Cocktail & Other Recipes Occasion Spring

The 10 Most Popular Cocktails This May

From springtime favorites to the perfect al fresco sippers.

Colletti Royale cocktail / Tim Nusog

This month kicked off with some of the biggest occasions for drinking: the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo. Naturally, bourbon and tequila cocktails dominated the first half of May. But as we approach the end of the month, and the Northern Hemisphere is well into the spring season, we’re seeing a shift in drinking trends. Agave-focused drinks are still popular, along with tropical flavors and al fresco favorites like spritzes.

Here are the 10 most popular recipes of May so far. 

  • Mint Julep

    Mint Julep / Tim Nusog 

    The Kentucky Derby is always a great occasion to mix up this classic combination of bourbon, simple syrup, and muddled mint leaves over heaps of crushed ice. While it’s the signature cocktail of “the most exciting two minutes in sports,”  the Mint Julep shouldn’t just be reserved for a single day. It’s refreshing, ice-cold, and a perfect sipper for bridging the spring and summer seasons. Try using a higher-proof bourbon to cut through the sweetness and dilution from the crushed ice.

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  • Margarita

    Margarita / Tim Nusog

    The Margarita is iconic—the most famous tequila cocktail and a perfect sour that offers a harmonious balance of strong (tequila), tart (fresh lime juice), and sweet (sugar). Despite its many incarnations through the years, it continues to be one of the most popular cocktails in the world. Opt for blanco tequila to optimize the crisp citrus acidity, and make sure it’s made from 100% blue Weber agave.

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  • Kentucky Mule

    Kentucky Mule served in a copper mug and topped with a mint sprig garnish, served on a straw mat / Tim Nusog

    The Moscow Mule—a simple cocktail combining vodka, ginger beer, and lime—is no doubt popular because it’s delicious and one of the easiest drinks you can make. The Kentucky Mule is also a member of the category of cocktails called bucks, which include ginger beer and citrus, that date to the late 1800s. This variation substitutes bourbon for vodka, which you may find results in a more flavorful, nuanced cocktail.

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  • Tequila Mockingbird

    Tequila Mockingbird cocktail served in rocks glass with large ice cubes, shot against gray background / Tim Nusog

    Thanks to its clever name, this drink name may appeal to the literary-obsessed, but it also has all the makings of an ideal warm-weather thirst quencher: tequila, watermelon, fresh lime juice, and jalapeño. The vegetal spice from the jalapeño enhances the juicy sweetness of the watermelon and agave syrup, while the blanco tequila helps to tie in all the flavors. 

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    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • Rosita

    Rosita cocktail in rocks glass with single large ice cube and lemon twist, on blue-metal background / Tim Nusog

    This modern classic often gets referred to as a Tequila Negroni, but the spirit-forward sipper goes beyond a standard riff. Since it splits the amount of vermouth called for into equal parts sweet and dry vermouth, it is closer in nature to a Perfect Negroni. A half-ounce of Campari adds the familiar Negroni bite, but Gary “Gaz” Regan’s version increases the amount of tequila, further modifying the equal-parts template and bringing the agave to the forefront.

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  • Cafe Royal’s Tequila Matador

    Cafe Royal Matador cocktail in a Nick and Nora glass

    This three-ingredient cocktail is historic and yet not widely known. Another Tequila Matador cocktail, a tropical Trader Vic’s creation from the 1970s, eventually eclipsed the original spirit-forward classic, which first appeared in the Café Royal Cocktail Book in 1937 combining equal parts tequila, dry vermouth, and orange curaçao. While modern practice would typically prescribe stirring this combination, the original recipe calls for it to be shaken over ice. Whichever method you employ, you’re sure to enjoy the aromatic, aperitif-style cocktail.

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  • Tequila Honey Bee

    Tequila Honey Bee cocktail served in rocks glass with cubed ice and lemon twist, shot against textured white background / Tim Nusog

    This riff on a classic Bee’s Knees cocktail—gin, lemon juice, honey—calls for reposado tequila and a dash of mezcal in place of gin. This rendition comes from chef Nick Korbee, the executive chef and beverage director at New York City’s Egg Shop. Honey syrup and fresh lemon juice pair nicely with the slightly aged tequila and rinse of smoky mezcal. Angostura bitters, added to the drink’s surface, make for a complex first sip.

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  • Aperol Spritz

    Aperol Spritz / Tim Nusog

    The Aperol Spritz was created in Northern Italy and was a fashionable aperitivo throughout Europe from the 1950s on. The bittersweet combination of prosecco, Aperol, and soda water may have taken decades to gain that kind of popularity stateside, but since the 2010s, the sunny season refresher has gained cult-like status.

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    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • Colletti Royale

    Colletti Royale cocktail / Tim Nusog

    This blood-orange spritzer comes from legendary bar pro Julie Reiner. A Margarita-like medley makes up the base with reposado tequila, Cointreau, and fresh lime juice. Blood oranges and rosé Champagne give the drink a vibrant rose-gold hue, while a half-ounce of St-Germain adds a floral sweetness and complexity. A couple dashes of orange bitters further deepen the drink’s flavor profile with citrus notes, and a garnish of blood orange wheel pulls it all together. 

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  • Mai Tai

    Mai Tai cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Victor J. Bergeron Jr., better known as Trader Vic, is credited with having invented this tropical favorite in the 1940s. However, the recipe didn’t appear in a cocktail book until the ‘70s and featured Jamaica’s J. Wray & Nephew rum and rock candy syrup—a heavier, sweeter simple syrup. This recipe closely resembles the original and combines rum, orange curaçao, orgeat (almond syrup), and fresh lime juice.

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