What are the most popular cocktails in the UK and what is in a cocktail?

13 May 2020

Food + Drink Recipes

In the UK, it seems we can’t get enough of cocktails: the mixture of alcohol, syrups and ice creates an irresistible concoction. But what are the most popular cocktails of choice?

Whether you’re sunbathing with a piña colada in hand, sipping a moscow mule in a chic bar, or socialising with friends over a few glasses of daiquiri, cocktails are the perfect drink for all occasions. Some like them sweet and fruity, others opt for them short and punchy, and we like them rich and chocolatey (our Dark Soother Cocktail is a special favourite) – but what is the nation’s favourite cocktail and, more importantly, what goes into these mouth-watering beverages?

Mojito

The backstory

Refreshing, tart and zingy. This cocktail is a staple in bars across the world, and whilst it can be found in countless trendy and contemporary bars, this cocktail is by no means a modern invention. In 1833 a drink containing rum, sugar, lime and mint featured in the book El Colera en la Habana by Cuban author Ramon de Palma. It was labelled a ‘Draquecito’, or ‘Little Dragon’ – possibly because it was so fiery that it made the mouth of those who drank it burn ferociously. Gradually, this cocktail evolved into the mojito, the cocktail that we’re all familiar with today.

The ingredients

The mojito might be bold in flavour, but its ingredients are relatively modest, compared to its more complicated cocktail cousins. Consisting of one part sugar syrup, one part lime juice, two parts rum, mint and ice, this cocktail is simple, quick and easy to prepare. Some may opt to add soda water into the mojito, however, the ice should already dilute it enough as it is, and you may only need to stir in a splash if you want to tone down the strength of this zesty cocktail.

Piña colada

The backstory

Without bursting into song, we have to admit: piña colada definitely deserves its place on our list of the best cocktails. Meaning quite literally ‘strained pineapple’, this fruity cocktail evokes non-existent memories of basking in the sun on some remote island, sipping on an ice cold piña colada. It seems this pick-me-up was enjoyed by all sorts: the earliest known consumption of this cocktail was reported when Puerto Rican pirate Roberto Cofresí gave a drink consisting of coconut, pineapple and white rum to his crew to boost morale. Whilst it is unclear if this is fact or myth, one thing remains true – piña coladas are a great spirit booster.

The ingredients

Consisting of a blend of pineapple juice, white rum, coconut cream and ice, piña colada is the perfect cocktail to sip on if you want to be transported to a Caribbean island from your back garden. If you don’t have the cream, coconut milk can be used as a substitute, and tinned pineapple works just as well as fresh pineapple if you desire a sweeter piña colada.

Espresso martini

The backstory

The espresso martini captures the darker side of cocktails; think of a sultry evening drink with friends, rather than a fruity summer’s drink. This cocktail is a relatively modern invention; thought to be conjured up by London bartender Dick Bradsel, after a famous model wanted an alcoholic drink that would “wake me up”. As there was a coffee machine next to the bartending area, Bradsel thought to combine coffee with vodka to create a cocktail with the perfect kick.

The ingredients

Coffee and alcohol are an unlikely, yet dreamy, pairing. The espresso martini combines these flavours beautifully, although slightly more effort is required to create this cocktail. Sugar combines with ice, freshly brewed coffee (although instant can be substituted if you don’t have a coffee machine), vodka and coffee liqueur to create this classic cocktail. For an even more sumptuous cocktail, try substituting coffee liqueur with chocolate cream liqueur to add in the deep notes of cocoa.

Negroni

The backstory

A strong and short short cocktail, the origin of this tipple is slightly more difficult to pin down: thought to have been born in Florence, Italy in 1919, the negroni was allegedly created after Count Camillo Negroni asked a bartender to strengthen his favorite Campari-based cocktail, the Americano, by swapping in gin instead of soda water.

The ingredients

To create the perfect negroni, all you need is balance (and the right booze). One part gin, one part sweet vermouth and one part Campari all combine in equal parts to create the perfect fragrant cocktail. For a slight twist, why not try our Cocoa Gin? We’ve infused our distilled gin with cocoa for a malty, toasted edge, and orange and grapefruit for a welcome zing.

Old fashioned

The backstory

The cocktail was said to have been born from a mixture of bitters, spirits, water and sugar. By the 1860s, spirits such as orange curaçao and absinthe began to be experimented with: according to historian and cocktail writer David Wondrich in his book Imbibe!, it was whisky that made the final cut and was immortalised into the old fashioned, which is served in cocktail bars to this day.

The ingredients

Containing sugar syrup, whiskey, a splash of water, a garnish of orange peel and a few drops of bitters, this cocktail seems deserving of its title. Bitters were widely added into alcoholic beverages in the Victorian era to add flavour, as well as colour. We suggest using Angostura bitters for a truly authentic old fashioned – one of the earliest published recipes for this cocktail contains this very brand of bitters, which can still be purchased in supermarkets today

White Russian

The backstory

Despite its name, this cocktail originates from Belgium, created in 1949 when Gustave Tops, a Belgium barman, created the white Russian in honour of the US ambassador to Luxembourg. Whilst this cocktail can’t claim a Russian heritage, it does contain a quintessentially Russian ingredient: vodka.

The ingredients

Flavours of coffee and cream, but for adults; the white Russian contains vodka, cream and coffee liqueur, served over ice. For some added sweetness, add a dash of Salted Caramel Liqueur – we’ve infused our liqueur with toasted, malty notes of cocoa for an added depth.

Daiquiri

The backstory

Daiquiri is the name of a beach and an iron mine in Cuba, which is allegedly how this cocktail earned its title. The creation of the daiquiri is largely credited to American mining engineer Jennings Cox, one of the first miners to enter Cuba after the Spanish-American war in 1898. Allegedly, Cox was entertaining guests, when he realised he had run out of gin. As rum was the only replacement he could find, and added lemons, sugar, water and ice to the alcohol to create this cocktail.

The ingredients

The recipe for a classic daiquiri hasn’t changed much today, although some recipes call for lime juice instead of lemon. However, the daiquiri has also gone through countless transformations: many bartenders blend shaved ice into the cocktail for a more smoothie-like consistency. The flavours of daiquiri also range vastly: strawberry, passionfruit, pineapple, and more have been added into this cocktail for added taste.

Bellini

The backstory

A romantic cocktail, it’s hardly surprising that the bellini was created in Venice by Giuseppe Cipriani between the 1930s to 1940s. Cipriani gave the bellini its name because its delicate pink shade reminded him of the toga donned by a saint in a painting by 15th-century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini.

The ingredients

Made simply with pureéd peaches and prosecco, this floral, fruity cocktail is quick and easy to recreate at home. Peaches were chosen by Cipriani due to their abundance in Italy throughout the summer season, making the bellini the perfect summer’s day drink. For a twist on this traditional cocktail, our Mango Bellini recipe combines mango pureé with our Classic Prosecco to create a vibrant, zingy cocktail.

Moscow mule

The backstory

Just like the White Russian, this cocktail isn’t of Russian descent: invented in the 1940s in America, the Moscow mule was allegedly born out of the desire to shift stock that just wouldn’t sell. John Martin, owner of the Smirnoff vodka distillery, wanted to popularise the consumption of vodka amongst Americans, who historically weren’t too keen on the now much-loved spirit.

Martin wasn’t the only one who was trying to sell supplies: Sophie Berezinski was struggling to sell copper mugs from her family business, and bar owner Jack Morgan was in a similar predicament, as he couldn’t convince customers to buy any of his ginger beer. The three ended up coming together to create the Moscow Mule, which quickly became a hit in the US.

The ingredients

Vodka, crushed ice, ginger beer, a squeeze of lime and a sprig of mint makes the perfect Moscow mule. If you want extra authenticity, serve in a copper mug: besides looking Instagram-worthy, the mug has an interesting story behind it which you can impress your guests with.

Mai tai

The backstory

Whilst this cocktail might have a reputation nowadays for being a sweet concoction, the original mai tai was invented to celebrate the deep, spiced notes of a medium-bodied rum. Originally made with rum, a touch of lime, orgeat (an almond syrup), orange curaçao and a sugar syrup, the mai tai was so popular that it allegedly depleted world rum supplies during the 1940s.

The ingredients

Nowadays, the mai tai has merged into a fruitier cocktail, with the addition of pineapple or orange juice added to the mix, garnished with maraschino cherries. However, if you prefer your cocktails on the stronger side, simply omit the addition of fruit juice, and enjoy your mai tai the way it was originally intended to be!

So, which is the best cocktail?

Ultimately, that decision lies in your hands alone. Although cocktails have a reputation of being fancy and tricky to make, we think that some of the best cocktails are the simplest. If you’re a lover of alcohol and chocolate alike, we’ve recreated some of the best boozy cocktails and reimagined them into chocolate form. So, what are you waiting for? Grab a glass, pour in some ice, and treat yourself to a cocktail (or three!).