One of the best parts about visiting a new destination is the chance to unwind with the area’s signature cocktail. Though you can order most of these at your neighborhood watering hole, we’ve delved deep into the background stories on some signature cocktails around the world, so you can feel like a local next time you mosey up to the bar in Brazil or Singapore.
Aperol Spritz — Venice, Italy
This refreshing concoction has recently risen in popularity stateside, but the Aperol Spritz in its modern form can trace its roots back to Venice in 1919 with the creation of its signature liqueur. Aperol was marketed as a “fit” drink in early 20th-century Italy for health-conscious young people, but it wasn’t until the 1950s when the classic Aperol Spritz was born—three parts prosecco, two parts Aperol, and a splash of soda water. The drink’s international expansion exploded in the early 2000s with the acquisition of Aperol by Gruppo Campari, an Italian beverage company that pushed the drink in advertising around the world
Pimm’s Cup — London, England
A classic British summer cocktail, Pimm’s Cup’s origin story begins with James Pimm, a fishmonger in the 1840s who wanted to make his oyster stand stick out from the rest crowding the London streets. He began serving a tonic of his creation called “Pimm’s No. 1,” which was picked up for commercial sale in 1859. The concoction, which is based on gin and features fruit, herbs, and other flavors, is said to only be known in full by six people. Since its inception, other numbered varieties using other liquors have been born, such as rum, No. 4, and rye whiskey, No. 5. But the gin-based No. 1 remains the stronghold, and mixed traditionally with lemonade and fruit garnishes to create Pimm’s Cup, it has been the official drink of the Wimbledon tennis tournament since 1971.
Manhattan — New York, New York
Though this mixture of whiskey, vermouth, bitters, and a Maraschino cherry garnish is about as straightforward as it gets, the origins of this classic cocktail are much more murky. Varying tall tales abound, from a party hosted by Winston Churchill’s mother to downing the drinks following the loss of Democratic presidential candidate Samuel Tilden in 1876. The most widely accepted and likely origin story of the Manhattan, though, is that it was concocted at New York’s Manhattan Club sometime in the 1880s, with the club’s first official recipe for the drink appearing in a 1916 edition of the organization’s official history.
Caipirinha — São Paulo, Brazil
With a name that literally means “little peasant girl,” Brazil’s national cocktail has a history that’s tied to the Brazilian countryside and the sugarcane from which the drink’s liqueur, called cahaça, is made. One of the most widely accepted backstories of the cocktail—classically made with cahaça, sugar, and lime—is that an early version of it was consumed during the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak as a sort of medicinal tonic. Other stories cite Brazilian sailors imbibing in an effort to ward off scurvy, or the creation of the drink to promote the robust production of sugarcane at parties. Today, high-end Brazilian bars typically offer the drink in three different price varieties made from standard, mid-range, and premium cahaça brands.
Singapore Sling — Singapore
This gin-based treat can trace its roots to the booming British colonial port of Singapore in the early 20th century. Historically, it was considered impolite for women of the time to enjoy alcohol in public—tea or juice was considered much more appropriate for a lady. Seeing this, bartender Ngiam Tong Boom of the Raffles Hotel realized he could create a drink that looked like juice, thus allowing the ladies to sip discreetly, and the Singapore Sling was born. Though the original recipe was allegedly lost in the 1930s, today’s version is probably close and typically includes gin, cherry liqueur, Cointreau, pineapple juice, lime juice, grenadine, and a dash of aromatic bitters.
Blue Hawaii — Honolulu, Hawaii
You may be familiar with the Elvis Presley film of the same name, but this vibrant cocktail actually came to life four years before the release of “Blue Hawaii.” This electric blue concoction was created by Hawaiian Village Hotel bartender Harry Yee in 1957, sporting a blend of vodka, rum, pineapple, sour mix, and the blue curaçao to which it owes its aquamarine hue. Yee was attempting to mimic the color of the Pacific—some say he would even hold up each drink to the ocean from his Waikiki beach vantage point to ensure the color was right before serving it.