A Roundup of the Most Popular Cocktails in 2021
The Roaring [Twenty-]Twenties are off to a rollicking, rocky start and that means one thing: it’s time for a cocktail. With so many innovations in the world of spirits and mixology (hello, to-go!) as well as renewed interest in straightforward, time-honored tipples, 2021 has meant the ascendency of spirited sips—ranging from updated classics to cheeky, lively libations of handcrafted cocktails.
Thirsty yet? We are, too.
You might already know the best fall cocktails. So, let’s break out the special-occasion bourbon and dive into the most popular drinks of 2021. Just like the old man in the corner of a dimly lit dive, they’re nostalgic, boozy, and endlessly diverting.
Bitter and bloodred, the Negroni has risen the ranks in recent years thanks to its bold taste—ideally balanced on the tenuous line between bitter and sweet—and sure-footed placement in the canon of classic cocktails.
According to lore, the first Negroni was mixed in Italy just over a century ago under the purview of one Count Negroni—a rambunctious reveler who, craving a stronger pour than existing cocktails prescribed, asked his barman to swap out club soda for gin.1
Thus was born the Negroni, a three-ingredient cocktail composed of equal measures of boozy, bitter, and sweet.
In this case:
- Sweet vermouth
And just one, we’re sure, in a long line of brilliant inventions hatched by merrymaking aristocrats at proto-Happy Hours.
Today, the spirit-forward drink has gone mainstream thanks to the wide availability and improved storage of high-quality vermouth2 as well as a viral video of your mom’s favorite actor Stanley Tucci shaking up the Aperitivo-classic at home during quarantine that delighted—and despaired—bar enthusiasts all over, because:
- You should make a Negroni at home.
- You should never shake it over ice—stir, stir, stir.
The simplicity of a Negroni’s composition makes the cocktail highly adaptable and ideal for riffing on at home. Just be sure to stick to the basic formula, combining a base spirit with a bitter and sweet component. Even if you’re feeling more Oaxaca than Florence, you’ll want to honor the bold balance of flavor that’s propelled this classic to the top of the class in 2021.
Need some inspiration? Check out these popular spins on the Negroni:
- Mezcal Negroni – When used in place of gin, mezcal adds a smoky depth to the cocktail and plays a worthy adversary to the robust bitter punch from the Campari.
- Negroni Sbagliato – Also known as a “broken” Negroni, the Sbagliato eschews gin for sparkling wine, proving itself as a vivacious aperitif destined to please a crowd. And, thanks to a lower ABV than a standard Negroni, you can pour them all night long.
- White Negroni – Many Negroni variations concern the base spirit. The white Negroni takes another approach, leaving the gin and tinkering with the rest instead. Swapping in herbaceous, floral Suze for Campari and blanc vermouth for sweet, this pale yellow sipper is lightly sweet and set for summer.
According to Drinks International, a trade publication for the alcohol industry, the Margarita reigns supreme as 2021’s top-selling tequila-based cocktail with triple sec.3 No wonder—bright, bracing, and bursting with citrus flavor, the Margarita equals good vibes in a rocks glass, highball glass, or martini glass.
After a year with limited travel, it’s no wonder that people are reaching for the tart, tangy cocktail like it’s going out of style (to which we say never—the Margarita has been a fan favorite since its creation in 19384).
Under the right circumstances—say the citrus juice (you can use orange juice, lime juice, lemon juice, grapefruit juice, and even pineapple juice) is fresh-pressed and the tequila is top-notch—a Margarita can serve as a ten-minute vacation, transforming your living room, park bench, or block party into a nostalgic, tropical escape.
But not all Margs are created equal. Leave the XL pitchers of neon green, sickly sweet slush in the past where they belong and seek out modern options that honor the Margarita’s no-frills, fresh-made roots.
Whether you’re mixing one at home or grabbing one to-go, look for:
- Quality – When it comes to this drink, it’s quality over quantity. Our Classic Margarita blends 100% agave blanco tequila, organic agave syrup, fresh lime, and orange liquor made in-house to bring you a perfectly balanced, spirit-forward sip.
- Flavor – We think a classic Margarita is pretty much a perfect cocktail, but tequila and citrus do well with the introduction of spicy and botanical notes. Vegetal and laced with subtle heat, the jalapeno makes an ideal bedfellow for agave, pineapple juice, and lime (we love the compelling edge it gives our Pineapple Jalapeno Margarita). Can’t stand the heat? Get in the kitchen. Cucumber juice adds a refreshing layer to the tangy tipple.
Perhaps most critically, it’s the ease of a Margarita that makes it stand out in 2021—especially when you’re pouring straight into the martini glass or chilled cocktail glass from the Full Bar. Just add ice, loud music, and friends (hopefully bearing chips and guac).
The Espresso Martini
Any catalog of 2021’s popular cocktails would be incomplete without mention of the Espresso Martini.
If you’re surprised to see this Y2K-era nightcap on a list of current-day standouts, we’d like to point you to the recent resurgence of—gasp—low-rise jeans.
It’s true. Everything cycles back again. And if the celebrated return of Bennifer 2.0 is any indication, the early aughts are back, baby—along with their fashions, “Friends” marathons, and flavored martinis.
Enter our drink du jour, the Espresso Martini.
The Espresso Martini—Evolved
Sweet, strong, and shaken over ice cubes until cold in a cocktail shaker, this velvety drink is usually comprised of:
- Freshly brewed espresso
- Coffee liqueur (such as Kahlua)
While some bartenders experiment with the addition of cold brew, Irish Cream, amaros, and chocolates, contemporary mixologists tend to eschew the syrups and sweeteners that their forebears depended on.2 One non-negotiable? The garnish: a trinity of roasted coffee beans crowning the cocktail’s foamy head.
While sweet, syrupy cocktails fell out of favor in the craft cocktail revival of the twenty-first century,3 the growth of the industry over the past few decades has brought new opportunities for discovery, play, and reinvention.
According to the New York Times, these frothy after-dinner drinks are everywhere in 2021—with orders up 300% in the first six months of the year than from the same time three years earlier.7
So why the predominance of the Espresso Martini instead of the Appletini or the Cosmo? Some say that the craze lies in caffeine.
The Espresso Martini acts as the perfect bridge between dinner and dancing—combining the post-meal tradition of a shot of espresso and the liquid courage of, well, a shot into one yawn-busting, buzz-boosting concoction.
And, after a year of staying in and working long hours, many partygoers need that little push to stay out past their bedtimes.
Like its buzzy brother the Red Bull Vodka, the cocktail was designed with this noble ambition of curing both sobriety and fatigue in mind.
But while ordering a round of Red Bull Vodkas in 2021 is a surefire way to elicit wearied stares from your bartender, an Espresso Martini makes a popular—and palatable—choice.
The Old Fashioned
You might already be familiar with whiskey sour, but let's get to know an oldie but a goodie, the Old Fashioned. This straightforward whiskey cocktail recipe is always in fashion. This year marks the seventh in a row that this timeless drink was the top-seller in bars worldwide.7
It’s easy to see why. This three-ingredient, spirit-forward libation emanates both comfort and class. It’s basically the cocktail equivalent of a perfectly broken-in leather armchair.
If that sounds appealing, especially now, you’re not alone. With its ease of preparation and trusty whiskey wallop, the Old Fashioned makes a dependable companion for 2021—a year marked by change and transformation—and belongs just as much on the shining mahogany of a world-class bar as it does in front of your television.
Made simply, the best Old Fashioned cocktails are stirred in a glass and served an orange peel or lime wedge as a garnish. You won’t need anything, save the following (plus a big old hunk of ice):
- Bourbon or Rye
- A sugar cube
- Angostura bitters
Resist the temptation to add soda, maraschino cherries, or any other accouterments that upset the delicate balance between the sweetness of the sugar cube, the bite of the spirit, and the deep finish of the bitters.
Old Fashioned, New Spirits
Just like with the Negroni, the simplicity of the Old Fashioned cocktail recipe lends itself to experimentation—so long as you remain faithful to the ratios and elements at play in the composition.
Not in a whiskey mood? Try swapping in mezcal or rum for bourbon or rye.
2021: The Year of Handcrafted Cocktails
This year we’re planning overdue events, returning to the office-to-Happy Hour routine, and finally grabbing those drinks we put off at the start of 2020. The last thing you need is to worry about what you’re going to order.
To help you take the edge off, we’ve outlined the classic and nostalgic alcoholic beverages taking 2021 by storm. While most of these tipples are simple, potent, and easily tailored—possibly hinting at the market’s sustained interest in drinking at home—the Espresso Martini is a festive beacon of hope for carousers worldwide.
No matter what your vibe is, be sure to indulge in 2021’s biggest cocktail trend: quality.
Whether you’re playing apartment mixologist, sipping on the go, or holding court at brunch, build a better buzz. Treat yourself to balanced, handcrafted cocktails from DRNXMYTH, made fresh with cold pressed juice by expert bartenders.
- Punch. Negroni. https://punchdrink.com/recipes/negroni/
- Eaton Marketing. Why More People Are Drinking the Negroni Cocktail. https://blog.eaton-marketing.com/foodservice/why-more-people-are-drinking-the-negroni-cocktail
- Vinepair. The 50 Most Popular Cocktails in the World in 2021. https://vinepair.com/articles/50-most-popular-cocktails-world-2017/
- Wine Enthusiast. The History of the Margarita and How to Make it Right. https://www.winemag.com/recipe/the-history-of-the-margarita-and-how-to-make-it-right/
- Huffington Post. Espresso Martinis: What to Know About Summer’s Big Drink Trend. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/espresso-martini_l_60ea0164e4b04f9dbf934abc
- The New York Times. The Espresso Martini is Everywhere (Again). https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/17/style/espresso-martini-comeback.html
- Drinks International. The World’s Best-Selling Classic Cocktails 2021. https://drinksint.com/news/fullstory.php/aid/9319/The_World_92s_Best-Selling_Classic_Cocktails_2021.html