Travel the World with These International Cocktails
Cocktail history is murky at best. A shot of vodka here, a dash of tequila there, and it’s easy to understand how the origin stories of our favorite tipples go awry. But, when it comes to so-called “national” cocktails, countries are keen to lay claim to their apparently signature quaffs. Dubious histories aside, there are some cocktails that have the power (earned or otherwise) to immediately transport you to a variety of far-flung locales. Here are 11 of our favorites.
The clue’s in the name with this one. A riff on the North American sling—traditionally a spiced and sweetened water-and-spirit drink—the Singapore Sling was invented at the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore by barman Ngiam Tong Boon. However, while the origins are somewhat set in stone, the recipes are more muddled than a mojito. The “original” is said to have involved gin, cherry brandy, Benedictine, lime juice, and soda water. Nowadays, you’ll find Singapore Slings calling for pineapple juice, bitters, Cointreau, and grenadine.
New Orleans, USA
Few drinks evoke that Big Easy spirit than a (now) rye-forward Sazerac. Although New Orleans didn’t invent the cocktail, this whiskey (and, at one time, cognac) and Peychaud’s bitters blend supposedly has its roots in the Sazerac Coffeehouse, which you can explore at the Sazerac House cocktail museum. Don’t forget to rinse your glass with absinthe—or Herbsaint—and serve with a lemon peel for the full Sazerac experience. One sip and you’ll feel like you’re in a sultry Louisiana jazz bar.
Get the recipe from Morgan Sullivan, bartender at Cure in New Orleans.
Black Russian (and White Russian)
The Black Russian and its dairy-heavy sibling, the White Russian, are not, contrary to the name, Russian in origin. In fact, these twin cocktails—the latter of which rose to pop culture prominence thanks to “The Dude’s” penchant for White Russians in The Big Lebowski—were dreamed up by bartender Gustave Tops at the Hotel Metropole in Brussels in the late '40s. The former blends vodka and Kahlúa (a Russian spirit and Mexican liqueur), while the latter tops it all off with heavy cream. Naturally, then, the titular “Russian” comes from the vodka. But these Belgian beverages could just have easily been Mexican.
Get the recipe from Sonja and Alex Overhiser of A Couple Cooks.
As Brazil’s national cocktail, few drinks will take you straight to the beaches of Rio and the bars of São Paulo quite like a refreshing—but strong—caipirinha. Made by combining cachaça (sugarcane liquor), sugar, and lime, caipirinhas are deceptively simple but the origins are somewhat less so. Many accounts pin the caipirinha to Portuguese recipes, while others put it down to landowning Piracicabano farmers from Piracicaba, São Paulo. Whatever the truth, caipirinhas are now a Brazilian contemporary classic.
While relations are sour between Peru and Chile when it comes to who originated pisco (unaged brandy), the Pisco Sour cocktail is verifiably Peruvian ... via Wales. Said to have been created by Victor Vaughen Morris, a US Mormon from a Welsh family, the Pisco Sour was born in Lima at the turn of the century as a riff on the whiskey sour, so the story goes. However, it was Peruvian bartender Mario Bruiget who added the all-important egg whites and Angostura bitters into the mix to create the modern Pisco Sour.
Get the recipe from Nadia Lim of Nadia (and her neighbor Mario!).
Contrary to popular belief, the Piña Colada is not a tiki classic; rather, the creamy, fruity, rum-spiked cocktail—maybe you’ve heard that song about it?—is a Puerto Rican original. Although some outlandish theories put it down to a pirate by the name of Roberto Cofresí, most attribute this Caribbean classic to Caribe Hilton bartender Ramón “Monchito” Marrero. Named Puerto Rico’s official drink in 1978, the piña colada combines white rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice. Umbrella optional.
Say what you will about the English, but they’re sticklers for tradition. Strawberries and cream at Wimbledon; offensively fruity cake at Christmas; jugs of Pimm’s in the summer. The latter, of course, is a refreshing gin-based fruit cup (or liqueur—the jury’s out), designed to be mixed with English lemonade (or ginger ale) alongside chopped cucumber, fresh mint leaves, and other fruity accoutrements. Variations abound, of course, but each one is sure to conjure up that “Pimm’s o’Clock” feeling.
Get the recipe from The Modern Proper's Holly Erickson and Natalie Mortimer.
Having experienced a revival in recent years outside of its native Italy—an Aperol renaissance, if you will—the humble Aperol Spritz is arguably the world’s favored aperitif. A long-time Italian favorite, the Aperol Spritz brings together Aperol (a brand of Italian bitters) with prosecco and soda water to create a bubbly, bright orange beverage often served over ice and orange slices in a sizable wine glass. Longing for the canals of Venice? Garnish with a green olive and turn your pre-dinner tipple into a Venetian Spritz.
Few cocktails conjure up place quite as vividly as the muddled mintiness of a good mojito. Brought to life in Havana, Cuba—although origin stories are many and mysterious—the mojito has all the right ingredients for being a refreshing favorite on a sticky Caribbean evening. White rum, sugar, mint leaves, lime juice, and soda water are all you need for this cocktail classic, although variations using bitters, lemon juice, simple syrup, and rose-flavored spirits are widespread worldwide.
You think Mexican cocktails, you (probably) think margaritas. But no one really knows if the Margarita is definitively Mexican. Enter: the Paloma. A simple mixed drink—so not technically a cocktail, but go with it—which combines that most Mexican of spirits, tequila, with fresh grapefruit juice, and soda water, Palomas are popular countrywide. For a more rough-and-ready Paloma experience, mix tequila with Squirt, a Mexican grapefruit soda brand.
Long Island Iced Tea
Long Island, USA
Much like the Singapore Sling, the Long Island Iced Tea is named for its origins. Supposedly. Known for its killer (hangover) combination of no fewer than five spirits—vodka, gin, tequila, rum, and triple sec—topped off with a splash of cola (for balance), the Long Island Iced Tea is said to have originated in Long Island. This tale is, however, contested by Tennessee, who also lay claim to the potent potation. But really, after one Long Island Iced Tea, you could be anywhere.