American drinks are as varied and as vast as the country. From Coca-Cola to Tennessee Whiskey, Kool-aid to a Dirty Martini, America is the birthplace of iconic cocktails, sodas and liqueurs. Inspired by immigrants who brought brewing and distilling techniques, America’s beers, whiskey and wine are renowned far and wide.
Some lesser-known American drinks and beverages are just as tasty and there are a few you’ve probably never even heard of. So, check out this list of the American drinks you just have to try the next time you’re at a bar or restaurant.
- 25 American Drinks
- American Alcoholic Drinks
- American Cocktails
- American Beers
- American Soft Drinks
25 American Drinks
American Alcoholic Drinks
Syrah, or Shiraz, is a bold and full-bodied red wine grown and produced in California and Washington.
Originating in France’s Rhône Valley, Syrah arrived in the United States and many other countries through French immigrants who brought the practice and tradition with them.
California is where the best Syrah wines are produced in America, with numerous wines from the Golden State internationally acclaimed and accredited.
This popular wine is a must-try and some of the most sought after Syrah wines in the world.
Zinfandel wines, along with Syrah wines, are some of the most popular wine grapes produced in California and can be found all over the Golden State’s central coast and northern regions.
Originally from Croatia, Zinfandel grapes are flexible and can be used to produce a classic red wine or a more affordable ‘white zin’, a pink-coloured wine.
Classic red Zinfandel has a distinctive fruity flavour and a slightly higher alcohol content whereas ‘white zin’ has a sweeter flavour and slightly less alcohol content than a red Zinfandel.
Bourbon is an all-American type of whiskey not too dissimilar from scotch, however, where scotch is made in Scotland, bourbon is a product of the United States.
Bourbon is made with at least 51% corn instead of malted barley used to make scotch and aged in new oak-charred barrels.
95% of America’s bourbon is from Kentucky, but any state can legally produce bourbon.
When you drink bourbon, you know you’re sipping a taste of America as it’s illegal, according to Federal standards, to produce bourbon outside of the United States.
With various flavours and textures, no two bourbon brands are identical, so it’s best to sample some different styles of bourbon to find the one you like the best.
4- Southern Comfort
Southern Comfort is an American staple and a fruity-flavoured whiskey liqueur with hints of spices.
It was first produced in New Orleans’ McCauley’s Tavern by barman Martin Wilkes Heron in 1874.
Throughout the years, the drink of choice for various famous figures, such as Janis Joplin, Southern Comfort is the essence and soul of the Big Easy.
More palatable to drink than straight whiskey and an excellent ingredient for cocktails, enjoying a glass of Southern Comfort on ice in the French Quarter is the perfect way to kick back and relax.
5- Tennessee Whiskey
Tennessee Whiskey refers to any straight whiskey produced in Tennessee that must adhere to Tennessee law’s requirement of including a filtration process, known as the Lincoln County Process, before the whiskey’s aged.
While classified as bourbon whiskey in various international trade agreements, many Tennessee whiskey producers vehemently contest such references and actively refuse to market their whiskey as bourbon.
Of the numerous Tennessee whiskey brands, the most popular is Jack Daniel’s, produced in Tennessee since 1875.
One of the state’s top 10 biggest exports, Tennessee whiskey is an American staple that is a treat for the tastebuds.
6- Rye Whiskey
Rye Whiskey became popular throughout northeast America in states such as Pennsylvania and Maryland during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
The drink largely disappeared after Prohibition except for a few brands here and there.
Since the start of the 21st century, rye whiskey has experienced a revival, with many large-scale rye whiskey producers making the drink all across the nation.
According to law, rye whiskey must be made from no less than 51% rye mash, must be distilled to contain no more than 80% alcohol by volume, and must be aged in charred new oak barrels for it to be considered rye whiskey.
7- Corn Whiskey
Corn Whiskey might sound a bit like moonshine, but even though they are very similar, corn whiskey is made without adding sugar to its corn mash, whereas moonshine includes the addition of sugar in its mash.
Corn whiskey needs to have 80% corn and, unlike other types of whiskey, it doesn’t need to be aged in wooden barrels, however many corn whiskey brands do indeed age their whiskeys.
Corn whiskey is relatively easy to come by, with many distilleries across the United States selling both aged and unaged corn whiskey.
Local small-scale distilleries produce some of the best corn whiskey in the country using the same tried and perfected methods that the early pioneers of corn whiskey employed in the 17th century.
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8- Wine Cooler
Simple yet refreshing, the first wine coolers were made at home and commercially sold in California in the early 1980s.
Made by mixing wine, fruit juice, carbonated soda and sugar, wine coolers are usually less alcoholic than most cocktails.
Various brands became popular during the 80s and 90s, however as more people became aware of the health risks of consuming sugar, commercially-sold wine coolers began to fade away.
Today, you can find healthier coolers with less sugar all over the country and although not as popular as they once were, wine coolers are still enjoyable on a hot day.
9- Whiskey Sour
The classic whiskey sour is one of the original cocktails, although the exact date and person who invented the whiskey sour remains unknown.
The first recorded evidence of a whiskey sour dates back to 1862 when the popular “Jerry Thomas Bartenders Guide” printed the drink’s recipe.
The original whiskey sour recipe uses whiskey, egg white, lemon juice and sugar, however, the modern whiskey sour is served without an egg white.
Classical, yet trendy, a whiskey sour is an iconic American cocktail that will soothe your senses.
The Manhattan is a quintessential American cocktail made with whiskey (usually rye), sweet vermouth and bitters that originated in Manhattan sometime during the late 1800s.
Evolving throughout the years, the Manhattan has inspired variations of the classic cocktail, such as Black Manhattan (which replaces vermouth with Averna) and Brandy Manhattan (using brandy instead of whiskey).
No matter how you prefer your Manhattan, traditional or modern, with whiskey or brandy, it’s a classy cocktail for every occasion.
11- Pink Lady
The Pink Lady is a classic cocktail based on gin that originated around the turn of the 20th century during Prohibition when bad quality gin had to be mixed with other ingredients to mask its foul taste.
Usually made with gin, grenadine, egg white and sugar for a decorative look on the rim of the glass, a Pink Lady has a much more tart and drier taste than you might expect from looking at the bright pink drink.
The original girls’ night out drink, the Pink Lady is just as popular and easy to drink.
12- Jack and Coke
Extremely popular in the American South, a Jack and Coke is as simple to make as it is to drink.
Although no one knows who created the Jack and Coke, the drink was first mentioned in 1907 by an employee of the United States Bureau of Chemistry and Soils who came across it while visiting the South.
In 2016, Food and Beverage magazine officially named the Jack and Coke the Lemmy after the passing of Lemmy Kilmister, the frontman of the heavy metal band Motörhead who is said to have enjoyed the drink.
No matter what you call it, a Jack and Coke is a popular choice in bars and clubs all across the United States.
Popular during the summer months, a beer shandy, or just shandy as many people call it, is simple to make and highly refreshing.
Made from beer and lemonade or beer and lemon-flavoured soda, a shandy is a great way of spicing up a regular beer to make it tastier or less alcoholic.
According to purists, the traditional way of making a shandy is by mixing equal parts of beer and lemonade/lemon soda, however, you’re free to experiment to give your shandy a unique taste.
Often called a ‘radler’ or a ‘shandygaff’, few cocktails are as popular or easy to make as a plain old shandy.
The Old-Fashioned is a classic American cocktail that has been mixed the same way since it was first created during the 19th century.
Blending whiskey, sugar, and Angostura bitters and topping the drink off with an orange peel, the Old-Fashioned is timeless and as historically significant as the Manhattan.
Traditionally served in an old-fashioned glass, or ‘rocks glass’, which predates the cocktail, the Old-Fashioned is an IBA Official Cocktail and has been the drink of choice for numerous American television characters.
15- Mint Julep
Mint Julep is the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby and was first mentioned in 1803 in John Davis’ book ‘Travels of Four and a Half Years in the United States of America.’
Traditionally made with bourbon and topped with a mint leaf, a Mint Julep is a mixture of spirits poured over ice and can include cognac and brandy.
Served over ice in specially designed julep cups, this simple drink is the perfect thirst-quencher on a warm summer’s day in the South.
16- Dirty Martini
The Dirty Martini is a spin on the classic dry martini, which has become synonymous with tuxedo-wearing superspies and upscale Manhattan bars.
Reported to have originated in New York in 1901, when bartender John O’Connor took inspiration from the original’s olive garnish and mixed olive into the martini, the Dirty Martini took a long time to gain traction.
President F.D. Roosevelt’s love for this martini turned it into an iconic American cocktail.
17- Cream Ale
This popular American beer gets its name from its smooth taste and is a cold-fermented ale that mimics a German Kölsch beer.
An influx of German immigrants, who enjoyed lagers and pilsners, inspired the creation of this new type of beer.
Produced like an ale and stored at cold temperatures like a lager, cream ale combines the two beer styles.
The bastard son of English ale and German Lager, cream ale is a proudly American invention enjoyed across the country.
18- American Pale Ale
Created in the 1980s, American Pale Ales usually consist of an alcohol volume of around 5% and are mainly made using American hops.
Inspired by over 300 years of English Pale Ale brewing in the United States, American Pale Ale replaces the earthy herbal undertones of English Pale Ale with citrus and pine-like undertones of America.
This medium-bodied beer is popular with food and light enough to enjoy with salads and chicken while being robust enough to complement seafood, cheese and red meat.
19- American Lager
Like American Pale Ale, American Lager is a beer variant derived from the famous German lagers introduced into America by German immigrants.
Some of the most popular beer brands today in the United States are American lager beer, such as Budweiser and Coors Light, making American Lager the most popular style of beer throughout the country.
The main difference between German Lager and American Lager is the barley used to make the beer.
American barley has higher concentrations of protein and tannic acid than its European equivalents, and many American breweries use rice to give their lagers a light taste.
20- New England IPA
Less bitter, fuller-bodied and almost hazy in colour, New England IPA beer is a relatively new style of beer in the United States.
Originating in Vermont and first produced around 2004, this newly-minted breed of American beer is paving the way for fruitier and smoother blends.
If you’re a fan of craft beer, hazy beer, or just beer in general, you won’t want to miss out on sampling some New England IPA beer the next time you’re in the United States.
American Soft Drinks
When John Pemberton served the world’s first Coca-Cola at Jacobs’ Pharmacy in Atlanta on 8 May 1886, little did he know that this American classic would become a worldwide hit.
Growing from its initial famous flagship soda, the Coca-Cola Company now produces a large range of soft drinks.
Coca-Cola is so institutionalised in American pop culture that there’s even a Coca-Cola museum (World of Coca-Cola) in Atlanta, where you can tour the facility to learn more about the famous American fizzy drink.
22- Dr Pepper
Dr Pepper is the oldest mass-produced American soft drink.
It was first produced by Wade Morrison in Waco, Texas, and named after Dr Charles Pepper, a Virginia doctor.
The drink’s unique flavour became popular with visitors at the 1904 World’s Fair, hosted in St Louis, and was sold among ice cream cones, hamburger buns and hot dog rolls.
23- Root Beer
This sweet American staple has been a hit ever since it was first sold in the 1840s.
Root beer was originally made using the root of the sassafras plant, however, when safrole, a key component of sassafras, was banned in 1960, most commercially sold root beers had to rely on artificial sassafras to replace the original plant’s taste.
Although most popular in North America, root beer is produced and sold worldwide, but the flavour might differ from root beer produced and sold in the United States.
No matter how old you may be, a chilled glass of root beer is always a delicious treat.
Created by Edwin Perkins in 1927 in Hastings, Nebraska, Kool-Aid is a powdered drink sold in packets to mix with water or bottles.
The sweet energy drink is the official soft drink of Nebraska, perfect for hot summers and comes in a wide variety of flavours.
Kool-Aid also comes in handy ready to drink pouches, so you don’t have to mix the powder with water to enjoy this classic American staple.
Pepsi is up there alongside Coca-Cola as one of the two most well-known beverage companies globally, selling multiple different soda brands along with Pepsi all over the world.
Pepsi was first created by North Carolinian pharmacist Caleb Bradham in 1893 when he called his concoction made from carbonated water, sugar, vanilla, oils, pepsin and cola nuts’ Brad’s drink’.
It has since gained massive popularity and, just like Coca-Cola, has dedicated fans who only drink Pepsi and no other beverage.
For more drinks around the world read:
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