The Five Essential Southern Cocktails

Which cocktail should every Southerner know how to make?

The first annual BevCon brought brewers, distillers, sommeliers, bartenders, and other beverage pros from all over the country to Charleston, South Carolina, to discuss everything from cider varieties to glassware to tea-brewing techniques. It was an industry-only conference, but we asked attendees and presenters to share some knowledge with the rest of us: Which cocktail, we inquired, should every Southerner know how to make? Of course, the experts have strong opinions. Here are five of the most recommended cocktails.

  • Old-Fashioned


    “To me, it is the Southern drink. A great one only takes three ingredients that most folks already have on hand, and it never goes out of style.” —Brooks Reitz, founder, Jack Rudy Cocktail Co., Charleston, South Carolina (Get the recipe)

  • Mint Julep


    “I want the mint julep to live on in good versions that honor it. Don’t make it taste like cough syrup, and don’t jazz it up. Use a silver cup—and take care of it. Use homegrown mint. It’s a ritual drink, and I love ritual. Life needs more ritual.” —Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte Observer  (Get the recipe)

  • Pimm’s Cup


    “It’s simple, and it’s refreshing in the heat.” —Roy Milner, managing partner, Blackberry Farm Brewery, Maryville, Tennessee (Get the recipe)

  • Sazerac


    “In its hometown of New Orleans, the Sazerac never fell off the map even in the dark days of fill-in-the-blank-tinis, cosmos, etc. Short, strong, and about as classy as it gets, it transports you to New Orleans no matter where you order it or make it.” —Sara Camp Milam, managing editor, Southern Foodways Alliance, Oxford, Mississippi (Get the recipe)

  • Michelada


    “It’s tempting to go with the original Southern cocktail—the Sazerac. I like mine with rye. But for a beery twist, I vote for a Michelada. Take a base recipe and modify it as you see fit with hot sauce, citrus, or other flavors. Then add your favorite lager, pilsner, or cream ale.” —Sean Lilly Wilson, founder, Fullsteam Brewery, Durham, North Carolina (Get the recipe)