“What’s the No.1 cocktail everyone asks for?” – is a question bartenders are frequently called to answer. Most often at family or special party celebrations. When some guests decide not to order their usual cocktail favourite.
Instead, they decide to explore the menu possibilities. Kickstarting the party spirit with a desire to refresh the senses.
So let’s check out which cocktails, based upon the Difford’s Guide, are exciting the palate for partygoers in 2023.
1. Pornstar Martini
This passion-fruit-flavoured cocktail made with vanilla-flavoured vodka has hit the No.1 spot as one of the most ordered drinks in the Difford’s Guide for the last eight years. An instant iconic drink – created by Ghanaian-born bartender, Douglas Ankrah in London in 2002 – the Pornstar Martini regularly accounts for around 1 in 7 cocktails requested at the bar.
2. Naked and Famous
Another modern classic, created by Joaquín Simó only ten years ago, is inspired by No.13 on our list, The Last Word, and No.18, Paper Plane. Both are made with fruity notes of Aperol plus lime juice. But here we have the honeyed fragrance of yellow Chartreuse (rather then green Chartreuse), added to a big smoky mezca for a citrus zing with a long finish.
3. Gin Basil Smash
A wholly basil-flavoured, bitter minty cocktail – thanks to a single basil leaf – fine strained and shaken with dry gin, syrup and lemon juice. This popular outdoor party drink, with its sweet tongue tingle and herbal essence, was only invented in 2008 by German bartender, Jörg Meyer. The same year it achieved the prestigious, No.1 “Cocktail Spirited” Award.
4. Espresso Martini
Known also as a vodka espresso, this classic coffee cocktail, created by British bartender, Dick Bradsell in 1983, contains neither gin or vermouth. A martini by name only, it’s ingredients of espresso coffee, Kahlua (coffee liqueur), and vodk offers a tantalising balance of nectar liqueur sweetness with an astringent, bitter coffee hit.
5. Amaretto Sour
Amaretto Sour – so-called because of its tangy, nutty flavour – emerged in the US in the mid 1970s when Italian spirits and liqueurs were a popular trend. But Amarettto can be traced back to 16th century Renaissance Italy, and to DiSaronno – the town the most well-known brand is named after. Lemon juice, egg white and bitters are added, shaken, then garnished with a lemon slice and a maraschino cherry.
A tequila-based Mexican drink – similar to Paloma but with added orange juice and lemon juice for a bigger citrus flavour hit. A Cantarito is made with Tequila ( Blanco or Reposado), orange, lemon, lime juice and grapefruit soda. Then traditionally served in clay cups, and garnished with citrus wedges.
7. Ramos Gin Fizz
Henry C. Ramos created the New Orleans Fizz in 1888 at his bar, in New Orleans, US. It was soon called the Ramos Gin Fizz as its fame spread. A Ramos Gin Fizz differs from a Gin Fizz because it adds lime juice, orange flower water, heavy cream and an egg white to gin lemon juice, sugar syrup, vanilla essence and topped up with soda water. Offering an intriguingly smooth, frothy, yet sweet-sour, citrus and alcohol, milkshake experience.
Named after a town in south-eastern Cuba, the Daiquiri was said to be invented in the late 1890s by Jennings Cox, an American mining engineer. This classic rum cocktail is made with only three main ingredients – rum, lime juice and sweetener – to create a perfect balance of sweet and sour, and traditionally served without ice.
Margarita means “daisy” in Spanish, a 1920s US-Prohibition drink made with base spirit, sugar, and a sour, believed to have evolved into the Margarita between the 1930s and 1940s. Originally made with tequila, Cointreau, lime, and salt, today bartenders tend to use triple sec (orange-flavoured liqueur) and might replace salt with sugar or coriander. A Maragrita is said to be perfectly balanced with all five main tasting notes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami (savoury or “complex”).
10. Vieux Carré
A rye whiskey, made with cognac, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine, and Peychaud’s bitters. The Vieux Carré cocktail – named after French for “old square” – was invented in 1938 by Walter Bergeron, a bartender in New Orleans. It’s taste hints at a ‘Manhattan’ (whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters), but with extra bitters, and a touch of the spice-forward, French liqueur, Bénédictine.
11. Picante de la Casa
The Picante de la Casa Cocktail, also called the Soho House Picante, was created by Chris Ojeda at Soho House, West Hollywood, USA in 2012. It’s a “spicy” Margarita-style drink combining some of the most traditional Mexico flavours and classic Margarita ingredients of Agava syrup, and lime, coriander (cilantro) and chili. The base Tequila is Reposado – spirit aged for 60 days in oak barrels.
The French martini is not a true martini made with gin. It’s a vodka-based cocktail, created in the 1980s at one of Keith McNally’s New York City bars, and gained popularity during the cocktail boom of the 1980s and 90s.
The name, “ French Martini” comes from its main ingredient, Chambord liqueur, a black raspberry liqueur (originating from the Loire Valley in France) with added notes of ‘tart’ pineapple juice and lime juice.
13. The Last Word
The Last Word was mostl likely invented just before the start of the US Prohibition era of the 1920s, by a bartender named Frank Fogarty. It’s traditional four ingredients – equal parts gin, Green Chartreuse, maraschino cherry liqueur, and lime juice – considered the perfectly balanced drink. Combining a refreshing tartness and subtle sweetness with a rich undercurrent of complex herbal bitterness and ripe cherry flavours.
14. Sex On The Beach
Probably the most well-known of original, cheeky cocktail names. It was given to this sweet and fruity flavour drink by its inventor, Florida bartender, Ted Pizio, in the 1980s. Made with vodka peach schnapps and cranberry juice. Pizio claims he was trying to promote peach schnapps by naming it after “sex” and “the beach” , two so-called main attractions of a holiday break. Typically garnished with cocktail cherries and orange slices.
15. Screaming Orgasm
Invented by psychoanalyst and amateur mixologist, Wilhelm Reich, with bartender, Fernand Petiot, at Harry’s New York Bar in the 1930s. Made with one part vodka added to the Disaronno amaratto base of the original ‘Orgasm’ shots. Plus, Kahlua coffee liqueur, Amarula cream liqueur, milk and cream. Together, creating a rich, creamy alcoholic milkshake with a sweet sugar taste of caramelised bananas.
The Aviation cocktail first appeared in a 1916 edition of “Recipes for Mixed Drinks”. It highlights the Crème de Violette liqueur – colouring the cocktail an alluring pale sky-blue – which is added to the gin, maraschino cherry, and lemon juice. Some bartenders will use real purple violet flowers to enhance its lightly floral sweet notes with a good balance of alcohol.
A sweet, tart and spicy, yet balanced cocktail created by Sam Ross at New York City’s famous Milk & Honey bar in the mid-2000s. A blended scotch, with lemon and sweetened syrup is topped with the smoky aromatics of an Islay single malt scotch, and garnished with candied ginger.
18. Paper Plane
A bourbon flavoured gin, also created by award winning owner/bartender Sam Ross in New York City in 2008. Paper Plane follows the same recipe as the Last Word cocktail. The kicker is the addition of equal-part bourbon to the Italian bitter liqueur – Amaro Nonino Quintessentia – together with Aperol and fresh lemon juice. Tasting like a high flying whiskey sour, the fruitiness and the sweetness of the amari lends an exquisite balance between its bitter, sour and herbal notes.
19. Old Cuban
Old Cuban was created by Audrey Saunders in 2001, which fast become a cocktail classic across the US. Inspired by the Mojito but given a twist, Old Cuban uses “aged” rum (rather than traditional Mojito white rum) with sparkling wine, simple syrup, fresh lime juice, mint and angostura aromatic bitters. All topped off with a festive hint of champagne to satisfy with a complex yet refined flavour.
20. Moscow Mule
More than one person claims to have created this enduring cocktail classic at Los Angeles British pub, the Cock ‘n’ Bull, around 1941. Both the two pub owners – and the more likely inventor – head bartender, Wes Price. The simple elegance of its three ingredients – vodka, with fiery ginger beer, and fresh lime juice ( plus a touch of mint) – is said to be enhanced by the traditional way the drink is served – in a copper mug. As well as keeping its exhilarating, sweet and tart flavours cool and refreshing.