipe above, plus a great recipe in general to have on hand!

Sugar is called for in many cocktails, both new and classic. While plain sugar can certainly be used to make these drinks, simple syrup—which is nothing more than sugar water—often leads to a better integration of ingredients and consistency of texture, with no stray granules lingering at the bottom of the glass. —By Robert Simonson

1. Simmer equal parts sugar and water over a low flame until the sugar has dissolved.
2. Let the solution cool. It will keep for a week. Store it in the fridge in a sealed container.
3. If you’re in a hurry, shake the sugar and water in a sealed container until the sugar disappears.

Gin Cidre Recipe

Yield: 1 drink

Bright, botanical and lightly bubbly, this cocktail is an ideal entry point to fall drinking—and one that can easily take you straight through to spring. Look to a cider that’s dry, light and not overly powerful in acid or funk here: You want the botanicals of the gin and the salinity of the sherry to play an equal role in balancing the drink. —By Rebekah Peppler

  • 3⁄4 ounce gin
  • 3⁄4 ounce fino sherry
  • 1⁄2 ounce orange liqueur
  • 1⁄2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • Ice
  • 2 ounces light, dry cider, chilled

1. In a shaker, combine the gin, sherry, orange liqueur, lime juice and bitters. Add ice, cover and shake vigorously until the drink is well chilled, about 15 seconds.
2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and top with cider.

Gin Cider cocktail

Photo by David Malosh

Nonalcoholic: Chamomile Lime Rickey Recipe

Yield: 1 drink

A floral twist on a classic, this delicious fizzy limeade is the perfect front-porch sipper on a warm afternoon. The chamomile adds some sunshine to this refresher, and little ones will love it as well. You just might find yourself making—or craving—this every summer weekend. —By Cassie Winslow

  • 1⁄4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Chamomile Simple Syrup (see below), plus more to taste
  • Ice
  • 8 ounces seltzer water
  • Thin lime slices or a fresh organic edible chamomile flower, for garnish

1. Combine the lime juice and chamomile simple syrup in a large (16- to 18-ounce) tumbler and stir to combine. Taste and add more lime juice or syrup, if you’d like.
2. Fill with ice, top off with the seltzer and gently mix to combine. Garnish with lime slices, or an organic edible flower, if you are feeling extra fancy.

Chamomile Lime Rickey

Photo by David Malosh

Chamomile Simple Syrup Recipe

Yield: About 1 1/3 cups | Use for recipe above or to have on hand.

Chamomile has a sweet, earthy flavor, and makes a lovely simple syrup that may soon become a staple in your refrigerator. Not only is this syrup delicious in a cocktail or mocktail, it is also wonderful drizzled on French toast, or vanilla ice cream with fresh berries. You can even use it to sweeten iced coffee.

  • 1 cup granulated sugar, preferably organic
  • 1⁄2 cup filtered water
  • 3 individual bags of chamomile tea

1. Place sugar and filtered water in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.
2. Remove from heat and add the chamomile tea bags. Steep for 10 minutes, then discard tea bags.
3. Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Elizabeth (Lissa) Edwards is senior editor of Traverse Northern Michigan. She has been writing about the region’s history, outdoors and lifestyle for more than 30 years.

Photo(s) by Allison Jarrell