Upgrade Your Drinking Habits: 9 Alternatives to Common Cocktails

For the tippler who is tired of Cosmos and mojitos
July 14, 2014
by Linnea Covington

Sure, everyone has their go-to cocktails come summer, but after yet another margarita or the 100th Negroni (not in one night!), it's time to think about mixing it up. After all, you might find you just love a grapefruit-tinged paloma over the classic margarita, or discover a new tiki drink by putting aside that mai tai. With all the options out there, it wasn't hard to find an alternative to nine standard drinks, and the best part is, most bars that make your old staple can easily whip up one of these.

Instead of a Negroni, try a Boulevardíer

The Negroni is not a cult favorite anymore, but for those of us who prefer bourbon over gin, the Boulevardíer (above) is a good alternative. With this drink you still get the thirst-quenching bitterness from the Campari, but a sharp added sweetness from the bourbon. This recipe first came onto the scene in Harry McElhone's 1927 Barflies and Cocktails, and today is just one of many takes on the classic Negroni, a drink made popular by Count Camillo Negroni who created it in 1919.

Where to try one: If you are in New York, at the newly opened Gilroy on the Upper East Side you can find a perfect example of the drink. Of course, folks can also head to Boulevardíer Bar in Dallas, a French-inspired bistro that, aside from crawfish beignets and bouillabaisse, specializes in, you guessed it, the Boulevardíer cocktail.

Instead of a mai tai, try a walking zombie

Like a classic mai tai, the walking zombie is a rum-based drink made with white, golden and dark rums, apricot brandy, pineapple juice and lime, which gives it a rounder, fruity kick that makes it a perfect candidate for summer drinking. But, you may wonder, how does this cocktail differ from its sister drink the plain ol' zombie, a boozy concoction created by Donn Beach in the 1930s? Simple, it leaves out a key ingredient —151-proof rum. Hence, this is why you are a "walking" zombie rather than one that just got floored by Rick Grimes. Yes, there is a reason most places will only let you order two. 

Where to try one: Pretty much any tiki bar you walk into can make this drink since the main component is rum. A good place to try is Cienfuegos in New York. Here they specialize in fruity, rum-fueled cocktails made right, and though the walking zombie isn't on the menu, they will serve it. Cana Rum Bar in Los Angeles is another good bet; after all, anyone that hosts their own rum society can get down with a tiki drink.

Instead of a mojito, try a caipirinha

The base of this refreshing drink (above) is cachaça, a distilled cane sugar liquor that's like the clear, less viscus relative of rum. To make a caipirinha, bartenders muddle lime juice and sugar before topping off the glass with cachaça and ice. The result is a cool, sweet beverage that Brazilians have famously been making for decades. Compared to a mojito, the caipirinha has a bit more kick and character. 

Where to try one: High in the rooftop bar Drumbar in Chicago, you can order a classic caipirinha any time, not just when the sound of "goooooal" is droning on in the background. Another place to try this drink, though with a twist, is at The Slanted Door in San Francisco where they make the cocktail with calamondin, an orangelike citrus, instead of lime.

Instead of a Cosmopolitan, try a debutante

If you're in the mood for something pink, why not mix things up with a new cocktail this summer? Enter, the debutante, a bright take on the classic gimlet. Also referred to as the pomegranate gimlet, this drink constitutes gin, lime juice and grenadine, and proves sweet, girlie, fruity and absolutely perfect to sip poolside or while toasting with your friends during happy hour, high on a roof overlooking the city.

Where to try one: Though The Drink in Brooklyn doesn't have the debutante on its menu, they do have all the right ingredients to make this cocktail, and talented bartenders willing to do it as well. You can also have them make this simple cocktail at Off the Record in DC, a swank bar that offers plenty of sweet and colorful drinks on their permanent menu.

Instead of a margarita, try a paloma

The next time you are out getting Mexican or at barbecue, wow the margarita-drinking crowd with a different sort of summery drink, the paloma, one of the most popular cocktails in Mexico. Named after La Paloma, or The Dove, a popular folk song from the 1860s, this drink proves fairly similar to the margarita as they both incorporate tequila, lime and a citrus base. But unlike its feminine cousin, the paloma packs a refreshing kick with the addition of grapefruit. You can make it cheap with grapefruit-flavored sodas like Fresca, Squirt, Jarritos or even San Pellegrino Pompelmo, or give it a gourmet kick with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and club soda. Either way, serve it on the rocks and garnish with lime, and if you really want, add a rim of salt to boot.

Where to try one: At Barbarella Bar, a cozy neighborhood bar and lounge in Los Angeles, they offer guests the La Paloma Rosa, a traditional paloma made pink with the addition of ruby red grapefruit juice, the perfect accompaniment to a plate of fish tacos. You can also pair a paloma with donuts, both sweet and savory, at Gourdough's Pub in Austin where they make the drink with fresh Texas grapefruits.Then in New York, The Dead Rabbit serves a drink dubbed Ida the Goose, which in all respects is a glorified paloma.

Instead of a mimosa, try a Duke

Pass up the usual brunch staple this weekend and rather than a mimosa demand the Duke, a champagne cocktail fit for the upper class. While its sparkling wine and orange juice relative remains a simple, early afternoon tipple, this creation offers a more complex drink made up of champagne, triple sec, lemon and orange juices plus a whipped egg white to give it an airy froth. Basically, you have all the components of a healthy breakfast right there in the glass, and all you need is a side of bacon and maybe some fresh biscuits to go with it for a complete meal.

Where to try one: To be honest, the Duke is not a common cocktail to come by, though maybe it should be. So, if you want to try it the best thing to do is head to a craft cocktail bar like Middle Branch in Midtown Manhattan where the bartenders are happy to make one for you, off menu. The Roger Room in Los Angeles also is a good bet for this drink, with or without brunch.

Instead of a rum and Coke, try a cherry cola

Get ready for a blast from the past with this combination of cherry brandy, lemon juice and Coke that makes up the juvenile cherry cola cocktail. One swig and you will be transported back to your childhood of sipping ice-filled paper cups of the Cherry Coke at the movie theater. But, of course, it's better because the drink has booze, which makes each swallow a giddy adult ride for those who partake. Other recipes for the drink call for a mix of amaretto and rum, which is equally good though the cherry flavor isn't as prominent. Not matter which way you decide to go, just make sure you garnish it with a bright maraschino; for some of us, that's the best part.

Where to try one: A good option is Steuben's in Denver, they have a great cocktail program and enough ingredients to make this drink and any other you might desire.

Instead of a sangria, try a beer cocktail

Though everyone tends to migrate toward pitchers of Spanish-style sangria, spice things up this season by ordering a beer cocktail or making a refreshing beer sangria instead. For these drinks, usually the beer of choice is a nice summer ale or lager, a light, sharp IPA or even a smooth wheat, but no matter what brew is in the glass, expect it to also be enhanced with fresh herbs or fruit including peaches, watermelon, cherries, grapes and apples. Given that sangria is basically wine, fruit, sugar and in many cases brandy or cognac too, the beer cocktail is the next best thing. Heck, it might even be better.

Where to try one: Baker and Co. in the West Village in New York have two seasonal beer drinks on their menu, both of which utilize wine in them. Last we checked it was the Hopolicella, made with lager, red wine and basil, and the Chardonalle, which has IPA, white wine and sage in it. For folk on the West Coast, Beretta in San Francisco has a beer cocktail made with bourbon, lemon, hibiscus and IPA. It's called Grand Larceny, and after a sip, you will definitely feel like you got away with something.

Instead of a Long Island Iced Tea, try an Indian Summer

There are almost as many ingredients in the Indian Summer cocktail as there are in a Long Island Iced Tea, but instead of tea, it has more of a coffee kick due to the addition of Kahlua. Aside from coffee liquor, you will also find vodka, gin, pineapple juice and tonic water in the mix, at least in a few of the recipes we found. Turns out people have been stealing this name for drinks with all sorts of ingredients, but this one sounds best and the most likely to give you a pick-me-up with your booze.

Where to try one: You can find the Indian Summer in shot form at the Albany pub Bobby T's in Upstate New York, though if you want want it supersized like a Long Island Iced Tea, they can do that for you too. Another place to try this cocktail is at the Chandelier, a no-holds, swank bar in the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.