The World's 50 Best Selling Classic Cocktails 2017

We’ve asked 100 of the best bars in the world - using the results of the survey of The World's 50 Best Bars - to rank their best-selling classic cocktails. Hamish Smith presents the countdown

Creativity is central to the world’s best bars but there are also classic cocktails that connect them – age-old recipes recreated time and again, the world over. Sometimes because customers ask for them, but also because these are the drinks that occupy a hallowed place in the hearts of the bartending community.

Under the banner of ‘cocktail trends’, there’s always a great deal of speculation surrounding which of these classic cocktails are en vogue. With this poll of the world’s best bars, we aim to find out with a little more certainty which classics top bartenders are making most right now.

As with all of our surveys the results presented are a snapshot of global trends rather than an exhaustive study. We asked 108 bars that finished in the top 250 places of the World’s 50 Best Bars results to rank their top 10 best selling classics. Some of these drinks adhere to the original recipe, others will be twisted, but we take the view that if it is sold as a Martini, it is a Martini.

Giving each vote an incremental ranking from one to 10, we created the World’s 50 Best Selling Classics list.



This 70s drink of scotch and amaretto is supposedly an homage to the film The Godfather. Disaronno even says it was the favoured cocktail of Marlon Brando. We cannot corroborate these claims but we can say 7% of respondents in our poll serve it regularly and it features for the first time in the World’s 50 Best Selling Classics.


For a true Ti’ Punch, says David Wondrich, you need cane syrup, the raw juice of the cane boiled down until thick. Otherwise this drink of Martinique and Guadeloupe is a sort of mini Daiquiri/Cairpirinha affair of rum and lime juice. This makes the top 50 classics for the first time and is gaining momentum thanks to agricole brands such as Clement, which now hosts the Ti’ Punch Cup.


A Manhattan with a Scottish accent is the Rob Roy. The scotch offers a bit more muscle to proceedings and, in tandem with the Angostura bitters, pulls up its kilt to the sweet vermouth. Bartenders often use a scotch with peat, for a bit more fight. But the standard recipe, from the Waldorf in 1894, just asks for blended scotch. This is one of the few scotch drinks on our list and it’s down a few places.


The Hanky Panky was invented by Ada Coleman at the Savoy’s American Bar. Coleman tells the story of how she invented the drink for actor Charles Hawtrey, one of the “best cocktail judges” she knew. She said: “He sipped it and, draining the glass, he said, ‘By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!’ And Hanky Panky it has been called ever since.” Hanky Pankys are still driving posh men to exclamation a hundred years on at The American Bar. Down a few places from last year though, the Hanky Panky is in danger of leaving the list.


A modern classic and a first outing in this list is the Old Cuban, invented by New York legend Audrey Saunders in 2004. Something of a cross between a Mojito and a French 75, this drink takes in aged rum, lime juice, mint leaves, angostura bitters and sparkling wine. Now into its second decade of existence, its classicism is in its infancy – likely this will be a feature of this list for many years to come.


For when it’s necessary to adulterate champagne, you have the Champagne Cocktail. That’s pretty much never, but bartenders like to put things with things, none more so than at the world’s best bars. To be broadly, though not wholly accurate, the French add cognac and the Americans, led by Jerry Thomas, don’t. Both daub a sugar cube with bitters before pouring over champagne, though Jim Meehan of PDT recommends the sugar cube added second, so the champagne doesn’t get rowdy. Up one place from last year.


A 1970s tropical drink from the Aviary bar in Kuala Lumpur, the Jungle Bird is made with rum, Campari, lime and pineapple juice and sugar. It seems to be making a comeback – a rare think for a 70s drink – and features in our World’s 50 Best Selling Classics list for the first time. Two of our 100 polled bars had it as their number one classic, while 9% said it was in the top 10 of their classical repertoire.


While The Dude from The Big Lebowski went with powdered creamer, disciples of this drink at the world’s best bars likely go for the real thing – milk or cream. It’s the first time this calorie-laden classic, also with vodka and coffee liqueur, has made this list and, quite amazingly, was a top serve in three bars surveyed. A few other respondents named it among their top 10 classics, but really this is a drink that is out of step with modern cocktail trends. Occasionally though – just occasionally – it hits the spot.


Most bartenders agree the story is thoroughbred but the drink is a crossbreed, and not the good sort. That said, this vodka-gin-Lillet Martini pulls a chord for some punters, particularly those who like James Bond, a character from which the cocktail was named. Bangkok bar Vesper makes a Silver Vesper with Tanqueray, Ketel One, ‘Italian aperitif’ and orange bitters.


One of the original sweet and sour drinks, the almondy Amaretto Sour is as approachable a cocktail as you are likely to find, even for those with nut allergies (brand leader Disaronno has no nuts – though probably wise to check labels). Bourbon gives the drink a little more power, but in its original form it is two shots of amaretto, lemon juice and egg white, while Angostura bitters is optional.


More a pain-postponer than painkiller, this cocktail is trademarked by Pusser’s rum. It became the prize drink of the Soggy Dollar Bar, on the British Virgin Islands, to which seafarers would swim for refreshment. The bar serving the rum, coconut cream, pineapple and orange juice liquid would happily take sodden money for their drinks, but the cocktail would only delay the pain of having to swim, inebriated, home.


Wow. We thought it was a glitch in the survey last year when it sneaked in the list at 49, but up 10 places and with us again is the Long Island Iced Tea. White rum, gin, vodka, tequila and triple sec are not meant to share a home, and the additions of cola, citrus and sugar don’t make this madhouse any more harmonious. The customer is always right – except the one who orders the Long Island Iced Tea. In fact there’s more than one – 10% of our polled bars confess it is one of their top 10s.


Bartenders at the W50BB tend to err towards gin for their Martinis, so the vodka version, aka Kangaroo and Vodkatini, takes a subordinate role. That said, two of our polled 100 said it was their no.1 classic, and 10% named it a top serve. If you’re a vodka drinker, this is the best way to consume your poison – with only a little vermouth as resistance. Weakling vodkas don’t work here – you’ll need one with muscle. In this glass, it’s almost naked.


Not many drinks created in the 1980s passed successfully to the new millennium but this blackcurrant and gin mix by Dick Bradsell is one. Its creator’s untimely death last year has served as a reminder of his legacy and the Bramble was the number one serve in two bars we polled. Edinburgh hotspot and World’s 50 Best Bars stalwart, Bramble, which is named after the drink, opts for Hayman’s London dry gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and Merlet Crème de Mures.


The Sidecar is perhaps the most famous brandy drink, but plays second fiddle to the French 75 in this year’s list – the Sidecar isn’t exactly driving cocktail trends right now. This brandy, triple sec and lemon drink is essentially a sour but can be sweetened to taste. It has Parisian roots but the original creator has never come forward – or at least not in the singular.


Down 14 places is the Mint Julep. This drink is all about the preparation. Once you’ve refrigerated the Julep tin for so long it’s colder than the fridge, the drink is almost done. Just add mint, sugar and bourbon and there you have it. This is what they drink in Kentucky, but also 11% of our sample of bars. Two even said it’s their most popular classic.


A first time in the list for the Paloma. This two-piece grapefruit and tequila drink in its pure form is probably not a cocktail, though at the world’s best bars it’s common to see more complex riffs on this Mexican classic. Freshly squeezed grapefruit, lime juice and agave syrup, topped with grapefruit soda really makes the drink take flight. The Paloma is the second most popular tequila classic on our list.


This rum and cola with a dash of lime juice is not exactly the most complex creation ever, but 12% of our world’s best bars sample make it as a top 10 order. Likely they are responding to customers rather than suggesting it themselves – unless they are busy. Not one said it was their top selling classic serve, mercifull.


A watered-down Negroni, popular among sophisticated Italians and lightweight millennials, is the Americano. Simply sub the gin for soda in your Negroni spec and you have it, the 32nd most popular classic at the world’s best bars. A great aperitivo for a sunny and civilised day or an able Negroni stand-in for the drunk customer, whose palate will be overcome by the biting Campari and probably won’t know any different.


Five years ago this drink was as taboo as it was popular 10 years previous. But now there seems to be a softening of the mood. One reason is the moody mixologists have made way for more service-oriented bartenders and another is that emerging bartenders are too young to have witnessed the craze first time around. Still, the Cosmo is not totally free from stigma yet and certainly you won’t find too many menus sporting its name. Therefore, we’d better give you the recipe: vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice and lime juice. Individually fine, together a Cosmo.

30. FRENCH 75

Made popular in Paris in the ’20s, it’s possible the French 75’s heyday is behind it. Down 15 places in our top 50 list, it retains some of its charm, with around 15% of bars saying it’s among their most-made classics. Indeed, in two of the world’s top bars, this London dry gin, lemon juice, sugar and champagne drink is their number one classic. At Arnaud’s – home of the drink in New Orleans – the French 75 is made with Courvoisier VS, sugar, lemon juice and Moët & Chandon champagne.


This pink pre-Prohibition classic is the child of Philadelphia but today can be found around the world, and just under 15% of the bars we polled named it a top 10 tipple. Julie Reiner’s bar Clover Club – which is a five-time member of the World’s 50 Best Bars – is, of course, named after the drink. The Brooklyn bar uses gin, dry vermouth, raspberry, lemon juice and egg white.


Named after New Orleans’ French quarter, this sweetheart sister to the Manhattan returns this year with 15% of polled bars naming it among their top ten. It was invented by Walter Bergeron, head bartender at the now Monteleone hotel bar in New Orleans, which is home to all manner of activity during Tales of the Cocktail. It’s made with brandy, American whiskey, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, Angostura and Peychauds bitters. The three top brands to find their way into the Vieux Carre glass are Hennessey, Pierre Ferrand and Bulleit.


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. In that transformative vein let’s look to Dead Rabbit’s rendition, which brings leaves and nuts into the fold and replaces lemon with lime. The Pistache Fizz is: eucalyptus tincture, pistachio syrup, green tea-infused Tanqueray, egg white, cream, lime juice and soda.


There is scarce evidence that the Corpse Reviver has sprung any posthumous people into animation, yet it is a drink that remains a pep to hungover people. There are many versions but the original is cognac, calvados and sweet vermouth, stirred with ice and strained into a cocktail glass. Harry Craddock recommends you drink one before 11am. We don’t.


We’ve been predicting for years the Caipirinha would make a comeback, or at least a cameo. 2016 was, of course, marked by the Rio Olympics and there’s nothing better to drink while watching others exercise than the Caipirinha. Up from 47th it proves Brand Brazil has had an effect. It’s a drink to be enjoyed as the Brazilians do – strong with lots of cachaça, sugar and lime. Muddle using a strong glass to avoid a fourth ingredient.


Essentially alcoholic lemonade, the Tom Collins is quenching thirsts in about 15% of the bars we polled. Traditionalists reckon Old Tom is the one to use here, but most will hit the speed rail gins. This is a drink that has procreated – now the Collins family includes the Pedro Collins (rum), Pepito Collins (tequila), Colonel Collins (bourbon) and Captain Collins (Canadian whisky). Whatever spirit you use, the hero here is the humble lemon. Get good ones.


Down six places, the Gin Fizz seems to have lost some of its… customers. But with 15% of the world’s best bars attesting to its selling prowess, it’s a classic that remains popular globally. It’s gin, lime or lemon, sugar, egg (optional) and soda. This is more of a blank canvas drink, yearning for embellishment.


The making of an Aperol Spritz is not a badge of honour for a bartender, but if things are getting a little out of hand, an order of these three-piece drinks will put smiles on faces. With wine, Aperol and soda all making friends in one glass, it is a refreshing Italian-style aperitivo perfect for the more sober, hot- weather occasion. It has its roots in northern Italy, so to be authentic the wine should be from Veneto. For bubbles add prosecco, for still try Soave or Pinot Grigio.


OK, with just a change of spirit this could have been classed as an Old Fashioned but it has taken a life of its own in recent years and takes its place in the list. Perhaps it’s a case of bartenders pleading with customers to accept a variation on their best seller. Either way, a fifth of bars polled said this was among their top selling classics. Try yours with overproof white rum, dark rum and Taylor’s Velvet Falernum liqueur.


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.


Purists use cognac as the main spirit and so did bartenders in the 1850s, until phylloxera ravaged French vineyards and the American Civil War made the sourcing of cognac something of a triviality. It was replaced by whiskey and to this day some prefer the double booze hit to be propelled by the grain not the grape. At our bars, it was American whiskey, namely Bulleit, Sazerac or Rittenhouse. Rimmed with absinthe, a sniff tells you this is not a session beverage.


This Cuban classic might be a cocktail loved by the indiscriminate masses but it is still a fixture in the world’s best bars. More than a third of bars polled said it was among their top 10 sellers. Unsurprising, despite the sniffs, it remains a true classic. At its Havana home, La Bodeguita, it is made with rum, lime juice, soda, brown cane sugar, fresh mint and ice. Whatever the white rum (there’s a bit of a thing between Havana Club and Bacardi here), it should be of Cuban heritage, the greenery is best in spearmint form and the sugar dissolved, rather than granules that unpleasantly lurk deep in the glass. But that’s just us.


Perhaps a symptom of thawing attitudes towards vodka, the ice-cool Moscow Mule has risen from 12th to ninth to eighth in the past two years. It’s a crowd-pleaser in more than a third of our 100 bars, with popularity seemingly springing up from the US. Essentially this is vodka’s answer to the Dark ’n’ Stormy and is housed in the kind of copper mugs that make vodka, lime, ginger and soda a happy marriage, even outside of happy hour. Still, one for the less adventurous punters.


The Margarita is frozen again at no.7 this year, though mostly not served frozen at the 40% of polled bars that said it was a top 10 best seller. Tommy’s is a four-time member of The World’s 50 Best Bars this year, so let’s drop by Frisco-way for a Tommy’s Margarita. Owner Julio Bermejo uses 100% agave tequila, plus fresh lime juice and agave syrup. Don Julio, El Jimador and Olmeca Altos were the three favoured brands in 2016, according to our poll.


A surprisingly low placing for this boozy yet refined favourite, the Dry Martini was the top classic in one in 10 of our polled bars and among the top 10 in just under half. There are many bars that might claim to make the exemplar but Barcelona’s Dry Martini (multi-time member of The World’s 50 Best Bars) is one. The bar uses half and half gin to French vermouth, a dash of orange bitters, a squeeze of lemon rind and a green olive. If it’s a Martini for bar owner Javier de la Muelas, drop the lemon.


Up from six to five is dependable staple the Whiskey Sour. This simple bourbon drink is a top 10 favourite of nearly half our bars, though only two said it was number one. That’s not too surprising as this is an everyman’s drink, rarely a house signature. The recipe is bourbon, lemon juice and a teaspoon of sugar. Egg white is optional, but anything to add an extra dimension to this building-block drink seems worthwhile.


Down one from last year, the sweet queen of cocktails with an embittered spirit was a top seller in more than half our 100 polled bars, which most frequently make this perfect match of peppery rye, bitters and sweet vermouth with Bulleit, Rittenhouse and Maker’s Mark. This classic is thought to be from New York, so where better to head for the recipe? Jim Meehan of PDT suggests rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and two dashes of Angostura, stirred with ice, strained into a chilled coupe and garnished with brandied cherries.


The Daiquiri is the most ordered rum drink in the world’s best bars, so we should probably learn to say it right. It’s dy-key-ree. In Cuba, they can say it, and there is no better place to empty the glass than in Havana’s La Floridita. Take lime juice, white rum and sugar syrup. Shake, serve and repeat.


Like the Old Fashioned, the Negroni has passed over the counter from bartender to customer to now be appreciated on either side of the great divide. It remains the second most drunk cocktail in our sample. Count Negroni had the first, but count the Negronis made at the world’s best bars and you’ll see why it is second on our list. Three-quarters of bars said this was in their top 10 classics and one in five pronounced it to be their most made. Don’t mess with the recipe, says received wisdom, including the sagely Gaz Regan. It’s a third, a third, a third of Campari, sweet vermouth and gin.


Bartenders are not known to enjoy repetition, but the Old Fashioned, that vanguard drink of the classic cocktail revival, has been a fixture at the top of this list for three straight years. It shows no sign of waning – indeed, this American whiskey classic is gaining in popularity, says our poll. Three-quarters of bars said it was among their top 10 best selling classics and a third said it was their number one. Our bars opt for bourbon, but cocktail historian David Wondrich suggests rye would probably have been the likely choice way back when. He goes with: 1 sugar cube wetted with three dashes of Angostura bitters and a little soda, crushed, stirred with a large ice cube and two ounces of rye.