Tequila Topples Whiskey as Number Two

Top-shelf margarita (Photo by Jon Sullivan)

Despite the popularity of cocktails, I much prefer selecting and drinking high-quality spirits in their natural form – neat. Pour me a great single malt, reposado, or rum into my Glencairn noser, and I’ll sniff and sip all afternoon. But most NORMAL people love their mixed drinks. So, here is a list of favorite cocktails based on industry stats and anecdotal research. Several on the list surprised me (see numbers nine, seven, and four), and there are some stunning omissions (like anything with a simple mixer). So, with a grain of salt in hand, here we go (YMMV):

Number 10: Long Island Iced Tea
A perennial party favorite, especially for heavy drinkers, the humorously acronymed L.I.T. doesn’t actually contain any tea. It’s a potent mix of vodka, rum, gin, tequila, triple sec, sweet-and-sour mix, and cola. This one should come with a two-drink limit!

Number 9: Whiskey Sour
This old-school cocktail featuring bourbon, lemon juice, and simple syrup is typically served shaken with a garnish of cherry or a lemon slice. Check out this unique variation!

Number 8: Moscow Mule
Made with vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice, the Moscow Mule is typically served in a copper mug and garnished with a lime wedge.

Number 7: Mojito
A traditional Cuban punch made with white rum, lime juice, mint leaves, sugar, and soda water. A relatively recent phenomenon, its most renowned feature is its muddled mint and lime flavors.

Number 6: Piña Colada
Often associated with seaside beach vacations, this tropical favorite derives half of its flavor and its name from pineapple juice; the other half comes from coconut cream. Most frequently presented as a slushy blended smoothie, it’s often garnished with fresh fruit, including pineapple, orange, and maraschino cherries. A common variation, the Chi Chi, is the same drink made with vodka instead. The colada is my second favorite cocktail, although I rarely order it due to its high sugar content.

Number 5: Daiquiri
A simple and refreshing cocktail made with rum, lime juice, and simple syrup that can be served straight up, over ice, or even as a slush.

Number 4: Old Fashioned
Another “timeless” (as in “old-school”) cocktail features whiskey (usually bourbon), sugar, bitters, and an orange twist. Most frequently served over ice in a short glass and is the favorite of our writer Fran Endicott (read her article here).

Number 3: Cosmopolitan
Although originating from a 1930s drink called the “Daisy,” the Cosmopolitan gained infamy from the TV show “Sex and the City.” A pink-and-sweet/tart cocktail made with vodka, cranberry juice, triple sec, and lime juice, it’s typically served shaken in a martini glass and garnished with lime.

Number 2: Martini
This iconic cocktail typically consists of gin or vodka and dry vermouth, garnished with an olive or a lemon twist. This is my favorite cocktail, especially a dirty martini (added olive brine).

Number 1: Margarita
Synonymous with “Mexican food,” this classic cocktail (read the history of a margarita here) is made with tequila, lime juice, and orange liqueur (usually Triple Sec or Cointreau). Often served in a salt-rimmed glass, its frequently offered in a wide array of fruit flavors and with varying quality levels of tequila.

Please note that the popularity of cocktails can vary over time and across different locations. Cocktail preferences wax and wane frequently, and regional preferences can impact favorites and recipes dramatically. Many bars and restaurants are renowned for their cocktails, and pop culture plays a role (think James Bond’s unforgettable movie line, “shaken, not stirred”). There are myriad books on the subject, and you can often find local specialties by contacting your favorite establishments. One thing is for sure – despite tastes and preferences continuously changing, the seemingly insatiable appetite for quality cocktails is unlikely to diminish!