If you’re the type of person who frequents cocktail bars to test various spirits and flavor profiles on the regular, you might find it difficult to choose your favorite mixed drink. The world of iconic cocktails is littered with the likes of the old fashioned, martini, and mint julep — stone-cold classics that are impossible to deny. But what if we told you that you had to pick just one cocktail and that would be the last drink you’d ever have?
Morbid, right? Well, that’s how it goes on Death Row — making this a fun hypothetical to play out. Eric Reeves, general manager at City Mouse in Chicago opts for a drink that never goes out of style.
“My ‘death row cocktail’ would be a Manhattan or some variation,” he says. “Spicy rye whisky smoothed out with herbal sweet vermouth with just a touch of that rich cherry juice? That last sip is magical! Chomping into the whisky infused cherry at the bottom of the glass… I could say goodnight after that.”
Other bartenders have their own ideas for the one cocktail they’d pick before facing lethal injection or the electric chair. So we asked some of our favorites to tell us their go-to “death row” cocktails.
Ramos Gin Fizz
Alexander Carlin, beverage director of Infuse Hospitality in Chicago
I think this question has two answers. What would be the last cocktail I would want before my grand finale and what cocktail would I want to enjoy if I could only have one for the rest of my life? My last cocktail might be a Ramos Gin Fizz. New Orleans, where the drink was created, is the best city for viewing death as a celebration of life. Also the drink takes forever to make, so that buys me some extra time.
If I could only enjoy one cocktail the rest of my life it would probably be a Manhattan. There are so many variations but the holy trinity of bitter, sweet, and spirit elements combined are classic, transcend time & season, and pair well with just about everything.
Gin & Tonic
Moe Thajib, director of food and beverage at Art and Soul in Washington D.C.
If I were to have one more cocktail before my death I would have to go with a classic gin and tonic with homemade tonic. It’s refreshing and taking the time to make your own tonic syrup is worth the work. I believe drinking a classic cocktail that you elevate with your own labor is priceless.
Miki Nikolic, bartender at The Double Dealer in New Orleans
For my last drink, I would ask for a Manhattan. It’s the most balanced cocktail. And with three simple ingredients, it’s perfection. I just hope I never find myself on death row.
Hjalmar de Boer, food and beverage manager at Conrad New York Midtown in New York City
That sounds horrifying, but my go-to cocktail is very dependent on the current weather and season. If I really have to make a choice, it would be a Negroni – they will always remind me of warm summer days in Italy.
David Powell, brand ambassador for Hudson Whiskey
This one is way harder than it actually sounds to answer. That said, I have to go daiquiri here. There’s just never a bad time for a daiquiri. I want one as much in the middle of the Winter as I do in August, and there’s also something incredibly beautiful in just how simple the recipe is.
Allie Pochodzilo, bartender at The Chester in New York City
I’d have to go with an Old Fashioned. I’m a whiskey/bourbon drinker and it’s a classy-looking cocktail. Or an espresso martini – it’s like an adult version of a vodka/Redbull.
Sophie Burton, beverage director at Politan in Chicago
A true Cognac and Champagne French 75. The rich and layered flavors of the real deal can’t be beaten; it reminds you what beautiful things humans have made through dedication, history, and connection to terroir.
Megan Abraham, lead bartender at Virgin Hotels in San Francisco
My death row cocktail would have to be a Margarita with Don Julio 1942 and reposado. Tequila is the ultimate liquid indulgence because it’s the only spirit that’s an upper and a downer and magically sets me straight and turns me up — for my impending doom, in this case.
VSOP Green Chartreuse
Kieran Chavez, beverage director at Boqueria in New York City
My death row cocktail would be VSOP Green Chartreuse, served in the proper glass. That spirit is other-worldly; it would definitely prepare me for the unknown. On the other hand, if I had to choose one drink to sip for the rest of my life? That would easily be a gin & tonic.
Robel Berhe, lead mixologist at Pappe in Washington, DC
The boulevardier would be my go-to death row cocktail. This majestic classic of bourbon, vermouth and Campari is my ultimate favorite.
Olivia Duncan, bar director at Galit in Chicago
Sidecar. I love its balance and the implied sweetness it has without actually being a cloying sweet cocktail. I think it is a difficult one to balance properly, as the cognac and orange liqueur vary so widely in their flavors. It’s different almost every time and almost always delish.
Corpse Reviver #2
Zachary Blazek, general manager at Commons Club in Chicago
Corpse Reviver #2. A beautifully balanced cocktail suited for any time of the day or any season. It is herbaceous and deep with Lillet and the absinthe touch for Fall or Winter, yet refreshing citrus and botanical for spring or summer. It’ll cure your hangover at brunch, or start a great dinner off right. Plus, if you’re dead, it’ll bring you back. It’s right there in the name!
Willett Rye Neat
Andrew Lamkin, lead mixologist at The Alex Speakeasy in Washington, DC
Give me a 20 plus year old Willett Rye neat. I’ve thoroughly loved every one of them that I’ve tried. Despite the high ABV, you can still enjoy the layers and flavor profiles. If it has to be a cocktail, a well-made Sazerac will always be my first, and in this case, the last choice. Its strong, balanced, one of the best smelling things you can drink. It’s to the point and I suppose a death row cocktail should be.
Jaime Salas, brand ambassador for Milagro Tequila
I would opt for a classic paloma cocktail. As much I promote and appreciate the fresh version, the classic version is my all-time favorite. A good silver or reposado tequila base, lime, sea salt topped with grapefruit soda. It’s light, fizzy and refreshing, like summer in a glass. It reminds me of my family gatherings, so there’s that to set the mood as well.