Special Report

The World’s 25 Most Popular Cocktails

Alcoholic beverages – originally in the form of beer – have been around since approximately 7000 B.C. Cocktails have a more recent history. 

The origin of the term is a bit murky, but the first unambiguous use of the term to refer to a drink was published in an upstate New York newspaper in 1806, defining a “coсk tail” as “a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.” (That sounds as if it might have qualified for inclusion in our list of 28 low-calorie alcoholic drinks.)

By the mid-19th century, cocktails had gained great popularity in America, and in 1862 New York City saloon-keeper and bartender Jerry Thomas published the nation’s first drinks book: “Bar-Tender’s Guide,” also known as “How to Mix Drinks or the Bon-Vivant’s Companion”. (Still considered a valuable reference work, it is available in reprint to this day.)

What really catapulted cocktails into the mainstream was the ready availability of ice, beginning in the latter 1800s. Ice cooled things down, making cocktails tasty and refreshing. Unfortunately, just as drinking these concoctions was soaring in popularity, Prohibition outlawed the “manufacture, sale and transportation of intoxicating liquors” in the U.S. People still drank, but the liquor was often of poor quality, so bartenders got creative, masking the bad taste with juices and other ingredients. 

After Prohibition ended in 1933, the creation of new drinks continued, leading to the golden age of the cocktail in the mid-20th century. (Think of the three-martini lunches of the “Mad Men” era.) Interest in cocktails waned a bit in the 1960s and 1970s, but revived in the 1990s, and many bars and restaurants today promote their cocktail programs, with bartenders inventing ever more imaginative (and often curiously named) libations.

What are the most popular cocktails around the world today? To find out, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the results of a survey conducted earlier this year by Drinks International, a publication covering the global spirits, wine, and beer markets. The publication asked a sample of 100 of the world’s best bars which mixed drinks they sold the most, then tabulated the results. (For drinking habits closer to home, have a look at the most popular cocktail in every state.)

Click here to see the world’s 25 most popular cocktails

The survey’s ranking suggests that time-honored cocktails never go out of style. The top five, this year as in 2021 – the Old Fashioned, the Negroni, the Daiquiri, the Dry Martini, and the Margarita – have all been consumed for decades, and remain staples on every cocktail menu across the country. Their order has changed slightly, however: Last year, the Old Fashioned was No. 1, ahead of the Negroni; now they’ve traded places. In addition, the Margarita and the Dry Martini have each moved up a place, leaving the formerly third-place Daiquiri at No. 5.

It’s worth noting that roughly half of the cocktails on this list date their (probable) origins back more than a century – though the No. 13 slot is occupied by a relative newcomer, the Penicillin, invented at New York City’s Milk & Honey in 2005.

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