The Must-Try Classic Cocktails - Part III

In our September and November posts, we began our exploration of the essential cocktails to try.  As the foundation for numerous variations, these cocktails are a great starting place to expand your palate and discover a new favorite drink.  So far, we've covered the top 10 of the world’s best-selling cocktails.  Let’s move down the list and check out the next five classics.

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11.  Mai Tai – a combination of rum, Curaçao liqueur, orgeat syrup and lime juice, the Mai Tai is one of the quintessential tropical cocktails.   A bitter orange flavored liqueur, Curaçao (pronounced koo r-uh-sou) is made from the Laraha citrus grown on the Caribbean island of Curaçao.  The orgeat syrup (pronounced awr-zha), another key Mai Tai ingredient, is made from almonds, sugar and orange flower water.  Although it is often associated with tropical islands or Tiki themed restaurants, the Mai Tai surprisingly traces its origins to a decidedly non-tropical place … Oakland, CA! The invention of the Mai Tai is most often credited to Victor Bergeron who claimed he invented it in 1944 at his Oakland restaurant, Trader Vic’s - also the self-proclaimed “Home of the Original Mai Tai.”


12.  Bloody Mary – a concoction of vodka and a Bloody Mary “mix” consisting of tomato juice, lemon juice, hot sauce, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, salt and black pepper, the Bloody Mary is a classic brunch cocktail.  Perhaps this is because of its reputation for curing hangovers! Many have staked a claim to the Bloody Mary’s creation which traces back to the 1930s.  Multiple stories abound on the name’s origin as well, but one common explanation is its reference to Queen Mary I of England who was nicknamed Bloody Mary for her treatment of Protestants in the 16th century.  What we do know is that the classic Bloody Mary has inspired many modern-day variations – particularly when it comes to garnishes.  A celery stalk or lemon wedge are the traditional garnishes, but restaurants have become ever more ambitious in transforming this brunch cocktail into a meal in itself.  Over-the-top embellishments include skewered chicken wings, beef sliders and even pizza.  Get ready to trade in a hangover for a food coma! 


13.  Boulevardier – a blend of whiskey, sweet vermouth and Campari, the Boulevardier (pronounced booluh-var-dyey) is a cocktail classic that’s simple to create but full of complex flavor.  It is a close relative of the Negroni, using whiskey instead of gin.  The Boulevardier traces its beginnings to an American expatriate writer living in 1920s Paris who founded a magazine called Boulevardier, meaning a wealthy and fashionable socialite.  

14.  Dark ‘n Stormy – made with Gosling’s Black Seal dark rum and ginger beer with an optional lime wedge garnish, the Dark ‘n Stormy is often considered the unofficial drink of Bermuda and the sailing community.  Its seafaring past traces to the end of World War I when British sailors who were in Bermuda on shore leave would mix the island’s locally produced rum with ginger beer.  Purportedly, the cocktail’s name was inspired by a sailor who compared the color of the cocktail to “the color of a cloud that only a fool or a dead man would sail under.”  Today, the Dark ‘n Stormy name is a registered trademark of the Gosling Brothers Ltd of Bermuda which makes Gosling Black Seal rum.  To be legally considered a Dark ‘n Stormy, the cocktail must be made to the company’s specifications, which includes the use of their Black Seal rum. 


15.  Espresso Martini – a cold cocktail made with vodka, coffee liqueur (like Kahlúa), simple syrup and espresso, the Espresso Martini is a more recent invention in the cocktail world compared with the others we’ve explored.  This sweet, caffeinated concoction is traditionally garnished with three coffee beans and enjoyed as an after-dinner cocktail.  A fabled British bartender named Dick Bradsell created this modern classic cocktail in the late 1980s.  As the story goes, when a famous British model asked Bradsell to make her a drink that would, “Wake me up, and then fuck me up,” the Espresso Martini was born. 

Now, after all that, is anyone thirsty?  Next time, we’ll explore the last five cocktails in our top 20 must-try list.  In the meantime, if you’ve got the thirst to try something new but are low on time and energy to trek out to the bar or gin up something at home, try one of our bottled, ready-to-drink cocktails.  Cheers to new experiences!