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The World’s Best-Selling Classic Cocktails 2019
Published:  04 January, 2019

When it comes to the bestsellers, the roster of classic cocktails is subject to the vagaries of fashion in tastes. Angel Brown rounds up this year’s top 50

In the fast paced world of the global bar industry, we see many trends come and go. But one thing seems to remains the same: The classic cocktail. One might ask what defines a classic. Well let’s just say that’s up for debate. But since the Bellini, Aperol Spritz and Dark ‘n’ Stormy received votes from some of the 127 global bars polled we cannot ignore their place on The World’s Best Selling Classics list. So how do we figure out which classics make the cut? Bartenders among the world’s best bars are asked to rank their 10 best-selling classics, which then get weighted and ranked accordingly. This year remains largely the same for the firm favourites but as ever we see, with growth in popularity and rejuvenation of old recipes, some cocktails ascending or re-entering the list.


50. White Russian

Forget the Black Russian – it seems the world’s best bars prefer the addition of cream. Coming in at a poor 50 is the White Russian, not nearly as popular as it was in the ’90s after the release of the film The Big Lebowski. Somehow this vodka and coffee liqueur cocktail has managed to creep back into the list this year – we can only guess it’s because coffee is on-trend.

49. Bellini

Not your conventional cocktail, with only two ingredients the Bellini is an inbetweener. Invented by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice, this peachy number started off as seasonal, but eventually became a permanent fixture on the menu in both Venice and New York. This year only 3% of bartenders put it in their top 10 cocktails. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Bellini dropped off next year.

48. Champagne Cocktail

Champagne doesn’t have to be drunk on its own. Down 19 is the Champagne Cocktail, just holding on to its spot in the list at 48. The first suggestion of using brandy or cognac with champagne was in Jerry Thomas’ Bon Vivants Companion in 1862; Harry Johnson then added fruit to the cocktail. It seems the Champagne Cocktail just can’t compete with the favourite here, French 75.

47. Irish Coffee

Emerging in the list at 47 is the Irish Coffee. This hot cocktail is thought to have been created by Joe Sheridan, the head chef of Foynes Flying Boat terminal, Ireland. He was asked to make something that would warm passengers and the Irish Coffee was born. For a mean Irish Coffee try Dead Rabbit’s recipe: 1½ parts Clontarf Irish whiskey, ¾ parts demerara syrup, four parts hot brewed coffee and heavy cream, lightly whipped.

46. Bamboo

After a resurgence of sherry it’s no wonder the Bamboo has made a reappearance in the list this year. The stories behind the origins of this cocktail are quite conflicting, from songs about bamboo to bartenders in Japan, but nobody really knows. Nonetheless, if you’re into sherry this one’s for you – 1½ parts sherry, 1½ parts dry vermouth, two dashes Angostura bitters, two dashes orange bitters.

45. Gin Gin Mule

The Gin Gin Mule is a crossbreed of the Moscow Mule and Mojito but with gin instead. Audrey Saunders, owner of Pegu Club, made this cocktail in the year 2000 and 19 years later it features in our list, one of a very few modernday classics that made it. It’s safe to say The Gin Gin Mule laid down an early marker for gin and entering back into the list in 2019 proves it had staying power.

44. Long Island Iced Tea

Your eyes are not deceiving you – the Long Island Iced Tea is back again, and up five places from 2017. We don’t actually know who made this concoction. One claim is by Robert ‘Rosebud’ Butt who worked at the Oak Beach Inn, Long Island. While we don’t understand why anyone would want to claim it, out of the bars polled just over 4% put it in their top 10 – quite a brave move.

43. Vesper

Vesper is up 10 places this year to number 43. The gin and vodka Martini is named after the fictional character Vesper Lynd in the Bond novel Casino Royale. The creator is, unusually, not a bartender, but author of the Bond novels Ian Fleming. In the book he calls for: “Three measures of Gordon’s; one of vodka; half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it over ice, and add a thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?” – Yep.

42. Caipirinha

Brazil’s national cocktail, Caipirinha is up two places to 42. Although the origins of this drink are unknown, one story says it was created in Portugal, with a popular variation being used for Spanish Flu patients. In recent years the availability of high-quality cachaça has increased outside of Brazil and this could be one of the reasons for Caipirinha’s appearance on this list.

41. Tom Collins

“Have you seen Tom Collins?” the hoax of 1874 might be long gone, but Tom Collins the classic cocktail isn’t. Still on the list but down 16 places, it could be losing its popularity. This citrusy cocktail is traditionally made with gin but maybe it’s time to switch up the original. Try Tom Collins’ Mexican cousin, Juan for example.

40. Painkiller

Back in the exact place it left, number 40, is the Painkiller. Much like Dark ’n’ Stormy it is trademarked by a rum brand – this time Pusser’s. First made in the smallest of the British Virgin Islands, Jost Van Dyke, this tiki number was created by owner of the Soggy Dollar Bar, Daphne Henderson – who happened to be English. The Painkiller is now one of the most popular cocktails of the British Virgin Islands.

39. Bees Knees

This cocktail is the Bees Knees – literally. Re-entering the list this year is the gin, lemon and honey classic. Created in the Prohibition era, the Bees Knees was originally invented to disguise the smell and taste of homemade spirits, or ‘bathtub gin’ (not the brand), which were poorly made. The recipe is quite simply two parts gin, ¾ lemon juice and ¾ honey – just enough to mask the bitterness of Prohibition.

38. Ramos Gin Fizz

Is it a Gin Fizz? Is it a milkshake? No, it’s a Ramos Gin Fizz. This classic is not what we know it as today. Originally called the New Orleans Gin Fizz, it later took on the name of its creator, Henry C Ramos, who worked at the Imperial Cabinet Saloon in New Orleans. Slipping further down the list this year, maybe the 12 minutes of shaking is a little too much.

37. Bramble

Without a spring in its step, Bramble is down four places this year. Dick Bradsell created this cocktail back in the ’80s while working in Fred’s Club, London. He wanted to create a truly British cocktail and was inspired by his days of blackberry picking as a child in the Isle of White. While it dosen’t ranking too highly on this list, fellow foragers out there will relate.

36. Vodka Martini

All its hard work last year has been undone – the Vodka Martini is down 15 places to 36. While it’s losing popularity let’s not forget how James Bond liked his in the novel Dr No, by Ian Fleming: “A medium vodka dry Martini – with a slice of lemon peel. Shaken and not stirred please. I would prefer Russian or Polish vodka.” We have been told.

35. Hanky Panky

“By Jove! That’s the real hanky-panky” Charles Hawtrey proclaimed as he sipped a new drink at the American Bar. Little did Ada Coleman know how her hours of experimentation would pay off – it’s still a much-loved classic, just as in the 1920s. While only 6% of bartenders named the Hanky Panky in their top 10, it is up 11 places – ‘Coley’ would be proud.

34. Jungle Bird

Back in the bestselling classics, and up 10 from 2017, this tiki drink unusually contains Campari and, for some reason, isn’t promoted by the Italian company. While this Negroni-esque tiki drink was only included in the top 10 classics of 7% of bars polled, there must be some kind of resurgence as the Jungle Bird flew out of nowhere and back into the list.

33. White Lady

History suggests the mysterious White Lady comes from two Harrys. Was it Harry MacElhone or Harry Craddock? We don’t know who’s responsible but what we do know is it’s a cocktail that’s been around since the 1920s. Although the original recipe didn’t include a dash of egg whites, we’d recommend it – just thank Peter Dorelli, former manager of The American Bar.

32. Paloma

Paloma, the tequila and grapefruit tipple, is up 15 places to number 32. Is Don Javier Delgado Corona, owner of La Capilla bar in Mexico, the man to thank for the creation of this cocktail? We don’t know, but it’s a plausible idea. While there’s some hope for Paloma with 8% of bars ranking it in their top 10, it can never seem to shake off its more popular cousin, the Margarita.

31. Cosmopolitan

Popularised by the American TV show Sex and the City back in the ’90s, the Cosmopolitan is locking in at 31st after falling five places this year. While there aren’t any famous variations of the recipe, some have tried – the Cosmogroni by JP Fetherston and Alex Levy at Columbia Room, Washington DC, is one example. The Cosmo is not going anywhere.

30. Sidecar

Down six places in this years list is the Sidecar. There have been many suggestions over the years as to who first made this cocktail, but what we do know is all stories lead to either Paris or London. Known for being a simple serve, it involves cognac. Just add Cointreau and lemon juice and you’ve got yourself a perfectly sour classic.

29. French 75

Up one place this year, the French 75 in its earliest form was created by Harry MacElhone in Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. The cocktail was popularised by The Savoy Cocktail Book and later appeared in The Stork Club, New York, which contributed to its popularity. Its pretty similar to the Tom Collins – just replace the soda with champagne, et voilà.

28. Vieux Carré

Down 11 places is the famous New Orleans classic Vieux Carré. While only 9% put the American whiskey drink in their top 10, one bar said it was its number one bestseller. Created in 1938 by Walter Bergeron, head bartender at the Carousel bar, the ‘Voo-car-ay’ is the perfect nightcap for any discerning drinker.

27. Aviation

Was it a secret handshake for bartenders? Or simply a concoction coloured with violette? Either way the Aviation is in exactly the same place on our list this year. Although Harry Craddock didn’t use Crème de Violette in his Aviation we’d recommend giving it a go. Try two parts gin, ½ part maraschino liqueur, ¼ part crème de violette and ¾ parts fresh lemon juice.

26. Piña Colada

“Yes, I like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain” – the famous Piña Colada song by singer Rupert Holmes. While we might associate this Puerto Rican cocktail with the 70s, it’s very much back on trend. For a cool twist on the classic recipe check out Chris Moore at Coupette, London. His Champagne Piña Colada uses a mix of Bacardi, Trois Rivières Blanc, pineapple, coconut sorbet and Moët & Chandon – fancy.

25. Amaretto Sour

If any cocktail could dust off Amaretto’s rep it’s the Amaretto Sour. Despite being down three places this year, 10% of bars put it in their top 10 and two bars even put it as their number-one serve. While the history of this cocktail has been well and truly lost, what isn’t lost is the fact bartenders still serve it at the world’s best bars.

24. Pisco Sour

Pisco Sour, the 1920s Peruvian cocktail, is down five places. Victor Vaughen Morris, an American bartender, opened his bar in Lima in 1916 and subsequently surprised friends with the Pisco Sour, a mix of Peruvian pisco and American sour. There are lots of versions of this classic but the basic recipe is three parts pisco, one part simple syrup, one part lime juice, egg whites and a dash of Angostura bitters.

23. Americano

The Americano, originally known as the Milano-Torino is up 15 places. This Italian cocktail was first served by Gaspare Campari in his bar Caffè Campari in the 1860s. Unforgettably this classic was ordered by Bond in the first of Fleming’s novels, Casino Royale. It’s a simple yet sexy cocktail made with Campari, vermouth and soda water.

22. Gimlet

The Gimlet, once drunk by sailors to prevent scurvy, now has a more glamorous outlook, up eight places to 22nd. Out of bars polled, 12% said it was in their top 10 – not too shabby for a simple serve. Its two parts gin, one part lime juice, and ½ sweetener. But you won’t be short of variations to play around with.

21. Mai Tai

The Mai Tai is down three places this year with 13% of bartenders putting it in their top 10. The creation of this tiki cocktail is still unclear – Trader Vic and Don The Beachcomber, who were both rivals, claim to have made the Mai Tai despite their recipes being different. In the words of Trader Vic: “Anybody who says I didn’t create this drink is a dirty stinker.” We believe you Vic.

20. Boulevardier

Negroni’s American cousin is down eight places. This whiskey classic was created by Erskine Gwynne, an American writer in the 1920s. The Boulevardier was named after his Parisian monthly magazine of the same name. You can use bourbon or rye, Campari, sweet vermouth and garnish with an orange peel or cherry – the ideal winter warmer.

19. Clover Club

After last year’s drop Clover Club has climbed back up the list by 23 places. This classic has been around since pre-Prohibition and was named after a men’s club in Philadelphia. Despite being very popular in its heyday, it lost appeal and was eventually forgotten about, due to its lengthy preparation and use of raw egg. In 2019 it seems to have gained popularity again and features at 19th on our classics list.

18. Gin Fizz

Appearing as a new entry this year is the Gin Fizz – this is the original variation of the Ramos Gin Fizz, which also features further down in the list. “Fizz” was first referenced in the Jerry Thomas Bartenders Guide 1887 edition, which included six recipes. The Gin Fizz is the most popular of the fizz family and contains gin, lemon juice and sugar, topped with carbonated water – to create the fizz.

17. Dark ’n’ Stormy

Tall, dark and stormy it’s in the list at 17th place, up three from last year. Dark ’n’ Stormy might only have two ingredients but to be classed under the official name it must use Black Seal rum by Gosling’s. In the US the name has been a registered trademark of Gosling Brothers since 1991. You’ll find this classic all around the island of Bermuda, but maybe because it’s its official cocktail.

16. Corpse Reviver

See it and believe it, Harry Craddock’s Corpse Reviver is up a whopping 22 places. Although the original recipe, known as Corpse Reviver #1, uses cognac, calvados, brandy and vermouth, the Corpse Reviver #2 is just as popular, if not more. Use equal parts of gin, lemon juice, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc and a dash of absinthe.

15. Rum Old Fashioned

Forget about rye or bourbon in this cocktail, it’s all about rum. This variation on an Old Fashioned is a re-entry for this year and comes in at 15th place. 14% of bartenders said the Rum Old Fashioned was in their top 10 cocktails. Use two parts aged rum, two dashes Angostura bitters, one splash of water, one or two tsp sugar, ice and garnish with an orange peel.

14. Penicillin

We only have one man to thank for the Penicillin – Sam Ross, co-owner of Attaboy. We’re talking about the cocktail, not the antibiotic, and the drink is up one place. Just over 18% of bars polled put this scotch cocktail in their top 10. Bartenders have experimented with rum, tequila and gin and had positive results, but nothing beats the original scotch recipe.

13. Bloody Mary

A Bloody Mary – the vodka-soaked brunch cocktail – is up one, with 19% of bars saying it’s in their top Some might question whether the alleged hangover cure really works, but either way it’s still just as popular. For the Canadian take on the classic, use Clamato (clam-spiked tomato juice) instead of standard tomato juice and rename it a Bloody Caesar.

12. Mojito

Mojito, Mojito, Mojito. Down two is the popular Cuban Highball, voted by 20% of bars as in their top 10. Another favourite of author Ernest Hemingway. To make the Mojito in the La Bodeguita way, use two teaspoons of sugar, juice of half a lime, two sprigs of fresh mint, two parts sparkling water, muddle and add one part Havana Club. Finish with four ice cubes and stir.

11. Sazerac

After dropping three places last year the Sazerac has redeemed itself. Up two places this year the New Orleans classic was voted in the top 10 by 27% of bars. The Sazerac was invented by Antoine Peychaud in 1838 and was named after his favourite brandy, Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils. American rye later replaced cognac and a dash of absinthe was added for extra measure.

10. Moscow Mule

Down two to number 10, the copper-cladded Moscow Mule is no longer the top vodka classic in the list. But, with 28% of bars saying it’s in their top 10, all is not lost for this simple serve. For a slightly sweeter, oaky version, try swapping the vodka for bourbon and serve up a Kentucky Mule.

9. Aperol Spritz

The Aperol Spritz is popular again – just like it was in the 1950s. It’s up two places and features in the top 10 for the first time, with 30% of bars naming it in their top 10. Created by the Barbieri Brothers in the 1900s, Aperol was their answer to a lighter pre-dinner tipple. Aperol, prosseco and a splash of soda – it shouldn’t be that easy.

8. Margarita

The Margarita might be down two places but it has retained its spot as the top tequila classic in our list. While only 7% of bars named the Margarita in their top three, 31% named it in the top 10. For a complete twist on the recipe, try making Margherita Margarita, by Ben Hardy at Lucky Liquor, Edinburgh, who uses mozzarella-infused tequila, cherry tomato shrub, basil, celery, lime, agave nectar and orange bitter.

7. Espresso Martini

Thanks to its renaissance in the bar industry, the Espresso Martini is now a reinvigorated classic among consumers. This coffee-based cocktail has climbed up two places this year and has been ranked in the top 10 by 32% of bars. Known also as the Vodka Espresso and Pharmaceutical Stimulant, the name Espresso Martini finally stuck, maybe due to its V-shaped glass.

6. Dry Martini

The origins of the Dry Martini might be murky but what’s clear is that, in sixth place, this gin-based classic is still popular. Despite being down two places from last year, 35% of bars still put it in their top 10. Some people who don’t enjoy the botanicals in gin might swap it for vodka – we say a Vodkatini just doesn’t compare, as you’ll see further down.

5. Manhattan

Rising up since its surprising fall last year is the Manhattan. Around 10% say it’s in their top three and 40% say it’s in their top 10. The Manhattan has become commonplace drinking in cafes and restaurants on the German Föhr island. It was said to have been adopted after deep-sea fishing trips to Manhattan. Who knew?

4. Daiquiri

Daiquiri is the most ordered rum cocktail in the list. While only 4% of bars put it as their first choice, the Cuban classic has still managed to move up one place, with 48% naming it in their top 10. If it was good enough for Ernest Hemingway, It’s good enough for the world’s best bars.

3. Whiskey Sour

Whiskey, Boston or New York, take your pick. The name and recipe might vary slightly but the cocktail remains consistent in our list, third place for the second year running. It is said the Whiskey Sour recipe was first published in the Jerry Thomas book The Bon Vivant’s Companion in 1862. It’s come a long way since and although it doesn’t fare as well as a first choice for bartenders (5%), 50% of bars included it in their top 10.

2. Negroni

It all started with Count Camillio Negroni and his request for a stronger Americano, and bartender Fosco Scarselli who replaced soda water with gin. The rest is history. Negroni is a worthy runner up, with 19% of bars saying it’s their number one classic. This iconic Italian cocktail has been in second place for five years running and there’s no sign of it wavering. Try Dante’s Negroni: One ounce Bombay Sapphire, ¾ ounce Campari, ¾ ounce Martini Rossi.

1. Old Fashioned

Serve me a drink the old fashioned way. For the fifth year running The Old Fashioned has retained the top spot in the list and in the hearts of bartenders. There’s certainly nothing out-of-fashion about this American whiskey classic. Just like last year, nearly 30% of bars polled said it was their number one selling classic cocktail. Whichever way it’s been referred to throughout history, A Bittered Sling, Cocktail or Old Fashioned one thing remains the same, its popularity.