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The Cocktail Top 40

A survey of the most popular cocktails at 40 bars from coast to coast.

Clover Club Recipe

Every week, a list of the 40 biggest songs in mainstream music comes out with a mix of huge stars, one-hit wonders and songs that are bound to get stuck in your head. It got us wondering what a cocktail version of the Top 40 would look like. What drinks are the biggest hit-makers and what can we learn from them?

To get a better sense of what’s popular in the cocktail world right now, we surveyed 40 bars across the country to find out what customers order the most, both on- and off-menu. The results yielded few surprises, with off-menu calls for the Old-Fashioned ruling all across the land, as well as an unwavering interest in spicy, mezcal-based drinks. Notably, in addition to the rise of agave spirits, bourbon is definitely still having its moment.

Also, when it comes to the popularity of a drink, the name is sometimes as much of a factor as the spirit, either out of familiarity or because it’s the namesake cocktail of the bar itself.  But, as you’ll see, there are some outliers where you would not expect them.

Here, 40 bars from across the country and the most popular drinks they serve.

Boilermaker | New York

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Zombie
Most popular off-menu cocktail: Vodka-soda
Boilermaker keeps a 1930s-style variation of the Zombie on tap, priced at $16 with a two-drink maximum for every guest. Head bartender Samuel Gauthier attributes the drink’s popularity to the “myth of its strength,” along with the relatively low price point. The high demand for vodka-sodas, on the other hand, is driven by the younger crowd that frequents the bar on weekends.

Pouring Ribbons | New York

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Manguito
Most popular off-menu cocktail: Old-Fashioned
“Imagine how often ‘something spicy, with tequila’ gets said to a server,” says 
Joaquín Simó, partner at Pouring Ribbons, about why the Manguito—a tequila sour of sorts—gets ordered so often. Featured on the bar’s “Cuba in 1958” cocktail menu, the Manguito combines tropical flavors with cumin, black pepper and a four-chile-infused tequila. Off the menu, the Old-Fashioned remains the most ordered drink year-round. “For this, I blame Don Draper,” says Simó of the popular Mad Men character. 

BlackTail | New York

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Mojito
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Unsurprisingly, for a bar that takes its inspiration from Prohibition-era Cuba, the Mojito is the most-popular menu item at BlackTail, while the Old-Fashioned also remains a prevalent call. “We are known for bringing classic cocktails to the modern palate,” says bar manager 
Jesse Vida.

Death & Co. | New York

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Ramble On
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Bourbon Old-Fashioned and Negroni
“The menu cocktails drive the sales at Death & Co., New York,” explains bartender Tyson Buhler. So, while the bourbon Old-Fashioned used to be an overall top-seller, now it barely makes top 50—though it remains one of the most popular classics for people ordering off the menu. As for those who use the menu for guidance, Ramble On, a tequila and apple brandy sour, currently takes the lead.

Negroni Cocktail Recipe

Dante’s Negroni [Recipe] | Photo: Lizzie Munro

Dante at Genuine | New York

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Negroni and Aperol Spritz
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
As an Italian aperitivo bar in Little Italy, it comes as no surprise that the Negroni and Aperol Spritz are the most popular cocktails on the menu at Dante at Genuine. However, sales on these two drinks have seen a particularly noticeable rise in the past few years. Head bartender Stacey Swenson attributes their growing popularity to the fact that “Americans are finally starting to embrace the aperitif style of drinking and are more keen on bitter flavors.”

The Up & Up | New York

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Zuzu’s Petals
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Zuzu’s Petals comes out on top of the menu at The Up & Up. “I think this drink really nails what people are after these days” says head bartender Ali Martin of the spicy, tequila-mezcal cocktail. Meanwhile, Martin reasons that the Martini is often ordered because of its dependability: “You know you’re going to get exactly what you order,” she says. 

Mace | New York

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Mace
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
As is the case with a few places on the Top 40, the eponymous drink at Mace is the most frequently-ordered cocktail from the menu. It’s a blend of beet juice, orange acid, Thai coconut cordial, Aperol and Aquavit that’s garnished with a house-made tincture spray.

The Aviary NYC | New York

Most popular on-menu cocktail: You’re Gonna Lovett
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Micah Melton, beverage director at The Aviary, attributes the popularity of You’re Gonna Lovett to a general rise in the popularity of mezcal. You’re Gonna Lovett, a mezcal-based riff on a Last Word with Chartreuse, falernum and Jamaican Jerk Bitters, is the most popular order on The Aviary NYC’s current menu. Meanwhile, the Old-Fashioned trend continues to affirm its popularity by making its mark at even this high-concept cocktail bar known for drinks that verge on performance art. 

Nitecap | New York

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Mantra-Rock
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
At Nitecap, any spicy tequila-based cocktail on the menu will almost inevitably become a top-seller, says head bartender Natasha David. as is the case for the Mantra-Rock, a blanco tequila-based cooler with Cocchi Americano Rosa, pink peppercorn, rhubarb, grapefruit cordial and lime juice. 

Clover Club | Brooklyn, NY

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Clover Club
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Tom Macy, bartender and partner at Clover Club, associates the popularity of the Old-Fashioned with the bar’s classic cocktail-era atmosphere. As for the menu at Clover Club, the titular cocktail has been a best-seller since the bar’s opening. “I’d guess it’s a case of ‘when in Rome,'” says Macy, “though it doesn’t hurt that the drink is both beautiful and delicious.”

long island bar gimlet daniel krieger

Long Island Bar’s Gimlet [Recipe] | Photo: Daniel Krieger

Long Island Bar | Brooklyn, NY

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Gimlet
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Pineapple Daiquiri
At Long Island Bar, the Gimlet is easily the most popular drink on the menu, while the runners up change with the seasons. “Over the summer, our huge seller is a spicy tequila cocktail with passionfruit purée, Aperol, lime and salt,” says owner Toby Cecchini. While during the winter season, “the top seller is a drink I threw together using New York Distilling’s Ragtime Rye Whisky inflected with Bigallet China-China Amer, sweet vermouth and Suze, called The Erin.” The Pineapple Daiquiri, meanwhile, was a popular order while on the menu in 2016, and has remained a go-to call for regulars. 

Maison Premiere | Brooklyn, NY

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Maison Absinthe Colada
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Old-Fashioned, Martini
While bar director William Elliott notes that the Royal Caroline, a tequila- and mezcal-based drink, also bounces around the top spot, the Maison Absinthe Colada is a perennial favorite at the bar renowned for its absinthe collection. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also one of the more camera-ready drinks on the menu.

Eastern Standard | Boston

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Cactus Flower
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Whiskey Smash
Tequila-based recipes are having a moment at Eastern Standard, where the Cactus Flower, a tequila sour featuring pear cordial, lime juice and a rinse of St. George Pear Brandy, is the most-ordered menu drink. Meanwhile, the Whiskey Smash takes the prize for most-ordered off-menu item, a drink which bar manager Diego Alejandro Peña-Herrera claims is “part of our DNA at this point.”

Elk Room | Baltimore

Most popular on-menu cocktail: LBC
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Mezcal- or bourbon-based cocktails
The Elk Room is known for its eye-catching presentations—fire, smoke, liquid nitrogen—as well as savory ingredients, like beets and rosemary. The LBC employs both. This gin sour is made with grapefruit, lime, beet, honey and rosemary, and is served with a smoldering rosemary sprig.

The Gin Joint | Charleston, SC

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Booze Cruise
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Unfamiliar cocktails with familiar ingredients tend to sell well at The Gin Joint. None more than the Booze Cruise, a mezcal-based drink with lime, pineapple, charred shishito pepper, honey, hopped tea and bitters. And, even at a gin-focused bar, the popularity of the Old-Fashioned still persists.

mint julep cocktail

Ticonderoga Cup [Recipe] | Photo: Daniel Krieger

Ticonderoga Club | Atlanta

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Ticonderoga Cup
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Ticonderoga Club’s eponymous cocktail, a mix of rum, Cognac, sherry and pineapple, is a permanent fixture on the menu. “The name drives the initial sale,” explains co-owner Paul Calvert on why it remains a best-seller, “but I do think the presentation—old dented cup, crushed ice, mint forest—helps as well.” The Ever-Ready, an El Diablo variation with house-made ginger cordial, was a big seller when it was on the menu, and demand for it has continued since it was taken off three years ago. “The barkeeps call it the ‘Always-Ready,’” says Calvert, “because if you’re not ‘always-ready’ to make the damn thing, the guests will be at the gate with pitchforks.”

Sweet Liberty | Miami

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Piña Colada
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Tommy’s Margarita
The Piña Colada reigns supreme on the menu at Sweet Liberty, where the Miami heat always calls for a refreshing drink. This bar ramps up the classic frozen cocktail with coffee beans. Meanwhile, the popularity of the Tommy’s Margarita can be attributed to the fresh ingredients, and its low happy hour price.

Lost Lake | Chicago

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Bunny’s Banana Daiquiri
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Daiquiri and Mai Tai
At Lost Lake, presentation and name-recognition go a long way. The best-selling drink on the menu, Bunny’s Banana Daiquiri, is “the most Instagrammable thing in the whole dang bar,” according to co-owner Shelby Allison, “with a whimsical little banana dolphin and bright-pink orchid.” As for the non-menu drinks, the Daiquiri and Mai Tai, two of the most recognizable names in the tiki playbook, come in at a tie. 

Billy Sunday | Chicago

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Billy Sunday Old-Fashioned
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Vintage Old-Fashioned
The Old-Fashioned reigns supreme both on and off the menu at Billy Sunday, where the guests appreciate new takes on old classics. The bar’s signature version swaps in a strong, mildly bitter Zucca Rabarbaro rhubarb amaro from Milan.

Cure | New Orleans

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Sazerac
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
At Cure, customers tend to ask for a local favorite and the refreshing classic. “New Orleans is a city that is founded on things that stand the test of time,” explains owner, Neal Bodenheimer, “it just goes to show that our guests believe in cocktails that do the same.”

Latitude 29 | New Orleans

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Latitude 29
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Jeff “Beachbum” Berry is convinced that the name is the game when it comes to the most popular drinks served at his bar. The Latitude 29, Berry’s house Daiquiri made with white rum and a mixture of sugars directly poured into fresh lime juice instead of simple syrup, takes the cake thanks to it being named after the joint. While the Painkiller wins out off-menu, because it is, Berry says, “without a doubt one of the best drink names ever.”

Sazerac Cocktail Recipe

The Ultimate Sazerac [Recipe] | Photo: Lizzie Munro

Compere Lapin | New Orleans

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Lucian Bacchanal
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
The Lucian Bacchanal, combining citrus with cinnamon and mezcal, is a riff on a classic Daiquiri made from modern ingredients—jus the sort of drink to beat the heat. And, says head bartender Abigail Gullo, since this is a New Orleans bar, customers coming in and asking for a Sazerac should come as no surprise. 

Sugar House | Detroit

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Painkiller
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Of the 101 classic cocktails on Sugar House’s menu, the Painkiller is consistently the most-ordered drink throughout the year. It’s “a cocktail that appeals to almost any palate in any season,” explains general manager Julie Haase. “Its classic tiki vibe makes it great for patio season, and the baking spice notes from the nutmeg garnish and rum blend make it great for winter.” Meanwhile, the E.F.K was retired from Sugar House’s menu a few years ago, but has continued to grow in popularity. Unsurprisingly, the drink is a variation on the Old-Fashioned that, Haase says, “smells like a campfire, and tastes like boozy sweet tea.”

Small Victory | Austin, TX

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Singapore Sling
Most popular off-menu cocktail: Old-Fashioned
“The Singapore Sling is one of those classic mixed drinks that many people have at least heard of, maybe even tried, but [it] was likely ‘meh’ or forgettable,” says Josh Loving, co-owner of Small Victory. Combining gin, pineapple and lime juices, Cherry Heering, Cointreau, Bénédictine and soda water, their variation has “a little bit of everything.”

Half Step | Austin, TX

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Ginger Paloma and Old-Fashioned
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Harry Dean Stanton
The menu at Half Step consists of just a handful of drinks, and focuses on the classics or their variations. Their top sellers, their Ginger Paloma and Old-Fashioned, are kept on the menu because of their timeless popularity. An Old-Fashioned variation, the Harry Dean Stanton, was taken off the menu this year, but has remained a popular call since. Steven Robbins, general manager at Half Step, likens the popularity of the Old-Fashioned and its ilk to that of an old Ford tractor: “Nothing fancy, but she always cranks right up and does the trick.”

Anvil | Houston

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Old-Fashioned and Pliny’s Tonic
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
“The popularity of the show Mad Men set the stage for the drink to see a massive resurgence,” explains Terry Williams, Anvil’s director of operations, when asked about the popularity of the Old-Fashioned. “Then combine that with the current obsession with bourbon, [it] makes for the perfect storm.” As for the Pliny’s Tonic, a variation of a Southside kicked up a notch with habanero peppers, Williams attributes its popularity to Houston’s affinity for spicy cocktails. The house Martini, on the other hand, is ordered frequently because the menu offers a “Martini of the Week,” allowing the bartenders to adjust and improve upon the classic drink.

margarita cocktail recipe

Bobby Heugel’s Margarita [Recipe] | Photo: Daniel Krieger

Better Luck Tomorrow | Houston

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Salty Cat
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Refreshing summer cocktails always sell well at Better Luck Tomorrow, where the hot Houston weather calls for a cool drink. The Salty Cat, a play on the Salty Dog, is made with grapefruit-infused gin, a variety of salted fruit and grapefruit juice.

Death & Co. | Denver

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Waymore’s Blues
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
French 75
Alex Jump, bar manager at the Denver outpost of Death & Co., chalks up the popularity of the pistachio-infused, bourbon-based Waymore’s Blues to “the rise in popularity of bourbon and whiskey in general in the United States.” As for the French 75, Jump has little evidence as to why it is the best seller off-menu, “other than it’s just a damn good drink.”

False Idol | San Diego

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Mai Tai
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Daiquiri and Painkiller
At this tropical-themed San Diego bar, it’s no surprise that familiar tiki drinks are popular calls. The Mai Tai beats any other item on the menu by at least double, while two hallmarks of the genre, the Daiquiri and Painkiller, are right on its heels.

Trick Dog | San Francisco

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Liholiho Yacht Club
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Liholiho Yacht Club is a rum-based cocktail with pineapple, coconut and macadamia nut. Morgan Schick, the bar’s creative director, explains that the drink’s popularity is unprecedented as it’s the first rum drink to become a bestseller at Trick Dog. “For the Old-Fashioned,” Schick says, “I don’t know that it’s a trend as much as people develop the idea that certain bars make certain things well, and Trick Dog is an Old-Fashioned place.”

Slanted Door | San Francisco

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Ginger Limeaid
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
The on-menu cocktails at Slanted Door are significantly more popular than off-menu cocktails, a long-standing trend noticeable in many San Francisco bars. “With our crowd, vodka is still strong,” says bar director Erik Adkins. This, he says, accounts for the popularity of Ginger Limeaid, a vodka-based drink with the mouthfeel of a Margarita made with fresh lime and housemade ginger syrup.

ABV | San Francisco

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Mumbai Mule
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
The Mumbai Mule is the only vodka drink on the ABV menu, and it remains their most popular. Owner Ryan Fitzgerald credits its appeal to vodka, as drinkers still wrongly think of the spirit as the least likely to produce a hangover or, at least, the spirit with the fewest calories. In reference to the popularity of the Old-Fashioned, Fitzgerald says, “It’s a bummer that the Old-Fashioned is the acceptable cocktail for men who are worried that drinking cocktails somehow threatens their masculinity.”

kentucky buck cocktail recipe

Kentucky Buck [Recipe] | Photo: Lizzie Munro

Polite Provisions | San Diego

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Kentucky Buck
Most popular off-menu cocktail: Bourbon sour
A combination of strawberries, bourbon, fresh lemon and ginger syrup, the Kentucky Buck has been on the menu at Polite Provisions since its opening, in 2012. It’s “a great cocktail for warm Southern California weather,” says Brian Vong, the bar’s manager, “and adding in strawberries makes it approachable to all walks of life.” The top off-menu call is the classic Whiskey Sour, with a specification for bourbon.

Harvard & Stone | Los Angeles

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Honeydew Collins
Most popular off-menu cocktail: 
The Honeydew Collins, which has been on the menu for two and a half years, remains a bestseller at Harvard & Stone because, “it’s familiar whilst also having the exoticism and neighborhood deference of Thai ingredients,” says bar manager Aaron Polsky. The Old-Fashioned, meanwhile, gets its high numbers from an irresistible happy hour deal that offers the drink at $5 a pop.

Bibo Ergo Sum | Los Angeles

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Grandpa Joe
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
At Bibo Ergo Sum, the Grandpa Joe comes out on top. Made with whiskey, Grand Marnier, orange and lemon juices, it looks like an Old-Fashioned and tastes like a Whiskey Sour. “We really saw a ‘back to basics’ approach to cocktails—but with an elevated meticulousness—in bars everywhere,” says general manager Daniel Zacharczuk, “and it’s why the Grandpa Joe has been so popular. It’s familiar enough to be recognized, but interesting enough to order again and again.” As for the Martini, Zacharczuk attributes the ambiance and design of the space, implying that the iconic cocktail is ordered more often in a sophisticated setting.

Teardrop Lounge | Portland, OR

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Love in the Afternoon
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
According to bar manager Alejandro De La Parra, the popularity of whiskey-based drinks shows no sign of slowing down. Love in the Afternoon, a Whiskey Sour variation made with lemon-basil soda and muddled pluot (a plum and apricot hybrid) is the on-menu winner. And off the menu, the Old-Fashioned “reigns supreme.”

old fashioned robert simonson daniel krieger

The Ultimate Old-Fashioned [Recipe] | Photo: Daniel Krieger

Clyde Common | Portland, OR

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Bourbon Renewal
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
In Portland, “American whiskey reigns supreme,” says Clyde Common owner Jeffrey Morgenthaler. The Bourbon Renewal, a Whiskey Sour sweetened with crème de cassis, is “one of the drinks we’re known for, mostly because it’s delicious, but partly because it’s a fun name,” says Morgenthaler.

Canon | Seattle

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Campfire in Georgia
Most popular off-menu cocktail:
Canon is known for having one of the world’s largest collections of American whiskey, so it’s no surprise that the Old-Fashioned is the most ordered off-menu drink. Ironically, however, the most popular drink people order from the menu contains no whiskey at all. The Campfire in Georgia is comprised of mezcal, peach-habanero shrub, orange juice, bitters and dehydrated French oak chips cooked in cinnamon syrup.

Rob Roy | Seattle

Most popular on-menu cocktail: Old-Fashioned
Most popular off-menu cocktail: Sazerac
At Seattle’s Rob Roy, classic cocktails prevail. In addition to the Old-Fashioned and the Sazerac,  Manhattans, Martinis, Mojitos and French 75s are frequently ordered. Sadly, the bar’s namesake cocktail doesn’t even crack the top five. 

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