We can make Manhattans!

That headline is a snatch of dialogue from one of the greatest film comedies ever made, Some Like it Hot… it’s the bit when Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe and rest of Sweet Sue’s Society Syncopators have a midnight party on the train, and they do an audit of the illicit alcohol in the carriage.

That film was made in 1959. But recently, review site Yelp surveyed Australia’s top cocktails today. Using data collected from bar reviews across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide, Yelp revealed the top five cocktails in the nation… and it seems old is new again.

The top five are: Martini, Margarita, Old Fashioned, Mojito and Espresso Martini.

Sure, the latter is a bit of a new kid on the block, invented by a chap called Dick Bradsell in London in the mid-1980s.

But the rest?

Well, the Old Fashioned lives up to its name. This mix of whiskey or brandy, sugar, bitters and a twist of citrus rind dates to the early 19th century, though it wasn’t officially named until the 1880s.

The Havana-born Mojito traces its roots back even further – some researchers argue it evolved from a similar drink called El Draque (after Francis Drake), popular in the mid-1500s.

The Martini is one of the most fabled cocktails in history, with a thousand connotations and anecdotes surrounding its use – with everyone from the James Bond to real-life world leaders proselytising its properties. It became popular  in the late 1800s, but its exact origins are lost in the mists of time.

The Margarita hails from the 1930s; allegedly the creation of one Carlos ‘Danny’ Herrera in Mexico, who came up with the idea to satisfy one of his customers, a former hoofer with the Ziegfeld Follies named Marjorie King.

King enjoyed a drink but was allergic to most spirits… except tequila. Hence, Herrera conjured a custom tipple to suit.

As with all great inventions, there is sparring over origins.

Some hold that Don Carlos Orozco concocted the first Margarita in Ensenada, Mexico in 1941.

He’d been experimenting and offered the results to one Margarita Henkel, the daughter of the German ambassador, who just happened to be visiting his cantina at the time.

Equal parts tequila, Mexican orange liqueur and lime, shaken over ice and served in a salt-rimmed glass: the rest is history.

Read more: How to run your bistro as a tight ship

FDR Martini

  • 2 parts gin
  • 1 part vermouth
  • olive brine
  • lemon twist
  • olive

Winston Churchill Martini

  • 2 ½ shot London dry gin
  • Bottle of vermouth
  • olive
  • “Glance at the vermouth bottle briefly while pouring the juniper distillate freely…”


  • ¾ oz sweet vermouth
  • 2 ½ oz bourbon whiskey
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1 maraschino cherry
  • 1 twist orange peel
  • Stir over ice, strain into chilled glass, garnish and serve straight up.

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