If 10 Professional Athletes Were Actually Cocktails
Our most beloved professional athletes are best remembered in their natural athletic state: catching fly balls, slam-dunking or delivering that knockout punch. But picturing them with a drink in hand, let alone as a drink, is a bit less vivid. Fortunately, we’ve done the work, pairing 10 iconic sports superstars, from Roger Federer to Tom Brady, with the cocktail that best defines their personality. Check out the boozy spirit animals of 10 professional athletes.
This piece originally appeared on Liquor.com.
Ever since Michael Jordan left the NBA, basketball fans and pundits have been waiting to anoint the next Jordan. First it was Kobe Bryant, then Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady, and then it was Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. The truth is that there will never be another Jordan. He was one of a kind not only in his unparalleled athleticism and incredible leaping ability but also his intense competitiveness, desire to win and ability to make others around him better.
The Manhattan, like Jordan, is often mimicked, tweaked into variations like the Rob Roy, the Vieux Carre, the Greenpoint or appropriately the Chicago (a Manhattan with Champagne). Nearly every cocktail list out there has a drink on the menu that resembles the Manhattan with a slight deviation from the age old classic of whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters. And while these drinks are all decent attempts at perfection, the Manhattan is one of those cocktails that is often imitated, never replicated and always a winner—just like Michael Jordan.
Get the recipe for the Manhattan.
Eighty percent of people who think of a Daiquiri picture a gigantic red, frozen drink with all sorts of bendy straws and umbrellas coming out of it. That same percentage of people think of Tom Brady and then the words “Deflategate” or, worse yet, “cheater.” Those people need serious help.
The Daiquiri and Brady are both totally misunderstood. The drink’s legacy had been destroyed by cruise ships and resorts offering all-you-can-drink frozen and flavored varieties, something only equatable with a neon wristband. A proper Daiquiri should be made with light rum, lime and sugar. That’s it. It’s perfect in its simplicity, the indigents are meant to live together, and it’s truly the definition of a cocktail: three ingredients, balanced and simple.
Despite the media mislabeling Brady this past year, the truth is that he is the greatest quarterback ever to play the game of football and is the definition of what a quarterback should be. The Daiquiri and Brady are both at the pinnacle of their categories despite being misunderstood by the majority of people.
Most bartenders scoff and roll their eyes when someone orders a Cosmopolitan. Baseball fans do the same when Alex Rodriguez's name comes up in conversation. There is something almost parasitic about the two respective to the baseball fan or bartender.
There’s a reason why so many women drink Cosmos, and I refuse to believe it’s solely due to Sex and the City. It has to be a good drink for so many people to continue to order it despite the fact that most bartenders don't know the proper specs.
There’s also a reason A-Rod has hit 687 home runs and has been a household name for more than two decades—he's really good at baseball. Yet as a collective, we refuse to recognize his accomplishments much like we refuse to recognize the Cosmo as arguably the most famous cocktail ever. So keep drinking your Cosmopolitans, Rodriguez! Keep drinking them with all of my mom's drunk friends.
There was always something simple and perfect about watching Joe Montana. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback was never all that flashy or fast—he actually never even looked much like an athlete. He just got the job done when he needed too and made the throws when it counted. He was a perfect 4-0 in Super Bowl appearances and seemed to always come through in the clutch no matter the situation.
Similarly, the ingredients of whiskey, lemon and honey are uncomplicated, timeless and always hit the spot. The Gold Rush is a great drink to order when you're feeling a little under the weather or when you want to be sure you get a cocktail that’s hard to mess up and always delicious. It seems to always comes through in the clutch.
Despite off-the-field accusations and on-the-field injuries, the Steelers' QB has proved to be one of the top passers in the NFL over the past 12 seasons. He’s one of the toughest of all time to bring down under pressure—not only tough to tackle but crafty in his ability to make plays on the run while elusively surviving certain sacks. Impossible to keep off the field even when he's hurt, he has returned again and again from potentially season-ending injuries to everyone's disbelief, like Michael Myers in Halloween.
Much like Roethlisberger, the Penicillin is, dare I say, forceful—powerful in its whiskey base and smoky Islay finish but distinct and warming with the ginger, lemon and honey. It’s the perfect cocktail to enjoy by the fire on a cold Pittsburgh winter afternoon watching football.
I’d like to imagine that Roethlisberger is familiar with the Penicillin. But given Big Ben's questionable reputation with women in bars, that familiarity may not necessarily be with the cocktail.
There’s nothing quite like watching tennis on a beautiful summer afternoon, when you're drunk on Champagne. (I actually can't think of watching it any other way.) It’s especially fun when watching Roger Federer excel at a high level even as he’s in the waning years of his career.
Federer is understated, humble and calm. He has never lost his cool on the court and handles himself like a gentleman at all times, the way a tennis player truly should. And while people forget about him because of these qualities, he is one of the most prolific and dominant winners of his generation in any sport.
The French 75 often gets overlooked when talking Champagne cocktails. It’s balanced, classy and delicious to drink while watching tennis. I like mine with gin, but it’s widely accepted with cognac as well. It’s sort of a bilingual cocktail, much like the Swiss Federer, who speaks multiple languages.
If you've ever drank more than two Zombies and remember the rest of your night, you either are a liar or have a major drinking problem. The Zombie is one of the strongest cocktails imaginable and quite literally turns you into the walking dead if you drink enough of them.
Lebron James has changed the game of basketball because of his sheer strength and speed. There has never been a player that combines his freakish athleticism and power with his ability to finish at the rim. Yet in the past, he has been accused of passing up the big shot, hiding in the corner and getting frustrated by opposing defenses. In essence, there are times when he has become a shadow of himself, almost as if he is Zombie LeBron on the court.
To his credit, though, Lebron is the strongest, most powerful small forward ever and is as close as you can come to being unstoppable. You might stop LeBron once or twice, but in the end, he'll get the best of you.
Born in French Lick, Indiana, Larry Bird grew up practicing on an old rusty hoop without a net on his dirt driveway and came from humble beginnings to become one of the greatest pure basketball players ever. He couldn't jump higher than most guys, but he was quicker than everyone. He could shoot from anywhere on the floor, had superhuman court vision and was one of the greatest competitors the world has ever seen. Larry did all of this in a body that looked more like a construction worker or a miner and definitely didn't appear to be an athlete. But if you slept on Larry, he would get the best of you, with a vengeance.
Working-class, gritty and unexpected, Larry Bird's spirit cocktail isn't really a cocktail at all but rather a shot of whiskey and a beer, aka the Boilermaker. A combination that will never disappoint, a shot and a beer is a solid order in any bar, and most bartenders would agree it’s the best order they can get. Understated and unassuming, the shot-and-beer combination is as legendary as Bird.
Mojitos are perhaps the most annoying drink a bartender can make. Combing through mint stems to find the freshest leaves is a pain in the neck, and once you've made the drink, the mint is hard to clean out of your tins and your water needs to be refreshed. Getting a mojito order in the middle of winter in New York makes no sense and adds to the infuriating nature of building the drink. It’s a cocktail made for Caribbean escapes, not bars that don't feature them on their menus. Yet despite all of these annoying characteristics of the drink, a well-made Mojito is among the most delicious and beautiful cocktails that exist.
Cristiano Ronaldo is so good at soccer it’s annoying. He has been dominant in La Liga, one of soccer's biggest stages, scoring a record number of goals at will while providing countless highlight reels. Ronaldo isn't just one of soccer's most transcendent starts, he’s annoyingly good-looking, too. At every chance, the Portuguese star takes his shirt off, and frankly I can't blame him. If I were in his shape, I would show it off too.
Mojitos are a conundrum—they are so refreshing and delicious yet are time-consuming and labor-intensive. Ronaldo seems to care more about his looks than soccer sometimes and can be infuriating and childish on the pitch, yet the results speak for themselves. Sometimes things can be so good they're just annoying.
In building cocktails, conventional wisdom says start with a base, combine modifiers like cordials or liqueurs and maybe add citrus, and—voila!—you'll have a balanced and delicious cocktail. Taking four dominating ingredients and putting them together in equal parts seems to be completely counter to this thinking. The Last Word is exactly that: maraschino, Green Chartreuse, gin and lime coming together in equal parts to create a surprisingly refreshing and delicious drink.
When Cassius Clay burst onto the boxing scene with his quick fists and quicker tongue, the establishment was taken aback. He was so fast and powerful not only in the ring but was extremely outspoken and controversial outside the ring as well. His unique rope-a-dope fighting style and his poetic prefight rants created a new and totally unconventional champion.
If you've never seen Ali being interviewed by Howard Cosell, do yourself a favor and YouTube it now. The post-fight sparring between the two was almost more intriguing than the action that had just taken place inside the ring. Cosell did his best to keep up with Ali, but it was Ali who always got in the last word.
Sometimes conventional wisdom needs to be pushed and tested. The Last Word and Ali are prime examples of that.
Get the recipe for the Last Word.