It’s that time yet again when we all gather ’round to find out where in the list of the 50 top classic cocktails our favourite ones have landed. And yes, if you had money on the number one spot being retained by the Negroni, then you are, indeed, a winner.
For nearly a decade, Drinks International has been releasing its Cocktail Report to let us know what classic drinks are hot and what are not (or at least not as much …). From a survey of 100 bars drawn from 33 countries, the list shows the changes in fashion, style, but also recipe.
Why is this important? Well, as Hamish Smith, the Supplement Editor for Drinks International, points out, “… off menu classics are somewhere between 20% and 50%of most bars’ cocktail sales.” So it’s useful to know what you’ll probably be making the most if you haven’t been already.
Aside from anything else, lists like these give you a great jumping-off point if you are thinking of making a riff on a classic for your next bar menu team meeting.
In that vein, Smith also points out that classics aren’t as staid as you might think. Classic can be as much of a guide to the fashions of the time as newly created drinks. “… but they never stop being refined,” Smith explains, “their specs chiselled and embellished to sate the taste of the times.”
While there are a number of drinks that Smith defines as neo-classics on the list (the Old Cuban, the Pornstar Martini and the Penicillin), one of the most interesting points he raises is that there are no new classics on the list from 2011 onwards. Smith surmises that although the industry is more sophisticated now, the drinks that are being created often lack the basic features of a classic cocktail.
“That’s not because bartenders don’t know what it takes to make classics,” he explains, “but more that the direction of the industry has pulled them away from what it takes for classics to gain traction – repeatability”.
This, of course, raises the issue of legacy. While bartenders from the previous generation, such as Saunders, Ross and Meyer, are part of the profession’s history, will the names of the present bartenders for all their work and skill actually be lost? Will the things that give bartenders fame now, such as competition wins, and Instagram numbers be enough?
To view Hamish Smith’s article on what makes a classic and view the cocktails on the list in more detail, go to Cocktail Report