Ever wonder how the first iteration of your go-to cocktail came to be? We’re here to help—we’ve researched the backstories of five popular drinks from around the world so you can wow your coworkers the next time you opt for a Negroni at happy hour.
Piña Colada — San Juan, Puerto Rico
Officially deemed the national drink of Puerto Rico in 1978, the sweet, creamy Piña Colada was created to showcase the island’s best tropical assets: pineapple and coconut. Though origin stories run as wild as a pirate using the drink to boost his crew’s morale, the most widely accepted begins at the bar of the Caribe Hilton Hotel in the capital city of San Juan in the 1950s. In its infant form, the blend of pineapple juice, rum, cream of coconut, and crushed ice was meant to be a milkshake-esque snack for hotel patrons rather than a cocktail. But with the addition of rum, the drink’s popularity exploded.
La Paloma — Tequila, Mexico
Americans might be more familiar with the margarita, but the most popular tequila drink south of the border is actually its grapefruit-infused cousin, La Paloma. We know this cocktail’s town of origin—Tequila—sounds a little too on the nose. But one version of the drink’s alleged history is that it was created by the owner and bartender of La Capilla, Tequila’s local watering hole. Though Tequila boasts plenty of touring opportunities by way of its namesake product, it’s a little off the beaten path for those just visiting Mexico—rest assured you’ll find La Paloma at any bar in Mexico, from Cabo to Riviera Maya. The drink’s mix of tequila, lime juice, grapefruit juice, and soda water is particularly refreshing on a balmy Mexican evening.
Negroni — Florence, Italy
This sophisticated blend of Campari, vermouth, and gin lately is having a moment right now—and its origin story is pretty fun. Though the facts are a little disputable, the cocktail’s most common origin story begins in 1919 with Count Camillo Negroni, a high-rolling Italian nobleman who often traveled to the American Wild West to work as a rodeo clown. The count, visiting the Caffe Cassoni bar in Florence, asked to swap the club soda in his Americano—typically made with vermouth and Campari—for gin. Thus, the count’s namesake drink was born, distinguished from the Americano with its signature orange garnish.
Kir — Burgundy, France
This elegant cocktail’s origin is one for the books, involving a heroic priest, a Nazi occupation, and plenty of wine. Canon Félix Kir was a Catholic priest in the town of Dijon, France, during WWII. When the Nazis arrived to occupy the city in 1940 shortly before the start of the war, Kir was one of the few officials who stayed behind, later helping more than 5,000 prisoners of war escape from the clutches of the Nazis. It’s said he crafted his namesake drink after the Nazis seized all of the region’s famous Burgundy wines; he combined Aligoté white wine with blackcurrant liqueur to mimic the hue of the red that was stolen. Today, the Kir is one of France’s most beloved cocktails, and its creator is forever immortalized as a hero of the French Resistance. (He lived a long and happy life and served as the mayor of Dijon until his death in 1968.)
Gin and Tonic — Mumbai, India
One of the most iconic cocktails of all time, the gin and tonic can trace its roots back to India—with some British influence, of course. During the nation’s occupation of India in the late 1800s, Brits were plagued by mosquitoes in the much warmer climate. They’d use quinine to ward off malaria, dissolving it into water and sugar to stomach the bitter taste. British soldiers were also given a ration of gin, and with that and a dash of lime added to the quinine concoction, the gin and tonic was born. Belly up to any bar in London and order a “G and T” to feel like a local.