Looking back at our top performing recipes in 2018 reveals that our most popular drinks have remained pretty consistent over the years—and for good reason. Some, like the Colonial-era Philadelphia Fish House Punch, simply demonstrate the staying power of a truly timeless construction; while others, like the Polynesian Pearl Diver—a fictional take on the Pearl Diver, which appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained—offer an appealing dose of escapism that never gets old.
But there are a few newcomers shaking up the status quo, too. The Japanese Cocktail, a Jerry Thomas original, has found renewed interest; meanwhile, Negroni fever continues to spread as the White Negroni climbs the ranks.
Here, a look at our 15 most popular recipes of the the year.
The drink is recorded as having been discovered at the La Cucaracha Bar in Mexico City in 1937. A dry formula, the Firing Squad is almost a rickey with the addition of grenadine to sweeten only slightly.
In this take on a mule—a lime and ginger-based libation—Jim Meehan was set on developing a cocktail for Richard Betts of Sombra Mezcal. “When I went about conceiving this drink, I wanted to use a lot of traditional Oaxacan flavors,” Meehan says.
Until recently, sloe gin was best-known as a base of such absurdly named collegiate classics as the Alabama Slammer and the Sloe Comfortable Screw, likely due to its provocative purple hue. However, the purple stuff that spilled across American campuses in the 1980s and 1990s was not proper British-style sloe gin, but merely a fruitier imposter. Luckily, the classic cocktail is enjoying a second renaissance in the United States with the return of true sloe gin—a mixture of English blackthorn sloe berries (a more petite relative of the plum) macerated in gin. This version is slightly unorthodox using a blend of regular gin and sloe gin, plus the optional addition of an egg white for a bit of fluffy oomph.
As David Wondrich suggests in Imbibe!, Philadelphia Fish House Punch “deserves to be protected by law, taught in the schools, and made a mandatory part of every Fourth of July celebration.” The stuff was born from a group of rebellious (and most likely overheated) colonial Americans—fishermen, politicians and Philadelphians of the like—who founded a pre-Revolution social club called the Schuylkill Fishing Company of Pennsylvania, also known as the State in Schuylkill. Its constituents actually declared the assemblage a sovereign state, and called themselves “citizens.” They still do to this day. Heady and heavy-handed, Fish House Punch is made for lazy summer afternoons (or—when heated and mulled—lazy, winter weekends), so we’d recommend refraining from following a punch bowl up with any sort of plans, angling or otherwise.
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 now-shuttered Suffolk Arms may be its U.S. debut.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 the Don the Beachcomber classic appears in the coolly vicious hands of plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio)—never mind the fact that tiki was not invented until the 1930s.
First appearing in Jerry Thomas’ 1862 How to Mix Drinks, the Japanese Cocktail is accompanied with no explanation of its namesake, nor do its ingredients lead one to believe it is of any Asian persuasion. However, as David Wondrich surmises in Imibibe!, this vanguard cocktail perhaps had something to do with a visit (or four) paid to Thomas’ New York City bar on Broadway by a member of Japan’s first diplomatic mission to America, Tateishi Onojirou Noriyuki, or “Tommy,” as he was known among the ladies. The delegation resided quite near Thomas’ saloon, and Tommy quickly drummed up a reputation for spending plenty of nights out on the town. It can be assumed that a raucous evening or two spent at the bar would be enough cause for Thomas to christen a cocktail in honor of his Japanese regular.
In Twin Peaks, Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) encounters the town’s local specialty, the Black Yukon Sucker Punch: a split-level drink with a tar-colored bottom and a foamy, blue upper. New York 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 Spanish Coffee is known as “Carajillo” in Spain, likely perhaps for coraje, “courage,” or que ara guillo, Catalan for “now, I’m leaving in a hurry,” an order for both coffee and booze without any dilly-dally. The classic preparation involves torching rum in a sugar-rimmed glass to caramelize the sugars, a ritual that was made famous in America at Huber’s Café in Portland, Oregon. And while Spaniards might balk at the idea, this version hews to the kitschy American tradition of floating whipped cream (scented with the orange-forward Grand Marnier) atop the steaming drink.
Joaquín Simó originally created this variation while at New York speakeasy Death & Co. He describes it as “the bastard child born out of an illicit Oaxacan love affair between the classic Last Word and the Paper Plane,” which is Sam Ross’ variation on the Last Word. Opt for an aggressively smoky mezcal for best effect.
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.