What are Some Popular Cocktails?

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  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2018
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Cocktails are generally accepted these days to be any sort of mixed alcoholic drink, although sometimes the term may be used to refer to non-alcoholic mixed drinks, such as fruit juice cocktails. Originally, the term meant a mix of some sort of alcohol, a sweetener, and bitters. Most of these drinks are made with the four mainstays of alcohol: vodka, gin, whiskey, and rum. Others may use more esoteric liquors, like absinthe or Jägermeister, but for the most part, all include at least one of the four primary alcohols.

Without a doubt, the most famous of the cocktails in the world is the martini. Originally a drink made with gin and vermouth, the martini has since expanded to become an entire class of drinks unto itself. Gin has given way in most martinis to vodka, and in many bars, ordering a martini without clarifying will now result in vodka being served. The amount of vermouth added to the martini has also been reduced substantially in the past decades, with many bartenders eschewing it entirely, or paying only incidental care to the idea of this fortified wine being added.


The cosmopolitan is often cited as one of the top drinks among a certain subset of women. This drink mixes vodka with cranberry juice, and should also include either Cointreau or Triple Sec to sweeten them a bit more, as well as a twist of lime. The cosmopolitan can be seen as an evolution from some other popular drinks, coming originally from the gimlet by way of the kamikaze.

The Bloody Mary is another popular mixed drink. Often served with breakfast, brunch, or lunch, it's made by mixing vodka with tomato juice, clam juice, and hot sauce. This makes for a somewhat spicy, acidic drink that hides the vodka almost entirely.

The lemon drop is yet another popular cocktail that relies on vodka. An older-style version mixes vodka and lemon juice, making a rather tart drink. Most modern lemon drops also add sugar, bringing it in line with other, sweeter mixed drinks. Although fairly labor intensive, the lemon drop is a very popular drink in bars.

Rum is used in a number of sweeter, often frozen cocktails. The two most famous of these are probably the daiquiri and the piña colada. The daiquiri mixes rum with lime juice and sugar. Although not necessarily frozen, the frozen version is by far the most popular form, even though a purist might not consider the drink to be a daiquiri at all, when other fruit juices substitute the lime. Piña coladas are made with rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice. They are served chilled, either with cubes of ice, or shaken with crushed ice.

The most popular of the gin cocktails is, without a doubt, the gin and tonic. Originally conceived of in India during the British occupation, this drink was simply a way to make tonic more drinkable, since tonic water had a great deal of quinine in it, which kept malaria-spreading mosquitoes at bay. Modern tonic has very little quinine in it, and most people aren't in need of constant mosquito repellant, but the drink remains extremely popular.

Other popular cocktails include the following:

  • the Long Island iced tea, a mix of gin, triple sec, rum, vodka, and cola;
  • the gimlet, which mixes gin and lime juice;
  • the Mai Tai, containing all three flavors of rum, orange curacao, and lime juice;
  • the eponymous rum and Coke;
  • the whiskey highball, with whiskey and ginger ale;
  • and the mint julep, with bourbon and mint.

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Discuss this Article

Post 4

Does anyone know of any good Christmas cocktails that I could serve at my holiday party this year? Thanks!

Post 3

Most people go for gin and tonic but I have always preferred vodka tonic. I think it is a little bit lighter and more subtle. For me, gin tastes too much like tonic, so when you mix them together it becomes overpowering. A vodka and tonic is a lot more refreshing and it doesn't give you that coated feeling in your mouth and throat.

Post 2

I love making cocktails at home, but I'm often disappointed if I order one in a restaurant or bar. You really need to check that the ingredients will be what you expect. For me a Bloody mary needs Worcestershire sauce, tabasco just isn't the same. And if I get a Black Russian with no cola I'm devastated!

Post 1

I'm researching the history of cocktail making for a project so this article is invaluable. Thanks Wisegeek!

Something I have found interesting is the way the media make particular drinks popular. I did a short survey asking people to name a drink they connected to a movie or TV character. Cocktail recipes of various kinds came out on top!

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