When the mercury’s rising, there’s nothing like a freshly-iced cocktail to cool the sweat on your brow. But which destinations boast the best libations? Check the list below for some history behind your favorite summer drinks — and a few fantastic places to sip them.
1. Hawaii: The Mai Tai
While its name conjures up images of Hawaii’s blue swells, this 1950s favorite actually originated in California. There’s some dispute over whether it was Oakland or Los Angeles that perfected the popular mix, but there’s no dispute over its enduring popularity. For a more traditional pour, check out Tahiti Nui on Kauai or House without a Key on Oahu.
2. New York: The Manhattan
With only three ingredients to its name (whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters), this cocktail is the pinnacle of elegant simplicity. Not only has it populated drink menus for over 100 years, but it’s one of only six cocktails to grace the pages of The Fine Art of Making Drinks. Origin stories vary, but there’s no question about the Manhattan’s New York provenance. Sip some of the best at Little Branch in West Village or Raines Law Room in the Flatiron.
3. Puerto Rico: The Piña Colada
The most widely-accepted story is that Puerto Rico’s signature tipple was born at the Caribe Hilton’s Beachcomber Bar —now called the Oasis Bar — in the early 1950s, but there’s another tale that attributes the creation to an inventive hand at Barrachina. Judge for yourself. Both bars are open as of this writing, with plenty of accolades to each.
4. Cuba: The Cuba Libre
It may look like a rum and coke, but the Cuba Libre (Spanish for “Free Cuba”) sets itself apart with an added squeeze of lime. Simple? Sure. Although its history is a bit murkier. Some stories attribute the drink’s name to a toast (“Por Cuba Libre!”) made by soldiers during the Spanish-American war, while others say it wasn’t mixed ‘til 1900. Make a toast with your own at The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscane’s Rum Bar in Miami.
5. Kentucky: The Mint Julep
As Southern as sweet tea — and just as refreshing — the Mint Julep has been a staple at Kentucky race tracks since 1938. Like many of the drinks on this list, there’s no sure story behind its origin, but Kentucky’s Senator Henry Clay is credited with introducing this sugared summer favorite to D.C. Cut a balmy Southern summer with a sip at 732 Social in Louisville or at Proof on Main, attached to the 21C Museum Hotel.
6. Peru: The Pisco Sour
While both Peru and Chile claim paternity in the case of pisco, a type of grape brandy, the former seems to have the stronger link to the actual Pisco Sour. Not only does Peru celebrate National Pisco Sour Day in February, but several historic accounts point to the pisco, lime, and egg white beverage originating there in the early 1900s. Pucker up for a taste of this tart concoction at Gran Hotel Bolivar’s bar in Lima.
7. Mexico: The Margarita
Last, but far from least, is the blended beverage pictured in almost every south of the border vacation slideshow: the Margarita. There are more etiologies for this drink than all the others on this list combined, and — as the most popular tequila drink in the U.S. — even more places to order a glass. Head down to Cozumel or Mexico City for the real deal.
Have a favorite local cocktail of your own? Share the recipe (or the best place to order it) in the comments.