23 Retro Cocktails That Deserve a Comeback

Old Fashioned cocktails
Old Fashioned cocktails | Photo by Meredith.

There's something about vintage cocktails that just feels elevated. Perhaps it's because mixed drinks are an artform made from sophisticated ingredients, or because cocktails have existed for hundreds of years. These 23 classic cocktails have stood the test of time, and for a good reason — they're fantastic. Learn the history of 23 classic cocktails and give making one at home a try.

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Manhattan Cocktail

Manhattan Cocktail on a table
Edie Gardiner Snyder

The Manhattan, a mixture of whiskey, vermouth, and bitters, was created in New York sometime in the late 19th century. Printed records of the cocktail's recipe date back to the 1890s.

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Grasshopper Cocktail

Grasshopper Cocktail

This sweet, minty, after-dinner drink gets its hue and flavor from crème de menthe. The grasshopper was created in New Orleans in 1918, and it became trendy in the American South during the 1950s and 1960s.

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Tom Collins

Tom Collins Cocktail.

The first written record of the Tom Collins dates back to 1876. By the end of that decade, the highball cocktail was a hit at bars.

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Old Fashioned

Classic Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned, a blend of bitters, sugar, water, and whiskey, was created in the later half of the 19th century. There's debate about where the drink originated, but it's indisputable that the Old Fashioned was one of the first and most formative cocktails around.

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Sazerac Cocktail
The Sazerac | Photo by Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper.

The Sazerac is primarily associated with its place of origin, New Orleans. The drink gets its name from the brand of cognac it originally used, Sazerac de Forge et Fils, but rye whiskey is often used as a substitute. In 2008, the Sazerac was declared the official cocktail of New Orleans.

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Brandy Alexander

Brandy Alexander

The Brandy Alexander, a mixture of cognac, creme de cacao, and cream, was developed in the early 20th century and quickly became popular. The dessert cocktail is a variation of the Alexander, an older cocktail, and made a lasting impression on pop culture.

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Brandy Sidecar with Sugared Rim
Photo by Meredith.

The sidecar, a variation of the sour, consists of cognac, orange liqueur, and lemon juice and is believed to have originated in either London or Paris in the late 1910s. Supposedly, the drink gets its name from the motorcycle sidecar.

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Gimlet Gin Cocktail
Gimlet | Photo by Meredith.

The gimlet, a cocktail made out of gin (or vodka) and lime juice, is believed to have been created by soldiers in the British Royal Navy during the 18th century. However, the most famous gimlet recipe didn't appear until 1953 with the British publication of Raymond Chandler's "The Long Goodbye."

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Hot Toddy

hot toddy

There's much debate about how and when the hot toddy originated, but we do know that the warm cocktail is several hundred years old. The hot toddy's name comes from the toddy drink in India.

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Mint Julep

Mint Juleps in silver cups
The Gruntled Gourmand

You know the Mint Julep from the Kentucky Derby, but originally it was meant to cure stomach aches. The Mint Julep originated in the American South in the late 18th century and was made with gin instead of Bourbon.

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White Russian

White Russian Cocktail

The White Russian, a variation of the Black Russian, first appeared in print in 1965. Thirty-three years later, the White Russian surged in popularity again after the theatrical release of The Big Lebowski.

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Arizona Desert Flower

The Paloma is a blend of tequila, grapefruit soda, and lime juice and likely originated in Mexico. It's possible that the Paloma was created by legendary bar ower Don Javier Delgado Corona.

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Dark 'n' Stormy

Dark 'n' Stormy Ginger cocktail with a slice of lime
Buckwheat Queen

According to Gosling Brothers Limited, the Dark 'n' Stormy was concocted in Bermuda sometime after World War I when someone combined Gosling Black Seal Rum and Barritt's Ginger Beer. Eventually, Gosling and Barritt's partnership soured and Gosling started making its own ginger beer.

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Martini cocktail

The martini's origin is unclear, but it's believed that its name comes from the Martini brand of vermouth. During Prohibition, illegal gin was one of the most easily accessible forms of alcohol, which helped contribute to the martini's massive popularity.

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Mai Tai

Mai Tai
Mai Tai | Photo by Snacking in the Kitchen.

The mai tai, one of the quintessential drinks of tiki bar culture, was created in 1944 by Victor J. Bergeron at his restaurant, Trader Vic's. It was one of the most popular cocktails in the 50s and 60s, and Bergeron's recipe is still in use — in fact, we have it, too.

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French 75

French 75
Photo by Allrecipes Magazine.

The French 75, said to have origins in Paris sometime during World War I, gets its name from its kick, which felt like being hit with a French 75 machine gun. However, the drink is very similar to the Tom Collins, and may in fact just be a variation of the latter.

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Vesper Cocktail
Soup Loving Nicole

The vesper, a blend of gin, vodka, and Lillet, first appeared in Ian Fleming's James Bond novel Casino Royale. Despite creating the vesper, Bond usually stuck to martinis.

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Aperol Spritz

Aperol Spritz
Buckwheat Queen

Aperol, an Italian apertif, was created in 1919 by the Barbieri brothers, but the Aperol Spritz became popular in the 1950s, when it was presented as an alternative to Venetian wine mixed with soda. The Aperol Spritz again became a fad drink in 2019, a century after the orange apertif emerged.

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Godfather cocktail

The Godfather, a blend of Scotch whisky and amaretto, is said to be named after Marlon Brando, who played the titular character in the film adaptation.

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Cuba Libre

Cuba Libra

The Cuba Libre, also known as the rum & coke, first appeared in Cuba during the early 20th century after the country won independence in the Spanish-American war. The combination of light rum and Coca-Cola soon gained popularity in the United States, and enjoyed a revived appeal after World War II.

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Bee's Knees

Bee's Knees Cocktail
Arizona Desert Flower

The Bee's Knees originated during the Prohobition Era — the honey added sweetness to the cocktail and helped mask the scent of bathtub gin. The gin, lemon juice, and honey cocktail got its name from contemporary slang meaning "the best."

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Pimm's Cup

Pimm's Cup Cocktail
Photo by Buckwheat Queen.

James Pimm, the owner of a London oyster bar, created the Pimm's Cup, which was originally known as the house cup and then Pim's No. 1 Cup, in 1823. Although Pimm's is considered a liqueur, it's technically a gin-based fruit cup, which is an English drink designed to be mixed with a soft drink to create a large cocktail.

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Mojitos Cocktails
Mojitos | Photo by Meredith.

The mojito, a traditional Cuban drink, is a muddled blend of lime juice, sugar, club soda, light rum, and mint. It was created in Havana, and its speculated origins go back more than 350 years.

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