For much of 2017, having a drink at the ready wasn’t just a good idea—it was a necessity.
Perhaps to escape the state of current affairs, over at PUNCH our readers looked to the past for much of their at-home drinking inspiration. The OG of American cocktails, the Sherry Cobbler, continued to be popular, as did the perennial tiki favorite, the Jungle Bird. But a few others made first-time appearances on our top list—like the modern-classic Penicillin (riffs on which appear on many cocktail menus today) and the pre-Prohibition Clover Club, which the proprietor of the Brooklyn bar by the same name, Julie Reiner, revealed how to master.
Then there was the hyper-regional Orange Crush, the unofficial Maryland state cocktail that combines OJ, lemon-lime soda, triple sec and vodka; first crafted in the ’90s, it has since become an institution around the mid-Atlantic.
The ever-popular Italian aperitivo category popped up as well, in the form of the bitter and bubbly Bicicletta.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, the top spot went to the Porn Star Martini: our SEO-friendly champion two years in a row.
Here, our most popular cocktail recipes from the past year.
Giuseppe González, Suffolk Arms | New York
(adapted from Douglas Ankrah, Townhouse, London, UK)
This ostentatious, two-vessel assemblage—vodka, passion fruit, lime and vanilla in one glass, a shot of sparkling rosé Champagne on the side—was a sensation at London’s Townhouse and its sister bar, LAB. This adaptation from Giuseppe González of New York’s Suffolk Arms may be its U.S. debut.
Maxwell Britten | Brooklyn, NY
In Twin Peaks, Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) encounters Twin Peaks’ local specialty, the Black Yukon Sucker Punch: a split-level drink with a tar-colored bottom and a foamy, blue upper. New York City bartender Maxwell Britten brought this cocktail to life with a mix of coffee bean-infused sweet vermouth, bourbon and crème de cacao, all topped with blue-tinted whipped cream.
The Sherry Cobbler—an American-born cocktail, by most accounts, thought to have originated sometime in the 1820s or early 1830s—is simply sherry, sugar and citrus, shaken, poured over crushed ice and slurped through a straw.
In Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 antebellum film, Django Unchained, this fictional variation of Don the Beachcomber’s classic appears in the coolly vicious hands of plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio)—never mind the fact that tiki bars were not invented until the 1930s.
Planter’s Punch can be traced back to a time when the West Indies were considered exotic, and recipes were written in verse. “Two of sour, one and a half of sweet, three of strong and four of weak,” directed one description from a 1908 article in the New York Times. Ingredient ratios vary from account to account, as does the drink’s name, but it almost always contains rum, lime, sugar and water.
Sam Ross | New York (Adapted from A Proper Drink by Robert Simonson)
No new drink of the twenty-first century has gone further in terms of fame than this complex, spicy, smoky turn on a Whiskey Sour, created by Sam Ross while at Milk & Honey. In the years since, the Penicillin has become as close to a household word as any cocktail since the Cosmopolitan.
Harborside Bar & Grill in West Ocean City, Maryland, invented the Orange Crush in 1995. It remains a signature, despite it being mimicked by bars up and down the East Coast. “Everybody says that they just taste better here,” says bartender Phil Lewis.
With a base of Jamaican or blackstrap rum, the Jungle Bird is more bracing than the average tiki cocktail due to the addition of bitter Campari. Pineapple and lime smooth any rough edges and add a characteristically tropical vibe to this classic.
Julie Reiner, Clover Club | Brooklyn, NY
The Bellevue-Stratford in Philadelphia was the fashionable, see-and-be-seen hotel of the late 1800s. Like the Friars’ Club or the Algonquin Round Table of its era, the establishment hosted The Clover Club, an all-male salon of lawyers and writers—including the likes of William Butler Yeats—until World War I. The cocktail didn’t appear until later in the Club’s history and eventually fell out of fashion, most likely due to the use of egg white and feminine associations with raspberry. But like many of the pre-Prohibition stalwarts, it was rediscovered as part of the classic arsenal, and made immortal by Julie Reiner’s Brooklyn cocktail bar of the same name.
Adapted from The PDT Cocktail Book, by Jim Meehan
Traditionally, it’s equal parts rye, Bénédictine and sweet vermouth—a simple ratio that can skew syrupy-sweet. In this version, the amount of rye is upped to cut the saccharine notes.
This iconic sour—whiskey, lemon juice and sugar, shaken over ice—forms the building block for many cocktails due to its structural simplicity prime for riffing. Add an egg white and it becomes the “Boston Sour” (PUNCH’s preferred whiskey sour recipe). Add a red wine float and it becomes the New York Sour or Continental Sour, a variation that popped up in the late 1800s.
Though not fully official on account of the plane breaking down, the first attempt at modern airmail was documented in 1911. It traveled from Petaluma to Santa Rosa, California and contained exactly three pieces of correspondence. The first instance of the Air Mail cocktail was documented in Esquire magazine’s 1949 edition of Handbook for Hosts. It’s not certain why the drink is named for the modern delivery method, but it can be said that the Air Mail is quite like the Caribbean version of a French 75, with a splash of lime whisked into a turbulent mix of rum, honey and Champagne.
According to a popular Italian legend, the Bicicletta—“bicycle” in Italian—was named after the elderly men who swerved all over the road while riding home after a few afternoon drinks at the café. In traditional aperitivo style, the cocktail mixes two of Italy’s favorite early evening refreshments. Campari adds delightfully bitter complexity to dry Italian white wine, while a splash of club soda turns the combination into a refreshing spritz.
Paul Calvert, Ticonderoga Club | Atlanta
Atlanta-based bartender Paul Calvert mimics the flavor profile and appearance of a springtime rosé in his Pink Rabbit, made of equal parts gin, vermouth and rooibos tea and finished with a splash of lemon. The simple proportions and assembly allow this recipe to be easily scaled up for a party-sized punch or, alternatively, stretched further with a topper of sparkling wine or tonic.
Adapted from St. Mazie | Brooklyn, NY