Celebrated Cocktails and the Restaurants that Created Them

Irish Coffee
Irish Coffee Flickr-Steve McClanahan

A look at four of the nation’s most revered cocktails and one non-alcoholic calling card, and the fame each has corralled for its institution.

By the time San Francisco’s legendary Buena Vista Cafe opens its doors at 8 a.m. on weekend mornings, the line extends down the block, visitors chattering side by side as they await entry into the 123-year-old establishment for their taste of the cafe’s world-renowned Irish Coffee.

“We’ll sell more hard liquor on a Saturday morning than most bars will that night,” Buena Vista general manager Larry Silva says.

While the thought of having a hearty shot of Irish whiskey to start the day might not appeal to some, the Buena Vista has built its reputation on the millions who have embraced the pick-me-up beverage morning, noon, or night since its debut in 1952. The BV, as the locals call it, has become synonymous with the ubiquitous drink, which drives traffic and sales at the lauded Fisherman’s Wharf institution.

But how do restaurants gain fame for their proprietary cocktails? By and large, it’s a lot of luck with a pinch of savvy, behind-the-bar craftsmanship, and a dash of operational know-how, says Joseph DeLuca, a well-known mixologist and frequent speaker on creative beverage programs.

“Truthfully, the market dictates which drinks will take off; restaurants don’t get to pick and choose what they’re famous for,” DeLuca says.

There are, however, commonalities among some of the nation’s most famous beverages, DeLuca says, principally a broad appeal that attracts regular imbibers, as well as those who might only indulge on special occasions.

“Being able to pull in the casual drinker is actually where the bigger potential is,” DeLuca says, adding that a number of the nation’s most famous cocktails carry a sweeter taste that minimizes the alcohol’s bite and broadens the drink’s appeal. “I always say, design cocktails for the enthusiast, as well as grandma on her birthday.”


Add new comment