Official Cocktails in the USA

8th January 2024

If your city was a cocktail, which one would it be? There seems to be a trend in America over the past seven years to designate each city an official cocktail that bears some historical connection to the area. Most recently, Louisville has jumped on the bandwagon and dubbed the Old Fashioned their Official Cocktail. The beverage is made with bourbon, sugar and bitters and was first documented in the 1881 Pendennis Club menu. It has been attributed to the city ever since and so is considered a fitting drink for the residents.
The city has further celebrated their cocktail by naming June 1st-14th Old Fashioned Fortnight. There are 34 restaurants and bars participating in the festivities by offering discounted drinks and special offers. You still have time to join in, so find the recipe on and let us know what you think!

Louisville follows in the footsteps of towns such as New Orleans, who nominated the Sazerac as their Official Cocktail in 2008. It was the first city to claim a beverage officially and was designated by Louisiana legislation due to its supposed creation in the city in the 19th century. It is said that a New Orleans barman took an old cocktail and updated it, creating the now well-loved Sazerac. The drink contains rye whiskey, sugar, bitters and absinthe.

From then on, it seems there has been no stopping the US cities as they all clamour to have an official drink of their own. Washington D.C chose the Gin Rickey in 2011. It is named after Col. Joe Rickey who is said to have experimented with lime in his morning cocktail at a bar in Washington D.C. in 1883. It soon became the most popular gin cocktail in town. Thus the Rickey was born, along with Washington’s right to claim it as their own.

In 2014, a barman in San Francisco started a campaign to make the Pisco Punch the Official Cocktail for their golden-gated city. The beverage, made with grape spirit (Pisco), pineapple, gum syrup and bitters, has some tenuous connection with the city due to the import of Pisco and pineapple in the 1830s.

Of course, there are hundreds of cocktails that have been attributed to certain states and cities without becoming “official”. There is the New York cocktail, and then one for each of its boroughs. When in Alabama, you must try an Alabama Slammer. You cannot visit Arkansas without sipping on an Arkansas Razorback and don’t even think of taking a trip down the river without trying a Mississippi Punch. When in town, try a Rhode Island Red and you cannot skip through Vermont without a taste of an Old Vermont. With over 20,000 cities in North America, this sounds like the start of a very long drinking game!

More to explore

Bartender's top tip

A well-chosen garnish can enhance both the flavor and appearance of your cocktail. Beyond the visual appeal, garnishes like citrus twists, olives, or cocktail onions can subtly influence the overall taste profile of your drink. Practice techniques like expressing a citrus peel to release the aromatic oils over the drink, enhancing its aroma and flavor.

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