How to find the best cocktails to drink anywhere in the world
You are a sophisticated world traveler -- or at least you aspire to be. To prepare yourself for stepping out anywhere, you should be educated about the customs, attitudes and, especially at the end of a foot-weary day, the best cocktail to order at the local establishment.
This guide won’t take you to every city, state and nation across the globe, but we chose some of the Divas’ favorites to suggest what you can sample as you plan your own explorations.
Let’s start with destinations in the United States.
You might have heard that New Orleans considers itself to be the cocktail capital of the country as the result of generations of creative bartenders. So whether you are going for Mardi Gras or the local doughnuts called beignets, demonstrate your class by ordering a Sazerac. Named for the pharmacist who invented it (pharmacies were different in the 1800s), this drink of rye whiskey, bitters and a touch of absinthe is considered the true New Orleans cocktail. If the bar you’re in doesn’t have it, leave in a huff and find one that does.
And if you drink too many Sazeracs, you can pretend to sober up with a Café Brulet, a mixture of cognac, Grand Marnier, cinnamon sticks, cloves and a good dose of New Orleans chicory coffee.
The Miami Vice is named for a stylish television show that went off the air in 1990, but Miami residents cherish its memory and like to pretend they are as cool as the show’s stars.
Your bartender will combine daiquiri mix with pina colada mix, rum, strawberries and fresh coconut.
New Yorkers think they invented everything, including the best drinks in the world. OK, maybe they did.
Natives say the inventor of the martini was an immigrant bartender by the name of Martini di Arma di Taggia who worked at the Knickerbocker Hotel. Although the hotel went out of business, people have been drinking martinis for more than 100 years. Order one if you prefer a clean, dry cocktail that allows you to taste and savor the alcohol at its base.
For a more modern drink, and one that was indisputably invented in Manhattan, try the cosmo, which is a favorite of the cast of Saturday Night Live when the show wraps up every week. Cranberry juice gives it that distinctive pink color. The flavor comes from vodka, Cointreau and lime.
The city by the bay also claims ownership of the martini. Locals insist it was invented in the town of Martinez for gold miners celebrating a strike. (The Divas plan to decide the issue by conducting an on-site taste test in both cities.)
If you end up in San Francisco, you can sound like you grew up there by ordering a Mai Tai, a delightful mixture of rum, lime and orange curacao and perhaps some other ingredients that inventor Vic Bergeron never divulged.
You can drink the original Mai Tai at a Trader Vic’s restaurant. Suitable knockoffs are available at any bar in the city.
The Zombie is another rum drink, but this one is supposed to cure hangovers. It doesn’t, but it does have legitimate L.A. tiki bar origins.
People in Los Angeles will also tell you that the Moscow Mule, a refreshing combination of vodka, ginger beer and lime juice always served in a copper mug, was invented in their city.
Other cities lay claim, but if you happen to be on Sunset Boulevard, why not go with the flow?
The Mule’s name refers to vodka, which does have a Russian history. But if you are drinking in the actual Moscow, you will find that bargoers there like to keep it simple.
When you pull up a stool in a bar that overlooks Lenin’s tomb, order this: One beer. One shot of vodka. Pour the vodka into the beer. Drink. The Russians will respect you.
Wherever you travel in Italy, you will be able to order Campari, an aperitif with a bright red color and a bitter taste. You may drink it straight, but it is more commonly mixed with seltzer and called a Campari spritz.
Don’t drink sangria just once. The recipe for this wine punch served in a pitcher filled with fresh fruit is different in every town and village. While you search for the architectural gems, the fields of olive trees, and the beaches, a pitcher of sangria is never far away.
Gin is England’s alcohol of choice. As we know, martinis were not invented here. Perhaps gin and tonics were first created in some other land, as well, but the British have made the G&T their own. You can, too.
Do not try this at home. The pho cocktail, designed to invoke the fresh and spicy taste of the iconic Vietnamese noodle soup, is a complicated affair that involves fire. Start by using a hand-held torch to warm up a metal container of gin and Cointreau. Then light the liquid on fire and pour it through a contraption of three metal cups filled with spices, so the burning gin mixture flows through each cup. Repeat and then strain through ice into a glass and garnish with cinnamon sticks. It’s hard to know which is best: The show or the drink.
A lot of Star Wars scenes were filmed in Tunisia. If you just must go to soak up the atmosphere, or your boyfriend drags you there, stop in a local establishment and order a bouka, which gets its name from the Tunisian fig liqueur of the same name. The drink also includes grenadine, cardamom and fresh mint. When your plans call for travel to a more cosmopolitan region of Africa -- Cape Town, for instance -- order a Rooibos cocktail, made of South African rooibos tea, brandy, ginger liqueur, honey and bitters, chilled and served in a martini glass.
Whether you are in Sydney or Canberra, you can order a 1788 and the bartender will serve you up a mixed drink of gin, lime juice, apple schnapps, and syrup of wild hibiscus. They might add a garnish of wattle, a native flower. Although the Divas could not determine why the Australian national drink is called The 1788, if you ask an Australian, they will make something up.
If you’re going to visit every continent, you should be prepared to drink at each one, too. That brings us to Antarctica, the least-populated continent, but perhaps the one with the highest rate of drinking establishments per capita.
Your visit to the ice-bound continent is likely to start at McMurdo Station, the U.S. base on Ross Island, which has three bars and is about 850 miles north of the South Pole. A bartender named Mike Santos, who serves the regulars at Gallagher’s Pub, was identified by the Travel Channel as the creator of the McMurdo Mule. It’s a concoction of Jameson whiskey, Rose’s Lime Juice and ginger beer from New Zealand, where the locals get many of their supplies. Ask for a McMurdo Mule as you sidle up to the bar at Gallagher’s. You’ll fit right in.