We’re all guilty of finding a new favorite drink and over-ordering it until it becomes a tried-and-true go-to. This is especially true for a preferred spirit or cocktail, unless you’re going to the kind of bar where drinks are more concoctions than cocktails (think: served flaming or smoking, with garnishes as ornate as gold). In these cases, the spirit is simply the starting point for the bartender to build a flavor profile around.
Of course, many bars have a signature –– be it a Singapore Sling or Garibaldi –– that you can order to play things safe. But when it comes to asking for the bartender’s choice, it can be daunting to branch out and sip something new. For many pros, the art of invention (or reinvention) is the core — and highlight —of their jobs, and a simple spirit switch can easily lead to a brand-new cocktail that’s as approachable (but slightly more adventurous) than the one you’re used to sipping.
So, the next time you’re leaning toward your usual Gin & Tonic or Margarita, think about stepping out of your comfort zone with one of these 12 picks that bartenders wished were ordered more often. Spoiler alert: Daiquiris aren’t reserved solely for beach vacations!
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The Best Cocktails To Order, According To Bartenders
- Dry Martini
- Stinging Vesper
- Jungle Bird
- Pain Killer
- Flame of Love Martini
- Remixed Spritzes
“The Dry Martini is the king of cocktails. It’s the most controversial, the most perfect, the one with the most variations, the one you can have before, during, or after dinner. To test a bartender or a bar, this is the go-to cocktail. I wish people ordered more so we could make a real — and almost perfect — one, and educate guests who still believe a Martini is only vodka extra-shaken with eight olives on a pick.” —Julio Cabrera, owner and maestro cantinero, Café La Trova, Miami
“The one cocktail I’ve been really pushing people into is our Stinging Vesper. The Vesper, when made with Lillet, has a bit of sweetness that offsets the bitter bite of dry gin. Adding vodka to the mix gives an extra flavor that can only be described as ‘boozy,’ and is unique and tasty in a gin-based Martini.” —Hemant Pathak, general manager and head mixologist, Junoon, New York
“The Sidecar is definitely a drink that is not ordered as often as I would like. It’s a very diverse, three-ingredient cocktail that offers the choice of Cognac, brandy, or Armagnac, as well as orange liqueur or Curaçao. Since it has very little sugar, I believe the Sidecar can cater to those who like their cocktails sweet, as well as those who don’t. The finishing touch is an orange twist. The orange oils really complete the cocktail, but if you want an additional flavor twist, you can add either orange or grapefruit bitters.” —Danilo Božović, founder, Swizzle Rum Bar & Drinkery, Miami; author, “Barkeep: The Art of Mixology, Bar & Cocktails”
“I wish more people would order the Esteban; it’s truly one of my favorite cocktails in COTE history. As a cocktail creator, the hardest thing to do is make a cocktail with only a few ingredients, so when you really figure it out, it’s super rewarding. Inspired by the Mezcal Negroni, this variation is a little more fruity and acidic. Mezcal gives it a nice smokiness, while umeshu brings a fruity, acidic layer to the drink. Cocchi Rosa gives a light bitterness, while salt brings all of the flavors together.” —Sondre Kasin, consulting bartender, COTE and Undercote, New York; COTE Miami
“Although it’s been listed as a popular cocktail, you don’t often hear a Caipirinha being ordered at a bar — not unless it is listed on the menu. This refreshing drink features the grassy, spicy, and fruity notes of Brazilian cachaça, which is a good alternative to tequila or rum. It’s a versatile and easy cocktail that you can sip all night, before dinner, or even during your meal as a palate cleanser.” —Mel John Chavez, assistant bar manager, Smoke & Mirrors, Singapore
“I could probably drink a hundred of these. Anytime someone mentions this drink, I immediately get excited and find a way to get into that conversation. There are plenty of cachaças out there, but Avuá Amburana Cachaça is a pretty solid one that I enjoy very much. Personally, I like my Caipirinha really chunky and pulpy, shaken really hard, and then dumped directly into a glass. You rarely see cachaça outside of craft cocktail bars, but I think it should be a staple at any establishment that makes cocktails. On top of cachaça being most commonly used in Caipirinhas, it works really well in a lot of other classic cocktails like Mojitos and Daiquiris. I also really love stirred boozy cocktail variations of Manhattans or Martinis with cachaça as the main spirit.” —Christian Tellez, bar manager, Rosie Cannonball, Houston
“I’d love to see people drinking Jungle Birds more often. The Jungle Bird is made with rum, Campari, pineapple, lime, and sugar. It’s a beautifully complex drink that hits all the right buttons without being pretentious. It’s balanced, tropical, and fruit-forward, but it’s also reserved, with depth from the Campari that lends just the right amount of bitter. New Englanders have a beautiful love affair with rum, which makes this the perfect cocktail for them anytime, anyplace, at any moment.” —Jade Ayala, beverage director, Oyster Club and Port of Call, Mystic, Conn.
“I really wish people would order more Flips in general. A Flip is an old category of cocktail that includes an egg (whole egg or yolk only). It’s very frothy, creamy, and delicious, which is why it’s the dessert of cocktails. But, people are afraid of it, and I only see it on the menu of a few cocktail bars. I always have one on my menus. You can try it with so many spirits and ingredients, such as coconut milk, pandan syrup, passion fruit, purple yam, or red bean. This is as close as you can get to being a pastry chef.” —Nico de Soto, owner and beverage director, Mace New York and DANICO, Paris
“What cocktail do I wish people would order more? Definitely the Daiquiri — and no, I am not talking about the strawberry frozen version. I mean a classic Daiquiri, a simple cocktail made of three ingredients: rum, sugar, and lime, served up. It is such a simple and sublime cocktail, yet bartenders all over the world struggle with finding the perfect balance. The fun part is that different types of rum will ultimately reflect the flavor profile, so you can enjoy it with fruity flavors of Jamaican rum, grassy and vegetal rhum agricole, or my favorite — pineapple rum.” —Eva Kovacikova, East Coast regional bar manager, ZUMA
“I could name half a dozen cocktails I wish people would order more, but the Pain Killer immediately comes to mind. This humble cocktail is a riff on the more popular Piña Colada, and its origins date back to the Virgin Islands in the 1970s. The Pain Killer combines rich dark rum with pineapple juice, orange juice, and cream of coconut for a drink that is silky, rich, and fruity.” —Moses Laboy, corporate beverage manager, Gerber Group, New York
“The Paloma tends to be overlooked compared to its Margarita cousin. At Hoja, we have a killer in-house recipe that we top with pink grapefruit soda and the traditional grapefruit juice. It ends up being extra juicy and is great with mezcal or tequila.” —Christine Wiseman, director of beverage, Bar Lab, which includes Hoja Taqueria, 27 Restaurant, and Margot Natural Wine Bar, Miami
Flame of Love Martini
“Invented for Dean Martin at (now-closed) Chasen’s in Beverly Hills, the Flame of Love Martini is a smoky, orangey Vodka Martini that has a splash of dry sherry instead of vermouth. The nuttiness of the sherry adds complexity, and, by finishing with the flaming peel of an orange over the top of the glass, you get a characteristic burnt, smoky flavor.” —Lorenzo Antinori, beverage manager at Four Seasons Hotel, Hong Kong
“Spritzes are a great way to start any post-work activity or get your palate going before and during any meal. They could range from fruity, citrusy, and refreshing to rich, bold, savory, and invigorating. Whether you are using traditional aperitivos like Campari or Aperol, or something more artisanal, your choice these days is as diverse as gin for a Gin & Tonic — and your source of bubbles is just as important. At the bar, we want people to explore other aperitivos like Brooklyn-made Faccia Brutto or Forthave Spirits’ Aperitivo.” —Cristhian Rodriguez, bar director, La Devozione, New York