Although it's common for domestic travelers to sample the notable cuisine of each region they visit – from key lime pie in the Florida Keys to barbecue in Kansas City to ahi poke in Hawaii – it's equally important for many of us to experience America's most popular drinks. Given that I'll soon be in New Orleans , a town celebrated for its 24-hour Carnival atmosphere and impressive alcoholic consumption, it's surely not surprising that I have cocktails on the brain...
...and apparently, I'm not the only one.
While sifting through the various press releases in my email inbox today, I realized that I'd missed one from about three weeks ago. According to the story, Hotels.com  and T.G.I. Friday's  have collaborated “to help vacationers pair the top end-of-summer destinations with the coolest cocktails.” Hotels.com's resultant “Sip Statistics” chart “identifies the most popular drinks in some of the top 15 U.S. summer getaway locations” – which means that, even though summer is unofficially over, travelers can still “follow local 'drink-clinations' as they extend summer celebrations into the fall.”
“The Sip Statistics is a fun way to discover the drinks that are the favorites of the locals in various vacation destinations across the nation,” says Taylor L. Cole, director of public relations and social media for Hotels.com in North America.
According to the “Sip Statistics” chart – which features the average daily rate for hotel rooms as well as the popularity rank of Friday's drinks for the 15 cities considered – the most popular cocktail in San Francisco, Boston, and New York City is the Long Island iced tea, a rather potent highball that's typically made of vodka, rum, gin, tequila, triple sec, sour mix, and cola. Meanwhile, the mojito, a Cuban rum drink flavored with lime and mint, seems to be favored in cities like Chicago, Denver, Miami, and Washington, D.C.; the classic margarita, a tequila drink usually made with lime juice and an orange-flavored liqueur and served in a salt-rimmed glass, is a popular choice in towns like Atlanta, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas (where the frozen margarita machine was apparently invented in 1971); and revelers order a lot of tropical drinks in places like Orlando, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.
Other favorite American cocktails include the mint julep, a rather strong concoction of mint, sugar, water, and bourbon that's regularly served at the Kentucky Derby , and the mai tai, a Polynesian-style rum drink made with pineapple, orange, and lime juices and supposedly created in California (though its origin is hotly debated, as two different restaurant chains, Trader Vic's  and Don the Beachcomber , claim to have produced it first). For a bit more information about these two drinks, along with the ever-popular Sazerac, cachaça, and mojito cocktails, consult this helpful post on travel expert Peter Greenberg's blog .
Personally, my favorite drink is the mojito that my husband makes (pictured above); it's the perfect blend of simple syrup, lime juice, rum, and mint leaves. But, when out and about in New Orleans, I've been known to order a variety of local favorites, such as the aforementioned Sazerac, which is essentially made with bitters, Pernod, sugar, lemon oil, and either rye whiskey or bourbon.
Another Big Easy cocktail, which is known for its powerful effect on unsuspecting tourists, is the aptly named hurricane. No, not the destructive tropical storm, but the vibrant red cocktail that was created during World War II – when rum was more plentiful than other liquor varieties – at Pat O'Brien's  (718 St. Peter St., 504/525-4823 or 800/597-4823, noon-close Mon.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-close Fri.-Sun.), a popular bar in the French Quarter. Named for the tall, curvaceous, hurricane lamp-shaped glasses in which they're usually served, hurricanes are sweet, refreshing, and, like the eye of a Category-5 storm, deceptively smooth, so be sure to exercise caution while drinking them. As my friends and I have discovered the hard way, alcoholic hurricanes can certainly pack a wallop.
While the courtyard of Pat O's, with its famous flaming fountain, is the perfect place to enjoy a hurricane (in a much-coveted souvenir glass), you can always make your own, using this simple recipe:
2 oz. light rum
2 oz. dark rum
2 oz. passionfruit juice
1 oz. orange juice
1/2 oz. lime juice
1 tbsp. simple syrup
1 tbsp. grenadine
an orange slice
Shake all liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.
Strain into an ice-filled hurricane glass.
Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.
So, what's your favorite cocktail, and which American city does it best?
Moon New Orleans giveaway
While reflecting on your favorite cocktails, don't forget to enter my latest giveaway for a chance to win a signed copy of my recently released Moon New Orleans guide. To do so, simply answer the following question: “Upon arriving in New Orleans, what would you like to see, do, or eat first?” You can do this in one of three ways: leave a comment below this post, send an email to laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com, or post a comment on the Moon New Orleans Facebook page . The contest will end at 11:59 p.m. PST on Tuesday, September 25th, after which the winner will be chosen at random from all entries received. For a taste of what the guide offers, check out my seven-day tour of the Big Easy  – and good luck with the contest!
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below, contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com, or connect with me on Facebook  and Twitter .
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo of a homemade mojito / Text © 2012 Laura Martone