8 style icons and their favourite cocktails

From Marlon Brando’s preferred Scotch cocktail to Miles Davis’ smooth, smoky signature serve, these are the favourite drinks of fashion icons…

What do big personalities and iconic cocktails have in common? A lasting impact on the public? A snappy, memorable name? Or just lots and lots of spirit?

For the men on this list — a mixology-worthy mix of actors, musicians, businessmen, politicians and artists — it’s a little bit of everything. From JFK to Cary Grant, these eight individuals were all blessed with enduring appeal, a flair for fashion — and their own signature drinks.  

And signature drinks are very personal choices. With recipes refined, altered and tweaked to the extent of tailor-made suits, a signature drink can be as statement-making and head-turning as certain style moves. So, if you’re looking to whip your wardrobe and your drinks cabinet into shape, follow in these men’s well-dressed, slightly-unsteady footsteps…

Serge Gainsbourg mixed his own Gibsons

Gainsbourg was all about easy living. The man wore three-piece suits without ties or socks, seemingly never brushed his hair — and was rarely pictured without a cigarette hanging limply out of his mouth. In fact, after smoke, the second most common thing to pass the actor’s lips was his favourite cocktail; the Gibson.

He may have exclusively uncorked Krug Champagne — and enjoyed both Mint Julep and Bloody Mary cocktails — but Gainsbourg’s Gibsons (gin, dry vermouth and pickled onion garnish) were legendary. The Hotel Amigo in Belgium, the actor’s favourite place to stay, let him slink behind the bar to mix his own. He once even filmed a masterclass mixing the cocktail in the Hôtel Raphael in Paris. 

At a tribute concert in 2007 for Gainsbourg at the French capital’s Pleyel Theatre, there was even an interlude that saw Colin Peter Field, Head Bartender at the Ritz Paris, take to the stage to speak about Gainsbourg’s love for the drink.

Cary Grant sipped Stingers on and off the screen

The Anglo-American actor, though eventually settling in California, remained a bastion of British fashion for his entire life. A Savile Row enthusiast, Grant was always impeccably dressed — whether wearing suits or separates. He was sharp, smooth and utterly sophisticated — a little like his favourite cocktail; the Stinger.

Simply mixed, the Stinger sees fine cognac mixed with crème de menthe and decanted into a cocktail glass. It’s a society drink; one infused with opulent flavours and decadent digestif status. And Grant enjoyed the drink both off screen and on — quaffing them in 1940’s The Philadelphia Story, 1947’s The Bishop’s Wife. A decade later, in Kiss Them For Me, he even barks at the bartender: “A Stinger… and keep them coming!”

Sammy Davis Jr. got hammered on Rusty Nails

In fact, the whole Rat Pack got hammered on Rusty Nails. But, unlike Sinatra, Martin and the rest of the rascally bunch, Davis Jr never set a stylish foot wrong when it came to fashion. The sharp-suited singer opted for subtle spins on the classics. A flared cut here, an understated pattern there. The man was a maverick — both in front of and away from the microphone.

And the Rusty Nail took this trendy lifestyle one smart step further. With a finish even longer than Davis Jr’s collar points, it’s a cocktail created by mixing Drambuie and Scotch whisky. Smoky and sophisticated, it fanned the flames of American mid-century cocktail culture and become synonymous with the Rat Pack.

Marlon Brando was known for (drinking) The Godfather

Don’t snicker; it’s true. But Brando started drinking this heady mix of Scotch whisky and amaretto before it was given its name. In fact, it was the iconic actor’s cheek-stuffed turn in Francis Ford Coppola’s mafioso classic that inspired Disaronno to give the popular drink its cinematic name. 

Best mixed with a lightly-peated, blended scotch (single malts may overpower the amaretto flavour), Brando reportedly would enjoy a Godfather after slipping on one of his signature, sharp tuxedos for formal dinners. According to former talk show host Dick Cavett, the drink was only Brando’s joint-favourite — tied with the less-appealing Campari with orange juice — but that’s not nearly as good a story…

Gianni Agnelli prized the typically Italian Negroni

The eldest son of Italian industrialist Edoardo Agnelli liked a lot of things. Fashion, for one. Women, for another. Cars, for a high-octane, engine-roaring third. But also drinking. And, like all good Italians, the Fiat chairman had a fiery passion for his homeland — meaning the Negroni was his cocktail of choice.

Whether he was buckling his watch over his cuff, slipping out of his iconic hiking boots or just settling down for a long lunch in double denim, Agnelli’s inclinazione for the bright orange cocktail was well-documented. He even introduced the Negroni to then-First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy when she joined him for a sail along the Amalfi Coast in 1962. Allegedly, she swapped the gin for vodka — but at least he tried…

Peter Beard liked a bloody, no-nonsense Bull Shot

Rough, ready and rugged, Peter Beard was an adventuring gentleman like no other. His style — practical and fashionable — established a jungle path followed by decades of aspiring explorers and safari style icons. His cocktail of choice was similarly simple; a short, sharp and exceedingly punchy hit of meaty, spicy alcohol.

It’s called the ‘Bull Shot’ — and it’s as hard-nosed as it sounds. Like a smaller Bloody Mary, it combines vodka, sherry and V8 vegetable juice with a host of herbs, sauces and spices including black pepper, celery salt, dill, tabasco and Worcestershire sauce. Unlike a Bloody Mary, however, Beard’s drink of choice sits on a rich soupy base of beef consommé. It’ll put hairs on your chest.

John F. Kennedy enjoyed his wife’s Daiquiris

JFK also liked a Bloody Mary. Like Beard above, the 35th President of the United States famously put away glass-upon-glass of the brunch-ready beverage. But his favourite cocktail? A simple rum Daiquiri, mixed to a specific recipe invented by his wife, Jacqueline (when she wasn’t out sailing with Gianni ‘Negroni’ Agnelli…)

And Jack Kennedy was as selective about style as he was his cocktails. A king of skinny ties, natty knitwear and sunglasses, the President became a political style icon for the Swinging Sixties. And, after celebrating his 1960 election win in style (with a daiquiri), the new First Lady took her personal recipe to the White House, where she pinned it proudly on the kitchen wall for the staff to follow.

Miles Davis drank to the tune of a Rob Roy

Dapper, hip and confident, Miles Davis’ style was as experimental as his music. Neckerchiefs, faux fur and re-tailored Brooks Brothers suits all hung in the jazz icon’s wardrobe — and the ingredients for a Rob Roy sat in his home bar. Created by combining Scotch whisky, sweet vermouth and bitters, it was the perfect cocktail to smooth and soothe his throat after a raspy blast on the trumpet.

Swing era trumpeter Roy Eldridge — a musician who inspired everyone from Davis to Dizzy Gillespie — even had a hit with ‘Old Rob Roy’ in 1945, and the cocktail was known to be a standard in jazz clubs across America. With its unique smoky sweetness, it was the ideal drink for the tuneful icon.  

Want more cocktails? The best coffee cocktails (that aren’t espresso martinis…)

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