February 07, 2023 by Karl Tessendorf
What is the secret sauce behind creating popular cocktails? Is it a catchy name, a flashy glass, or a long list of hard-to-find ingredients? Or is it something else entirely? There are a select few cocktails that captured the world’s imagination. They’re the ones that break through culture and language barriers and change the course of cocktail history. Sure, they’re all cocktails but as you’ll see in our list below, they are all very different. They vary from one spectrum to the other, but the one thing they all have in common is great flavour. Join us as we take a journey through the most popular cocktails of 2023.
The Negroni may have been invented in 1919 but in 2023 it’s one of the most popular gin cocktails ever. It’s become the drink of choice for many discerning cocktail drinkers, and with just one sip it’s easy to see why. It’s a perfect marriage of floral and herbaceous gin, bitter-sweet and spicy Campari, and the sultry character of sweet vermouth. A twist of orange over the glass releases aromatic oils and cocktail perfection is achieved. For a drink with such flavour complexity, it couldn’t be easier to make. With just three ingredients, all you need to remember is the rule of thirds for the perfect Negroni recipe— 1 part gin, 1 part Campari and 1 part vermouth.
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When the writers of Sex and the City decided on the Cosmo as the drink of choice for its stars, cocktail history was made. Sure, the Cosmopolitan had been around since the mid-80s, but it was this decision in 1999 that Carrie-pulted it into classic cocktail legend. It would be easy to dismiss the Cosmo as merely a pop culture moment—if it wasn’t so darn delicious. It’s a citrus vodka, orange liqueur and lime juice citrus flavour bomb that’s complemented by the sweet and sour edge of cranberry. The 90s may have come and gone, but just like the little black dress, the Cosmo never goes out of style. So, keep calm and Carrie on!
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If there was ever a cocktail that embodied the ‘they don’t make them like they used to’ attitude it’s the Old Fashioned. It’s been around since the mid-1800s and it’s considered the original cocktail recipe. Back then whiskey was a little less refined, and The Old Fashioned recipe smoothed out the rougher edges of the tipple. It might be a simple blend of whiskey, sugar, and bitters with an orange peel and cherry garnish, but it’s the cocktail definition of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. It’s on every cocktail list in any bar worth its Margarita salt, and it’s spawned dozens of spin-off variations.
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In the world of popular cocktail recipes, this mint-infused juggernaut continues to blaze a refreshing trail. Like many of the greats, its origins are lost to time but a variation of it has been traced back to 16th-century Cuba. With its muddled mint leaves and suspended lime wedges, the Mojito is unmistakable in any part of the world. The bright citrus and vanilla flavours of white rum bounce off the fresh lime and fragrant mint. The sugar adds a touch of sweetness to temper the acidity and soda water brings it all together with tongue-tingling vibrancy. Few drinks go down easier than a well-made Mojito on a hot summer’s day.
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The Moscow Mule is a hardworking cocktail that has been slaking thirsts for over 80 years. The story goes that it was invented by two men from New York City. One had a new vodka that he was trying to sell and the other had a surplus of ginger beer that he couldn’t get rid of fast enough. The men put two and two together and the thirst-stomping Moscow Mule was born. It’s traditionally served in a copper mug, because it keeps the drink cooler for longer than a normal glass. The Mule is another great example of less is more. It’s a reminder that not everything has to have rare ingredients or a 17-step process to be incredible.
Did you know that the original name for a Vodka Martini was a Kangaroo? It sounds crazy we know but do you know what sounds even crazier? Imagine Sean Connery with his heavy Scottish accent ordering a Kangaroo, shaken not stirred. Now say it out loud in your best Connery and when you’re finished laughing, we’ll carry on. The vodka riff on the gin classic turned the entire world onto Vodkatinis. Where gin hits with complex botanicals, vodka is clean and smooth. The subtle flavours of dry vermouth come through and the lemon twist brightens things up. It’s a classic for a reason and as long as there’s a Mr Bond, it will live to die another day.
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If there’s one drink to have in your cocktail party arsenal, then it has to be the mighty Margarita. Just think about it, you could be the Margarita aficionado in your group of friends. The Margarita maestro, the salt slinger, the sultan of sweet and sour! They may even chant that when you enter the room and shower you with limes, but we digress. The key to a great Margarita is to spend a little extra on quality ingredients. Don’t buy any premixed concoctions. Rather do a little homework and make them from scratch. All you need is good tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice and a little salt. Margarita destiny is calling, what are you waiting for?
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Long Island Iced Tea
Remember earlier when we were waxing lyrical about simplicity? About how cocktails don’t need 17 ingredients to taste good? Well, forget all that because we’re about to take a trip to Long Island Iced Tea country. On paper, everything about this cocktail screams confusion. It’s like 5 different people trying to have a conversation with you about 5 different topics at the same time. And yet, for all its quirks, the Long Island just works. Vodka, rum, tequila, gin and triple sec come together with a splash of cola and lemon juice. It’s big, it’s boozy and it’s downright delicious.
Calling a Tom Collins, a souped-up lemonade doesn’t really do it justice but once you taste one it’ll make sense. This adult lemonade has been the star of many cocktail parties, garden parties and summer parties since the late 1800s. It’s a simple blend of gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and soda water and that’s all it needs. In fact, it’s so good that it was inducted into the official cocktail list of the International Bartenders Association. It’s served with a lemon wheel and a maraschino cherry and it’s one of the easiest cocktails to make at home.
The love child of two of the world’s favourite drinks, the Espresso Martini is a double caffeine shot to the heart. Feeling sluggish on a night out? Ate too much at dinner? This rich and decadent vodka-laced cocktail will pep you right up. It’s a simple 3-part cocktail featuring vodka, coffee liqueur and a freshly brewed shot of espresso. It’s sweetened with a touch of simple syrup and shaken hard over ice to create its classic frothy look. Sip it slowly and let the soothing coffee-spiked flavours wash over your senses.
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