Cocktails are excellent additions to any celebration, from major events to quick gatherings. With so many flavors and concoctions available, you can customize your drink to match your preferences.
The earliest cocktails were created in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. People explored new recipes and tastes as decades progressed, reflecting the trends of their time. While some drinks were minor hits, a few cocktails emerged as the most popular options for their period.
Read on to learn the most popular cocktails by decade and some of our favorite recipes for each option.
1910s Most Popular Cocktail: The Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned cocktail is one of the most enduring American drinks. The first recorded recipe is said to date back to 1895 in Louisville, Kentucky, and millions worldwide still drink it today.
The early 20th century marked a notable turning point in history as people started adding sugar to their drinks to improve their taste. The Old Fashioned drink is a prime example of this 1910s cocktails phenomenon — the whiskey-based drink features bitters and sugar to enhance the harsh taste. This technique would persist for decades as new cocktails were invented.
The Old Fashioned cocktail is also popular for its simple recipe. The ingredients and instructions have stayed the same since its inception. To make a single serving of an Old Fashioned cocktail, you need:
- 2 ounces of bourbon
- 1 teaspoon of simple syrup
- 2 to 4 dashes of bitters
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- An orange peel or cherry, for garnish
Combine the simple syrup, sugar and bitters in a glass. Fill the glass with ice and stir. Then, add the bourbon and stir for about 30 seconds. Garnish with the orange peel or cherry if desired. You can adjust ingredient amounts to meet your taste preferences. For instance, you might want more or less sugar to sweeten the drink.
1920s Most Popular Cocktail: The Singapore Sling
The 1920s in the United States were defined by Prohibition laws that restricted the production and distribution of alcoholic beverages. Despite these laws, many people produced new and exciting cocktails. Staples like the martini and gin rickey rose in popularity during this time.
Perhaps the most popular of the 1920s cocktails is the Singapore Sling. This gin-based drink is famous for its variations, with many styles developing through the years. Bartender Ngiam Tong Boon created the concoction in 1915 at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. It quickly became a favorite in Singapore and grew into worldwide fame. Its basic ingredients make it a cost-effective and accessible choice no matter your circumstances.
While exact ingredients vary, most Singapore Slings contain these components:
- 2 ounces of gin
- 1 teaspoon of grenadine
- ½ ounce of lime juice
- 1 ounce of pineapple juice
- Club soda or water
- A lemon wedge or cherry garnish
Most people use shakers to create this drink. Add the gin, grenadine, lime juice, pineapple juice and ice into a shaker. Shake the ingredients until they’re mixed thoroughly and well-chilled. Pour the mixture into a glass with fresh ice and top with club soda. Top with a cherry or lemon wedge to garnish.
1930s Most Popular Cocktail: The Bloody Mary
This infamous drink has built a reputation as a hangover cure or morning pick-me-up. The mixture of tomato juice, vodka and lemon juice gets its name from the historical figure Queen Mary I of England. While origin stories vary, many pinpoint its creation to the early 1920s in Paris. It grew in popularity among 1930s cocktails during the Great Depression.
As years passed, the Bloody Mary maintained its popularity. People experimented with new garnishes and additions to alter the taste but stayed loyal to the original tomato juice and vodka base.
Most Bloody Mary cocktails have these ingredients:
- 2 ounces of tomato juice
- 1 and ½ ounce of vodka
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ teaspoon lemon juice
- A few dashes of Tabasco sauce
- A pinch of salt
- A pinch of pepper
- 1 stalk of celery or other preferred garnish
Mix the tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper in a tall glass. Stir well. Then, fill the remainder of the glass with ice and stir again. You can serve with celery, bacon, lemon wedges, green olives or other preferred garnishes.
1940s Most Popular Cocktail: The Daiquiri
World War II rations forced people to alter their drinking habits, making 1940s cocktails slightly different than other decades. Luckily, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy from 1933 facilitated trading with Central and South America. This agreement made it easier for Americans to access rum, even during wartime restrictions.
The Daiquiri rose in popularity due to the increased accessibility to rum. The classic drink combines rum, lime and simple syrup to create a signature and refreshing taste. Many people prefer frozen Daiquiris, which feature finely pulverized ice and have textures similar to smoothies. The frozen blends use different fruits to flavor the drink, such as bananas, strawberries or limes.
A basic Daiquiri recipe includes:
Add the rum, lime juice and syrup to a shaker with ice. Shake the ingredients until they’re well-stirred. Pour over ice and add a lime or garnish if you desire.
1950s Most Popular Cocktail: The Vodka Martini
The martini has been a popular drink throughout history, with initial origins traced back to the 1850s in San Francisco. While originally made with gin, a martini with vodka rose in popularity grew in popularity in the 1950s due to vodka imports from Russia and other countries.
The 1950s marked the end of a war-stricken decade, encouraging many celebrations. The martini quickly became a staple for before and after dinner. As the cocktail grew more famous, it appeared in more movies and novels, boosting its familiarity even further. Ian Fleming, the author of the “James Bond” series, included the popular 1950s cocktail in his first novel as the titular character’s favorite drink.
The vodka martini continues to be popular for its signature taste. It consists of these ingredients:
You can make a vodka martini in two styles:
- Shaken: Fill a shaker with ice, then add the vodka and vermouth. Shake until the liquids are well-mixed and chilled. Strain the mixture into a glass and add olives to garnish.
- Stirred: Pour the vodka and vermouth into a mixing glass with ice. Shake vigorously until they’re thoroughly mixed. Strain the drink into a glass and serve with olives.
Some people prefer dirty martinis, which have an additional spike of olive juice.
1960s Most Popular Cocktail: The Mai Tai
The 1960s cocktails experienced more preference changes as people began to prefer sweet and fruity drinks. The Mai Tai cocktail is a signature example of this change, reaching a popularity peak in the 1960s. Victor Bergeron is credited with the iconic cocktail’s creation. He claims to have invented it in 1944 at his restaurant Trader Vic’s in Oakland, California.
The Mai Tai’s popularity surged when it was added to many restaurant and bar menus. It was also heavily featured in the 1961 film “Blue Hawaii” which starred Elvis Presley, increasing the drink’s image frequency.
The Mai Tai has a rum base and various other liquids that create a sweeter taste. The sweet syrup, orgeat, is made from almonds and adds a unique flavor. Classic Mai Tais tend to have these ingredients:
- 1 and ½ ounces of light rum
- 1 and ½ ounces of dark rum
- ¾ ounce of orange curaçao
- ½ ounce of orgeat
- ¾ ounce of lime juice
- 1 teaspoon of grenadine
- 2 ounces of pineapple juice
To make a Mai Tai, combine the light rum, curaçao, orgeat, lime juice, pineapple juice and grenadine into a shaker with crushed ice. Shake lightly, then pour them into a glass. Pour the dark rum over the top of the drink, letting it settle into a single layer. You can garnish with a lime wheel or your preferred additions.
1970s Most Popular Cocktail: Harvey Wallbanger
The 1970s saw more inventive and flavorful cocktails, and nothing displays this trend more than the Harvey Wallbanger. This cocktail consists of vodka, orange juice and liqueur. It rose to popularity in the 1970s as a variation of the screwdriver, another classic cocktail.
To make a Harvey Wallbanger, you’ll need:
- 1 and ½ ounce of vodka
- ½ ounce of Galliano liqueur
- 4 ounces of orange juice
- Orange slice or cherry garnish
Fill a glass with ice. Pour the vodka and orange juice into the glass and stir thoroughly. Float the Galliano liqueur on top. Place an orange slice or cherry on top to garnish your iconic 1970s cocktail.
1980s Most Popular Cocktail: The Piña Colada
The piña colada is one of the most famous 1980s cocktails and worldwide drinks. It grew particularly famous in the United States in the 1980s, shortly after the Rupert Holmes song “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” was released in 1979. The iconic drink originated in Puerto Rico in a hotel bar in 1954. Many people associate the sweet drink with beach lounging and lively nights out.
To make two servings of piña colada, use these ingredients:
- 1 and ½ cup of ice
- ½ cup of diced frozen pineapple
- 2 ounces of pineapple juice
- 2 ounces of coconut cream
- 1 and ½ ounces of light rum
- 1 ounce of dark rum
- Pineapple slices for garnishes
Achieving the cocktail’s icy consistency requires a blender. Place the ice, frozen pineapple, juice, coconut cream and both rum types into the blender. You’ll want to blend the drink until it’s smooth, then pour it into glasses and add pineapple slices to top them off.
You can also use piña colada mixes to cut back on preparation time.
1990s Most Popular Cocktail: Long Island Iced Tea
The Long Island iced tea surged in popularity in the 1990s, reflecting another difference in preferences. This cocktail features five different types of liquor, giving it a higher alcohol concentration than many other cocktails.
Long Island ice tea has two competing origin stories — one in the 1920s in Long Island, Tennessee, and the other in Long Island, New York in 1972. Charles Bishop claimed to have made the drink during the Prohibition era in Tennessee, and his son refined the recipe in the 1940s.
However, Robert Butt from New York stated he invented the cocktail when he entered it into a contest in 1972. The contest asked competitors to create a new mixed drink, which inspired him to combine many liquor types at once.
No matter which story people preferred, Long Island iced tea was an extremely popular 1990s cocktail. Ingredients for this cocktail include:
- 4 ounces of cola
- Squeezed lemon and lime juice
- 1 ounce of whiskey
- ½ ounce of light rum
- ½ ounce of gin
- ½ ounce of tequila
- 1 ounce of vodka
- Lemon or lime for garnishes
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the vodka, whiskey, rum, gin, tequila, lime juice and lemon juice into the shaker. Pour the mixture into a tall glass and add the Cola for color and taste. Garnish with lemon or lime.
2000s Most Popular Cocktail: Cosmopolitan
The pink Cosmopolitan is a prime example of a 2000s cocktail. It peaked in popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Its sweet and slightly tart taste appeals to many people, while the pink hue gives the cocktail a unique appearance. The Cosmopolitan was significantly featured in the hit TV show “Sex and the City,” which encouraged even more people to order the iconic drink.
A classic Cosmopolitan recipe contains:
- 2 ounces of vodka
- ½ ounce of triple sec
- ¾ ounce of cranberry juice
- ½ ounce of lime juice
- A lime or orange wedge for a garnish
You can adjust the ingredient amounts for your preferred tastes. More cranberry juice gives a sweeter taste, while more vodka makes the drink stronger. Some people use unsweetened cranberry juice to make the cocktail mostly tart.
To make a Cosmopolitan, add the vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice and lime juice into a shaker with ice. Shake the mixture until it’s well-chilled and completely mixed. Strain it into a cocktail glass and add your preferred garnish.
2010s Most Popular Cocktail: Aperol Spritz
2010s cocktails shifted to a bubbly and refreshing drink — the Aperol spritz. The drink combines fizzy wine, sparkling water and prosecco. Originally created in Italy in the 1920s, the Aperol spritz boomed in popularity around the world in the 2010s. Its simple ingredients and citrus flavor make it a perfect drink for warm weather, post-dinner arrangements or many other settings.
Aperol spritz cocktails include these ingredients:
Mix the prosecco, Aperol and club soda in a large wine glass filled with ice. Stir until you reach your desired mixture. Add an orange slice or other garnish type.
Recreate the Most Iconic Cocktails in History With Marketview Liquor
From the simple Old Fashioned to the complex Long Island iced tea, popular cocktails have progressed throughout history. With the right ingredients, you can make any of these iconic cocktails from home.
Marketview Liquor is your one-stop shop for cocktail spirits and other necessities. We offer a wide range of alcoholic products, all at competitive prices. We ship spirits to 16 states, letting you avoid in-store lines and wait times.
Explore our delicious spirit collection and other products today to create your next cocktail.