Drink This, Not That: The New Classic Cocktails

Tired of the classics? We've got you covered

Bartender serving a glass of a Vieux Carre cocktail with big ice cube and orange zest
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We’re dedicating our September features to food and drink. One of our favorite parts of travel is the joy of trying a new cocktail, snagging a reservation at a great restaurant, or supporting a local wine region. Now, to celebrate the flavors that teach us about the world, we put together a collection of tasty features, including chefs’ top tips for eating well on the roadhow to choose an ethical food tour, the wonders of ancient indigenous cooking traditions, and a chat with Hollywood taco impresario Danny Trejo.

One of the best things about traveling is trying some of the cuisine and cocktails unique to the destination. In fact, many cocktails have strong connections to a specific city or country. For example, the piña colada is often associated with Puerto Rico, the margarita with Mexico, and the gin and tonic with England. While there’s nothing wrong with sticking with the staples when visiting those countries, perhaps you’d like to mix it up. We’ve compiled a list of thirst-quenching alternatives travelers should know about when ordering a drink in these countries.

01 of 08

Mexico: Instead of a Margarita, Try a Paloma

Overehad images of a Paloma cocktail in salt rimmed glass with grapefruit wedges on the glass and two wedges on the table
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What’s there not to love about the paloma? It has a bittersweet citrusy kick, fizzy bubbles, and agave-forward tequila. The beverage is made with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice mixed with a bit of lime juice and agave for the perfect finish. Salt is added to the rim of the glass for that little savory flair. Little is known about the origins of the paloma. The cocktail didn’t appear on the scene until after 1938 and has since exploded in popularity.

Though it’s said to be Mexico’s most popular tequila-based cocktail, there’s some regionality to that claim. By law, tequila is primarily made in Jalisco, though towns in the states of Guanajuato, Tamaulipas, Nayarit, and Michoacán are also permitted to produce the spirit. So, out of the 31 states in Mexico, that leaves only five tequila-making states. You’ll find a paloma on the menu in most of Mexico’s major metropolises, along with heavy touristy spots.

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02 of 08

Puerto Rico: Instead of a Piña Colada, Try a Chichaíto

2017 New York Taste
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Ready to imbibe like a Puerto Rico native? Chichaíto, a drink comprised of anisette liqueur and white rum, was initially created to bypass restrictions placed on women drinking rum during the 1930s and 1940s. Now, it’s become the island’s go-to beverage, commonly enjoyed as a shot or, in some cases, served chilled and sipped. The sipper is subtly sweet with a hint of licorice flavor thanks to the anise. However, there are some delicious variations of the chichaíto, such as chichaíto de coco, made with coconut milk and coconut cream, or chichaíto de Nutella, crafted with Nutella and evaporated milk. The small bars of the island, called chinchorros, make some of the best chichaítos.

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03 of 08

New Orleans: Instead of a Daiquiri, Try Vieux Carré

Glass of a Vieux Carre cocktail on the wooden bar counter
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New Orleans is home to an array of delicious cocktails such as the iconic Sazerac and icy daiquiris. If you’re looking for a boozier option, then the vieux carré is for you. This cocktail was invented in 1937 by head bartender Walter Bergeron of the famous Carousel Bar in the French Quarter. The vieux carré translates from French to English as “old square” and refers to the original name of the French Quarter coined around the 1890s. The spirit-forward cocktail is a blend of rye whiskey, cognac, Bénédictine, sweet vermouth, and bitters.

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04 of 08

Brazil: Instead of a Caipirinha, Try a Bloody Carioca

Bloody mary
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Cachaça is to Brazil what bourbon is to the U.S. Cachaça, the country's national drink, has been around since the 1500s. This sweet and fruity, clear liquor distilled from fermented sugarcane juice is the base spirit in the South American riff on the bloody Mary called the bloody carioca. This Brazilian variant replaces vodka with cachaça, which is mixed with fresh tomato juice, lemon juice, passionfruit juice, celery salt, Tabasco, ground pepper, and nutmeg. It’s then served over ice in a highball glass with a stick of celery or a slice of cucumber as a garnish.

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05 of 08

Cuba: Instead of a Mojito, Try a Cuba Libre

Cuba Libre in a highball glass with rum, cola, mint and lime
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Much like Mexico’s paloma, the Cuba libre has a murky history. The axiom “Cuba libre” dates back to the mid-19th century when Cubans adopted “Free Cuba” as a battle cry while fighting for independence from Spain. Throughout the Ten Years’ War (1868-1878), soldiers indulged in what they called a Cuba libre, which was believed to be a blend of honey or molasses, water, and rum. In today's Cuba, the zingy highball drink is typically prepared with white rum, a hint of fresh lime juice, and tuKola, an island-made cola used in place of Coca-Cola.

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06 of 08

Italy: Instead of an Aperol Spritz, Try The Garibaldi

Garibaldi Cocktail with Orange Juice and Red Italian Bitter
Dietmar Rauscher / Getty Images

You cannot escape the flavorsome allure of the Aperol spritz while brunching in Italy (and we’re not going to stop you). However, we challenge you to drink an equally refreshing and enjoyable sipper called the Garibaldi. The drink is crafted using merely two ingredients: Campari and freshly squeezed orange juice. The rich cocktail is named after Giuseppe Garibaldi, the 19th-century revolutionary known for effectively uniting Italy. Representing Italian unification in a highball glass, the Garibaldi fuses the north (Lombardy is the birthplace of Campari) with the south (oranges are often grown in Sicily).

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07 of 08

Peru: Instead of a Pisco Sour, Try El Capitán

Refreshing Boozy Manhattan Cocktail
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Check out any menu in Peru, especially in Lima, and you’ll find a pisco sour. Pisco, which is a type of brandy, is also the key ingredient in the el capitán. This Peruvian cocktail contains a combination of Pisco, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters. All ingredients are stirred with ice, then strained into a coupe glass. The cocktail is garnished with lemon peel, cherries, or green olives. It is believed that the drink was created in the 1920s when a combination of Pisco and sweet vermouth was often ordered by Peruvian army captains.

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08 of 08

Japan: Instead of a Sake Bomb, Try a Kaku Highball

A kaku highball and a bowl of snacks

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Ready for the perfect drink and dinner pairing? The Kaku highball is a match made in libation heaven, made with Kakubin whisky and soda water. It’s easy to pair with dinner since it’s light and effervescent. A Kaku highball is made by squeezing a lemon wedge and pouring whisky into an ice-filled mug before topping the drink with soda water. The subtle fruity and spicy notes of Kabukin whisky make it ideal for cocktails. Fun fact: Kakubin was created by Shinjiro Torii, the founder of the renowned brewing and distilling company, Suntory. The whisky was first released in 1937 under Suntory Whisky, but the name was later changed to Kakubin—translated as “square bottle”—because of its unique bottle design.