The 25 Most Influential Cocktails of the Past Century

Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke

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

In choosing our list of 25 drinks, we kept the focus on "influential" and not necessarily "good."


[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

As anyone who's spent time atop a barstool can attest, the bibulous world can be broken down into a few basic categories. There are the forgettable drinks, mixtures that seemed like a good idea to someone but which thankfully never gain much traction in the larger world. There are the drinks that are good but not great, which may enjoy a season or several of popularity before dropping out of favor, later to be looked upon as dated culinary curiosities. And then there are the mixological mainstays, the drinks that have such appealing characters that, old or new, they continue to resonate decades after their debut, inspiring replications and derivations and sending spirituous shockwaves through the drinks world for years to come.

In the current issue of Imbibe, I tackle the latter category with an assessment of the 25 Most Influential Cocktails of the Past Century. By choosing only those drinks created since 1910 (plus a few with uncertain provenance but which crept into larger use during the last 100 years), we removed a few of the older, more obvious classics from consideration—drinks such as the Old Fashioned, the Manhattan and the Daiquiri, each of which predates the 100-year timeline but continue to resonate today—while placing the focus on the creativity and innovation that's taken place since the late 19th-century "Golden Age of Cocktails," from the years immediately prior to Prohibition to today's craft-cocktail renaissance.

And in choosing our list of 25 drinks, we kept the focus on "influential" and not necessarily "good". Along with obvious classics such as the Negroni, the Sidecar and the Mai Tai (along with more contemporary creations such as the Gin-Gin Mule and the Red Hook) these are drinks that, for good or ill, have defined the way people drink for large parts of the 20th and now 21st centuries—from that ancestral party shooters, the B-52, to the vodka-fuelled Harvey Wallbanger to the ultimate bad-idea-in-a-glass, the Long Island Iced Tea.

The drinks that have inspired devotion and derivation (and not a few hangovers) over the past century are a diverse lot, from the simple, austere beauty of the dry Martini to the over-the-top indulgence of the Pina Colada.

You can check out the full list of the 25 most influential drinks of the past century in Imbibe magazine, but for now let's hear your suggestions: What drinks do you think deserve a spot among the past century's most influential?