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Have Rum, Will Travel

Drink in a little history as you sip these four classic cocktails.


En español  Here's a spirited look at the story (or stories) behind four classic summer cocktails, along with recommendations on a few great places to drink them.

Mojito

How it happened: This Cuban concoction became popular in the 1930s, but its history goes back to the 1800s. English pirate Richard Drake supposedly favored a similar drink named El Draque while he was pillaging the Caribbean and South America.

Classic recipe: white rum, lime juice, sparkling water, mint, and simple syrup (a mix of water and dissolved sugar).

Where to drink it: With Cuba off-limits for most of us, try the Latin scene of  Miami's South Beach. Locals enjoy the cool comfort of Ola and the aptly named Mojitos Cuban Cuisine. For a Louisiana twist, go to Covington, north of New Orleans, where the signature mojito from Del Porto Ristorante features both ruby-red-grapefruit vodka and juice, fresh basil, and honey.

Mai Tai

How it happened: This tropical favorite was first blended in California by saloon owner Victor "Trader Vic" Bergeron in 1944. A South Seas traveler, Bergeron eventually introduced his mai tai—Tahitian for  "the very best"—to the Hawaiian Islands.

Classic recipe: rum, orange curacao liqueur, lime juice, and orgeat syrup.

Where to drink it: Try the original at Trader Vic's at least once, advises Atlanta master mixologist Darrell Autrey. The chain has 22 locations worldwide, including Los Angeles, Chicago, and even Dubai. If you prefer a Polynesian paradise, visit The Westin Moana Surfrider's Beach Bar in Waikiki. You can drink your expertly blended mai tai under one of the largest banyan trees in Hawaii, steps from the Pacific surf.

Margarita

How it happened: So many cities want credit for this cocktail. It was likely invented in Mexico in the 1930s; our favorite story is that a Tijuana restaurateur created it for an aspiring actress who was allergic to hard liquors—except tequila.

Classic recipe: tequila, fresh lime juice, and Cointreau or triple sec. Slush came later; originals were shaken with ice and strained into a glass.

Where to drink it: Visit Hotel Finisterra's Whale Watcher Bar in Cabo San Lucas, where you'll see humpback whales glide by. In Key West, locals love Morada Bay Beach Cafe, where you can sink your toes into the sand while sipping 'ritas in 32-ounce Mason jars rimmed with salt.

Martini

How it happened: The city of Martinez, California, claims to be the martini's boozy birthplace, saying the drink was mixed for a thirsty gold miner in 1874. Others say the martini was named for Martini & Rossi vermouth.

Classic recipe: dry gin and dry vermouth, garnished with an olive.

Where to drink it: Modern speakeasy PDT in New York City's East Village is the ultimate sipping spot, says LaTanya White, a Tallahassee, Florida—based cocktail consultant. Outside New York, soak in the British-officers-club atmosphere of Boston's Oak Bar at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel.

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