Sitting on a palm fringed beach, watching the sun dip below the shimmering sea with a cool cocktail in hand. The blissful image of the backpackers life.
OK so you might not be sipping a cocktail on the beach but you’ll find many countries have a special blend of booze and local liquor. Wherever you go, getting stuck into a nice cocktail is a great way to round off a day sightseeing or lounging. We’ve listed the best cocktails by country and the most iconic place to drink them. Get ready to want to book that flight…!
Cuba: The Mojito
Is there are more refreshing cocktail than the original mojito? Crushed lime and mint with a splash of sugar syrup and a double dose of white rum. Top it off with crushed ice and soda water and you’ve got a refreshing drink that soothes away a day of sun and gets you ready for a night of salsa dancing.
La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana is one of the most iconic bars in the city, which was allegedly Ernest Hemingways favourite place to grab a mojito. Do you need any other endorsement? However you’ll find perfectly good mojitos across the country and in fact, the world.
Similar to the mojito, the caiprinha screams Brazil and, really, its a very similar drink. Half a lime is squeezed over brown sugar, muddled, cubes of ice added with cachaca poured over. This sugar cane based spirit is very similar to rum but has a very smooth flavour of its own. This bitter sweet drink is made for sipping at a bar in Leblon or Ipanema – Academia de Cachaca do the best in the city, which is saying something!
Like the Cariocas themselves, this drink is a fun and fruity number that is made for enjoying any time of day.
Italy: Aperol Spritz
There are probably more refined cocktails from Italy (maybe the negroni or the martini?), but none just so darn delicious and satisfying as an Aperol spritz. Simplicity is key, with a double measure of Aperol, a bitter orange liquer, topped up with prosecco and set off with a slice of arancini (orange). Watching the sun set across the skyline of Venice or from a bar in Portofino while sipping one of these is the very definition of la dolce vita!
As the mixing and techniques don’t really involve a great deal of skill, you can get a decent Aperol Spritz pretty much anywhere, so find the best view and get stuck in.
Simple, delicious and refreshing – oh and intoxicating: The Margarita is basically what every cocktail should be. This Mexican special can be found from Tijuana to Cancun and it’ll be hard to find a bad one in the whole country.
A double shot of tequila, a shot of triple sec and lime juice, shaken over ice and served in a salt rimmed glass. Pick your bar anywhere in Mexico, or indeed the world, and there will be a margarita waiting for you.
Japan: Lemon Sour
The Japanese like a drink and they have plenty of options, with some great liqueurs that are relatively unknown in the west. The ubiquitous lemon sour, or chuhai, is the cocktail of choice for the weary sarariman, available at pretty much every establishment that serves alcohol. Made from lemon, soda water and shochu, a sort of Japanese vodka – it’s made for kicking some life back into you after a hard week in the office.
Of course you’ll also end up drinking copious amounts of sake, the local rice wine and if you’re in to whisky you’ll be in for a treat. Head to Kurakura in Kyoto for some amazing food and a delicious chuhai.
Singapore: Singapore Sling
The recipe for a Singapore Sling varies around the world, but in general it’s a double shot of gin, one each of cherry liqueur, triple sec or cointreau and lime juice and angostura bitters. Some recipes also add pineapple juice into the mix or top up with soda. Whatever recipe, its a tasty and pokey concoction designed for enjoying at sunset from the Raffles Hotel‘s iconic bar.
You’ll find the Singapore Sling served across the Merlion city, from the Marina Bay to Sentosa. Get the lowdown on Singapore from our review.
New York City: Cosmopolitan/Manhattan
There are many cocktails you could associate with the Big Apple, but the ‘Cosmo’ is probably one of the most iconic. Often perceived as a ‘girly drink’, this cocktail has enough booze in it to make it pretty manly. A shot of vodka, triple sec and cranberry juice and offset with a dash of lime juice, shaken over ice and served in a martini glass.
If you’re looking for a more macho NYC tipple, the Manhattan is that drink. A double shot of bourbon, a shot of red vermouth and a dash of bitters, stirred over ice and served with a cherry.
The King Cole bar is one of the most iconic bars in this iconic city and a great place to sample any of the cities famous drinks.
Paris: Mimosa/Kir Royale
Like all things French, their cocktails are very refined. The Mimosa is simply champagne and orange juice and the Kir Royale is champagne and creme de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur). Elegant drinks for sipping in this elegant city.
Harry’s New York Bar is a real Belle Epoque haunt in the centre of Paris and one of the best places to get a well crafted cocktail.
Marseille, France: Pastis
Not strictly a cocktail, but as it’s a mix of two liquids, it does qualify for this list. Pernod or Ricard are the two most popular pastis brands, both from Marseille on France’s cote d’Provence. This aniseed liqueur is mixed with a little bit of water to make it cloudy and enjoyed with a view of the setting sun. It is an acquired taste (especially if you don’t like aniseed), but a pleasant tipple once you get used to it.
Best enjoyed next to the Vieux Port in Marseille (pick a bar, any bar) and ask for ‘un pastis s’il vous plait‘.
Goa, India: Feni
This spirit from Goa in southern India is made from distilled cashews or coconuts, and although quite full flavoured it can be a bit harsh. The stronger and smoother version is the cashew feni. You’ll find Feni all over Goa and in many bars across India and the usual way to drink it is with a mixer such as Limca (local lemondade), fruit juice or cola.
You’ll now find feni martini and all sorts of modern blends incorporating the drink in bars around India. But, most Indians prefer scotch or vodka…
Read more about travelling in India with our handy guide…
Chile: Pisco Sour
Made from grapes, pisco is the Chilean spirit of choice and the Pisco Sour has become one of the country’s greatest exports. A double shot of pisco, a shot of lemon juice, egg white and sugar syrup, shaken over ice and served in an old fashioned glass. A real eye opener and a very more-ish drink.
Head to Nogaró, in Viña del Mar for a view of that seaside sunset and a delicious pisco sour.
You’ll also find Pisco in neighbouring countries including Peru and Argentina.
An East African interpretation of a mojito, the Dawa can be found at any bar in Kenya. A double shot of vodka, a big spoon of honey, the juice of one lime and plenty of crushed ice make a delicious and refreshing drink ideal for supping from your game lodge veranda in Tsavo or the Masai Mara.
Thailand: Thai Whisky Bucket
Probably the least refined cocktail on the list, if you can call it that. Apologies to any Thai people reading this… The ‘whisky bucket’ is a backpackers rite of passage and something that anyone who has attended a full moon party will know all about. A small bucket is served with most of a small bottle of whisky, your choice of mixer (coke, lemonade, red bull etc) and loads of ice. Prepare to not remember tonight…
We got off the beaten track in Thailand, read all about it here.
London: Espresso Martini
London is the birthplace of lots of cocktails (Tom Collins, Hanky Panky, Vesper Martini etc) but the one that seems to be the most popular, globally, is the espresso martini. A shot of espresso shaken with a shot of kahlua or other coffee liqueur and vodka, although there are many variations (using rum instead, adding syrups etc).
Let us know in the comments below if you’ve found a great cocktail or an amazing spot to enjoy one. Of course this is just a small selection of the world’s finest cocktails, there’s a whole world of drinking out there. All respect due to lovers of Old Fashioneds, martinis and Cuba Libres (they’re all great too).
If you’re ready to go and find the perfect cocktail, check flights on our handy widget below.