Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke: The Cocktail Bucket List Meme

Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke

Weekly insight into the world of drinks with Paul Clarke from the Cocktail Chronicles and Imbibe magazine.

How many drinks have you tried on Anvil's list?


[Photographs: Paul Clarke and Robyn Lee]

The 100 Classic Cocktails To Try Before You Die list began making the rounds last week but it's different from your average internet meme. While it's popping up all over on blogs and Twitter, the list originated as a menu recently introduced at Anvil, a craft-cocktail bar in Houston.

Created by co-owner Robert Heugel and his Anvil partners, the selection of drinks (simply known as "the list") doesn't lay pretense to being the best 100 drinks in creation or even a balanced representation of the best drinks in mixological history.

Rather, the owners owe up to the list's subjectivity and arbitrary nature. "We at Anvil would be remiss in our duties if we did not mention that there are certain libations we feel you should try at least once in your life, for better or worse," they responded.

The list contains predictable favorites such as the Sazerac, the Daiquiri, and the Gin Rickey, along with more esoteric drinks such as the absinthe-laced Monkey Gland, the brightly herbal Bijou and the eggy Port Flip.

Not all of the classics predate Prohibition either. Contemporary drinks such as the Gin Gin Mule and the Jasmine also make the menu.

When visiting Anvil, you can get a card stamped each time you try a drink on the special menu. The list has attracted local attention from the Houston Press, as well as the predictable backlash of readers displeased that their favorite drinks weren't on the list, or just annoyed by the idea of craft cocktails in general. Bloggers such as Chuck Taggart on the Gumbo Pages has already started documenting his efforts to finish off the few drinks on the list he hasn't already tried.

While the selections on these types of bucket lists are sometimes laughably arbitrary, Anvil's is impressive in its depth and complexity. I've tried around 90 of the drinks included and many of them have appeared in my Friday Cocktail Concoctions recipe series over the past couple of years. How many drinks on Anvil's list have you tried?