Essential Drinks of mixology (a dismal list)

Much as we have discussed essential figures and the canon, here’s a list-in-progress of the mixed drinks that either formed the basis for the American Bar, or are, for better or worse, its best-known accomplishments. Some of my dates are probably wrong, or are attempts to fudge a messy situation—I can easily be nudged in most any direction to refine and improve the list.

(all Imbibe page references below are to the Second Edition)

julep (as medicine, by 900, Persia, Imbibe p. 189)
punch (c 1670s, Imbibe p. 82)
hot spiced rum (17th C and earlier, Imbibe p. 204)
Stoughton’s Elixir [instant purl/proto Cocktail] (1690, Richard Staughton, London, Imbibe p. 210-11)
sangaree (c 1736-1740, London and Maryland, from Iberian sangria, Imbibe p. 201)
toddy (by 1750, Scotland, Imbibe p. 171)
Mint Julep (1770; Virginia Gazette, Jan. 11th, p. 2: “A Short Poem on Hunting.”)
Egg Nogg (by 1788, Imbibe p. 160)
sling (by 1785, Imbibe p. 184-5)
Cocktail (by 1803, but probably between ~1785 and 1800, Imbibe p. 215)
Sherry Cobbler (c. 1820s-1837, probably in New York, possibly by Martha King Niblo at Niblo’s Garden between. 1828 and 1838, Imbibe p. 141-2 and this article)
John/Tom Collins (late 1820s, John Collin, Limmer’s, London, and evolved its way to 1872 New York, this article)
smash (by mid-1830s, Imbibe p. 200)
Champagne Cocktail (prior to 1850 in California, everywhere thereafter; Imbibe p. 302)
Crusta (c. Joe Santini, 1850-1855, New Orleans, at City Exchange or Jewel of the South, Imbibe p. 314)
Caipirinha (by 1856, near Rio, this article)
Pisco Punch (c. 1856, Mrs. Sykes, San Francisco, Imbibe p. 89)
fix (c. 1850-1856, Imbibe p. 113)
sour (c. 1850-1856, Imbibe p. 113)
swizzle (1860s Caribbean, Imbibe p. 154-5)
Vermouth Cocktail (1868; NY Herald, June 14, “A Bohemian banquet to the Sorossians”)
Gin & Tonic (1868, Oriental Sporting Magazine, November 16, “1868-Seakote Races” p. 838)
fizz (c. 1870-1876, Imbibe p. 133)
Improved Cocktail (c. 1870-1876, Imbibe p. 235)
daisy (July 7, 1873, Frank Haas, Eberlin’s, New York, Imbibe p. 127-8)
Sherry Flip (by 1874, possibly Ed Simmons at French’s Hotel, New York, Imbibe p. 168)
Manhattan (by 1882, New York, Imbibe p. 252-6)
Martini (by various names, with Italian vermouth) (by 1884, Imbibe p. 260-2)
Rickey (c. 1883-1889, “Colonel” Joe Rickey, Shoomaker’s, Washington DC, Imbibe p. 147)
Bamboo (by 1886, Louis Eppinger, San Francisco, Imbibe p. 280-1)
“Old Fashioned” (c. 1888, Chicago, Imbibe p. 244-5)
Ramos Gin Fizz (c. 1890s, Henry Charles Ramos, Imperial Cabinet, New Orleans, Imbibe p. 138)
Sazerac (c. 1893, Billy Wilkinson and/or Vinent Miret, Sazerac House bar, New Orleans, Imbibe p. 237-8)
Cafe Brulot (c. 1895, Jules Alciatore, Antoine’s, New Orleans, [need better source])
Rob Roy (by 1897, New York/New Jersey, Imbibe p. 270-1)
Jack Rose (c. 1899, possibly Eberlin’s, Imbibe p. 321)
Planter’s Punch (c. 1900 Jamaica; OCS p. 547)
Cuba Libre (c. 1900, Cuba, commensurate with Coca-Cola being imported to Cuba)
Clover Club (c. 1900-1901, presumably from the Club at the Philadelphia Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, and then through the Waldorf-Astoria, Imbibe p. 322)
Dry Martini (between 1890-1896, Imbibe p. 265-6)
highball (1890s, Scotland, evolved from 1860s Cooler and Collins)
Singapore Sling (by 1897, Imbibe p. 152)
Daiquiri (c. 1897 Cuba, Robert Huntington Lyman Jr. and Jennings S. Cox, Jr., popularized c. 1909 at Navy Club, Washington, Imbibe p. 324 and this article)
Americano (Highball) (c. late 1890s, Italy; family of drinks combining vermouth, soda and Italian bitters; perhaps first appears by name in a German cocktail book and made with Fernet; in any case, not made with Campari until after 1904, except perhaps in Gaspare Campari’s own Milanese shop; this article)
Pisco Sour (c. or by 1903, Imbibe, p. 120)
Ward 8 (c. 1905, Charlie Carter at the Puritan Club, Boston, Imbibe p. 329)
Stinger (c. 1900-1909, Reginald Vanderbilt, New York, Imbibe p. 332)
Bronx (1900-1907 New York, possibly the Waldorf, Imbibe p. 319)
Gibson (by 1904, San Francisco, Imbibe p. 266-7)
Ohio (c. 1910, Germany; earliest known printed reference is Schoenfeld & Leybold, 1913)
El Presidente (c. 1910-1915, Contante Ribalaigua, Havana, Imbibe p. 289-91)
Rose (Giovanni “Johnny” Mitta, Chatham bar, Paris, ca. 1910; this article)
Aviation (c. 1916 Hugo Ensslin in his Recipes for Mixed Drinks)
Negroni (c. 1912-1920, Camillo Negroni and Fosco Scarselli, Casoni’s, Florence, but not popularized until late 1920s, this article)
Sidecar (c. 1922, attribution unclear, but first documented in Robert Vermeire’s Cocktails How to Mix Them, London)
White Lady (c. 1922, attribution unclear, but first documented in Harry McElhone’s Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails, London)
Brandy Alexander (c. 1922, first documented in Harry McElhone’s Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails, London)
Mojito (c. 1920s, Cuba, first documented in Juan Lasa’s Libro de Cocktail, 1929)
French 75 (c. 1927, Judge Jr.’s “Here’s How”, New York)
Margarita (c. 1929, Agua Caliente, Mexico, Imbibe p. 129)
Bloody Mary (c. 1930s, evolved from canned tomato juice drinking, the Prohibition-era Tomato Juice Cocktail, the inevitable spiking of said beverages, and ultimately, a couple waves of Russian and Polish immigration and the popularization of vodka, known by various names on both sides of the Atlantic, this article)
Zombie (c. 1934, Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt, Don’s Beachcomber, Hollywood)
Vodka Martini (first known reference is a 1935 Smirnoff pamphlet—a marketing inevitability—and possibly spurred on by recent waves of Russian and Polish immigration)
Scorpion (1930s, Honolulu; first known reference is 1937, see below; lightly adapted in the 1950s by Trader Vic as the popular Scorpion Bowl)
Moscow Mule (1942, pushed by marketing efforts of Heubliein/Smirnoff)
Mai Tai (1944, Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic’s, Oakland)
Irish Coffee (1945, served in Ireland as “Gaelic Coffee”; Washington, DC Sunday Star, Deecember 9, “Overnight by Air to a Weary England”; popularized in US at Buena Vista Cafe, San Francisco, beginning in 1952)
Grasshopper (late 1940s, early 1950s, “the Midwest”; OCS p. 333)
Aperol Spritz (1950s, Venice, Aperol becomes regionally popular as a Spritz Veneziano flavoring; Grupo Campari acquires Aperol in 2003 and markets the product with the drink, building an international phenomenon by 2011)
Piña Colada (c. 1954, commencing with the introduction of Coco López to the market)
Blue Hawaii (c. 1957, Harry Yee, Hawaiian Village Hotel, Honolulu)
Harvey Wallbanger (c. 1969, attribution murky, but it’s a modified Screwdriver pushed by McKesson Imports to sell Galliano)
Tequila Sunrise (c. 1972, Bobby Lozoff and Billy Rice, Trident, Sausalito)
Lemon Drop (1970s, Norman Jay Hobday, Henry Africa’s, San Francisco)
Long Island Iced Tea (c. 1972, Robert Butt, Oak Beach Inn, Long Island)
Cosmopolitan (1988, Toby Cecchini, Odeon, New York)
Appletini (c. 1996-7, Lola’s Restaurant, West Hollywood, after introduction of DeKuyper Sour Apple Pucker)

Please comment/augment/correct. (This is a wiki post.)


Interesting to compare to the IBA list. I suppose one could argue that pretty much everything on the IBA list should be on the above list for the same reasons the IBA included them. :sob:

Great and important topic - thanks Martin!
Don’t you think it would be useful to mention the source for each drink also ?
With a way/code to precise if the recipe dated is for :

the complete recipe (name and ingredients)
the recipe but not the final name yet (so source of the complete recipe)
first mention of the name
another case ?

I agree some documentation would help, and I’ll start adding some.

That said, I didn’t set out with this particular list to try to nail down attributions or “firsts”—I was more looking at this from the broader cultural level

I understand for the cultural level, but with time, if we can end with a reference page, it would be useful to many

I think we’re gradually working our way towards that on various fronts.

I’ve completed my first pass of attributions and citations.

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I added a few things. I don’t have the original 1935 Smirnoff bottle-hanger with the Vodka Martini, but I do have this ad from the Chicago Tribune, March 15th, that is apparently based on it:

You can see the hanger in the picture. So close yet so far away.


Edited the Sidecar to reflect Robert Vermeire’s contribution. His book was published in the spring of 1922, MacElhone’s came towards Christmas. Hope that’s fine with everybody.


Any other Europeans or European drinks I’ve maybe given short shrift?

I might add the “Combinacion” of Madrid, the Rose (Paris) and the Ohio (Berlin).

I’ll leave the Combinacion to François, but for the others:

Rose (Giovanni “Johnny” Mitta, Chatham bar, Paris, ca. 1910;

The Ohio is tough because there’s a French version that is early but completely outside the mainstream tradition of what the cocktail was. Maybe Robert has a better idea–I recall he wrote something on this recently–but the last time I dug into it, for the Whisky Advocate, I couldn’t find a creator for it; the best early source I could find is Schoenfeld & Leybold, 1913. The drink was certainly current in Germany through the 1960s.

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Thank you for the ongoing additions and corrections—I’ve updated the list accordingly.

@francois, how do you feel about adding the Media Combinación to the list? Makes sense? Is there any identifiable provenance?

Aperol Spritz: I don’t have any great sources—mainly Wikipedia—but it seems the Aperol variant of the Spritz Veneziano has been kicking around (regional specialty) since the 1950s.

If so, that currently leaves the Appletini of the mid-90s as the most recent “essential” drink on the list. That seems a little sad and unfair, but maybe them’s the breaks? Just to be sure, what about Tommy’s Margarita, Gold Rush, Gin Gin Mule, Old Cuban, Chartreuse Swizzle, Penicillin, Oaxaca Old Fashioned, Paper Plane, Benton’s Old Fashioned, Gin Basil Smash or the Barrel Aged Negroni? They’ve certainly traveled. Perhaps it’s just too early to name any drinks from the last twenty years as essential?

A post was split to a new topic: Combinación

While working on a little something having to do with this list, I realized I have misplaced my copy of @Splificator’s “Punch” (the entry in “Imbibe!” points the reader back to that other inimitable volume). After a few minutes’ frustrated searching I decided to say to hell with it and purchase a Kindle version as a back up in the case that I am not able to locate my beloved, much marked hard copy. All this preamble to say that @Splificator’s author photograph on the Amazon website is…well it’s just a thing of beauty. I want that bucket hat.

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I wish I still had it!

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Added the Grasshopper after sifting through the OCS. Almost added the Amaretto Sour and Bellini, but thought better. Still considering the Fog Cutter and Painkiller, since they traveled so widely for so long.

I think the Scorpion Bowl should go on this list as a true Hawaiian original and precursor to Tiki. Trader Vic’s version is ballpark-close to the original, albeit without the unobtainable okolehao.

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Here’s Jane Howard’s recipe from her “Waikiki Promenade” column in the Honolulu Advertiser, August 6, 1938:


I agree 100%. Love the clipping. Do we have any sense when the native Scorpion came to be? Is it specifically a creature of that post-Prohibition, pre-WW2 okolehau boom (i.e., “the 1930s”)?