The bestselling classic cocktails at the world's best bars 2024

01 May, 2024

5. Daiquiri

A venerable classic such as the Daiquiri can’t be expected to have made it to the 21st century with the precise story of its origins intact – or without some questionable, brightly-coloured incarnations along the way, for that matter. While theories abound, dating the Daiquiri at least as far back as the late 1800s, the details are likely lost to the mists of time. What we do know is, done right, there’s nothing quite like this seemingly-simple combination of rum, lime and sugar.

It’s no wonder that the best variations, like the Hemingway Daiquiri, have become classics themselves. Audrey Saunders’ Old Cuban is a recent example, from the mid-2000s, which introduces mint and champagne, while Kevin Armstrong’s Dry Daiquiri, from a similar time period, adds Campari and passion fruit syrup. Both are a testament to the legacy of the cocktail that inspired them, and are marvellous drinks in their own right too.

4. Espresso Martini

Just one of many enduring gifts to the world of cocktails by the late, great Dick Bradsell, the Espresso Martini is certainly the most prevalent of his creations at the moment. Famously, Bradsell created the earliest version in the ’80s, at the Soho Brasserie on Old Compton Street in London, in response to a request from a young lady for “something that’s gonna wake me up, then fuck me up”. 

The Espresso Martini certainly does all that, and more, as a deceptively simple classic that’s also become an excellent template for countless variations. The recent increase in its popularity is also responsible, at least in part, for today’s vibrant coffee liqueur category, which has arguably led to better modern-day versions of the classic. Meanwhile, there’s another coffee cocktail in town, or rather on this list. Increasingly found on cocktail menus recently is the Carajillo, a new entry this year at 38.

3. Margarita

If there’s a drink whose various incarnations span everything from the sublime to the ridiculous, it’s the Margarita – perhaps unsurprising given the ubiquitousness of this tequila-based classic. At its heart, however, this is a beautifully simple classic, much like the pre-Prohibition drink that likely inspired it, the Daisy, a combination of spirit, lime juice and orange liqueur or grenadine. The tequila version became known by the Spanish word for daisy, margarita, which in turn became a byword for sunshine and good times the world over.

Nowadays it’s the more refined takes on the Margarita that are on the rise, with the Tommy’s re-entering the top 50 this year, and the Mezcal Margarita returning last year. Soho House, meanwhile, has added a trendy version of its own in recent times, the spicy Picante de la Casa, or Picante to its friends – now the most-ordered cocktail at the group’s bars.

2. Old Fashioned

There was a time, back in the mid-to-late 1800s, when the art of the cocktail was becoming altogether too fancy for some people’s tastes. The uncomplicated beverages made to that earliest cocktail specification of spirit, sugar, water and bitters were starting to include such garish ingredients as maraschino liqueur or, heaven forbid, absinthe. As if in protest, these cocktail conservatives demanded their drinks be made the old-fashioned way, and the practice has continued. 

This is, by definition, an unfussy drink, so it’s only fitting that one of the best modern takes is similarly unpretentious. The Oaxacan Old Fashioned, attributed to New York bartender Phil Ward, circa 2007, revisits each ingredient in turn, giving each a Mexican twist. Whiskey becomes tequila and mezcal, while sugar is replaced with agave, leaving room for interpretation when it comes to bitters – Ward kept it simple with classic Angostura. The result is faithful to the ethos of the original, while creating something entirely different.

1. Negroni

We continue to live in the age of the aperitivo, with Italy’s contributions to our collective cocktail canon holding on to two brightly-coloured spots in the top 10 this year – the Aperol Spritz in eighth position, and this first-place winner for the third year running. There are plenty of easier-drinking cocktails on this list, yet the punchy Negroni, with its divisive bitterness, prevails. Unapologetically bold, but with depth and complexity, it’s an undisputed classic, and easy to reproduce too, with its equal-parts combination of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari.

While its exact history is contested, the Negroni isn’t without pedigree. It’s a descendent of the Americano – sweet vermouth and Campari lengthened with soda water – and the Milano Torino before it, which omits the soda water. The most common Negroni origin story tells of an eponymous Italian count walking into a bar and ordering an Americano, but boozier. The obliging bartender drops the soda, adds some gin, and the rest is history, or at least one version of it. The bartender, the story goes, was Fosco Scarselli at Caffè Casoni in Florence, sometime around 1919.

Itself a twist on a classic, the Negroni has proven particularly adaptable over the years, with bartenders swapping out any and all of its trio of ingredients to create new drinks. Among the most revolutionary is the White Negroni in all its forms, but you’ll find a near-endless array of Tequila Negronis, Mezcal Negronis, Rum Negronis, and so on. One noteworthy variant, created in the 1970s and further popularised via TikTok in recent times, is attributed to Milan bartender Mirko Stocchetto. It’s said that while reaching for the gin for a Negroni, he accidentally grabbed a bottle of prosecco instead, creating a Spritz-like variant that has become known as the Negroni Sbagliato.

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