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

01 May, 2024

15. Gimlet

Originally a scurvy preventative, the Gimlet has stood the test of time, and made something of a resurgence recently. It takes its name either from the tool used to tap barrels on ships, or from the Royal Navy’s Sir Thomas Desmond Gimlette, and was famously made with Rose’s Lime Cordial, the first fruit concentrate, patented in 1867.

Nowadays Rose’s is often replaced with other cordials, or even fresh juice. London’s Tayēr + Elementary makes a fine modern take, the Palo Santo Gimlet, with gin, fino sherry, Lillet Blanc and palo santo cordial, available as a ready-to-drink bottled cocktail too.

14. Bloody Mary

Savoury cocktail stalwart the Bloody Mary has undergone many changes over the years, with its base spirit varying between vodka and gin, and a rebrand as the Red Snapper for a time. Its most likely inventor is bartender Fernand ‘Pete’ Petiot, in the 1920s at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, who further popularised it by taking the recipe with him to The Savoy in London and the St Regis Hotel in New York.

Canada’s national drink, the Bloody Caesar, employs clam-and-tomato juice Clamato to great effect, while other variations switch out the spirit – such as tequila for a Bloody Maria – when recreating this versatile classic.

13. Mojito

Like so many classic cocktails of old, there’s no definitive answer as to who invented the Mojito, although at the peak of its popularity a few years ago, more than a few muddle-weary bartenders might have wanted to have a word with them. Some credit Sir Francis Drake, while others place its origins at Ernest Hemingway haunt Bodeguita del Medio in Havana.

During peak Mojito, there were seemingly endless variations, with some bars dedicating entire menus to these. Among the more notable is Audrey Saunders’ Gin Gin Mule, in 50th place on this year’s list – a Mule twist, but with Mojito DNA too.

12. Manhattan

The Manhattan’s origins are more than a little hazy, with a number of competing stories. One says it was created for a party in 1874 at New York’s Manhattan Club, held by Winston Churchill’s mother, except she was pregnant with Winston at the time, and probably in Europe. Another credits a man who ran a bar on Broadway named Black, in the 1860s. We may never know for certain.

US bartender Todd Smith is responsible for one of the most widespread modern takes. Created at San Francisco’s Bourbon & Branch, the Black Manhattan is a simple, effective riff that replaces the sweet vermouth with an amaro – Averna in this case.

11. Penicillin

Milk & Honey is responsible for more than its fair share of modern-day classics, with the Penicillin, created by bartender Sam Ross, arguably the most prominent. You’d be forgiven for thinking that its origins went further back than the mid-2000s though, with its classic, uncomplicated combination of blended scotch, lemon juice and sugar in the form of a ginger and honey syrup, topped with a float of peaty Islay single malt. The result is deserving of its medicinal name, and of its place among the classics too.

There’s no mistaking the Penicillin’s Whiskey Sour roots, but it gets these via another Milk & Honey classic, the Gold Rush, made with bourbon, lemon and honey. That legendary bar has since closed its doors, but for a definitive Penicillin, you could do worse than the bar that’s located in the same spot, Attaboy in New York – Ross is co-owner, after all. 

Digital Edition

Drinks International digital edition is available ahead of the printed magazine. Don’t miss out, make sure you subscribe today to access the digital edition and all archived editions of Drinks International as part of your subscription.


La'Mel Clarke

Service isn’t servitude: the skill of hosting

La’Mel Clarke, front of house at London’s Seed Library, looks at the forgotten art of hosting and why it deserves the same respect as bartending.