My Five Favourite Classic Cocktails

My Five Favourite Classic Cocktails

There are thousands of different cocktail recipes that are available online and from other various sources around the world. However, they all use the same four key ingredients; alcohol, mixer, garnish, and ice. But, did you know there are only 77 cocktails that are officially recognised by the International Bartenders Association (IBA)? The IBA splits these drinks into three groups i.e. Unforgettable Cocktails, New Era Cocktails and Contemporary Classic Cocktails.

I’ve got to admit, at home, I’m very much a “beer” man. Thus, I can’t claim to be anywhere near an expert on the subject of cocktails. However, on my overseas travels, I have been known to enjoy the odd cocktail (or three).

Here’s a list of my five favourite cocktails with their background story thrown in for good measure:

Long Island Iced Tea

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Long Island Iced Tea is typically made with vodka, tequila, light rum, gin, and triple sec, with a splash of cola. Despite the name, the drink does not usually have iced tea as an ingredient. Rather, it gets its name from the fact that mixed correctly, it has the same look and, to a degree, refreshingly sweet taste of iced tea.

There are two stories linked to the creation of the punchy cocktail Long Island iced tea. Bartender Robert Butt claims to have invented the drink as an entry into a cocktail-making contest in 1972. He entered the competition while working at the Oak Beach Inn on Long Island, New York. Thus, he christened his new cocktail “Long Island iced tea”. However, it’s also claimed a similar drink was created in the 1920s in Long Island, Tennessee. The cocktail was originally called “Old Man Bishop” after its creator. It is speculated that because it resembled iced tea it was openly drunk in public during the Prohibition era.

Not unsurprisingly, given its high alcohol content, a Long Island Iced Tea really packs a punch. After downing just a couple of “Long Islands”, you’ll definitely know you’re not drinking iced tea.


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A classic Mojito cocktail consists of five ingredients: white rum, sugar cane juice, lime juice, soda water and fresh mint. The drink started out life as a traditional Cuban rum punch. However, with its subtle blend of sweetness, citrus, and mint flavourings, the mojito has now become a firm favourite of cocktail lovers, everywhere.

It isn’t easy to pinpoint the origin of the mojito cocktail but there are at least three different stories. Some say the mojito was an invention of Cuba’s indigenous Indian people. Originally, using a local moonshine in the mix, later replaced by white rum, it was used as a medicinal drink. However, it is also claimed that it was African slaves working in the Cuban sugar cane fields who first created the drink, using simple alcohol derived from sugar cane.

The third and perhaps the most fanciful story dictates that it was Sir Francis Drake who mixed the first mojito. In the late 16th century, Drake made a failed attempt to invade Cuba but did at least leave the island with an array of fresh produce. It’s said he came up with the idea of the drink as a tonic to ward off scurvy for his crew. Shortly afterwards, he named the concoction ” El Draque”, which is said to have become a popular drink in Cuba.

If you’re yet to try a mojito, then your definitely missing out. One sip of the delectable rum punch and you’ll know why it was such a firm favourite of long-time Cuban resident, the world-renowned author, and hellraiser, Ernest Hemingway.

Mai Tai

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The ingredients for a classic Mai Tai cocktail are; dark rum, aged rum, orange liqueur, fresh lime juice, and orgeat (almond-based) syrup. The name of the delicious rum-based cocktail is said to be derived from a Polynesian phrase, meaning “out of this world”.

It is most commonly accepted that the Mai Tai was created by Victor Jules Bergeron, at his Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland, San Francisco. In 1944, Vic treated his visiting Hawaiian friends to one of his new cocktail concoctions. One of them exclaimed, “Maita’i roa a’e,”, which means “out of this world”. After that, Vic decided that “Mai Tai” was the perfect name for his new cocktail invention.

However, in 1933, a very similar drink to the Mai Tai was created by Ernest Raymond Gantt at his “Don The Beachcomber’s” tiki bar in Huntingdon, California. He called it the Q.B. Cooler, which saw Gantt claim that Bergeron had stolen the idea for the Mai Tai from him.  The dispute eventually ended up in court, which saw the judge rule in favour of Bergeron.

Most popularly garnished with mint leaves and a segment of lime, the Mai Tai really is a heavenly experience for many cocktail lovers.

Bloody Mary

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A Bloody Mary has to be one of the easiest cocktails to make. Originally, it was simply a mix of vodka and tomato juice. However, today, according to taste, ingredients such as hot pepper sauce, salt, pepper, and lemon juice, are often added. A decent Bloody Mary is also now considered incomplete without a good dash of Worcestershire sauce. The cocktail is also quite often garnished with the likes of olives, celery, cherry tomatoes, etc.

Like most “cocktail” stories, the origin of the name “Bloody Mary” is in some dispute. The most widely accepted account of the cocktail’s naming, dates from 1921. Then, it is said that a young bartender, Fernand “Pete” Petiot, invented the drink at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. The name was allegedly suggested to Petiot by an American ex-pat who frequented the bar. The name was reportedly in honour of his favourite barmaid from back home, i.e. Mary, who worked at “The Bucket Of Blood” bar in Chicago. Another claim is that the drink is named after Queen Mary I of England. The Tudor Catholic Queen herself was dubbed “Bloody Mary” by her Protestant opponents, many of whom she had butchered.

The Bloody Mary is a unique cocktail in as much as it is widely recognised as the perfect drink for a lunchtime social. Suffer from hangovers? No problem! – the cocktail is cited by many as being the very best “hair of the dog” tonic, that exists.

Tequila Sunrise

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A Tequila Sunrise is a simple fiery cocktail of just three ingredients: tequila, orange juice, and grenadine syrup. The drink is named after its appearance, when, if made and served correctly, it has a spectrum of colour that resembles a sunrise.

The creation of the Tequila Sunrise is generally credited to Gene Sulit, a bartender at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, during the late 1930s. The original cocktail consisted of a blend of tequila, crème de cassis, fresh lime juice, and soda water. However, in 1972, the drink was reimagined by two young barmen, Bobby Lazoff and Bill Rice. Working at the prestigious “The Trident” in Sausalito, California, they used the aforementioned tequila, orange juice, and grenadine syrup as their ingredients.

I really do enjoy a few tequilas now and then. And, I really don’t mind drinking it as a shot, on the rocks, or in a cocktail. For me, if it’s the latter, then it has to be a Tequila Sunrise.


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