A Journey Through the Top 5 Classic Cocktails: History and Modern Twists

Top 5 Classic Cocktails

Welcome to the fascinating world of classic cocktails, where each sip transports you through time and culture. At Felene Vodka, we celebrate the rich history and evolution of these iconic drinks, offering both their traditional recipes and modern interpretations. Here’s a toast to the legendary cocktails that have captivated connoisseurs for decades, along with a Felene Vodka twist to each!

1. The Martini: Elegance in a Glass

Vodka Martini with dry vermouth


The origin of the Martini cocktail is steeped in history and folklore, with several theories about its creation. While the exact origins are unclear, the Martini has become one of the most iconic and enduring cocktails in the world. Here are some of the most popular theories about its history:

  • The Martinez Origin Theory
  • Origin: One of the most cited origins of the Martini is the town of Martinez, California. According to local legend, the drink was created during the California Gold Rush in the mid-19th century. A miner who had struck gold in the Sierra Nevada went to a bar in Martinez and asked for a special drink to celebrate. The bartender concocted a mixture of gin, vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and lemon, calling it the “Martinez.”
  • Evolution: This drink is believed to have evolved into the Martini, becoming drier over time as vermouth ratios changed and maraschino was omitted.
  • The Knickerbocker Hotel Theory
  • New York City Connection: Another theory suggests that the Martini was invented by a bartender named Martini di Arma di Taggia at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City in the early 20th century. This Martini was a mix of gin, vermouth, and orange bitters.
  • Celebrity Influence: The popularity of the Knickerbocker Hotel and its famous clientele may have helped popularize the cocktail.
  • 3. European Influences
  1. Italian Vermouth: The name “Martini” is also thought to be linked to Martini & Rossi, an Italian company that started producing vermouth in the mid-19th century. The brand became synonymous with vermouth, which is a key ingredient in the Martini cocktail.
  2. Gin’s Popularity: The rise in gin’s popularity in Europe and its export to America also played a role in the creation of gin-based cocktails like the Martini.

Cultural Significance and Evolution

  • Prohibition Era: The Martini gained significant popularity during Prohibition in the United States, as gin was relatively easy to produce illicitly.
  • James Bond: The Martini further cemented its iconic status through popular culture, notably with the James Bond phrase, “shaken, not stirred.”
  • Variations: Over time, the Martini has seen numerous variations, including the use of vodka instead of gin and the introduction of different garnishes like olives or a twist of lemon.

Modern Martini

  • Classic Recipe: The classic Martini recipe typically includes gin (or vodka), dry vermouth, and is garnished with an olive or a lemon twist.
  • Variations: Modern variations include the Dirty Martini (with olive brine) and the Espresso Martini, among others.

The Martini’s history reflects the broader trends in cocktail culture and spirit preferences, evolving over time while maintaining a steadfast position in the pantheon of classic cocktails.

Traditional Recipe:

  • 2 oz Gin
  • 1 oz Dry Vermouth
  • Olive or Lemon Twist for Garnish

Modern Twist with Felene Vodka:

  • 2 oz Felene Vodka
  • 1 oz Dry Vermouth
  • A splash of olive brine
  • Blue cheese-stuffed olives for a decadent garnish

2. The Moscow Mule: A Cold War Classic

moscow mule

The Moscow Mule, a blend of vodka, ginger beer, and lime, is a cocktail with a relatively well-documented history, unlike many other classic drinks. Its creation is commonly attributed to a combination of marketing ingenuity and serendipity in the 1940s in the United States. Here’s a brief overview of its origins and history:


  • Timeframe: The Moscow Mule was created in the early 1940s.
  • Key Figures: The cocktail is credited to John G. Martin, an executive at Heublein Brothers, a spirits and food distributor, and Jack Morgan, the owner of the Cock ‘n’ Bull pub on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. Another key figure often mentioned is Rudolph Kunett, president of the Pierre Smirnoff, the vodka division of Heublein.

Circumstances of Creation:

  1. Surplus of Ingredients: The creation of the Moscow Mule was somewhat of a happy accident born out of necessity. John G. Martin had recently acquired the rights to distribute Smirnoff vodka in the United States, which was not very popular at the time. Jack Morgan was struggling to sell his house-made ginger beer. They decided to combine their surplus products.
  2. Copper Mugs: The third component of the Moscow Mule’s success was the distinctive copper mug. These were brought into the picture by Sophie Berezinski, a Russian immigrant whose father owned a copper factory. She had brought 2,000 copper mugs to the United States and was looking to sell them. The copper mugs became a signature of the Moscow Mule.

Cultural Impact and Popularity:

  • Boosting Vodka’s Popularity in America: Before the Moscow Mule, vodka was not widely consumed in the United States. The cocktail played a significant role in making vodka popular in the American market.
  • Iconic Status: The combination of vodka, ginger beer, and lime served in a copper mug became a hit. The Moscow Mule’s popularity soared in the 1950s and 1960s and was often associated with Hollywood’s glamour.
  • Revival: The Moscow Mule experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 21st century, becoming a trendy and sought-after cocktail once again, partly due to the craft cocktail movement and the rediscovery of classic cocktails.

Traditional Recipe:

  • 2 oz Vodka
  • 6 oz Ginger Beer
  • 1/2 oz Lime Juice
  • Lime Wedge and Mint for Garnish

Modern Twist with Felene Vodka:

  • 2 oz Felene Vodka
  • 6 oz Artisanal Ginger Beer
  • 1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
  • A hint of mint syrup
  • Garnish with a slice of cucumber for a refreshing twist

3. The Bloody Mary: A Brunch Favorite

bloody mary cocktail

The Bloody Mary is a classic cocktail known for its complex flavors and, often, its role as a restorative during brunch. The origins of the Bloody Mary are somewhat debated, with various stories and figures associated with its creation. Here’s a look at the most prominent theories:

1. Fernand Petiot and Harry’s New York Bar in Paris

  • 1920s Paris: One of the most widely accepted origins of the Bloody Mary points to Fernand Petiot, a bartender at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris in the 1920s. Petiot is often credited with mixing vodka and tomato juice to create the original version of the cocktail.
  • American Influence: The drink gained popularity among American expatriates, including Ernest Hemingway, who frequented the bar during that era.

2. The St. Regis Hotel, New York City

  • The 1930s and the Name “Bloody Mary”: When Petiot moved to the United States and began working at the King Cole Bar in the St. Regis Hotel, New York City, he brought the recipe with him. It’s here that the drink was named the “Bloody Mary.” The name is sometimes said to be linked to Queen Mary I of England, known for her brutal religious persecutions.
  • Modification of the Recipe: In the United States, Petiot began to enhance the drink with new ingredients, such as lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and spices, creating the more complex version we know today.

3. Other Theories and Variations

  • George Jessel: Another claim to the invention of the Bloody Mary comes from American comedian George Jessel, who in the 1930s claimed he mixed vodka with tomato juice as a hangover cure.
  • Variations Over Time: The Bloody Mary has spawned numerous variations over the years, including the addition of horseradish, hot sauce, and different garnishes like celery, bacon, or pickled vegetables.

Cultural Impact

  • Brunch Culture: The Bloody Mary has become a staple of brunch menus and is often associated with hangover cures due to its hearty nature and complex flavors.
  • Customization: One of the unique aspects of the Bloody Mary is how customizable it is, with bars and restaurants often offering their unique takes on the classic recipe.

Traditional Recipe:

  • 2 oz Vodka
  • 4 oz Tomato Juice
  • 1/2 oz Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Worcestershire Sauce
  • Tabasco, Salt, Pepper
  • Celery Stalk and Lemon Wedge for Garnish

Modern Twist with Felene Vodka:

  • 2 oz Felene Vodka
  • 4 oz Organic Tomato Juice
  • 1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
  • A dash of artisanal Worcestershire sauce
  • Smoked paprika and a pinch of Himalayan salt
  • Garnish with a crisp bacon strip and a pickled asparagus

4. The Negroni: An Italian Masterpiece

Negroni cocktail

The Negroni cocktail, with its distinctive blend of bitterness and sweetness, has an intriguing history that dates back to the early 20th century in Italy. While its origin story is quite specific compared to many other classic cocktails, it’s important to note that with most historical cocktails, variations and adaptations often contribute to the lore. Here’s a look at the most commonly accepted origin and history of the Negroni:

Origin Story

  • Count Camillo Negroni: The Negroni is named after Count Camillo Negroni, an Italian nobleman. The story goes that in 1919, Count Negroni asked a bartender, Fosco Scarselli, at Caffè Casoni in Florence, Italy, to strengthen his favorite cocktail, the Americano, by replacing the soda water with gin. The bartender also added an orange garnish instead of the typical lemon garnish of the Americano, to signify the difference.
  • Popularity: The new drink quickly became popular, and people started to order it by referring to the Count’s name, asking for a “Negroni.”

Spread and Evolution

  • Global Spread: The Negroni’s popularity in Italy set the stage for its global spread. It became particularly fashionable in the 1950s and 1960s, coinciding with the growing international influence of Italian culture and cuisine.
  • Variations: Over the years, various versions of the Negroni have emerged. One of the most popular is the Negroni Sbagliato, where sparkling wine replaces gin.

Cultural Significance

  • Italian Aperitivo Culture: The Negroni is often associated with the Italian aperitivo, a pre-dinner drinking tradition meant to stimulate the appetite. Its bitter flavor profile makes it an ideal aperitif.
  • Cocktail Renaissance: In the 21st century, the Negroni experienced a resurgence in popularity, partly due to the global cocktail renaissance and a renewed interest in classic cocktails.

Traditional Recipe:

  • 1 oz Gin
  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • Orange Peel for Garnish

Modern Twist with Felene Vodka:

  • 1 oz Felene Vodka
  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • A dash of orange bitters
  • Garnish with a twist of orange and a cherry

5. The Sidecar: A Prohibition-Era Delight

sidecar cocktail

The Sidecar is a classic cocktail known for its balanced, citrusy flavor, and like many historic cocktails, its exact origins are somewhat murky and contested. However, there are a few popular theories and stories that detail its potential inception and evolution:

1. World War I Origins

  • Popular Theory: The most widely told origin story of the Sidecar places its creation around the end of World War I in either London or Paris.
  • The Parisian Connection: The Ritz Hotel in Paris is often cited as one potential birthplace. The story goes that an American Army captain in Paris would ride to the bar in a motorcycle sidecar, and he asked the bartender to make a drink that would warm him up and still be refreshing. Thus, the Sidecar was born.

2. London’s Claim

  • The Buck’s Club: Another claim to the Sidecar’s origin is from London, specifically the Buck’s Club. Some cocktail historians suggest that the Sidecar was invented here, following a similar recipe to the older Brandy Crusta, a cocktail dating back to the 1850s.
  • Pat MacGarry: Another variation of the London origin story credits the invention to Pat MacGarry, a renowned bartender at Buck’s Club.

3. The Name

  • The Sidecar Name: The name “Sidecar” itself is generally believed to stem from the motorcycle attachment, fitting the narrative of the American Army captain. This origin story adds a touch of post-war glamour and mystique to the cocktail.

4. Evolution and Popularity

  • Prohibition and Beyond: The Sidecar gained popularity during the Prohibition era, especially in cities like Paris and London, where American expatriates and visitors could enjoy alcoholic beverages freely.
  • Post-War Era: After World War II, the Sidecar remained popular in Europe and America, seen as a sophisticated and cosmopolitan drink.

5. Recipe and Composition

  • Classic Ingredients: The traditional Sidecar recipe includes cognac (or sometimes brandy), Cointreau (or another orange liqueur), and lemon juice.
  • Balanced Flavor: The cocktail is known for its perfect balance of strong, sweet, and sour flavors, typically served in a sugar-rimmed glass to add a touch of sweetness.

Cultural Impact

  • A Symbol of Sophistication: Over the years, the Sidecar has come to symbolize the sophistication and elegance of the interwar period in Europe, evoking images of a bygone era of glamour.

The Sidecar remains a staple in the cocktail world, a testament to the enduring appeal of classic, well-balanced drinks. Its disputed origins only add to its allure, making it a favorite among both historians and cocktail enthusiasts alike.

Traditional Recipe:

  • 2 oz Cognac
  • 1 oz Lemon Juice
  • 1 oz Cointreau

Modern Twist with Felene Vodka:

  • 2 oz Felene Blood Orange Flavored Vodka
  • 1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau
  • A rim of sugar and a touch of honey for a sweet finish

In reviving these classic cocktails with a Felene Vodka spin, we pay homage to the past while embracing the future of mixology. Whether you’re a traditionalist or an innovator, there’s a story and a flavor in each of these timeless creations. Here’s to the next round of history-making drinks! Cheers!