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The 5 Most Influential New York Cocktails From the Last Decade

We hit the books, talked to bartenders and historians, and drank out way through about 200 cocktails (in the name of research). We’re now confident we’re isolated the five most important New York cocktails of the last decade. – the drinks that have become quintessential classics of the modern craft cocktail Renaissance.

Here they are:

Gin Gin Mule (2004 – Audrey Saunders)

Gin Gin Mule Drizly Alcohol Delivery
Photo: Edsel Little

This take on a Moscow Mule updated the Mule category and helped put some New York bars on the map. It’s from a vanguard of the modern craft cocktail resurgence (and probably the best bar operator in the world) and one of the raddest women around, Audrey Saunders.

1 1/2 ounces Gin
1/2 ounce Lime Juice
1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
2 ounces Ginger Beer
10 Mint Leaves

Muddle the mint leaves in a cocktail shaker with the lime and simple syrup. Add the gin and ice and shake until well-chilled, about 10 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass and top with the ginger beer. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Penicillin (2005 – Sam Ross)

Scotch, especially the peaty, smoky beasts from Islay, was rarely used in cocktails outside of a few classics like the Rob Roy, Blood and Sand, and Rusty Nail. That was until Sam Ross, of New York’s Milk & Honey, concocted this modern classic. The Islay adds its characteristic iodine notes to create a strong, yet enjoyable, medicinal punch to what would otherwise be a warming and spicy sour. It’s exactly what you want when feeling under the weather.

2 ounces Blended Scotch Whisky
3/4 ounce Lemon Juice
3/4 ounce Honey Syrup
3 slices Fresh Ginger
1/4 ounce Islay Scotch Whisky

Muddle the fresh ginger in the bottom of a cocktail shaker until well-crushed. Add the blended scotch, lemon juice, honey syrup, and ice and shake for 15-20 seconds. Strain (from the shaker and through a fine mesh strainer) into an ice-filled rocks glass. Pour the Islay over the back of a bar spoon on top of the drink.

Oaxaca Old Fashioned (2007 – Philip Ward)

The first of two Old Fashioned variations on this list, this was one of the first notable drinks with Mezcal. Mezcal developed a bad name in the U.S. as a cheap product famous for a worm in the bottle. Nothing could be further from the truth, and those myths have largely been put to bed thanks to the hard work of people like Ron Cooper of Del Maguey, who has introduced this country to the delights and depth of the Mexican spirit.

For anyone who still irrationally fears Tequila or Agave, this is a nice change from Margaritas. The drink is incomprehensibly smooth.

1 1/2 ounces Reposado Tequila
1/2 ounce Mezcal
1 teaspoon Agave Syrup
1-2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Combine all ingredients in an ice filled glass and stir for 20-30 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass and garnish with a flamed orange peel.

Benton’s Old Fashioned (2008 – Don Lee)

Bentons Old Fashioned Drizly Alcohol Delivery
Image source: Dan Budiac

This drink tacks a bit closer to a traditional Old Fashioned with the ingredients of whiskey, a sweetener, and bitters, but an infusion of incredibly smoky bacon made this drink entirely modern. It also propelled a trend of infusing with ingredients that go far beyond simple fruits. Some imitators got it right, but others failed miserably with the infusion trend. This drink remains one of the first and probably best example.

Also. Bacon.

2 ounces Bacon-infused Bourbon*
1/2 ounce Grade B Maple Syrup
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Add ingredients to an ice-filled glass and stir for 15-20 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Express the oils of an orange peel over the drink and rub the rim of the glass with the peel.

*The Bacon-infused Bourbon is easier than it sounds. The process has a funny name – fat-washing – but it just involves putting bacon fat in the liquor and then taking it out. Use the smokiest bacon you can find. Benton’s is best but nearly impossible to find except online. Cook the bacon slowly over medium-low heat until the fat starts to render. Pour off 1.5 ounces of bacon fat and allow to cool. While it’s cooling, cook the bacon to how you like it and then nom the crap out of it.  Take a 750mL bottle of bourbon and place it in a container with a wide opening. Add the bacon fat and stir. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours and then place in the freezer for a few hours. The bacon fat will harden and you can just scoop it out with a slotted spoon and discard. The bourbon is now fully baconized and ready for a cocktail time.

Trinidad Sour (Guiseppe Gonzalez) 

Trinidad Sour Drizly Alcohol Delivery

Cloudy and foreboding to look at. Like frothy blood. The first smell is overwhelming and the taste follows through on that promise. This drink can be described in one word: Serious.

If you’ve never had this cocktail, I can assure you that you’ve never had anything like it.  Rarely does one see drinks with more than a couple dashes of bitters, and certainly not more than a dozen or so dashes. This drink is a different story. The amount of bitters in this drink can’t be measured in dashes. It’s a full 1 1/2 ounces. The Angostura serves as the base, as a more popular liquor might serve in any other cocktail. And because they are 90 proof, the drink is no slouch in the alcohol department.

1 1/2 ounces Angostura Bitters
1 1/2 ounces Orgeat (Almond Syrup)
3/4 ounce Lime Juice
1/2 ounce Rye Whiskey

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled glass, shake for 15-20 seconds, and strain into a cocktail glass. Hold on to your hat.

Please let us know what you think. Do you think we got something wrong? Tweet @DrizlyInc and let us know.

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Category: BlogCocktailsLiquorNew York


  1. Why would the Trinidad Sour make this list. The recipe is just taken from Valentino Bolognese’s 2008 award winning cocktail the Trinidad Especial. It is MUCH too similar to be considered original.

    1. We included because of the attention it garnered (which we think was more than for Bolognese’s). It was a close call for us and a totally fair point. It’s tough to find too many true originals. The other drinks on the list are also just mainly departures from existing cocktails.

      1. True originals are tough to find. But when you take a VERY unusual cocktail and change only one ingredient (of which there is only 1/3 of an ounce), that is copying to me. The Greenpoint, obviously a variation of the Manhattan, with different ratios and ingredients is original enough to make my list. I love the list by the way.

        1. But that one wasn’t from New York :). I see what you’re saying. We just viewed it as a great drink from NYC that is one of the most talked about as part of that trend. We almost chose Don’s Little Bitter, but felt the TS was the more recognizable name and tried by more people, even if close to a version of another drink.

  2. I too have to dispute the TS…and I love GG. But the Rogue guys at Cure were doing drinks with massive amounts of bitters then. And everyone tried their stuff at Tales. for Manhattan variations the Little Italy and the Greenpoint were hugely influential but ultimately it’s probably the Earl Grey Martini…cause every cocktail bar in the world does a tea-infused drink now…

    1. Thanks for the comment. I like this controversy. It’s definitely a tough list to take from 10 to 5. We thought the GG helped put a shot in the arm to a sleepy category, but the Earl Grey is still hugely influential.

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