In January 2021, Drinks International (DI), a trade publication for the alcohol industry, released its list of 2020’s best-selling classic cocktails around the globe. To create the annual ranking, DI surveys the world’s top bars and asks each to name its best-selling drinks for the year. The responses are then weighted and ranked. For the latest version, the publication surveyed 100 bars to create a ranking of the year’s most-ordered drinks at top establishments around the world.
A big takeaway from the newly released list is: Tropical cocktails are always in season. Three of the seven newcomers feature bright flavors and fruity ingredients — including the Jungle Bird, El Diablo, and the Zombie. Perhaps almost a year of staying at home has inspired imbibers to experience their beach vacations in a glass. On another note, the Long Island Iced Tea has found its way onto the year’s ranking, proving that these days, we should always expect the unexpected.
Here are the year’s top 50 cocktails.
50. JUNGLE BIRD
This year’s list proves that tiki is still on the crest of its comeback. It doesn’t get more classic than the Jungle Bird, which was reportedly invented in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, circa 1978. While high-end cocktail bars often serve the drink in a bird cage for the ultimate presentation, at-home bartenders can stick with a rocks glass and a pineapple wedge garnish.
49. LONG ISLAND ICED TEA
New to the list in 2020, the Long Island Iced Tea combines four spirits: light rum, vodka, tequila, and gin. It’s the ultimate cocktail for indecisive imbibers. Love it or hate it, the sickly sweet cocktail is back.
48. GIN GIN MULE
You might do a double-take when you see the Gin Gin Mule on the list of the world’s most popular cocktails. The Gin Gin Mule (a.k.a. the Ginger Rogers) is a cross between a Moscow Mule and a Mojito, with gin as the star of the show.
47. WHITE LADY
This cocktail originating in the 1920s was reimagined with a dash of egg whites by Peter Dorelli, former manager of The American Bar in London. Its base is gin, mixed with fresh lemon juice and either Cointreau or Combier.
46. EL DIABLO
An underrated tequila Highball and yet another example of tiki’s increasing popularity, the El Diablo combines reposado with ginger beer, lime juice, and crème de cassis.
The days of the Cosmo as the bartender’s piñata are over. You may even see crafted spins on this drink, but mostly, there’s indifference. If you need reminding, it’s vodka, triple sec, cranberry, and lime. Despite dropping 14 spots since 2017, the Cosmo has remained relevant, meaning it might be time to give the pink drink a second chance.
Fruity, bright, and crushable, this tiki cocktail was first invented in Hollywood, Calif. by bartender “Don The Beachcomber” in 1934. The cocktail consists of lime, lemon, and pineapple juices, passion fruit syrup, Angostura bitters, brown sugar, and three different types of rum (light, dark, and 151-proof).
43. HANKY PANKY
Bartenders around the world are increasingly showing their love for amari, pushing the category into the mainstream. This cocktail is a simple combination of Fernet-Branca, gin, and vermouth.
42. VODKA MARTINI
The Vodka Martini spiked in popularity in 2017, dropping four spots since its peak. It’s pretty basic — a shot of chilled vodka mixed with a little dry vermouth — but is somehow still in demand at the world’s best cocktail bars.
Brazil’s national cocktail, the Caipirinha, had its moment in the spotlight during the 2016 Olympics in Rio. The following year, it claimed the No. 25 spot on this list. However, it falls to No. 41 in 2021. The cocktail is made with Brazil’s national spirit, cachaça, along with sugar and lime.
40. TOM COLLINS
The original Tom Collins recipe calls for gin, lemon, and soda water; essentially, it’s a spritzy lemonade for grownups. This quintessential gin Highball, however, has fallen five places since the previous year’s list was released.
We may have sherry’s resurgence to thank for the Bamboo, a cocktail made with one-and-a-half parts sherry, one-and-a-half parts dry vermouth, two dashes Angostura bitters, and two dashes orange bitters.about:blank
Developed by bartender Julio Bermejo of San Francisco’s Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in the 1990s, the Tommy’s Margarita doubles the amount of agave present in the traditional Margarita by swapping out the orange liqueur for agave syrup. You’ve probably had your share of Tommy’s Margaritas without even realizing it.
37. LAST WORD
A drink from the days of Prohibition, the revival of the Last Word — which combines gin, green chartreuse, Maraschino liqueur, and lime juice — has been credited to bartender Murray Stenson, who came across the drink in an old bar manual while working at Seattle’s Zig Zag Café in 2004.
36. IRISH COFFEE
The Irish Coffee was pioneered by Irish Chef Joe Sheridan in the 1940s. James Beard winner and author of “The Craft of the Cocktail” Dale DeGroff describes Irish Coffee as, “cold cream, hot sweet coffee, laced with wonderful Irish whiskey.” What’s not to love? Exact proportions and types of whiskey, sugar, and cream preparations can vary slightly, but when done right, it’s delicious.
After acquainting yourself with Tom Collins, meet an Aviation: Served up in a Martini glass, the gorgeous lavender-colored cocktail is made with Crème de Violette or Creme Yvette, Maraschino liqueur, gin, and lemon juice. The Aviation has had a bumpy flight these past few years, descending 15 spots since last year.
Brandy, tragically underrepresented on this list, earns a well-deserved moment in the worldwide spotlight as one of the world’s most ordered cocktails. The Sidecar is a good place to start for those not familiar with the category-spanning spirit: The drink mixes brandy, lemon, and triple sec, making a tart, refreshing tipple.
33. PORNSTAR MARTINI
A newcomer to the list, this passionfruit and vanilla vodka cocktail is traditionally served with a shot of Prosecco on the side. Yes, it sounds a little extra, but with a name like “Pornstar Martini,” would you expect anything less?
32. PIÑA COLADA
Another nod to the tropical cocktails resurgence, this 1970s-era Puerto Rican slushie pleasure is made with white rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice.https://ba891c55db57d264f7aaefe3c80b6c68.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
This famous Prosecco-based brunch staple was invented by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy. The two-ingredient cocktail simply combines the Italian bubbly with peach puree in a flute glass.
30. BRANDY CRUSTA
The Brandy Crusta is a complex creation inspired by New Orleans cocktail culture. It is a delicate combination of brandy, curaçao, lemon juice, simple syrup, Angostura bitters, and Maraschino liqueur.
Created by Dick Bradsell at Fred’s Club in London in the 1980s, the Bramble combines the bright, tangy berry flavors of gin and blackcurrant liqueur (Merlet Crème de Mures is a favorite of some bartenders, although crème de cassis works as well). It also includes gin, lemon, simple syrup, and plenty of crushed ice.
28. GIN FIZZ
A delicious craft gin can make the Gin Fizz shine. The simple drink is a mix of gin, lemon, sugar, egg, and soda.
Rum has grown out of its rum-and-Coke banality to world-class cocktail mixer. The Rum Old Fashioned is simply an Old Fashioned made with rum. Its simplicity seems to work in its favor, as the Rum Old Fashioned rose 10 places in popularity since last year.
26. AMARETTO SOUR
The Amaretto Sour is both a staple at the world’s best bars, and a drink we’ve compared to a liquid Sour Patch Kid. It’s both sweet from the nutty amaretto and sour from lemon juice, while egg white smooths out the tang.
Not to be confused with the espresso drink (in fact, it has nothing to do with coffee at all), this Italian cocktail was created by Gaspare Campari, who served it in his bar Caffè Campari in the 1860s. This Campari, vermouth, and soda water drink is quickly rising in popularity.about:blank
24. VIEUX CARRÉ
The Vieux Carré is an American cocktail invented in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Similar to the Manhattan, it’s made with brandy, whiskey, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, Angostura, and Peychaud’s bitters.
23. PISCO SOUR
The Paloma is among the most-loved tequila drinks at VinePair. It entered this list for the first time in 2017, and it has not only stuck around, but raised in rank — moving up 14 spaces since last year. The Paloma mixes tequila and grapefruit — we think Avion, Spindrift grapefruit soda, and a squeeze of fresh lime work best — or you can switch it up with seasonal ingredients, or substitute tequila or slightly smoky mezcal.
21. FRENCH 75
The French 75 calls for gin, lemon juice, sugar, and Champagne. It’s a classy affair, but can also be found as one of our favorite canned cocktails.
The Sazerac has slipped from its former top 10 status, but its staying power is clear. The drink originated in the 1850s in New Orleans, and remains deeply entwined with Crescent City culture. It can be made with rye or brandy, along with Demerara syrup, Peychaud’s Bitters, a lemon twist, and absinthe as needed.
19. MAI TAI
Perhaps the tiki-est of tiki cocktails, the Mai Tai was hard to resist among the world’s drinkers last year. Its recipe typically includes different varieties of rum, orange juice, triple sec, and several sweeteners.
The Boulevardier is the Negroni’s fraternal twin that utilizes whiskey instead of gin. It’s equal parts rye, amaro, and sweet vermouth. Garnish with an orange twist, and you’ve got yourself an afternoon.
17. CLOVER CLUB
The Clover Club was originally named after a men’s club in Philadelphia, but for us is synonymous with the eponymous premiere cocktail club in Brooklyn. The bright pink drink contains gin, lemon juice, raspberry syrup, and an egg white.
16. CORPSE REVIVER
Talk about a revival. This drink rises eight spots this year, and has an interesting twist: There are two versions. Corpse Reviver #1 calls for Cognac, calvados, brandy, and vermouth; while Corpse Reviver #2 uses equal parts gin, lemon juice, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, and a dash of absinthe. Choose wisely.
15. DARK ’N’ STORMY
The Dark ’n’ Stormy contains a mix of Gosling’s rum (and only Gosling’s rum) and ginger beer. Sometimes, simplest is best.
Nothing cures the weary winter drinker like a Penicillin, made with blended Scotch, smoky Islay Scotch, lemon juice, and honey ginger simple syrup. Created by Sam Ross, co-owner of New York’s Attaboy, it’ll bring you back to life like a Z-pack.
13. MOSCOW MULE
This famous mug-dwelling drink contains ginger, vodka, lime, and soda. It’s famously served in a Moscow Mule mug, which we venture to guess is much of its slushy appeal.
Two parts gin, one part lime juice, and one-half part sweetener, the Gimlet is an easy sipper that inspires many iterations, and has maintained its 12th place spot for two years running.
11. BLOODY MARY
The Bloody Mary is as much an experience as a drink. The brunch-time staple is best enjoyed with a house mix of tomato juice, vodka, and spices. And, if it’s your thing, an array of garnishes — from celery and olives to bacon to entire cheeseburgers — are known to make appearances.
The Mojito might be Cuba’s most popular contribution to cocktail culture. The mix of white rum, lime juice, cane sugar, and soda (with muddled mint, please) is fresh and tropical, and it’s a classic that we don’t expect to disappear any time soon.
If you haven’t noticed the Aperol Spritz, you haven’t been drinking (or on Instagram). Moving into the top 10 from No. 22 in 2017, this popular aperitif is as visually pleasing as it is tasty and easy to make: a three-two-one ratio of Prosecco, Aperol, and soda. May the summer of spritz compel you.
It’s hard to stray from the Manhattan, and the recent rise of rye whiskey makes it even more difficult. Spicy rye, sweet vermouth, and two dashes of Angostura, stirred, strained, and garnished with a brandied cherry can make you feel like a true class act.
7. WHISKEY SOUR
This dependable drink is an easy fit for whiskey lovers, as well as those weary of the brown spirit: its lemony lift and slight sweetness make it appealing for citrus lovers, too. The simple recipe calls for whiskey, lemon juice, and sugar.
Like a refined Red Bull and vodka for coffee lovers, the Espresso Martini promises a pick-me-up, calm-me-down effect in a tasty package. The after-dinner drink will wake you up while still keeping your buzz going. It’s also been called a Vodka Espresso and Pharmaceutical Stimulant.
The Margarita, in its tart, tangy simplicity, is probably the most well-known tequila cocktail in the world. It’s also one of the most popular cocktails in America. It keeps its spot as the world’s top tequila-based classic in 2021.
4. DRY MARTINI
A well-made dry Martini is elegance in a glass. The classic mix of gin and dry vermouth ranks No. 4 in the top 50 cocktails of the year.
The Daiquiri is often misunderstood. While many associate the drink with fruit and blenders, a true Daiquiri is simply made with white rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. It is a clean and refreshing drink for any occasion.
We love Negronis at VinePair, and we’re sorely disappointed when a bartender doesn’t know how to make one. Thankfully, that shouldn’t happen much longer, as the Negroni claims the No. 2 spot for the sixth year running. Gin, Campari, and vermouth in a perfect, punchy package.
The Old Fashioned is timeless. This simple classic made with rye or bourbon, a sugar cube, Angostura bitters, a thick cube of ice, and an orange twist delivers every time. That’s it — the most popular cocktail in the world.
words: VINEPAIR STAFF
photo: HELENA YANKOVSKA