Mojito – Havana, Cuba
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The Mojito is a descendant of El Draque, a Caribbean potion of cachaça, lime and mint that was supposedly invented in the 16th century to settle privateer (read: pirate) Sir Francis Drake’s stomach. It was eventually rendered a little less fearsome as El Draquecito. Whip yourself up a Draquecito with Barcadí rum, add a splash of sparkling water and serve it on some ice, and you’ve got something worthy of a new name. WHERE TO DRINK IT Arrive early at tiny, happening joint El Chanchullero de Tapas on the outskirts of the old town for a not-to-cloying mojito and tempting bar snacks.
Sazerac – New Orleans, USA
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The Sazerac, the official cocktail of New Orleans, took many years to be established as a separate drink from the Whiskey Cocktail. It traces its lineage back to the 1830s, when New Orleans-based apothecary Antoine Amedie Peychaud developed the proprietary bitters that now bear his name. WHERE TO DRINK IT The aptly named and 1930s’-styled Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel or the historic French 75 bar at New Orleans institution Arnaud’s.
Black Russian – Brussels, Belgium
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Poor old Belgium. It has a bit of a reputation as a mixed-up place. Little wonder that Belgium is not only the home of the European Union but also the butt of all of Europe’s jokes. To add insult to injury, its best-known contribution to cocktail history has another country’s name on it. The first Black Russian was whipped up by Gustave Tops at Brussel’s Hotel Metropole in 1949. WHERE TO DRINK IT At the historic Hotel Metropole’s Bar “Le 31”, which was refurbished in 2011 and remains a Brussels’ hotspot.
Agua de Valencia – Valencia, Spain
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It was invented in Valencia in 1959 as a lighthearted jab at a group of Basque travellers who frequented Valencia’s Cervecería Madrid. This group would order the sparkling Spanish wine called cava by asking for Agua de Bilbao. Their bartender, Constante Gil, jokingly suggested that they instead try Agua de Valencia – and then had to quickly invent the drink. WHERE TO DRINK IT Valencia’s Café de las Horas, an intriguing venue with an eclectic fit-out that’s part café, part cocktail bar.
Manhattan – New York City, United States
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We don’t know who exactly invented the Manhattan. The dink would have first arisen in the late 1860s or early 1870s; by the 1880s, it had become the toast of the town. It’s not hard to see why it was popular: by adding vermouth to the Whiskey Cocktail, whoever invented the Manhattan created something more sophisticated. WHERE TO DRINK IT In Manhattan, naturally: Bemelmans Bar for straight-laced, Employees Only for Grand Marnier-spiked or try the bartender’s choice at Death & Company.
Stone Crush – Reykjavík, Iceland
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Iceland’s national spirit, Brennivín (a potato-based, caraway-flavoured spirit), has something of a cult status in the wider world. Both filmmaker Quentin Tarantino and musician Dave Grohl are fans. Now, thanks to that cult status, Brennivín is finally available in a few places outside of Iceland. The Stone Crush, by New York-based bartender Chaim Dauermann, descends from a post-shift shot of Brennivín chased with Steigl beer. WHERE TO DRINK IT Not in Reykjavík. Stop by The Up & Up in New York’s Greenwich Village, where the Stone Crush was invented.
Falling Water – Wellington, New Zealand
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The Falling Water highball is a simple mixture of 42 Below Feijoa and Ch’i (a New Zealand-made, faintly herbaceous soft drink), garnished with a slice of cucumber. This cocktail came about when a (slightly tipsy) bartender from Wellington restaurant Matterhorn suggested that this feijoa vodka could work well with Ch’i and cucumber because all three ingredients are green. WHERE TO DRINK IT At Wellington’s Matterhorn restaurant and bar, of course. It’s the world’s No.1 buyer of 42 Below Feijoa vodka.
Singapore Sling – Singapore
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Ask any bartender about the invention of the Singapore Sling and they’ll answer something like this: Ngiam Tong Boom, 1915, at the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel. Whether invented there or not, the Sling was very much associated with the Raffles: Charles H. Baker encountered the Sling there in 1926, and wrote rapturously about it. WHERE TO DRINK IT In five-star surrounds at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore or with the hip crowd at Jigger & Pony cocktail bar.
French 75 – Paris, France
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The French Canon de 75 modele 1897 was a cutting-edge death-dealer when it was first presented at the Bastille Day celebrations of 1899. It isn’t surprising that it would lend its name to a cocktail with some ‘kick’ – say, a blend of calvados, gin, absinthe and grenadine. It’s a lovely drink but miles away from what you’ll get today if you walk into a decent bar and order a French 75. WHERE TO DRINK IT The oldschool digs of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, where the original barman, Harry MacElhone, came up with the first version of the French 75.
Caipirinha – Paraty, Brazil
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Despite the importance of the Caipirinha to Brazil’s national psyche, the origins of the drink aren’t exactly clear. But recent evidence unearthed by Brazilian historian Diuner Melo suggests that the drink dates back to at least 1856, when a mixture of limes, sugar and cahaça was consumed in place of water during a cholera outbreak in Paraty, near Rio de Janeiro. WHERE TO DRINK IT Right across from Rio de Janeiro’s famous Ipanema Beach, Bar Astor serves up well-balanced Caipirinhas with an ocean breeze.
Pisco Sour – Lima, Peru
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The origin of the Pisco Sour can be traced back to Peru in 1903, where it appears in a pamphlet as a recipe simply called “cocktail”. But it would take an American by the name of Victor “Gringo” Morris, owner of the American Bar in Lima, to make the world sit up and pay attention to the Pisco Sour. The drink went on to win over the drinking cultures of both Peru and Chile, though regional differences still persist. WHERE TO DRINK IT For a historic bent, swing by Lima’s Antigua Taberna Quierolo or try Gran Hotel Bolivar’s Pisco Sour Catedral – it’s double the size of a regular Pisco Sour.
Hanky Panky – London, England
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According to Ada “Coley” Coleman – head bartender of the Savoy’s famous American Bar – actor Charles Hawtrey had a habit of asking for “something with a bit of punch in it”. After some experimentation, she presented Hawtrey with a mixture of gin and sweet vermouth spiked with a few dashes of potent Fernet-Branca bitters. Hawtrey took a sip, drained the glass and shouted out, “By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!” WHERE TO DRINK IT At a classic London hotel bar. Top of the list is The Savoy’s American Bar but there’s also the intimate Connaught Bar or Artesian Bar at The Langham.
Mai Tai – Tahiti, French Polynesia
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The Mai Tai was born out of a sense of escape from quotidian places like Oakland, California. Tiki titans Ernest Gantt and Victor Bergeron Jr had a long history of friendly rivalry. But the version of the drink that became a worldwide sensation is inarguably the one that Bergeron claimed to have invented in 1944 at Trader Vic’s – rum, lime juice, rock candy syrup, curaçao and a sweet almond syrup called orgeat. WHERE TO DRINK IT Where else but in a Californian Tiki bar? Try the bamboo-covered Kona Club in Oakland or the Tonga Room in San Francisco.
Margarita – Santiago de Tequila, Mexico
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The truth about the Margarita might be banal: that nobody really “invented” it, because it’s a simple riff on a pre-Prohibition classic, the Daisy. The clincher for this theory is simple: the word margarita, in Spanish, means daisy. High-quality, 100 per cent agave tequilas are abundant these days, which means it’s the perfect time to rediscover the joys of this most popular ¬ – and much maligned – of tequila drinks. WHERE TO DRINK IT Head to Mexico City and have a classic Margarita at award-winning Limantour or try the unique fig-flavoured, non-salted version at Melamén.
Negroni – Florence, Italy
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While many cocktail origin stories turn out to be a flimsy tissue of half-truths, suppositions and guesswork, thanks to drinks historians David Wondrich and Gary Regan, we know that there really was a Count Camilla Negroni of Florence, who truly did spend time in the United States as a rodeo cowboy, and who did indeed ask Fosco Scarselli (of Caffé Casoni) for the drink that now bears his name. WHERE TO DRINK IT For a through-and-through Italian drink, head to Florence’s Manifattura or drop into Bitter Bar for an excellent twist on the original.
Around the World in 80 Cocktails
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This is an edited extract from Around the World in 80 Cocktails by Chad Parkhill with illustrations by Alice Oehr (Hardie Grant Books, $29.99), available in stores nationally. Grab a copy for the full story, plus the recipes, of all of these cocktails and more. All illustrations © Alice Oehr