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

01 May, 2024

30. Gin Basil Smash

The Smash wasn’t exactly a thriving style of drink in 2008 when the creation of this modern take gave it a new lease of life. It has Germany’s Joerg Meyer to thank, and we do too. Inspired by the Whiskey Smash, and by another drink he’d encountered with basil as a garnish, Meyer did some muddling and created this brightly-coloured contemporary classic, originally naming it the Gin Pesto.

Since that day others have taken a leaf – invariably of basil – out of Meyer’s book, creating various riffs that substitute the spirit once again, or experimenting with different citrus juices.

29. Piña Colada

At least we know where the Piña Colada was born, even if we don’t quite know who was responsible. The place, almost definitely, was Puerto Rico, but it could have been Ramón Mingot in 1963 at Barrachina in Old San Juan, or either Ramón Pérez or Ricardo Garcia at San Juan’s Caribe Hilton Hotel’s Beachcomber Bar. Whoever it was, their cocktail has made a serious comeback in recent years.

There are seemingly infinite variations, although many don’t exactly elevate the original. One that definitely does is the Champagne Piña Colada from London’s Coupette, which combines rum and champagne with coconut sorbet and pineapple cordial.

28. Mezcal Margarita

A testament to the current popularity of agave spirits, and to the broad and enduring appeal of the Margarita, the Tommy’s is followed on this list by yet another riff, this time bringing mezcal into play, with all of its punchy, smoky flavours. 

Considering the reception that spicy Margaritas have received in recent times, it makes sense that there are plenty of takes on the mezcal version that follow a similar path. Of course, the Mezcal Margarita works beautifully as a Tommy’s too, with the simple combination of mezcal, lime juice and agave syrup allowing the base spirit to shine through.

27. Tommy’s Margarita

This tequila-forward Margarita variation is back in a big way, this year’s highest re-entry. Julio Bermejo, tequila ambassador for North America, created it as a way of highlighting the base spirit, by omitting the triple sec and adding agave nectar. And while the classic tends to be made with unaged tequila, he recommends experimenting with reposados and añejos too.

Seeing a Tommy’s on a cocktail list is often, if not always, a sign of a quality Margarita, although there’s no substitute for visiting its place of birth, the wonderful Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco – particularly if Bermejo is in residence.

26. Sidecar

When it comes to base spirits among classic cocktails, cognac isn’t exactly free-flowing, with the Sidecar its foremost, somewhat lonely champion – at least among those classics that have remained popular today. Likely an evolution of the Brandy Crusta, it’s not certain whether we have Pat McGarry at London’s Buck’s Club or Harry MacElhone at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris to thank.

It seems mean to take cognac out of its most prominent classic, but there are those that substitute spirits such as bourbon or rum. The 1920s classic Between the Sheets keeps the cognac, while adding some light rum to the mix.

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