The 20 Classic Cocktail Recipes You Need To Be Your Own Bartender
Drinking at home doesn't just have to mean cracking open a cold one.
Enjoying a nice cocktail is the kind of experience that shouldn’t have a high bar for entry. Knowing how to decode a wine menu, or how to parse through the jargon on the chalkboard of a craft beer bar, can be daunting. (So much vocabulary and geography and terroir and tasting notes to memorize! Yeesh, just gimme a house white already.) But cocktails? Cocktails should be easy and approachable, not intimidating. After all, there’s much more room on the spectrum to find something that tickles your fancy. From sweet to sour to bitter, from sip-it-all-day low ABV to knock-you-on-your-ass strong—if you’re an imbiber, there’s a cocktail out there for you. The best way to learn Your Order™ is to take a little tour of all of the classic cocktails that every bartender worth their salt will know how to make. Is your go-to order before dinner a classic gin martini, or something a little more practical as an aperitif, like a Negroni? Is your preferred night-out-on-the-town beverage an easy-going Paloma or a friendly gin and tonic? If you want to sip on something all day long and still keep your wits about you, are you mixing up a michelada or some Pimm’s cup? If you keep a well-stocked bar, you should have what you need to make just about any one of these classic cocktails, and your party hosting skills will vastly improve once you’ve committed some more of these old stand-bys to memory. We rounded up our versions of classic cocktails—plus a few creative riffs—to help you find your new signature drink. Cheers!
Regular London dry gin does the job for a classic martini, if you’re not into cannabis-infused liquor. (But if you are—we’ve got a new book coming out with plenty more cocktails for you!) And please, no shaking! Stir that baby up so your ice chills the liquor, but doesn’t water it down too much.
A good vodka martini is just begging for a garnish of a salty, briny olive, so why not lean into those flavors and throw in some samphire sprigs that taste like the sea?
People who are true stewards of the methodic art of making a mint julep literally wax poetic about this classic cocktail, and for good reason—this is one utterly refreshing drink, and you should have it in your cocktail repertoire.
Want to bring the alcohol content of your julep down a bit for all-day-long sippability? A few splashes of lemonade will do the trick.
While a traditional mojito calls for white rum, the sweetness of a Manzanilla sherry takes its place quite nicely in this riff from London bartender Sam Clements.
One of the easiest but most crucial cocktails you could possibly learn. Negronis are the ideal before-dinner drink, for when all of your dinner party guests are mingling and looking to work up an appetite. Always garnish with a citrus peel. (Lemon, orange or grapefruit all work.)
If you’re garnishing your Manhattan with the kind of Maraschino cherry that Mr. Softee would use on an ice cream sundae, you’re doing it wrong. Spring for the good ones, the Luxardo cherries in syrup, for a noticeable improvement.
If you thought all daiquiris came out of a plastic jug and were a color not found in nature, your cocktail game needs to graduate from the frat house. A true daiquiri should have good white rum, fresh squeezed lime juice, a little bit of sugar, and nothing else.
Even this New Orleanian perennial favorite uses real watermelon puree to get a perfect blush-pink color for another riff on this classic.
Want to become the party guest that always gets invited back? Bring a pitcher of homemade margaritas—sweetened just-so with a touch of agave nectar—and you’ll be a shoo-in.
Looking for something a little more low-key than a margarita? Its spunky, refreshing little sister, the paloma, is here for you with plenty of fresh grapefruit juice and a splash of soda water to keep it low ABV.
This San Francisco classic has a rich, fascinating history, but what’s most important is that it’s light, fruity, and a true crowd pleaser.
Most folks think of a gimlet as a gin or vodka drink, but with all of that lime juice and simple syrup, it makes perfect sense to switch it up and try it with tequila.
It hardly needs a recipe, but suffice it to say that, if you’re not prepared to serve a gin and tonic, your bar prep game needs some work.
We’re pretty sure Snoop didn’t need a recipe for gin ‘n’ juice, but hey, if you put a little more effort in to this version, you’ve got a big-batch cocktail that’s ready for a full night of kicking back.
When it comes to Bloody Marys, everybody’s got an opinion. Cut out all the whining at your next brunch and just let everyone customize their drink to their heart’s content.
Lots of people try to call a Michelada a “Mexican Bloody Mary,” but they're wrong (and the comparison doesn't do it justice). With plenty of light beer, plus a touch of tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce, this is way more refreshing and rejuvenating for the morning after a long night out.
The Brits are quite good at marathon drinking, and this is their secret: Pimm’s Cup. A low ABV sipping drink, loaded with fruits and cucumbers that presumably help you stay hydrated but also serve as a nice little snack.
If you’re looking for an Irish coffee recipe more significant than “add a shot of Jameson to your Starbucks latte,” then look no further than this version from the geniuses behind The Dead Rabbit in New York City.
A French 75 is a true luxury of a cocktail, that's best sipped while enjoying an equally decadent meal. Infuse your dry gin with a bit of cannabis for a truly indulgent experience. (But it tastes just as good without it.)
- Bloody Mary
- Old Fashioned