Many of today’s most popular cocktails are either variations of iconic drinks or based on old-fashioned remedies for sicknesses that we now cure with injections or pills. The recipes might have changed, the liquors have become more refined and yet the enjoyment of a tasty cocktail remains the same.
From the sophisticated Apple Martini to the powerful punch of a Zombie, there are plenty of well-known cocktails available for patrons of any restaurant or bar. The presentation and experience of a fine cocktail defines the moment and even character of the person enjoying the drink. Much like a brand of beer or a label on a fine bottle of wine, ordering a cocktail can say so much more than just a preference in taste.
There will always be the Martini, Screwdriver, Bloody Mary and even the Tom Collins are ordered with a fair amount of consistency at just about any bar. Even the Mimosa and Bellini have become standard additions to any bartender’s list. The following 10 cocktails, however, have become trendy and popular or have managed to maintain their popularity despite great pressure from fine wine and even craft beer.
10. Apple Martini
An Apple Martini, or “Appletini,” is a trendy cocktail that has gained popularity by adding a big twist to the typical dry martini. Vodka, instead of gin, is the basis of the cocktail and apple schnapps is most often used to add the sweet but slightly sour taste of apple to the trendier version of the cocktail. The Appletini is usually finished with a little lemon juice and garnished with a slice of apple to differentiate it from a normal martini served in the same glass.
The Appletini is a favorite drink of late night host Conan O’Brien and has been featured in several movies and sitcoms. In 2007, an Appletini was a focal point in a Disney movie, Enchanted, where a version of the cocktail made with poisoned apples was presented to the character Giselle in an attempt to harm her.
9. Long Island Iced Tea
Packing quite a punch, the Long Island Iced Tea is one cocktail that never seems to go out of style, especially with men. The potent concoction of rum, vodka, tequila, gin and triple sec is often finished with a mixture of sweet and sour, lemon juice and cola. Traditionally, there is no tea added to the mixture but the ingredients, especially the taste from the cola, provide the flavor profile of a tea with much more flavor and attitude.
The origin of the drink is debatable, but one thing that is known is that it appears to come from the community of Long Island. In 1920, a version was said to be created in the Long Island community of Kingsport, Tennessee, while the modern version was said to be invented in a contest in a bar on Long Island, New York in 1972. Much of the confusion surrounding its origin probably stems from the fact that many variations of the drink exist, including substitutions for tequila, cola and even sweet and sour mix.
A California twist on the Long Island Iced Tea, the Californication is a golden state version of the popular Long Island concoction. The Californication is mixture of run, vodka, tequila and gin finished with orange liqueur, lemon juice and orange juice to taste. Strong and yet sweet. The cocktail is finished with either a slice of orange or a twisted peel of orange rind.
The Californication is not a subtle cocktail, but the citrus flavor imparted by the orange liqueur and orange juice attempt to disguise the punch it packs from the mixture of spirits. The name of the cocktail, Californication, is based on a term that is prominent in the lyrics of a song by the rock group, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. There has also been a television series that has run since August 2007 with the same name.
7. Pina Colada
The classic tropical cocktail with a distinctive look and taste would have to be the Pina Colada. The simple yet exquisite mixture of rum, coconut milk and pineapple juice has been a favorite in the tropics and with the less experienced cocktail drinkers looking for a sweet cocktail that drinks more like a smoothie than an alcoholic beverage. The drink has become a popular drink to enjoy poolside or anywhere offering a glimpse of the ocean or the feel of sand between the toes.
The Pina Colada has roots that can be traced to Puerto Rico and has long been considered the island Country’s national drink. The cocktail was said to be invented by a bartender at the luxurious Caribe Hilton Hotel’s Beachcomber Bar in 1952 shortly after a key ingredient, Coco Lopez cream of coconut, was developed. Puerto Rico honors the cocktail with a National Pina Colada Day that is celebrated each year on July 10th.
The margarita is easily the most popular cocktail in the United States made with tequila. The simple mixture of tequila, triple sec and lime juice is often blended with ice but is traditionally served on the rocks. In either instance, the beverage is commonly presented in a salt rimmed glass. Since the basic lime margarita was invented, many other fruity variations of the cocktail have been created that are mostly found in its blended form.
The origin of the margarita dates back to the late 1930’s or early 1940’s and while the exact location of the origin of the drink has been a subject of great debate, the region of Baja California, Mexico somewhere between Tijuana and Ensenada is more than likely the birthplace of the drink. The refreshing cocktail continues to be popular in the sunny and somewhat arid regions of Mexico and San Diego, California as well.
The World Cup is about to introduce the world to the fun-loving country of Brazil and one drink that Brazilians are always delighted to share with others is the slightly intimidating Caipirinha. The national drink of Brazil is made with cachaca (spirit from sugar cane) or white rum, brown sugar and lime juice. Some formulations of cachaca can be over 100 proof and like magic, Caipirinha manages to hide almost all of the alcohol taste.
Caipirinha, has its origin that goes back to 1918 and is based on a remedy that was commonly used to treat Spanish flu. The word “Caipira” refers to a person from the countryside of Brazil who is far from modern or sophisticated in his or her ways. The drink is served from households to restaurants and bars in Brazil and has only recently started to gain popularity outside of Brazil. The inability to find good brands of cachaca in North America and Europe has been the only limiting factor to its growth in popularity.
4. Mint Julep
The official drink of the Kentucky Derby, the Mint Julep, is a symbolic cocktail of the American South. The concoction of Bourbon, a little bit of water, powdered and granulated sugar and plenty of mint has long been a very popular way to drink a cocktail made with Bourbon in the region that produces most of the Bourbon in the United States. Simple and yet refined, the cocktail has gained acclaim elsewhere thanks in large part to its association with the crown jewel of horse racing, the Kentucky Derby.
The origins of the Mint Julep go back as far as the late 18th century. Evidence suggests that it was an established drink by the early 1800’s with gin, brandy and whiskey all used to create different variations of the drink. The current version with Bourbon has been promoted by Churchill Downs to Kentucky Derby fans since 1938. Currently, about 120,000 mint juleps are consumed each year at Churchill Downs during the two days of horse racing over the weekend that includes the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.
3. Mai Tai
The Mai Tai is a Polynesian-style cocktail that has a fruity tropical taste indigenous to the Western Region of the United States. The mixture of light and dark rum, orange curacao, orgeat syrup and lime juice has been a symbol of Tiki or Tahitian culture ever since it was first created. The cocktail was very popular in the 50’s and 60’s and was even featured in Blue Hawaii, a film staring Elvis Presley.
The cocktail has over 10 documented recipes and was said to have been invented by the proprietor of Trader Vic’s of Oakland, California in 1944. He created the drink for some friends who were visiting from Tahiti and after one of them exclaimed that the drink was “Maita’i”, or very good in Tahitian, the name stuck. A rival restaurant, Don the Beachcomber, also claims to have invented the cocktail in 1933 with a more complex version of the drink. The truth probably lies somewhere in between, but California was more than likely the birthplace of the popular cocktail.
The Mojito has become very popular as its fresh minty taste complements warm summer weather much like a cool glass of non-alcoholic lemonade. The mixture of white rum, mint, lime juice, sugar and soda water is crisp and clean with a relatively low alcohol content. Sprite or 7-up can often be used in place of the soda water and a good portion of the sugar. One of the keys to preparing a proper Mojito is to crush, not cut or dice, the mint leaves in order to unlock more of the oils of the mint, thus enhancing the minty flavor.
The origins of the minty mixture with rum go back as far as 1586 when the men aboard Sir Francis Drake’s armada reached out to local Indians in search of a cure for scurvy and dysentery. Drake’s small boarding party returned from the shores of Cuba with the primary ingredients for the modern day Mojito. Several other stories exist regarding the cocktail’s true origins, but most stories simply provide evidence to how long the general recipe has been in existence. The great author, Ernest Hemingway, was known to have developed quite a taste for the refreshing drink.
The Cosmopolitan is an ultra modern drink that has surged in popularity during the last 20-30 years. The tangy concoction of vodka, triple sec, lime juice and cranberry juice has managed to leapfrog the venerable screwdriver as many vodka drinkers prefer the Cosmopolitan’s cleaner and slightly tart taste. The keys to the preparation of a Cosmopolitan are a good brand of cranberry juice and Cointreau Triple Sec, two essential elements to the drink.
The origin of the drink is unclear, but the modern version presented in a sophisticated martini glass is said to be invented in 1985 by a bartender of the Strand restaurant in South Beach, Florida. Other stories place its origin coming from a bar in Minneapolis around 1975. In either case, the cocktail has created quite a following with females and seems to have the perfect name to match its sophisticated taste and traditional martini-like presentation. The shortened name of “Cosmo” and the drink itself exploded in popularity during the 1990’s with frequent mentions on the hit television series, Sex and the City.