Top 11 Worst Cocktails of All Time

The Ramos Gin Fizz— gin, lemon, lime, vanilla agave, orange flower water, heavy cream, egg whites, soda water. Credit: Alan Chen

Good morning/afternoon/evening (or whichever time you believe is appropriate to start drinking). This is my first article for Medium, so I’ll introduce myself first. My name is Alan Chen, and I’ve been a bartender in San Francisco for over ten years. During my tenure, I’ve tasted a lot of horrible drinks, and I want to share them with you. I’m going to go over the worst cocktails that bartenders are forced to make, and when I say the worst cocktails, I’m not talking about that one time you went to a bar in the middle of nowhere when you ordered a Margarita, the bartender grabbed a bottle of Rose’s Lime juice, or when you tasted some random person’s eggnog recipe that he found on a now-defunct Geocities page. The drinks on this list are so bad, that even when they are made with the right proportions and with the best ingredients, they can still elicit an emetic response.


#11 Screwdriver
This is one of the most commonly ordered drinks in the United States, so why is it on the list if it is so popular? Simple. Because most Americans have horrible palates, and people tend to mindlessly order drinks that are popular, because if millions of people are already drinking it, it can’t be that bad, right?

Screwdriver — vodka, orange juice. Credit: The Spruce / Ali Redmond

So what makes it so bad? First, you start off with orange juice, which by itself is amazing, especially if it is freshly squeezed. But if you start off with flavors that are balanced, and then you add some vodka, which tastes like nothing, you completely ruin the orange juice by diluting it, destroying the nuances and subtleties. A Greyhound is much better, because grapefruit juice is so bold that adding a little bit of vodka just softens the juice rather than silencing it.


#10 Muddled Mojito
Here’s a little bit of history behind the Mojito. It is derived from another drink known as the Mint Julep, which is made of mint, sugar, bourbon, and crushed ice. When you muddle the mint, it bruises it and causes it to release an enzyme called called polyphenol oxidase (PPO), which causes the mint to oxidize to a brown color and turn bitter. This might sound gross, but bitterness and sweetness are complementary flavors, so by having bitter mint with sugar in a Mint Julep, you have balanced cocktail.

Muddled Mojito — muddled lime wedges and mint, light rum, sugar, soda water. Credit: Aydin Aksakal / EyeEm/Getty Images

The Mojito on the other hand, is not only based off of a Mint Julep, but also another drink called a Daiquiri, which is a type of sour (a cocktail that is made of a spirit, a sweet component, and a souring component). When you make a Mojito, you’re only asking the mint for its aromatics, because the lime juice will take care of the sweetness (similar to role of the bitter mint in the Mint Julep). All you need to really to do is lightly agitate the mint inside the highball glass, maybe with the back of a spoon, then you build the rest of the drink. If you muddle the mint, or even worse, if you muddle in lime wedges with the mint (as many of you probably have seen done before), the bitter mint and bitter lime essential oils will both offset the sweet and sour balance of the drink.


#9 Tequila Sunrise
Just like the Screwdriver, this drink doesn’t work because orange juice has a very subtle flavor, and adding the tequila will squash it. To make matters worse, you’re also adding Rose’s Grenadine to it, which is just red colored chemical syrup. So not only do you have the tequila silencing the orange juice, but you’re also making the orange juice cloyingly sweeter without countering it with some kind of acidity.


#8 Blood and Sand
What happens when you add orange juice to a Manhattan? You get the Blood and Sand. Once again, I’m not a fan of orange juice in cocktails because it’s such a quiet ingredient, but with powerful flavors of the Scotch and a lower amount of the juice compared to a Screwdriver or Tequila sunrise, it’s even more unnoticeable. It also has you shaking the orange juice with sweet vermouth, an aromatized wine, which gives it such a strange, grainy texture.

Blood and Sand — Blended Scotch whiskey, orange juice, sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering. Credit: Dan Baker/The Manual

This drink was created around the 1930s, and how it stood the test of time is beyond my understanding. A better way of making variations of this drink, is like with the Screwdriver, you can use grapefruit juice instead, as grapefruit juice can withstand the loudness of the Scotch. Or even better, just skip the orange juice and make it a fancy spirit-forward Rob Roy variant.


#7 Kamikaze
Ever go out with the boys, ready for a night of hard partying, and thought to yourself, “you know what? Let’s start off the night with a round of Cosmopolitans!” Well guess what? That’s what a Kamikaze is. A Cosmo is vodka, lime, triple sec, and just a splash of cranberry for color. You take out the cranberry juice, and bam, you got yourself a Kamikaze.


#6 AMF/Adios
So, the name of the drink implies that if you drink it, you’ll be knocked out drunk, and adios! Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but the drink is just a Tom Collins with blue curaçao. Yes, there are four types of spirit in the drink, but those all add up to just 2 oz, which is your standard pour for a whiskey drink. Next time you wanna get buzzed very quick, just order an Old Fashioned or Manhattan, especially with a higher proof whiskey. Not only would you get a better drink, you also won’t look like an idiot.

Aviation — gin, lemon, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, and creme de violette. Credit: Daniel Krieger

#5 Aviation
This classic cocktail has bartenders split. They either love it, or hate it. It’s essentially a Gimlet that smells like flowers and twigs. The drink itself isn’t unbalanced or anything, but the maraschino liqueur and creme de violette are both so loud, it’s like putting on two types of perfume. Combining these strong floral liqueurs together just kills the botanicals of the gin, which is the base spirit and should be the star of the show.


#4 French Martini
You know what goes well with pineapples? Raspberries, said no one ever. Not only is it not a Martini, which is a spirit-forward cocktail, it’s not even French. A splash of French liqueur doesn’t make the drink French! On top of that, the drink is sooooo sweet! If you’re gonna add a sweet component like Chambord, at least also add some lemon or lime juice to correct the imbalances!


#3 Muddled Old Fashioned
Hey, you want a drink that looks like baby vomit? Great, because there’s a cocktail out there for you.

Muddled Old Fashioned — muddle cherries, orange wedge, sugar, bitters, and bourbon or rye. Credit: Sam Kaplan for The New York Times; Food stylist: Suzanne Lenzer

On top of the horrible visual effect the drink gives off, the technical aspect of making the drink is also one of the worst ways to make a cocktail. But before I start, I want to go over the history of the Old Fashioned. The Old Fashioned is short for “Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail.” Even though these days we refer to all mixed drinks to be called cocktails, a long time ago, cocktails referred to a class of mixed drinks that were defined as a spirit, sugar, water, and bitters. The first whiskey cocktails were made with hot water, then when ice became available, it replaced the water.

Fast forward to air travel. You now have Americans having access to exotic fruits like pineapples and maraschino cherries. People wanted to up the ante for their whiskey cocktails, so they would add these exotic fruits and muddle them into their drinks. However, you had the older crowd who weren’t so impressed by this, so when they ordered a whiskey cocktail and the bartender runs over to grab some fruit, he would stop him and say “no, I want it the old fashioned way.” So, that’s the gist of the Old Fashioned and how fruit got involved.

So, in the technical side, what’s wrong with the muddled Old Fashioned? First, sugar cubes cannot dissolve in alcohol, especially cold alcohol. It needs to be dissolved into a liquid solution before you add alcohol, otherwise, it’ll just sit on the bottom of the glass. Second, it’s too sweet. Most places that make muddled Old Fashioneds, they use the bright red cherries that typically are used to top off of Sundaes for little kids, that are called Maraschino cherries. Sorry to burst your bubble, but those are not real Maraschino cherries. Real Maraschino cherries are made of Marasca cherries from Croatia, which is how it gets its name. The fake Maraschino cherries you see in ice cream shops are made of sweet cherries, marinated in a brine of sulfur dioxide and calcium chloride to bleach the fruit, then soaked in a suspension of red food coloring, syrup, and other chemicals. The combination of these muddled components mean the drink is going to be full of unequal sized chunks of a mangled cherry’s corpse, undissolved sugar that settled to the bottom so you’ll get an overly sweet and grinding finish, and none of the ingredients will ever be fully incorporated together into the whiskey.


#2 Mudslide
These are very popular in a lot of restaurants in certain parts of the country, and in places where they’re popular, they’re almost always ordered by the boat load at the end of the meal. Would you ever ingest heavy cream that’s not refrigerated? Guess what? That’s one of the ingredients that goes into a Mudslide. Vodka, Kahlua Coffee liqueur, Bailey’s Irish Cream, ice cream. This drink is just chemicals and calories. A standard Mudslide at TGIF has the following: 740 calories, 26 g of fat, and 86 grams of sugar, which is FOUR days worth of sugar in one serving. I understand that alcohol itself isn’t that very healthy, but this is straight up diabetes in a cup.


#1 Dirty Vodka Martini
And the Number One worst cocktail is… cue the drumroll. The dirty vodka martini!

Dirty Martini — Vodka and olive brine. Credit: The Food Network

You ever drank a glass of salt water, and thought to yourself, “this would taste even better with alcohol in it!” That’s what this drink is. Why is this drink so disgusting? A dirty vodka martini is just vodka and brine. (Normal gin martinis have dry vermouth, but I have yet to meet a vodka martini drinker who requests to not omit the vermouth.) Despite being so disgusting, it’s one of the most popular drinks ever, and I don’t know why! Even if you’ve never heard of the cocktails I’ve talked about earlier, you’re probably still aware of this drink. I don’t think there are fictional characters who drink this, and I can’t imagine that the people who order this drink actually think it tastes good. People send food back when it is too salty, and this drink is literally just alcohol and salt!

Disclaimer: I’m sorry if you’re a dirty martini drinker and I’ve offended you, but, you might want to reconsider some of your lifestyle choices.

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Alan is a bartender in San Francisco with over ten years worth of experience, ranging from dive bars, nightclubs, and Michelin Starred establishments.

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Alan Chen

Alan Chen

Alan is a bartender in San Francisco with over ten years worth of experience, ranging from dive bars, nightclubs, and Michelin Starred establishments.

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