In 2020, it was the year of the comfort cocktail. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that the usual suspects that have won you over year after year continue to do so—be it anchors of the modern-classics canon like the Pornstar Martini, Paper Plane and Penicillin or the always-in-style, rum-forward Jungle Bird and fictionalized Polynesian Pearl Diver.
But this year also reflected renewed attention to the wider group of aperitivo cocktails, like Dante’s two-ingredient Garibaldi, the Spumoni, the Milano-Torino and the familiar bittersweetness of the Campari Sour.
Here, a look at our 10 most popular recipes of the year.
Like all good stories should, the one about the Negroni’s origin involves rakish Italian nobility. Most accounts credit the recipe to one Count Negroni, a swashbuckling proto-boho who reportedly spent time as a rodeo cowboy in the United States. Compounding his wild ways, legend has it that back at a bar in Italy in 1919, he asked for a something like an Americano, but boozier. Swap gin for soda water, and presto, the Negroni. This version, adapted from London bartender Wayne Collins’ riff, turns the original on its head substituting floral Lillet for sweet vermouth and gentian-based Suze for the bitter twinge of Campari.Read More →
The Pearl Diver is Don the Beachcomber’s iced take on hot buttered rum. Key to its construction is a propriety mixture known as Gardenia Mix—an amalgam of honey, butter and spiced syrups. In Gaby Mlynarczyk’s version of the mix, far fewer ingredients are required, and browned butter, rather than simply softened butter, lends a slightly savory note.Read More →
Piña Colada Milk Punch
How do you take a drink whole essence relies on both a beach and a blender and make it the sort of drink you’d sip near the fire? The Piña Colada so singularly symbolizes summer it seems an almost impossible feat to make it winter appropriate. Almost.
This here Piña Colada Milk Punch maintains the essence of the drink’s tropical spirit with coconut water, pineapple juice, rum (and velvet falernum for extra credit), but it’s transformed by adding scalded milk, clarifying the mixture with a cheese cloth and then ladling it, punch-style, on the rocks.Read More →
Abigail Gullo’s Boulevardier
Sam Ross, the longtime bartender at Milk & Honey (now Attaboy), created this simple, equal-parts drink for the opening menu at The Violet Hour in Chicago, a bar where he never worked. “It’s my second most well-traveled drink,” after the Penicillin, said Ross. It is particularly popular in Toronto, for reasons that remain mysterious to Ross. “It is essentially the official drink of Toronto,” he said. “It is on every cocktail menu in Toronto.” It is made with the Italian bitter Aperol and the Italian amaro Nonino Quintessentia, two ingredients whose stars rose with the cocktail movement. (The original recipe contained Campari, but that was quickly supplanted with Aperol, which became the norm.) The drink was named after a song by the British rapper M.I.A. that Ross was listening to while he tried to come up with the recipe.Read More →
Created by mambises (guerrilla fighters) during the Cuban Wars of Independence as a morning toddy, the Canchánchara combines aguardiente de caña, honey, lime juice and water. It originated in the main sugar cane-growing region outside the colonial city of Trinidad, and became a popular restorative for slaves working the plantations. The modern iteration is served on the rocks, in a traditional clay cup called a jícara. Julio Cabrera’s riff, from the Spanish word for “flip-flops,” uses Yaguara Cachaça Ouro for its similarity to Cuban aguardiente in addition to a ginger-infused honey syrup and Persian lime, which is less acidic than Key lime. Curiously, many American versions of the Canchánchara use añejo, rather than plata rum, but skip it, says Cabrera. “If you’re using añejo, then it isn’t a true Canchánchara.”Read More →
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.Read More →
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. The Australian Ross created it while at Milk & Honey, just a year after he emigrated to the United States from Melbourne.Read More →
The cult drink among Japanese bartenders made with Campari, grapefruit and tonic gets a Garibaldi-inspired makeover by Bar Pisellino’s Jon Mullen. Spiked with an apple-distillate-based gin and a sweet-and-savory pink peppercorn syrup, the real star is the layer of frothy Ruby Red grapefruit juice courtesy of a Breville juicer. “People are triggered by that thick layer of foam,” says Mullen. “They see a server walking the drink across the room and every time we get a few more orders.”Read More →