The World's 50 Best Selling Classic Cocktails 2017

15 February, 2017


The drink of the living dead. To make: pour the contents of your bar’s rum collection into a large glass along with some more booze in the form of apricot brandy, then lime and pineapple juice. Three bars said it was their top selling classic. Let’s take the recipe from tiki mecca Smuggler’s Cove: Jamaican, demerara and Puerto Rican rums, grapefruit and lime juice, cinnamon syrup, falernum, grenadine, Angostura bitters, drops of Pernod and a mint sprig.


Breaking the mould (sorry), our first scotch cocktail in the list comes courtesy of Sam Ross, ex-Milk & Honey bartender and now Attaboy (fifth in The World’s 50 Best Bars 2016) owner. The Penicillin uses blended scotch, lemon juice, honey-ginger syrup and Islay scotch and is garnished with candied ginger. This medicinal mix is one of very few cocktails to make neo-classical status.


If the Peruvians and Chileans can find consensus on anything it is that the Pisco Sour is the best vehicle for their national spirit. This cocktail was an early explorer, finding its way to the dock of the San Francisco bay in the 1930s and wasting little time before rising to popularity in New York in the 1960s. With Peruvian food now a fixture internationally, this limey cocktail is back in the limelight. About a fifth of polled bars named the Pisco Sour a top 10 classic cocktail.


Gaining a little altitude in the list – one place – is the Aviation. Essentially a refined Tom Collins with some maraschino, this is a top 10 seller in about a fifth of polled bars. The recipe first appeared in Hugo Ensslin’s 1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks, where crème de violette provided an extra floral dimension.


This gin-turned-vodka-turned-gin-and-lime cocktail has moved with the times. With gin now back in favour, its vodka years are mostly behind it. In a sense this is a Daiquiri for gin drinkers and three of our polled bars said it was their most-made classic; about a fifth said it was a top 10 choice among punters. It’s essentially gin and juice but somehow has credibility beyond its ingredients. The ratio was originally 50/50, but that was when people didn’t care much for their teeth. Now a 75/25 gin-to-Roses lime cordial seems to be what the dentist ordered.


The late Dick Bradsell made the first – for a customer who wanted a drink that would “wake her up and fuck her up”. But the Espresso Martini also arouses and nullifies the senses at the world’s best bars, with just under a quarter of bars listing it among their regular roster. This after-dinner cocktail of espresso coffee, vodka and coffee liqueur is served in a Martini glass but bears little resemblance to the original Martini.


The Dark ’n’ Stormy is the 14th most likely classic you will drink in a top bar, says our poll, but the most likely thing to drink in Bermuda (that and the Rum Swizzle). The history of rum is never far away from seafarers and the Dark ’n’ Stormy is no different. To cut a story’s length, British colonialists brought the ginger beer, Gosling’s brought the rum. Add a bit of lime, and there you have it, the Dark ‘n’ Stormy – worthy of any bloke with a beard and tatts, on or off land.


With a rise of 15 places, the Boulevardier is a cocktail that’s garnering customers in the world’s best bars. More than a quarter of bars have it among their top 10 repertoire and likely not just because of how it tastes. It’s simple – just take a Negroni recipe and swap American whiskey for gin. The choice, which faces many a cocktail aficionado, is whether it be rye or bourbon. We lean towards the peppery, more jagged edge of rye.


Making drinking acceptable in AM is the Blood Mary. For those who like it (some say tomatoes are better on plates than in glasses) it is a staple of the day after the night before. It is also a drink that will never go out of fashion and among the top 10 selling classics in a quarter of bars we polled. At this point we defer to the Connaught. Ago Perrone uses Ketel One vodka, fresh tomato juice, a homemade spice mix, fresh lemon juice and celery air. It will seduce even the most devout Bloody Mary naysayer.


When Trader Vic’s brand of Polynesian restaurants globally proliferated, so did founder Victor Jules Bergeron’s Mai Tai, which can now be found in bars across the world – and possibly even in Polynesia. As a bastion of tropical culture the Mai Tai has been swept along by the tiki revival and come ashore in many of the world’s best bars. Just over a quarter, in fact, laid testament to its popularity credentials. Though outside of the top 10, this remains a kitsch classic loved by bartenders in their less serious moments.

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