Mixology trends come and go, but when it comes to cocktails, nothing beats the classics. According to Drinks International, the following tipples remain the most popular. Here’s how they rose to stardom and where to find them at their best.
With its bracing squeeze of lime, burst of muddled mint, heady hit of rum, and a touch of caramel sweetness from brown or raw sugar, it’s easy to see why the Mojito is so widely adored. Although we don’t know quite who invented it or when—theories range from African slaves secretly mixing it up to sailors under Francis Drake sipping it as a curative tonic for scurvy and dysentery—virtually everyone agrees that the Mojito belongs to Havana. On your next trip to the Cuban capital, order a textbook version at the legendary Bar Monserrate, located steps from the Parque Central.
In 1983, a patron at a chic London lounge demanded that bartender Dick Bradsell make her a drink that would wake her up. Within minutes, the Vodka Espresso, later renamed the Espresso Martini, was born. A steaming shot of freshly brewed espresso gives this concoction its caffeine kick and distinctive crema. Nowadays, the best place to sip this potent java jolt is The Blind Pig, a speakeasy in London’s Soho neighbourhood above a Michelin-starred restaurant by celeb chef Jason Atherton.
Served in a copper mug, the Moscow Mule is a deceptively simple blend of vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice. While one origin story claims New Yorkers first invented the cocktail, other cite the Cock ‘n Bull Restaurant in Los Angeles as its true birthplace. Regardless of which coast quaffed the first version, the Moscow Mule rose to prominence among Hollywood elite in the 1940s. Today, A-listers still get their fix at Copa d’Oro, a swank lounge in Santa Monica, California.
A drink as iconic as the Big Apple itself, this combination of whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters crowned with a Maraschino—or, if you’re feeling fancy, a Luxardo—cherry stepped onto the scene in 1870, when Dr. Iain Marshall first whipped it up for a banquet. Since the event at the Manhattan Club had been such a smash, guests christened the cocktail in its honour. The original Manhattan Club may be gone, but you can still sample a flawless Manhattan on its namesake isle at The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog.
Roughly four decades before Jimmy Buffett wasted away in Margaritaville, bartender Carlos “Danny” Herrera was already salting rims and serving up this sweet-sour elixir somewhere between Tijuana and Rosarito, Mexico. Some say that its creator named it in honour of Rita de la Rosa, a legendary Mexican showgirl, while others insist that it’s simply a tequila-spiked spin on a Prohibition-era tipple called the Daisy—or “Margarita” in Spanish. Today, cocktail enthusiasts can order up a round close to the source at El Museo Restaurante in Tijuana.
Ernest Hemingway was an enthusiastic imbiber of all sorts of booze, but he was especially fond of rum. According to legend, the prolific writer could consume six Daiquiris over the course of a single afternoon. Like other members of the Lost Generation such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, he often turned up at the lavish bar at the Ritz Paris. Even after a top-to-toe refurbishment, The Bar Hemingway at the hotel still feels like stepping back in time.
Long before James Bond professed his penchant for Vesper Martinis served shaken, not stirred, fashionable folk at the height of Prohibition were already downing bone dry Martinis with a twist of lemon. The funky, fabulous Zam Zam bar in San Francisco channels the hedonism of the Roaring Twenties and serves an impeccable rendition.
One of the simplest cocktails imaginable, this mix of bourbon, sugar, and lemon juice remains as popular as ever. Some mixologists jazz it up with a dribble of red wine to make a New York Sour, while others fluff it up with egg white for a Boston Sour, but many leave it exactly the way it is. Thought to have originated in the 1870s, the specifics of the drink’s creation remain shrouded in mystery. Just about every watering hole can throw together a palatable Whiskey Sour, but for something truly exceptional, head to Bar The Clinic Iquique in Chile.
Ask a bartender what they order off-duty and there’s an excellent chance that they’ll mention this garnet-hued classic. Made from equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, the Negroni is a testament to the alchemical powers of mixology and how the best drinks are often greater than the sum of their parts. Supposedly, it first came about in 1919 in Florence, when Count Camillo Negroni asked bartender Fosco Scarselli for a stronger version of an Americano. Head to the Atrium Bar at the posh Four Seasons Hotel Firenze and order the Vintage Negroni, made with ultra-premium ingredients.
One of the oldest cocktails on record, this spirit-forward potion, derives a surprising level of complexity from a succinct ingredient list. Most sources trace the invention of the drink’s current bourbon incarnation back to 1881 at the Pendennis Club in the heart of bourbon-country: Louisville, Kentucky. The club is still stirring up Old Fashioneds in a setting as wonderfully retro as the cocktail itself.