The Must-Try Classic Cocktails - Part IV

Back in September, we began our exploration of the top 20 classic cocktails.   These cocktails are a great starting place to experience the original inspiration behind the numerous variations that have followed. Having covered 15 of the world’s best-selling cocktails, we’ve now arrived at the final five classics in the top 20.  Let’s have a look!


16.  Gimlet – made with gin, lime juice and simple syrup, this timeless cocktail is the perfect balance of sweet and tart. The gimlet traces its origin back to the late 19th century when the British Royal Navy ruled the waters. Living life on the open seas was rough back then.  Sailors often suffered from scurvy because they lacked vitamin C.  As a result, ships were loaded with lime or lemon juice.  To encourage sailors to “take” their vitamin C, the tart lime juice was mixed with gin … and the gimlet was born.  Not a bad way to take your medicine!


17.  Aviation – this visually distinct cocktail in its most classic form is made with gin, Maraschino liqueur, Crème de Violette and lemon juice.  Hugo Ensslin, a New York bartender, created the Aviation in the early 20th century, right before Prohibition.  The cocktail’s head-turning periwinkle hue comes from the Crème de Violette, a violet flavored liqueur that was unavailable in the US for decades until 2007.  The Aviation’s pale violet / blue color evokes the sky and inspired the cocktail’s name.

18.  Pisco Sour – a blend of pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, egg white and a dash of Angostura bitters, the pisco sour is an iconic Peruvian cocktail.  It is tangy and earthy with a rich and creamy mouthfeel.  An American bartender, Victor Morris, living in Peru in the 1920s is credited with the drink’s invention. Today, Chile and Peru both claim the cocktail as their national drink although they each produce their distinct version of it.  (The Chilean version, most notably, has no bitters or egg whites and uses Chilean pisco.)  In Peru, the cocktail is so beloved that Peruvians celebrate National Pisco Sour Day, an official federal holiday on the first Saturday of February.

19.  Penicillin – a combination of blended Scotch, lemon juice, honey-ginger syrup and Islay single malt Scotch, the Penicillin is a modern classic cocktail created in 2005 by Sam Ross. The Australian bartender created the cocktail while working at Milk & Honey in New York City.  Reflecting on its invention, Ross recalls himself thinking at the time, “I want that smoke in the nose and the spicy sweet cocktail underneath.”  The cocktail’s smoky quality comes from the Islay single malt Scotch used to top off the drink once the other ingredients are blended. Like other great cocktail creations, the original Penicillin has inspired countless variations including versions with tequila, mezcal, gin and rum.


20.  Zombie –  a concoction of multiple types of rum, liqueurs and fruit juices, the Zombie cocktail was born during America’s tiki craze in the mid-century.   Donn Beach, considered one of the founding fathers of tiki culture, created the cocktail in the 1930s at his restaurant, Don the Beachcomber, in Hollywood CA.  Beach’s tropical cocktails, including the Zombie, made his restaurant a hot spot among the Hollywood elite from the 1940s to 1960s.  No official recipe for the Zombie exists because Beach went to great lengths to tightly guard his secret recipe.  The cocktail is so strong that the restaurant imposed a limit of no more than two to a customer.  Considering the Zombie consists of several types of rum and liqueurs, plus bitters, it’s probably wise to proceed with caution! 

This post completes our exploration of the top 20 classic cocktails based on what bars around the world have reported as their best sellers.  Next time you’re at a bar, get out of your comfort zone of ordering the same old cocktail and try something different.  Or if you have the thirst to experience something new, but don't have the time or energy to create something from scratch, try one of our bottled, ready-to-drink cocktails.  Either way, have fun shaking things up.  Cheers to new experiences!