Cocktails are a mix of alcohol, juice or soda, and sweetened liqueurs or fruit. They can also include wine or beer and garnishments.
Bartenders know a few mainstay drinks they hear ordered every night, whether it’s a margarita or a martini. But what are the eight most popular alcoholic drinks?
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Whether your establishment is a dive bar or a high-end restaurant, it’s a safe bet that you’ll offer margaritas on your drink menu. These tequila-adjacent drinks are popular in multiple markets, and flavored RTD margaritas are seeing a surge.
Margaritas are a refreshing blend of tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice served in a salt-rimmed glass. The drink has a strong reputation for being a beach sipper, and it’s usually served with a lime wedge for garnishing.
The classic Margarita recipe calls for simplicity, but the drink is easily adaptable to trends like agave nectar or mezcal. It’s also a great base for more complex cocktails. Legend credits Texas socialite Margaret Sames for mixing up the first Margarita at a house party in Acapulco in 1948. Other stories link the cocktail to jazz singer Peggy Lee, actor Rita Hayworth, and a number of other celebrities.
The martini has long been one of the most popular alcoholic drinks. This classic cocktail combines gin or vodka with vermouth, a fortified wine with a low alcohol content. It can be made either “dry” or wet,” with dry meaning that only a few drops of vermouth are used, and wet usually refers to a drink with more vermouth than gin or vodka.
Gin is the traditional base spirit for a Martini, though vodka has grown in popularity in recent years. Regardless of which spirit is used, it’s recommended that the drink be shaken and not stirred to avoid dilution.
As more high-quality gins have hit the market, it seems like a gin martini is poised for a comeback. With so many delicious new options, it could be worth trying. It may make you feel like a suave James Bond type.
The daiquiri is a refreshing mix of rum, citrus, and sugar that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. It’s thought to have been developed in the 1890s by an American mining engineer stationed in the Cuban town of Daiquiri. He requested a monthly rum ration for his engineers and may have doctored up local rum by adding lime juice and sugar to the drink. The daiquiri gained popularity in America during World War II as vodka, whisky, and gin became difficult to obtain. It also found an avid fan in Ernest Hemingway, who has a daiquiri variation named after him that leaves out the sugar as he was diabetic.
Although the tiki trend in the 1960s led to countless frozen daiquiri varieties, today’s consumers are rediscovering the simple three-ingredient original. The resulting cocktail has a dry character that doesn’t allow any one ingredient to dominate.
Like the margarita and daiquiri, the cosmopolitan is one of the most popular alcoholic drinks. It is a pink drink that is served in a martini glass and has become known for being very feminine. It was made even more popular when it became a signature drink for Carrie Bradshaw on the TV show Sex and the City.
Although the Cosmopolitan is a pink, sour, fruity drink, it is considered very potent with three full shots of alcohol. The drink originated in the ’80s and has been around for a long time, but it has only recently seen a resurgence in popularity, thanks to the hit television show Sex and the City. It is also a popular choice for girls’ night out. The drink is a combination of vodka, cranberry juice, and triple sec. Punch Magazine traces the drink’s inventor to Cheryl Cook, but others, such as Neal Murray and Toby Cecchini, have also claimed to be its creators.
The old fashioned is the oldest of all cocktails, tracing its roots back to the first recorded definition over 200 years ago: spirits, sugar, water, and bitters. The drink’s popularity is largely due to its simplicity and ability to showcase various spirits.
Cocktail aficionados continue to tinker with this timeless classic, swapping in everything from rum to mezcal. In fact, a few bars are so serious about the old fashioned that they’ve even named it their official cocktail.
Purists might cringe at some of these inventive riffs, but DeGroff believes that creativity is the key to the modern craft cocktail movement. “You have to be constantly reinventing and evolving, and the old fashioned is an excellent base,” she says. “And it’s also really easy to make well.”
Incredibly potent cocktails can leave even experienced drinkers floored. Typically made with high-proof alcohol and few (or no) mixers, these drinks pack a punch.
Like its ancestor, the Black Russian, this creamy cocktail uses vodka and coffee liqueur – usually Kahlua or some other brand. A splash of cream or milk floats on top. It has had modest popularity through the decades and found a surge in fame after being the libation of choice for The Dude in the cult 1998 movie, The Big Lebowski. It’s also a staple in many bars and can be made at home. There are countless variations, including the White Mexican, which uses horchata; the White Belgian, which swaps out vodka for chocolate; and the White Cuban, which substitutes rum for vodka. One serving contains 275 calories. Enjoy responsibly!
The Whiskey Sour is the standard-bearer of the sour family of cocktails. It was first recorded in a written recipe in 1862 in Jerry Thomas’ Bartender’s Guide. This sour is typically made with whiskey, sugar, and lemon juice. Traditionally, egg white was added to help tame the tartness and create a frothy texture. However, this isn’t a necessary ingredient.
The sour is one of the simplest cocktails in existence, and it serves as the template for other popular drinks like the Daiquiri, Gimlet, and Margarita. As a result, it is extremely versatile and can be enjoyed in countless variations. It’s also a great way to get into whiskey if you haven’t tried it before. This tangy drink is just the right amount of sweet, sour, and straight-up booze. This sour can be enjoyed on its own or with a variety of garnishes.
The obvious Hawaiian dream is strong, tropical, and funky, despite not having any tea in it (hence the name). The bright blue cocktail of tequila, vodka, triple sec, and gin is a refreshing pick-me-up.
These popular alcoholic drinks can floor even the toughest of drinkers. Made with high-proof alcohol and hardly any mixers, these cocktails are sure to knock the socks off your customers. Use this research to tweak your pricing strategies and menu engineering to boost sales of these cocktails on an a la carte or table d’hote bar menu. This data also works well for bar happy hour ideas and other bar promotional initiatives.