Despite the recent surge in the popularity of cocktails, our favorite boozy concoctions have actually been around for quite a while. Many of these classic drinks have a deep-rooted history in where they were created, or have revolutionized the industry behind the bar in some way. In the second segment of our Ask a Bartender Series, we asked our experts: What is the most important cocktail of all time?
“This answer may surprise you. But I think one of the most important cocktails of all time (certainly our time) is the oft scoffed at nowadays Cosmopolitan. I’m sure there are entire books dedicated to this drink, but to put it simply, it made cocktails approachable. When things are approachable, they become ‘a thing.’ And this thing was a game changer. In a grandiose sense, the Cosmo made bar culture as we know it today even possible. The days of (insert spirit) and (insert mixer) came to a screeching halt and bartenders from coast to coast had to get an overnight crash course in multi-ingredient drink making. I could get into the media spike responsible for this and gender specifics and all, but I’m guessing you probably already know that. The point is that the Cosmopolitan did for the bar what Top Chef did to professional kitchens everywhere.” — Tommy Warren, Bedford & Co.
“The Margarita. It has single-handedly kept certain establishments in business. When people go out to drink for the day, this is the cocktail that can keep getting ordered. It’s a simple 3-ingredient drink that should be made fresh to order over rocks or blended. Salt is optional but will certainly make the citrus, agave, and sugar pop. It is by far the most mainstream cocktail (Chipotle even serves it).” — Cody Goldstein, NYLO
“Classic Daiquiri. Old Fashioned, Negroni. Three cocktails that embody the definition of a ‘cocktail.’ These are very straightforward drinks, and are all complex in flavor and body. Balanced and delicious.” — Joy Richard, Bar Mash
“The Martinez — it’s the ancestor of the Martini and so many other cocktails of the genre.” — John McCarthy, Greydon’s House
“My assumption would be that the most important cocktails are those that, like the French ‘mother sauces,’ provided the templates that we still use today — the Old Fashioned, the Sour, the Martinez/Manhattan, Flip, Julep, Cobbler, etc.” — Lana Gailani, Seamstress & Holiday Cocktail Lounge
“This would be a very Kanye statement if I said ‘of all time,’ but I will say that simple, three-ingredient cocktails tend to lend themselves as the base for many variations and modern classics we see today. Three-ingredient cocktails laid an important foundation for many drinks. Take, for example, the sour — which is spirit, citrus, sugar — with this we get the Daiquiri (in my opinion THE perfect cocktail), the Whiskey Sour, the Margarita, the Gimlet, etc.” — Tonia Guffey, Dram Bar
“Without drinks like the Sazerac, Manhattan, Gimlet, Collins, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing. Or drinking what we’re drinking! Which is basically just variations on those drinks.” — Jacob Ryan, Four Pillars Brand Ambassador
“Old Fashioned (bourbon for me), Manhattan, Sazerac (made with both Rye and Cognac), Martini (Gin). These are classics for a reason. These are drinks that drinkers drink. Pretty much all spirits, but done beautifully.” — Warren Bayani, Chao Chao
“Old Fashioned, the Rickey, the Cable Car/Pisco Sour, the Martini, Negroni. Not in any particular order but these just jump out at me as style maker cocktails.” — Gina Chersevani, Buffalo & Bergen at Union Market
“The most important cocktail of all time for me is the Daiquiri. It is my gold standard cocktail; it is the first drink I usually order at any cocktail bar, and if you can master making it you have earned my trust. Being only three ingredients, it is one of the most simple drinks to make, but sadly, is easily and commonly made wrong. It is a clean, crisp, and refreshing drink made with rum, fresh lime, and sugar and is my favorite amongst all the sour cocktails. I also use the Daiquiri to test out new rums. I taste them alone and mixed in a Daiquiri. If the rum isn’t delicious in a Daiquiri, it’s not going to be delicious in anything. It is the most exquisite drink of all time.” — Natalie Jacob, Dutch Kills