In honor of my milestone 30th birthday, I’ve interviewed 5 talented D.C. bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts about what cocktails they think everyone must try before turning 30. There are 30 unique cocktails detailed and each person explains why they’ve chosen them for this extensive list. Each contributor has either been a bartender at D.C.’s finest establishments for at least 5 years and/or passionate about the spirits industry, so believe me…you should trust them!
Tyler Carroll (Bartender)
1) TOM COLLINS
Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and club soda.
“It’s a really classic cocktail but everyone forgets it.”
2) PIMM’S CUP
Pimm’s No. 1, lemon juice, and ginger ale.
“I like the Pimm’s Cup because you can drink a lot of them, and leave the bar standing to tell the tale.”
3) OLD FASHIONED
Bourbon, Angostura bitters, water, and sugar.
“It’s a classic man’s man drink.”
4) PEACH CIROC & LEMONADE
Peach Ciroc and Lemonade
“It’s the nectar of the Gods. It doesn’t need an explanation. Just drink it.”
Cachaca, sugar, and lime.
“It embodies summertime. It’s really refreshing and delicious.”
6) DARK & STORMY
Rum & ginger beer.
“Ginger beer packs a small and unexpected punch and it compliments the rum perfectly.”
Marissa Millet (Bartender)
7) MAI TAI
Light rum mixed with lime juice, orange curaçao, and orgeat. Topped with a heavy float of dark rum.
“Not the Fridays version! The original is more boozy than fruity. Orgeat is the ingredient most commonly left out, but adds a welcome change with the almond flavor.”
Papaya Juice, Pineapple juice, passion fruit syrup, and lime juice are used to balance out ALL the booze. Light rum, dark rum, over proof rum, apricot liqueur, and velvet falernum. Add a dash of Angostura Bitters for a extra hint of spice.
“This has it all. Fruit, spice, tart, sweet, light, dark. Great for the indecisive or to serve as a punch. Tread lightly though. If prepared correctly, you won’t taste all the hidden alcohol.”
9) PAIN KILLER
Pussers Rum, Pineapple juice, Cream of Coconut, and orange juice. Garnished with freshly grated nutmeg.
“One can literally drink these all day. It won’t hit you in the face like some of the heavy fruit, heavy booze tiki cocktails. If you are too embarrassed to order a piña colada, think of this as the more adult version.”
10) DONGA PUNCH
Rhum Agricole, lime juice, grapefruit juice and cinnamon syrup. Serve on crushed ice.
“Grapefruit is great year round, and cinnamon feels like fall or winter, so remember this during holiday season as an alternative traditional holiday cocktails.”
11) “CLASSIC” DAIQUIRI
Light rum, fresh lime juice, and simple syrup, shaken and served straight up.
“Think of this as a rum gimlet. Great for ladies nights when you feel like you should have a martini glass in your hand.”
12) RUM OLD FASHIONED
Aged rum, one that has been aged in bourbon barrels is great, simple syrup, angostura and orange bitters. Garnished with an orange twist.
“This is a twist on a classic and great for those who are still skeptical of “fruity” drinks. Also, should be served on big ice that will melt as slowly as you want to sip.”
Melissa Davis (Cocktail Enthusiast, www.liquorlady.com)
13) MOSCOW MULE
Mix of vodka, ginger beer, and lime but it stands out from the crowd because it’s served is a signature copper mug.
“If vodka is your thing, you must seek out a Moscow Mule. Refreshing with an air of sophistication, this is one that will leave your friends ‘oohing and awing’ about your great taste in cocktails. However, the copper mug has become so popular with patrons that some bars have had to take the Moscow Mule off their menus. Guests were sneaking out with those expensive little mugs – go figure.”
14) MINT JULEP
My go-to is a mix of mint, bourbon, sugar, and a splash of club soda.
“While the Kentucky Derby might be over, the Mint Julep is here to stay! Historically, the julep was a category of drinks that included brandies, fruits, etc. However, as more American whiskies started to be produced, the brandy became replaced with rye whiskey and bourbon. Today, that tradition still stands. As the official beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby, the Mint Julep is a part of Southern heritage that everyone should enjoy (at least once).”
15) SUMMIT COCKTAIL
VSOP, lemon-lime soda, fresh ginger, and lime zest.
‘When in France, do as the French do.’ While us Americans tend to drink our cognac straight-up, the French frequently mix their beloved spirit. So, it’s not surprising, that I wasn’t exposed to this truly delicious cognac concoction, the Summit Cocktail, until I visited Cognac. Perfect for a hot summer day, you can always pick out this drink by its tell-tale cucumber peel that wraps around the inside of the glass.”
16) BAHAMA MAMA
Two different kinds of rum (dark rum and coconut rum), two fruit juices (orange juice and pineapple juice), and a splash of grenadine.
“If you love rum and the hot summer sun, the Bahama Mama was designed especially for you. This summer sipper will be the highlight of any island vacation or will definitely put you in an island state of mind. The best part, the Bahama Mama is a blended drink so it’s best served slushy.”
Combination of red wine, fresh fruits, any number of liqueurs (to add to the sweetness), and brandy.
“If you’re not yet sold on the deliciousness of red wine, let Sangria be your gateway. Sangria is a customizable cocktail that lets you showcase your personality and play to your palate preferences. While a tad bit non-traditional, here are the ingredients I use in my house sangria ~ Pinot Noir, oranges, lemons, limes, pineapple chunks, ginger ale, gin, sugar, and a splash of orange juice. See, there really is no one size fits all Sangria.”
“When you think about tequila most people think of shots or the ever popular, margarita. However, everyone should give its cousin, the Paloma, some love and consideration. Light and refreshing – yet slightly more potent – is the first thing you’ll notice about this combo of blanco tequila, lime juice and grapefruit soda.”
Tracy Javier (Bartender)
VSOP, Cointreau, and fresh lemon juice.
“It’s a great classic cocktail with Cognac coined by the Ritz Carton in Paris.”
20) LAST WORD
Gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and fresh lime juice.
“For a gin drinker, this is a great cocktail. The green Chartreuse gives it a fresh punch, really bringing out the botanicals in the gin.”
21) LONG ISLAND and all it’s variations!
Gin, white rum, silver tequila, vodka, Triple sec, simple syrup, lemon juice, and cola.
“EVERYONE has to have a Long Island, long beach, Tokyo tea, blue mother… Well you get the point. If this wasn’t your first go to drink when you were 21, then you aren’t a true drinker.”
Rye whiskey, simple syrup, Peychaud bitters, and absinthe.
“I love this cocktail because it includes absinthe, which is totally underrated.”
Fresh peach puree and sparkling wine.
“This one is super easy but it’s absolutely necessary for any great brunch. And DC does brunch well.”
Vodka, Triple sec, and lime juice.
“After Long Island Iced Tea’s, Kamikazes are the next go-to drinks for your early 20’s. Feel free to try it as a drink or a shot!”
Chad Clark (Bartender)
25) VODKA/GIN SODA or VODKA/GIN TONIC
“These are just classic drinks that anyone can make and they’re also easy to order. Your bartender will love you on a busy night.”
26) BOURBON (NEAT)
“You can never go wrong with bourbon. Ever.”
27) RYE DRY MANHATTAN
Rye whiskey, dry vermouth, and Angostura bitters.
“I’m not big on sweets, so Rye Dry Manhattans are perfect for me. It’s the perfect combination since Rye whiskey isn’t as sweet as your normal whiskeys and substituting dry vermouth for the sweet vermouth used in a classic Manhattan helps to mitigate the sweetness too.”
28) WHISKEY SOUR
Whiskey, fresh lime juice, and simple syrup.
“This is a classic whiskey drink and it’s a great mix of sweet and sour.”
29) AMF (Google for what this stands for!)
Rum, Apricot brandy, pineapple juice, orange juice and sugar.
“I love this drink because you can’t taste the alcohol but it gets you right where you need to be when you want to let loose.”
30) WHISKEY GINGER
Whiskey, ginger ale, and a squeeze of lime.
“If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of whiskey. Again, this is a simple drink, it’s easy to make and appeals to both men and women.”
That’s it! A pretty comprehensive list if you ask me. What do you think? Any other quintessential drinks for the 30 and under crowd? Chime in below!