Signature Cocktails to Sip in Europe
Europe offers more than superb food, history and culture — it also mixes up some of the most enticing cocktails in the world.
Grabbing a cocktail at a local bar or pub in Europe is a great way to interact with the locals while enjoying a good time. Sure, wine and beer are common throughout the continent, but some countries have perfected a cocktail so awesomely refreshing that it begs to be sampled with a few close (new) friends.
Before you raise a glass and sample one — or three — of these cocktails, find out the history behind them, and learn what you should be imbibing when you travel abroad.
Even if you aren't traveling soon, we include the recipes so you can sample these smooth concoctions at home. Drink up!
When Italians aren't drinking wine, their cocktail of choice is a cool, refreshing negroni.
The drink is a variation of the Americano, developed at Gaspare Campari's Caffe Campari bar and made with campari, sweet vermouth and club soda.
The Negroni became the more popular version after Count Camillo Negroni ordered the drink at Caffe Campari with more soda in 1919. The bartender added an orange garnish, rather than lemon, since it was a different drink. It proved to be just the right touch. Saluti!
Mix a Negroni
- 1 ounce gin
- 1 ounce campari
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- Orange peel
Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice, and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into a rocks glass filled with large ice cubes.
Garnish with an orange peel.
England: Pimm's Cup
Pimm's is a fruity, gin-based liqueur with herbs that dates back to 1823, when it was developed by James Pimm as a digestive tonic to serve at his London oyster bar. Pimm served it in drinkware known as the No. 1 Cup, giving it the name Pimm's No. 1 cup. Eventually, it became known simply as Pimm's cup.
The liqueur is often combined with carbonated lemonade, ginger ale or champagne, creating an easy-to-sip drink that quickly grew into a summer favorite. Like sangria, fruit is usually added as well, such as apples, oranges, strawberries or lemons, along with mint.
The drink is popular at special events in England, including Wimbledon and polo matches. Cheers!
Mix a Pimm's Cup
- 1 1⁄2 cups Pimm's No. 1
- 1 navel orange, cut crosswise into thin slices
- 1 lemon, cut crosswise into thin slices
- 3⁄4 cup firmly packed mint leaves and tender stems
- 1 1⁄2 cups cold ginger ale or lemon lime soda
- 1 cucumber, cut lengthwise into 8 wedges
- About 3 cups ice
- 1 apple, quartered, cored and cut into thin slices
In a large pitcher, combine the Pimm's, the orange and lemon slices, cucumber and the mint. Chill for about 10 minutes. Add in ginger ale and serve over ice.
Sangria is synonymous with Spain. This wine punch traditionally mixes red wine with fruits, sugar and soda, served over ice to make for a wonderfully delicious hot-weather concoction.
It was introduced to America during the 1964 World's Fair, and has since become a hit stateside as well. (White sangria, using white wine, is not as common in Spain but has been growing in popularity in the U.S.)
No one knows who first created sangria, but the word has been found dating back to the 18th century. And really, does it matter who created it? Just drink it up and enjoy. Salud!
Mix a Sangria
- 2 bottles dry red wine
- 4 ounces gin
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 4 oranges, (3 juiced, 1 whole)
- 4 lemons, (3 juiced, 1 whole)
- 2 limes, (1 juiced, 1 whole)
- 24 ounces lemon or orange soda, or soda water (optional)
In a large pitcher, mix wine, gin, sugar and the juice from 3 oranges, 3 lemons and 1 lime.
Slice or dice the remaining orange, lemon and lime and add them to the pitcher.
Stir the mixture and let it sit 24 hours in the refrigerator.
When serving, pour over ice and top with soda.
France: Kir Royale
Champagne is soundly a French wine, as the only place in the world that can make true Champagne is the region of Champagne, less than an hour from Paris.
How can you make Champagne better than it already is? Enter Canon Felix Kir, a former major of Dijon. He created a drink made with black currants mixed with white wine, calling it a Kir. When he combined the drink with champagne, voila! The tantalizing Kir royale was born. Salut!
Mix a Kir Royale
- 1⁄2 ounce Crème de cassis
- Dry champagne
- Lemon twist
Pour the crème de cassis into a Champagne flute. Top with the champagne.
Garnish with a lemon twist.
Cyprus: Brandy Sour
Cyprus has been making its own brandy since 1871, and the spirit (which is slightly less alcoholic than other European varieties) is beloved among locals. Fittingly, it is also the key ingredient in the island-nation's signature cocktail.
In the 1930s, when the King of Egypt, a young Farouk, stayed at a resort on the island, his Muslim background required that he not drink. A fan of Western cocktails, he requested an alcoholic drink that could be disguised as non-alcoholic.
The result? The Cypriot brandy sour, which resembles an ice tea but actually contains Cyprus brandy, lemon and bitters.
The drink quickly spread across the island's resorts, eventually making its way around the world.
Mix a Brandy Sour
- 2 ounces brandy
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Orange slice
Combine ingredients with ice and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with orange slice and a cherry.
In Turkey, the drink of choice is raki, made of twice-distilled grapes and aniseed. Raki is often served neat, but can also poured into a tall, thin shot glass and mixed with water. The result looks like milk — "lion's milk," as the Turks like to call it, as it gives you the strength and the courage of a lion.
Raki's anise flavoring also works nicely in fruity cocktails. Serefe!
Fill 1/3 or 1/2 of a tall, narrow glass with raki, then fill remaining 2/3 or 1/2 with ice-cold water.
Do not use ice!
Raki also makes an appearance in Greece's signature drink, a warm cocktail ideal for fending off cool winters.
Greeks heat raki with cinnamon, cloves and honey to create rakomelo, a stick-to-your bones cocktail designed to keep its sippers toasty when there's a chill in the air.
Also a digestive, Greeks use the drink to remedy sore throats and coughs. That's a spoon full of medicine we wouldn't mind taking. Yamas!
- 1/2 Cup raki (or grappa)
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 2 clove buds
- Combine the raki, honey and spices into a briki coffee pot.
Heat on low, while stirring until the honey melts, removing from heat just as it begins to a boil. Let sit for 2 minutes.
Strain and serve in shot glasses.
Belgium: Black Russian
Thought the Black Russian originated in Russia? Nope!
The cocktail was actually created in 1949 by a bartender in Brussels who was creating a cocktail for the U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg. (Got all of that?)
Why is it called a Black Russian? Simple: It uses Russia's beloved vodka plus coffee liqueur to create a stark-black brew.
The White Russian, also created in Belgium, uses cream in the concoction.
Mix a Black Russian
- 5 parts vodka
- 2 parts coffee liqueur
Pour vodka over ice cubes in a rocks glass, then top with coffee liqueur.
Portugal: Porto Tonic
Port wine from Portugal is an obvious choice to become the star of a Portuguese cocktail. The Porto tonic is a refreshing summer drink, combining port with tonic and serving it over ice to help its drinkers stay cool during the hot and humid summer.
Most think of port as a red-grape wine made in the northern provinces of Portugal, but port is also available as a white. Porto tonic is made with the white variety, as white works better chilled.
Try one in Porto, the city that gave port wine its name. Saúde!
Mix a Porto Tonic
- White port wine
- Tonic water
Start with a glass 3/4 full of ice. Add one part port and two parts tonic, then stir. Add a sprig of mint and a lemon wedge for garnish and flavor.
When you live in the Alps, you need something to warm you to your bones during the snowy winter months. Which is why Austrians love gluhwein.
This spiced wine is served hot and makes for the perfect aprés ski drink after a day on the slopes, or even a relaxing sipping drink after hiking in the hills during the summer. Prost!
- Bottle of red wine
- 10 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 orange
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup water
In a saucepan, bring water, sugar and cinnamon stick combination to a boil. Reduce heat, then simmer.
Cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice into the simmering water. Push the cloves into the orange peel and place in the simmering water. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, until it becomes a syrup.
Pour in the full bottle of wine and heat until it steams. Remove the orange halves and cinnamon stick and serve hot in coffee mug.