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Travel the World in Six Drinks

By: Jes Ware

“Don’t bother with churches, government buildings or city squares,” Ernest Hemingway once opined; “if you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bar.” We may have a loftier opinion of government buildings, but we agree that drinking is a surefire way to get to know a destination. In one healthy sip of a local specialty (or two, or three, or twelve—no one’s judging), you can taste a place’s culture and climate, its personality and passions. Channeling the spirit of Papa, we present to you our list of worldwide summer cocktails—and where best to enjoy them. Cheers!

Sazerac, New Orleans

We all owe Antoine Amédée Peychaud a thank you. After fleeing Haiti in the wake of revolution, the pharmacist set up shop in 1830’s New Orleans. Tinkering in his apothecary, he added a dash of this and that to create Peychaud’s bitters, the backbone of all Sazeracs. When he tossed in a splash of absinthe and a healthy swig of his favorite cognac, Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils, the classic New Orleans cocktail was born. The rendition that’s stirred up today remains much the same as the original—though rye, which substituted for cognac during a late-19th century vineyard blight in France—is sometimes used instead.

Where to drink it: The Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel, where the elegant Art Deco leather-and-African-walnut interior and historical bona fides (Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey played here) befit the drink’s provenance.   

Dark ‘N’ Stormy, Bermuda

A summer staple of anyone who grew up near rigging and brine, the Dark ‘N’ Stormy combines the fiery ire of ginger beer with the mule-kick of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum. Legend has it that the drink, invented in Bermuda after World War I, was given its name by a sailor who compared its color to a death-inviting cloud. The Gosling family has fought fiercely to preserve copyright privileges—if you pour a “Dark ‘N’ Stormy” without their rum, you may be breaking the law. Better to book a flight than risk the lawsuit.

Where to drink it: Marcus’s on the Beach, at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. You can’t go wrong with the combination of pink sand, rolling ocean waves, and bites from chef Marcus Samuelsson—not to mention the hotel’s own specially made single-barrel reserve Gosling’s.

Bellini, Venice

Venice is the birthplace of many a lovely thing: intricately blown glass, Canaletto postcards, those flat hats and striped shirts gondoliers cheesily pose in. Best, arguably, is the Bellini, a concoction of Prosecco and puréed peaches invented by Giuseppe Cipriani, the founder of Harry’s Bar. The drink’s distinctive pink hue reminded him of the great Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini, Titian’s tutor, and thus the name was born.

Where to drink it: Harry’s Bar is still the place for these refreshing classics, serving them by the bucketful in its luxury-cabin-like interior. But we prefer to sip one alfresco at the Riva Bar, which overlooks the Grand Canal from the Gritti Palace Hotel.

Sidecar, Paris

Though something of an old boys’ drink, the Sidecar is an indisputable baron in the world of cocktails. Its origin story is often disputed, but the prevailing tale goes something like this: In the 1920's, an American army captain in Paris, known for frequenting the Hotel Ritz in his friend’s motorcycle sidecar, asked for a cocktail to warm him before dinner. Cognac was the obvious antidote, but as everyone must know, it’s strictly an after-dinner drink. The man behind the bar mixed cognac with Cointreau and lemon juice, and an icon was born.

Where to drink it: The bar at the Ritz Paris is now known, of course, as the Bar Hemingway, for its most celebrated patron. Drink to his legacy with a traditional sidecar mixed by its legendary bartender, Colin Peter Field.

Caipirinha, Rio de Janeiro

Many believe that Brazil’s national beverage was created in São Paulo to ease the discomforts of the Spanish flu at the end of the first World War. Though the recipe has since changed (and become much, much tastier), its bright heart remains the same: cachaça, the sugarcane spirit that’s been whetting Brazilian whistles since the 1500s. Many variations of the caipirinha exist, but every bartender will claim his combination of cachaça, lime and sugar is the best.

Where to drink it: São Paolo may be the cocktail’s birthplace, but for us, it always evokes the end of a long, sun-drenched day on Ipanema, in Rio de Janeiro. Head to the rooftop infinity pool at the Fasano Rio de Janeiro for an unbeatable view of the beach and Corcovado, topped with the statue of Christ the Redeemer.

Mojito, Havana

The mojito may be the world’s oldest cocktail. One story reveals its similarity to the 16th-century “El Draque,” named after the famed British explorer Francis Drake, who landed in Cuba in 1586 in the hopes of curing a ship-board outbreak of dysentery. A crude form of local sugarcane-made rum was mixed with lime, sugarcane juice and mint to create a primitive version of the mojto. We don’t know if it cured the sick, but it evolved into an instant Cuban classic.

Where to drink it: Hemingway once said that he liked his daiquiris at Havana’s El Floridita and his mojitos at La Bodeguita del Medio nearby. Apparently, all the tourists do as well, so we recommend going to livelier spots that draw a younger crowd, like Siá Kará or Espacios. Contact one of our agents to inquire about a Cuban adventure tailored to your preferences.