In January, Drinks International, a trade publication for the alcohol industry, released its annual list of the 50 best cocktails—or at least the best-selling ones—around the world. It’s perhaps no big surprise that the top drink, for the fifth year running, was that classic whisky-based bittered sling, the Old Fashioned.
Cocktails, our man-about-town discovers, are not just for the rich, or even the pretend rich
I didn’t pull up a stool to a proper bar—by which I mean one whose stock-in-trade is cocktails, and whose staff is formally schooled in the art of same—until my early 30s. A variety of reasons contributed to this delayed milestone, including having been raised in a near-teetotal household, in a small city whose population overwhelmingly prefers beer, coupled with early teenage drinking experiences (usually at a suburban house party or in some miserable pitch-black field) of the sort that seem contrived to ensure one never wants to drink again.
There’s a cocktail for every mood and moment, says John Burns, our man at the bar
To me, cocktails are mood on ice. They elevate a moment, enhance life. They’re the pocket squares of gastronomy, the clever patterned socks that tie it all together and keep the same old interesting. In that way, they distill our best selves.
When I travel, I always treat myself to an interesting bar off in some neighbourhood (thanks for the research, city magazines!) and in preparation, run through the questions. What will I wear? What time of day will I visit? And, of course, what will I order? The whole sums to this: For these precious minutes, who will I be? Cary Grant? Steve McQueen? (Hey, don’t laugh at other people’s self-delusions.)
“We have some bourbon, let’s make Manhattans!”
—Marilyn Monroe as Sugar Kane gets the party started, mixing cocktails in a hot water bottle in Billy Wilder’s classic comedy, Some Like It Hot.