The World’s Best-Selling Classic Cocktails 2020

06 January, 2020

You can’t beat the classics, but every year there’s change within their ranks somewhere. Hamish Smith rounds up this year’s top 50

In an industry whose stars regularly jump from job to job, whose bars open and close with frequency, and whose creativity seemingly knows no bounds, the anchoring role of the classic cocktail has never been so important. These routine serves are the bar industry’s foundations – the thread that connects modern bartenders to their occupational ancestors, and to each other around the world. Wherever you are in the fast-expanding bar community, there is a common language – the Old Fashioned, Negroni or Daiquiri are words everyone speaks.You might expect, then, that our list of 50 of the bestselling classics would be something of a static ranking. Well not so – our sample of bars regularly make more than 100 classics, from the well-worn to the less common.

While the top 20 cuts a similar figure year to year, the shifts happen lower down the order, with neo-classics such as the Tommy’s Margarita, Pornstar Martini and older classics including the Last Word and Southside making inroads this year. We’ve seen classics drop out of favour – this year the likes of the White Russian, Long Island Iced Tea and Hanky Panky were made less than the year before. So, while slow moving, there is an evolution in the classics that are frequently made. This is interesting to the drinksmaker, but critically important to the brand.


50. Blood and Sand

First made in 1922 the Blood & Sand was inspired by the eponymous film. Fast forward 98 years and it’s still found, with a cluster of top bars telling us it is among their top-10 bestselling classics. It is also only the second scotch drink in the top 50. Made with scotch, cherry brandy (the blood), sweet vermouth, and orange juice (the sand) this drink is possibly a little sweet for more discerning palates. 

49. Irish Coffee 

The slightly less mainstream sibling of the Espresso Martini (how times have changed), the Irish Coffee can increasingly be found in cocktail bars. It is thought to have been created by Joe Sheridan, the head chef of Foynes flying boat terminal, Ireland, but for a more up-to-date rendition try Dead Rabbit’s recipe: 1½ parts Bushmills Original Irish whiskey, ¾ parts demerara syrup, four parts hot brewed coffee and heavy cream, lightly whipped.

48. Brandy Alexander 

It’s the first time the Brandy Alexander has appeared in this list, but it scrapes in – just. This cocktail is actually a development from the gin-based Alexander, and is thought to date to the 1930s. The recipe sees brandy (likely cognac) mixed with crème de cacao and cream and is not on your Weight Watchers plan.

47. Old Cuban 

This cocktail was invented by New York legend Audrey Saunders in 2004 and is one of two of her drinks on this list (a third, the Earl Grey Marteani, fell just short). Something of a cross between a Mojito and a French 75, the Old Cuban takes in aged rum, lime juice, mint leaves, Angostura bitters and sparkling wine.

46. Bamboo 

Sherry is loved in the bar world, so it’s no surprise to see a sherry classic make the 50. The stories behind the origins of this cocktail are quite conflicting, from songs about bamboo to bartenders in Japan… anyway, it’s 1½ parts sherry, 1½ parts dry vermouth, two dashes Angostura bitters, two dashes orange bitters.

45. Sidecar 

Brandy and cognac aren’t the coolest spirits among the world’s top influencers (the category sits eighth among the most-used spirits in our poll) so it makes sense that the most famous brandy drinks are languishing at this end of the league. This brandy, triple sec and lemon drink has Parisian roots but the original creator has never come forward – or at least not in the singular.

44. Vodka Martini

Bartenders may tend to prefer their Martinis with gin, but the Vodka Martini (aka Kangaroo and Vodkatini) still has a presence in the world’s best bars. If you’re a real vodka enthusiast, this is the best way to partake of your poison – there is only vermouth as a buffer. Wimpy vodkas don’t work here – you’ll need one with muscle as, in the glass, it’s almost naked.

43. Ramos Gin Fizz 

This half milkshake, half Gin Fizz concoction was named after the New Orleans bartender who created it in 1888 – Henry Charles Ramos. The original saw silky-smooth cream and orange flower put a new spin on the Fizz. While this cocktail has dropped five places from last year, you’ll still find the occasional Ramos at the world’s best bars.

42. Caipirinha 

Brazil’s national cocktail, the Caipirinha stays at number 42. Although the origins of this drink are unknown, this is the most important cocktail for cachaça. In recent years the availability of high-quality cachaça has increased outside of Brazil and this has certainly boosted the appeal of this mintless, squat Mojito.

41. Gin Gin Mule 

Created by Audrey Saunders at New York cocktail mecca Pegu Club, the Gin Gin Mule is among a small number of cocktails considered modern classics. The Gin Gin is down to the ginger and gin, not a double helping of gin, though as the only alcohol in the recipe, two shots will be necessary. Known to some as the Ginger Rogers, the Gin Gin Mule is closely related to the Moscow Mule – but with superior kick from muddled ginger.

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