The bestselling classic cocktails at the world's best bars

17 May, 2023

The result of a poll of a sample of the world's best bars, here, in descending order, is our list of the 50 bestselling classic cocktails. 

50.  Air Mail 

Emerging not long after the communication innovation for which its named, the Air Mail cocktail was first mentioned in a promotional pamphlet for Bacardi in the 1930s – complete with postage stamp garnish – and took off from there, appearing in various cocktail books, in the 1940s in particular. With its blend of rum, lime juice, honey syrup and champagne, the Air Mail shares DNA with a number of classics, not least the Daiquiri, as well as the French 75 – although which cocktail topped with French fizz doesnt? Presentation has meandered somewhat over the years, although many are returning to the original Highball-style serve. 

49. Southside 

More than just a gin Mojito – although thats a useful way of thinking about it – the Southside has an array of competing, colourful origin stories. Was Prohibition-era gangster Frankie McErlane the first to combine mint, sugar and lime juice with gin, using it to mask the taste of bootlegged booze? Or was it created earlier, not in Chicago but New York, at Long Islands South Side Sportsmen's Club, or indeed at former Manhattan speakeasy 21 Club? The truth is likely lost to the mists of time, but the cocktail remains, having been given a new lease of life in recent years. 

48. Hanky Panky 

The most enduring cocktail created by Ada Coleman, who headed up the American Bar at The Savoy in London between 1903 and 1925, the Hanky Panky was first administered to actor Sir Charles Hawtrey. Upon entering the bar and pronouncing himself half-dead, Hawtrey asked Coleman, known to her regulars as Coley, for something to revive him. On being brought back to life by this bracing mix of gin, sweet vermouth and a couple dashes of Fernet Branca, the thespian famously declared it to be the real hanky panky. The name stuck, and the drink lives on to this day. 

47.  Rum Old Fashioned 

Much has been said of the Old Fashioned, taking second place in this years list. More a style of drink than a cocktail, its most often associated with rye whiskey or bourbon, of course, but rum is next in line. This variant goes in and out of favour, no doubt tied to the popularity of rum in general – it dropped out of the top 50 last year entirely, after placing 27th the year before. The Rum Old Fashioned is back, for now, and remains a very effective means of showcasing aged rum in a cocktail without too much adornment. 

46.  Army & Navy 

Was the Army & Navy created to commemorate a traditional football match between two branches of the US military, or indeed first served at Washington DCs Army & Navy Club? Who knows, frankly, and we may never know for certain. It was certainly served at that club, which claims to be responsible for introducing the Daiquiri to the US in 1909. The drink in question, meanwhile, first appeared in print in 1948, in David Emburys The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. He described the original recipe, with two parts of gin to one part each of orgeat and lime juice, as horrible, suggesting a more gin-forward ratio. 

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