There is a mystique about legendary cocktails especially those associated with famous bars in exciting cities. A Singapore Sling at the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore conjures colonial luxury in a bygone era in southeast Asia. A mojito or daiquiri in Old Havana recalls a time when Hollywood movie stars and Chicago gangsters lounged in opulent, tropical hotels. Think of a Manhattan in Manhattan’s legendary Waldorf Astoria and you’ll be transported to big-city sophistication.
We asked frequent travelers to share some of their favorite legendary cocktails and the destinations associated with them. So, sit back, grab your favorite legendary cocktails and travel the world learning about their origins ad backstories.
LEGENDARY COCKTAILS AND WHERE TO ENJOY THEM
Daiquiri in El Floridita, Havana, Cuba
Legend has it that American mining engineer, Jennings Cox and his friend, Italian Giacomo Pagliuchi were hanging out at Jennings’s home outside the eastern CubaN mining town of Daiquiri. The pair had friends over and realized they had run out of gin to serve so they improvised with white rum mixed with sugar and a squirt of lime. The drink was a hit and Pagliuchi named it “Daiquiri” in honor of the town.
Shortly thereafter, Pagliuchi traveled to Havana and introduced the drink to the owner of El Floridita, Catalan immigrant, Constantino Ribalaigua. Knowing a good thing when he saw it, Ribalaigua tinkered with the recipe until he perfected it and created the cocktail we are familiar with today.
The true architect of the daiquiri’s fame, however, is the American writer, Ernest Hemingway, who lived in Cuba for many years. He frequented the El Floridita throughout his stay and would always start and finish his visit with a daiquiri. That’s how the daiquiri became one of the truly legendary cocktails.
“My daiquiri in El Floridita and my mojito in the Bodeguita del Medio.”Ernest Hemingway
Today Hemingway’s bronze statue sits at the far end of the bar where he usually sat. It is a prime photo opportunity for the many tourists that come to visit the legendary bar.
The best place to stay in Havana, or anywhere else in Cuba is at a “casa particular” or private home. These are private enterprise Cuban B&B type accommodations where you stay with a Cuban family to enjoy a truly authentic experience. You can find them on the Homestay website.
Talek blogs at Travels with Talek
Caesar in Calgary, Canada
There is no cocktail more popular and unique to Canada than the Caesar. Made from Clamato juice, tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, and vodka this cocktail is definitely an acquired taste that almost all Canadians love. It is a hearty cocktail generally served in a glass with a rimmed with spices and garnished with a pickled bean.
A common mistake is to compare a Caesar with a Bloody Mary, keeping in mind that Caesars are made with Clamato juice as the main ingredient – tomato and clam juice together – as opposed to tomato juice used in Bloody Marys. This juice is hard to find in most countries around the world, but in Canada, it is available in every supermarket or convenience store!
Rumor has it that the Caesar was originally invented in 1969 In Calgary, Alberta at the Westin Hotel by Walter Chell. Chell was the restaurant manager and his invention took off! Soon after, bars and restaurants across the country had started serving Caesars and it quickly became the iconic cocktail of Canada. In fact, the world-famous Calgary Stampede now hosts an annual Caesar competition to find the very best of the best. In the most recent competition, a bar from a tiny town in central Alberta called Sylvan Lake won with their smoked Caesar garnished with steak – unique but delicious! Truly one of the legendary cocktails.
Bailey blogs at Destinationless Travel
Margarita in Rancho La Gloria, Mexico
Margarita, the beloved Mexican cocktail, was said to have been invented back in 1938 by Carlos “Danny” Herrera. He crafted the famous adult beverage at his restaurant, Rancho La Gloria, located between Tijuana and Rosarito, one of the best beach towns in Mexico.
Danny created the Margarita for one of his regular customers, Marjorie King. She was a dancer in the Broadway review, Ziegfeld Follie, which was quite famous at the time. She spent time in Mexico negotiating the purchase of a hotel.
She ate and drank in Danny’s restaurant often, and had a special dietary request. It turned out Marjorie was allergic to all spirits except tequila, so a custom tequila cocktail was made for her — and eventually named after her as well.
To make a Margarita, combine two ounces of tequila, one ounce of orange liqueur (like Triple Sec, Grand Marnier or Cointreau) and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Originally, the drink was served shaken and poured over ice, with a salt-rimmed glass. Nowadays, frozen Margaritas blended with ice are just as common and good enough to be added to the list of legendary cocktails.
If you want to try a Margarita in Rosarito, book your stay at the Rosarito Beach Hotel!
Shelley blogs at Travel Mexico Solo
Manhattan in Manhattan, New York City
Drinking a Manhattan cocktail while visiting Manhattan is basically a requirement for tourists. It’s the best way to kick off a night out on the town.
It’s a cocktail made of rye, sweet red vermouth, and angostura bitters, with a cherry thrown in for good measure.
The popular drink is thought to have been created for the first time in the late 1800s at NYC’s The Manhattan Club.
Supposedly it was first made for a NYC Governor Samuel Tilden during his presidential campaign party at The Manhattan Club.
Unfortunately, the downtown social club closed ages ago, but there are still plenty of delicious spots to imbibe this iconic drink.
As a local, The Waldorf Astoria (which created the first Old Fashioned), is my favorite spot. They whip up a mean Manhattan in their gorgeous bar. I highly suggest splurging and booking a stay, so that you can sip Manhattans (and a few Old Fashiones) all night long. Just make sure they’ve reopened as they’re currently closed for renovations.
If you miss out on drinking at The Waldorf Astoria, just head uptown to Bemelmans inside The Carlyle Hotel. This classy Upper East Side hotel serves up a delectable Manhattan along with outstanding live jazz shows.
Book accommodations in Manhattan.
Ally blogs at Ally Travels
Aperol Spritz in Venice, Italy
The Aperol Spritz, aka Spritz Veneziano, is a wonderfully light wine cocktail traditionally served as an aperitivo in Italy.
Originating during the 1800s in the traditional cicchetti bars in Venice in northeast Italy where prosecco wine is produced, the cocktail can now be found throughout the country. The basic recipe consists of just a few ingredients: prosecco, Aperol, and soda water. In fact, the term Aperol comes from the word apero, Italian slang for aperitivo.
Prosecco may be the main ingredient, but it’s the Aperol that gives a distinct slightly bitter but refreshing flavor. Bright orange Aperol is made with a secret combination of ingredients that include the herb gentian, rhubarb, and the extract of the cinchona tree which is believed to increase appetite and aid digestion.
An Aperol Spritz is classically made by combing 3 parts prosecco, 2 parts Aperol, and a splash (spritz) of soda water in a wine glass filled with ice and garnished with a slice of orange. But there are as many variations as the number of cafes and bars serving it.
Around 2018 the cocktail became very popular outside of Italy and some sources rank the drink as one of the bestselling cocktails in the world. And the best place to try it is in Venice itself at one of these fine Venetian hotels.
Lori blogs at Italy Foodies
Vieux Carre in New Orleans, Louisiana
Walter Bergeron is credited with bringing to life the famous Vieux Carré. This classic cocktail came to be in the 1930s at the legendary Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter of New Orleans. It was named after the French phrase that means “old square” (referring to the French Quarter). The Vieux Carre was made famous by Stanly Srisby Arthur’s 1937 book, “Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix Them”
The Vieux Carré is made with a potent but delicious combination of brandy, rye, bitters, vermouth, and Benedictine. It’s a strong drink that is meant to be sipped carefully. This is especially true if you try the Vieux Carre at the Hotel Monteleone Carousel Bar itself – this bar is a carousel that does actually rotate! It’s a truly unique experience to have a cocktail here and should be included in any New Orleans itinerary.
There are many great hotels to choose from in the French Quarter, but none are as unique and decadent as the Hotel Monteleone itself. Book a stay in the Monteleone in one of their luxury rooms and have the Carousel Bar & Lounge just down the stairs!
“The Big Easy” is a great place to visit in the fall. If you go, make sure to experience the cool and spooky things to do in New Orleans during Halloween.
Lindsey blogs at Have Clothes, Will Travel
The Mojito in Havana, Cuba
Let’s start with where NOT to have a mojito in Havana. La Bodeguita del Medio is a bar on a side street off Plaza de La Catedral, or Cathedral Square, in Old Havana. American writer, Ernest Hemingway frequented this bar, and many others, while he lived in Havana in the 1950s. It became well known that the writer patronized the bar and that he would always have a mojito there.
Today the Bodeguita del Medio is a major tourist draw because of its association with Hemingway. It is a cliché that tourists go there to have a mojito and write their names on the wall as Hemingway did. The mojitos, though, do not live up to the hype and there are many other places to have a really good mojito.
Legend has it that an early version of the mojito was created by indigenous people in Cuba that used a form of aguardiente (alcoholic beverage made from fermented fruit juices), lime, and mint as medicine to cure some diseases. When the Spaniards arrived in Cuba they realized the drink’s medicinal qualities for some diseases, notably scurvy. The buzz they received after self-medicating was an added bonus.
Unsurprisingly the drink’s popularity grew over the years eventually transforming into what is today one of the most refreshing and popular legendary cocktails in Cuba and the world.
So where to have a perfect mojito in Havana today? El Dandy on Plaza del Cristo in Old Havana is the ideal place if you can get in because it is always crowded. And, of course, the ideal places to stay in Havana are the “casas particulares or Cuban Bed and Breakfasts.” You can book them on homestay.com.
Limoncello Spritz in the Amalfi Coast, Italy
Few places embody “la dolce vita” quite like Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Sun drenched cliffs spill into the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean and life is best savored with a cocktail admiring the views.
The Amalfi Coast is famous for it’s lemons, incredibly fragrant and often as big as your head. Locals use this bounty to create limoncello, a deliciously sweet lemon apertif made by soaking lemon peels in alcohol to extract their flavor and mixing that with a sugar syrup.
Limoncello is delicious served chilled as is, but you can also follow the lead of Il Tridente Cocktail Bar at the Hotel Poseidon in Positano and use limoncello as the base of a spritz. The limoncello spritz is a mix of limoncello, prosecco and soda water for a drink that’s as sunny and effervescent as the Amalfi Coast itself.
And talk about this beautiful coast, here is an ideal 5-day itinerary in the Amalfi Coast!
Brianna blogs at The Casual Foodist
Singapore Sling in Singapore
The Singapore Sling comes to us from Asia. This legendary cocktail was crafted over a century ago by Bartender Ngiam Tong Boon when he was working at the Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel in Singapore.
The original cocktail included: ¼ lemon juice, ¼ Dry Gin, ½ Cherry Brandy, shaken and strained into a tall glass which is then topped off with soda water. However, over the decades the drink morphed into many different versions. Drink recipe books would present a recipe which was considered the official version for years. Then another mixology book would publish a somewhat different recipe which would have another multi-year run.
Today a Singapore Sling is different from the original version. What does remain the same is the gin base and the fact that it’s still a refreshing drink on the verandah of Singapore’s Raffles Hotel or anywhere else.
Singapore is a great base from which to explore Southeast Asia, and boasts excellent hotels in all price brackets.
Mai Tai in Hawaii
Hawaii is always a fun place to have a fantastic cocktail oceanside or watching a gorgeous sunset close to the water and, of course, what’s more iconic than the Mai Tai.
Known as the tropical drink that one should try on the islands, a Mai Tai originated when Tiki culture and Hawaii combined. Every restaurant and bar has their own signature drink recipe of a delicious Mai Tai.
A Mai Tai is made primarily with dark and light rum, Curacao liquor, lime and orgeat, pineapple juice and orange juice. It is finished in a variety of ways. The flavor profile is tropical fruit with rum and coconut depending on the rum used and served in a short glass with fruit to eat, and those ubiquitous paper umbrellas to boot.
On a hot day or more typically Pau Hana (end of day, after work) in Hawaii all the restaurants, bars and hotels serve up this cocktail as the most popular ordered drink to enjoy on the islands.
Some preparations have shortcuts with prepared cocktail mixes but it’s always better prepared fresh and you can definitely taste the difference. Happy hour is always fun and cheaper on the islands with some additional pupus or appetizers to enjoy with your cocktail on the side. It doesn’t get any better than having a Mai Tai on the islands with a beach view, or better yet, sunset to enjoy your end of the day in Hawaii.
If you are visiting Oahu and looking for a classic Mai Tai consider going to the landmark Royal Hawaiian Hotel located ocean front and hard to miss. It is a classic, pink hotel and the ideal place to enjoy a fantastic view and cocktail at the same time in the iconic Mai Tai Bar.
Noel blogs at This Hawaii Life
Want to know more about these legendary cocktails and the destinations that made them famous? Check out these reference books.
What are your thoughts about our classic, legendary cocktails? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments.
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