In January 2021, Drinks International (DI), a trade publication for the alcohol industry, released its list of 2020’s best-selling classic cocktails around the globe. To create the annual ranking, DI surveys the world’s top bars and asks each to name its best-selling drinks for the year. The responses are then weighted and ranked. For the latest version, the publication surveyed 100 bars to create a ranking of the year’s most-ordered drinks at top establishments around the world.
A big takeaway from the newly released list is: Tropical cocktails are always in season. Three of the seven newcomers feature bright flavours and fruity ingredients — including the Jungle Bird, El Diablo, and the Zombie. Perhaps almost a year of staying at home has inspired imbibers to experience their beach vacations in a glass. On another note, the Long Island Iced Tea has found its way onto the year’s ranking, proving that these days, we should always expect the unexpected.
1. OLD FASHIONED
The Old Fashioned is timeless. This simple classic made with rye or bourbon, a sugar cube, Angostura bitters, a thick cube of ice, and an orange twist delivers every time. That’s it — the most popular cocktail in the world.
We love Negronis at VinePair, and we’re sorely disappointed when a bartender doesn’t know how to make one. Thankfully, that shouldn’t happen much longer, as the Negroni claims the No. 2 spots for the sixth year running. Gin, Campari, and vermouth in a perfect, punchy package.
The Daiquiri is often misunderstood. While many associates the drink with fruit and blenders, a true Daiquiri is simply made with white rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. It is a clean and refreshing drink for any occasion.
4. DRY MARTINI
A well-made dry Martini is an elegance in a glass. The classic mix of gin and dry vermouth ranks No. 4 in the top 50 cocktails of the year.
The Margarita, in its tart, tangy simplicity, is probably the most well-known tequila cocktail in the world. It’s also one of the most popular cocktails in America. It keeps its spot as the world’s top tequila-based classic in 2021.
6. ESPRESSO MARTINI
Like a refined Red Bull and vodka for coffee lovers, the Espresso Martini promises a pick-me-up, calm-me-down effect in a tasty package. The after-dinner drink will wake you up while still keeping your buzz going. It’s also been called a Vodka Espresso and Pharmaceutical Stimulant.
7. WHISKEY SOUR
This dependable drink is an easy fit for whiskey lovers, as well as those weary of the brown spirit: its lemony lift and slight sweetness make it appealing for citrus lovers, too. The simple recipe calls for whiskey, lemon juice, and sugar.
It’s hard to stray from Manhattan, and the recent rise of rye whiskey makes it even more difficult. Spicy rye, sweet vermouth, and two dashes of Angostura, stirred, strained, and garnished with a brandied cherry can make you feel like a true class act.
9. APEROL SPRITZ
If you haven’t noticed the Aperol Spritz, you haven’t been drinking (or on Instagram). Moving into the top 10 from No. 22 in 2017, this popular aperitif is as visually pleasing as it is tasty and easy to make: a three-two-one ratio of Prosecco, Aperol, and soda. May the summer of spritz compel you.
The Mojito might be Cuba’s most popular contribution to cocktail culture. The mix of white rum, lime juice, cane sugar, and soda (with muddled mint, please) is fresh and tropical, and it’s a classic that we don’t expect to disappear any time soon.
11. BLOODY MARY
The Bloody Mary is as much an experience as a drink. The brunch-time staple is best enjoyed with a house mix of tomato juice, vodka, and spices. And, if it’s your thing, an array of garnishes — from celery and olives to bacon to entire cheeseburgers — are known to make appearances.
Two parts gin, one part lime juice, and one-half part sweetener, the Gimlet is an easy sipper that inspires many iterations and has maintained its 12th place spot for two years running.
13. MOSCOW MULE
This famous mug-dwelling drink contains ginger, vodka, lime, and soda. It’s famously served in a Moscow Mule mug, which we venture to guess is much of its slushy appeal.
Nothing cures the weary winter drinker like Penicillin, made with blended Scotch, smoky Islay Scotch, lemon juice, and honey ginger simple syrup. Created by Sam Ross, co-owner of New York’s Attaboy, it’ll bring you back to life like a Z-pack.
15. DARK ’N’ STORMY
The Dark ’n’ Stormy contains a mix of Gosling’s rum (and only Gosling’s rum) and ginger beer. Sometimes, the simplest is best.
16. CORPSE REVIVER
Talk about a revival. This drink rises eight spots this year, and has an interesting twist: There are two versions. Corpse Reviver #1 calls for Cognac, calvados, brandy, and vermouth; while Corpse Reviver #2 uses equal parts gin, lemon juice, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, and a dash of absinthe. Choose wisely.
17. CLOVER CLUB
The Clover Club was originally named after a men’s club in Philadelphia, but for us is synonymous with the eponymous premiere cocktail club in Brooklyn. The bright pink drink contains gin, lemon juice, raspberry syrup, and an egg white.
The Boulevardier is the Negroni’s fraternal twin that utilizes whiskey instead of gin. It’s equal parts rye, amaro, and sweet vermouth. Garnish with an orange twist, and you’ve got yourself an afternoon.
19. MAI TAI
Perhaps the tiki-est of tiki cocktails, the Mai Tai was hard to resist among the world’s drinkers last year. Its recipe typically includes different varieties of rum, orange juice, triple sec, and several sweeteners.
The Sazerac has slipped from its former top 10 status, but its staying power is clear. The drink originated in the 1850s in New Orleans and remains deeply entwined with Crescent City culture. It can be made with rye or brandy, along with Demerara syrup, Peychaud’s Bitters, a lemon twist, and absinthe as needed.
21. FRENCH 75
The French 75 calls for gin, lemon juice, sugar, and Champagne. It’s a classy affair, but can also be found as one of our favourite canned cocktails.
The Paloma is among the most-loved tequila drinks at VinePair. It entered this list for the first time in 2017, and it has not only stuck around but raised in rank — moving up 14 spaces since last year. The Paloma mixes tequila and grapefruit — we think Avion, Spindrift grapefruit soda, and a squeeze of fresh lime work best — or you can switch it up with seasonal ingredients, or substitute tequila or slightly smoky mezcal.
23. PISCO SOUR
The Pisco Sour, made with the Peruvian and Chilean national spirit pisco, along with lime, syrup and an optional egg white, is appropriate for any occasion.
24. VIEUX CARRÉ
The Vieux Carré is an American cocktail invented in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Similar to the Manhattan, it’s made with brandy, whiskey, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, Angostura, and Peychaud’s bitters.
Not to be confused with the espresso drink (in fact, it has nothing to do with coffee at all), this Italian cocktail was created by Gaspare Campari, who served it in his bar, Caffè Campari, in the 1860s. This Campari, vermouth, and soda water drink is quickly rising in popularity.
26. AMARETTO SOUR
The Amaretto Sour is both a staple at the world’s best bars and a drink we’ve compared to a liquid Sour Patch Kid. It’s both sweet from the nutty amaretto and sour from lemon juice, while egg white smooths out the tang.
27. JUNGLE BIRD
This year’s list proves that tiki is still on the crest of its comeback. It doesn’t get more classic than the Jungle Bird, which was reportedly invented in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, circa 1978. While high-end cocktail bars often serve the drink in a birdcage for the ultimate presentation, at-home bartenders can stick with a rocks glass and a pineapple wedge garnish.
28. LONG ISLAND ICED TEA
New to the list in 2020, the Long Island Iced Tea combines four spirits: light rum, vodka, tequila, and gin. It’s the ultimate cocktail for indecisive imbibers. Love it or hate it, the sickly sweet cocktail is back.
29. RUM OLD FASHIONED
Rum has grown out of its rum-and-Coke banality to the world-class cocktail mixer. The Rum Old Fashioned is simply an Old Fashioned made with rum. Its simplicity seems to work in its favour, as the Rum Old Fashioned rose 10 places in popularity since last year.
30. GIN FIZZ
A delicious craft gin can make the Gin Fizz shine. The simple drink is a mix of gin, lemon, sugar, egg, and soda.