17 Top Bartenders' Desert Island Cocktails

04/01/2015 01:40 pm ET | Updated Jun 01, 2015

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One of the most common lies we tell ourselves is "just one drink," but what if you had to choose one... for the rest of your life? It's tough to select one drink to be stuck with on a proverbial desert island, and even more so if your life is dedicated to cocktails. To find out which drinks truly have the most staying power, we polled a group of esteemed cocktail experts to name the one drink they'd marry until death do them part.

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Gin martini

The gin martini is one of the pinnacles of Western civilization. The martini hour is Western man's equivalent of the Japanese tea ceremony. Enjoying a martini each afternoon on a desert island, or just about anywhere, transports the drinker to a place of calm, rendering him or her carefree, in good cheer, and slightly buzzed.

-- Dale "King Cocktail" DeGroff

If I had to choose one cocktail to drink for the rest of my life it would have to be the martini. For the record, there is only one martini and it comes with gin, dry vermouth, a dash of orange bitters, and a lemon twist.

Choosing the gin and the vermouth would be the hardest part, but I'd have to go with Old Raj 110 and Carpano Dry. I could enjoy just those two ingredients in differing proportions for the rest of my life and still not uncover all that those delicious bottles of booze have to offer.

-- Myles Worrell, Esquire Tavern (San Antonio, TX)

Guests frequently ask me what my favorite cocktail is when I'm behind the bar, and I always tell them that it changes every few months. But if I had to pick only one cocktail to be with, 'til death do us part, that will still be just as sexy 40 years from now, and is always a good companion for any conversation? It would have to be a classic martini. Three parts Tanqueray to one part Dolin dry vermouth, a couple of dashes of bitters, and a lemon twist.

-- Bobby Heugel, Anvil (Houston, TX)

Twentieth Century

The Twentieth Century (dry gin, lemon, cacao, Lillet Blanc or substitute). It's the rare drink that is light enough to pair with food, yet also perfect on its own. And it's fun to taste at different places because each take on it (proportionally and product-wise) is unique.

-- Danny Shapiro, Scofflaw (Chicago, IL)

Gin and tonic

Given the climate of Austin, TX (which is pretty similar to a desert island), I would choose the cocktail it took an empire to create: a gin and tonic. Particularly a gin and tonic made with St. George Terroir and a nice Fever-Tree Indian tonic, as well as a juicy lime wedge, of course. I'd get a lot of mileage out of this refresher given our yearly heat waves, but it also satisfies on a bitter wintry evening.

-- Bob King, Arro (Austin, TX)

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If I had to pick just one cocktail, I would probably go with the Sazerac. They say you never forget your first love, and for me, the Sazerac was the drink that opened my eyes to the potential in cocktails. Its Old Fashioned roots are recognizable, but there is mystery there in the whiff of licorice from the Herbsaint rinse and the lemon oil dancing on the nose. This is a cruel game though, because now I really want a daiquiri.

-- Bill Norris, Midnight Cowboy (Austin, TX)

Gold Rush

If I could only have one drink for the rest of my life, it would be a Gold Rush (bourbon, lemon, honey) with a great Kentucky bourbon. It's simple, delicious, and I would hate to be known as the Singapore Sling guy. No one likes that guy. No one!

-- Billy Ray, 13-Stitches (Los Angeles, CA)

Fish House Punch (typically rum, Cognac, and peach brandy)

The very idea of having to pluck but one blossom from the Edenic flower-garden of cocktail types that human ingenuity, guided by divine providence, has created to give us a brief illusion of happiness in this fallen word fills me with sadness.

If forced to choose -- and it would take some serious gun-to-the-head stuff -- I'd have to go with Fish House Punch, but only if I were allowed to drink it morning, noon, and night. Its soft pleasantness would be just the thing to cushion my traumatized psyche.

-- David Wondrich, author of Imbibe! and Punch

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