10 Cocktails You Should Know How to Make

10 Cocktails You Should Know How to Make

Wondering which drinks to learn first? As with any culinary endeavor, it's best to start with the basics. Here are 10 of the most classic cocktail recipes that everyone should know how to make at home, along with a list of ingredients, steps to make each one, and a serving glass suggestion. Note: Each of these recipes makes one cocktail; a shot or jigger equals about 1.5 oz.

#1. Martini


This classic (and endlessly classy) cocktail can be made with either vodka or gin, and has numerous variations, including:

  • Dry - no vermouth
  • Medium Dry - a dash of vermouth
  • Wet - one part vermouth
  • Dirty - a dash of olive juice
  • Shaken - shaken with ice instead of stirring
  • On the Rocks - served over ice
  • With a Twist - served with a lemon twist instead of olives

Each one of these variations changes the drink slightly. For example, vermouth, a fortified wine flavored with herbs and other botanicals, changes the complexity of a martini's flavor profile. James Bond famously took his gin martini shaken, not stirred, medium dry, with a twist. Below is the recipe for a James Bond martini:

Martini Ingredients:

  • 2 shots gin
  • Dash of vermouth
  • Lemon rind

How to Make a Martini:

  1. Pour the gin and vermouth into a shaker about 1/3 filled with ice.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Strain into chilled glasses.
  4. Peel a swatch of rind 1-2 inches long, twist it, and drop into the glass.

Preferred glass: Cocktail glass

Garnish options: Olives, lemon slice, or lemon twist

#2. Manhattan


A Manhattan is one of the O.G. cocktails that still retains its classy cool. Made of bourbon or rye whiskey, this cocktail originated in the 1870's in (you guessed it) the Big Apple.

Manhattan Ingredients:

  • 1.5 shots bourbon
  • 1 dash angostura bitters
  • ½ shot sweet red vermouth
  • Cherry

How to Make a Manhattan:

  1. Stir ingredients in a cocktail shaker about 1/3 filled with ice.
  2. Strain into a chilled glass.
  3. Serve straight up with a cherry.

Preferred glass: Cocktail glass

Garnish options: Cherry

#3. Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned

The name "old fashioned" harkens back to the very first cocktails of the 19th century, which were made of spirits of any kind, water, sugar and bitters. Today's old fashioned cocktails are usually made with whiskey, though mezcal, brandy or rum can also be used. (Avoid mixing with clear liquors like gin and vodka.)

Old Fashioned Ingredients:

  • 1.5 shots whiskey (rye whiskey makes for an especially good old fashioned)
  • 2 dashes angostura bitters
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • Orange slice
  • Cherry

How to Make an Old Fashioned:

  1. Add the sugar cube to the glass and dash the bitters on top.
  2. Add water and muddle until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Add whiskey.
  4. Top with ice and garnish.

Preferred glass: Old fashioned glass (short tumbler-like glass, also called a rocks glass)

Garnish options: Orange slice and/or a cherry

#4. Whiskey Sour

 Whiskey Sour

This lip-smacking drink is refreshing, with a tangy bite. Optional egg white lends a delicious frothiness, though pineapple juice can achieve a similar affect.

Whiskey Sour Ingredients:

  • 1.5 shots bourbon
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon simple syrup (make by melting one part water with one part sugar)
  • Dash egg white (or pineapple)
  • Orange slice
  • Cherry

How to Make a Whiskey Sour:

  1. Place all the ingredients (except garnish) in a shaker about 1/3 filled with ice.
  2. Shake.
  3. Pour into a rocks glass and garnish.

Preferred glass: Rocks glass

Garnish options: Cherry and/or an orange slice

#5. Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary

This is a boozy brunch favorite, which is why it's prudent to learn how to make at home (for those mornings when going out and waiting in line for a table at your favorite brunch place is simply not an option.)

Bloody Mary Ingredients:

  • 1.5 shots vodka
  • 3 shots tomato juice
  • 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 dash Tabasco
  • 1/2 teaspoon horseradish (or to taste)
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Lager float (optional)
  • Garnish goodies, such as olives, celery, cocktail onions, etc…

How to Make a Bloody Mary:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with 1/3 ice and shake well.
  2. Pour into a pint glass. Add a lager float, if so inclined.
  3. Garnish with a wide assortment of savory options!

Preferred glass: Pint glass

Garnish options: At a minimum, an olive is usually used, but this garnish-loving drink is also known to feature celery, lemon slice, picked green beans, cornichons, cocktail onions, and/or pepperoncini!

#6. Tom Collins

Tom Collins

The name "Tom Collins" comes from the original brand that was used to make it, Old Tom Gin, however feel free to use your favorite gin brand for this drink.

Tom Collins Ingredients:

  • 1.5 shots gin
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, plus rind
  • 1 Tablespoon simple syrup (make by melting one part water with one part sugar)
  • Carbonated water (to taste)
  • Cherry

How to Make a Tom Collins:

  1. Stir together lemon juice, gin, and sugar syrup in a tall glass 1/3 filled with ice.
  2. Top with carbonated water.
  3. Add garnish.

Preferred glass: "Collins" glass

Garnish options: Lemon twist and/or a cherry

#7. Margarita


Making margarita mix from scratch is easier than you think. At its core, it involves just three ingredients: tequila, lime, and triple sec (or Cointreau). Add a little salt around the rim for a trifecta of flavors (sweet, salty, tangy). Variations can include pomegranate juice (or seeds), lychee, orange juice, or pineapple juice, but keep in mind this will change the sugar content significantly.

Margarita Ingredients:

  • 1 shot tequila
  • 1/2 shot Cointreau
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice, plus lime slice
  • Course grained salt

How to Make a Margarita:

  1. Rub the rim of the glass with lime slice and coat with rock salt.
  2. Pour all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 with ice.
  3. Pour into a highball glass and garnish.

Preferred glass: Highball glass or margarita glass

Garnish options: Course salt on the rim, lime slice

#8. Sidecar


A sidecar is a delicious concoction most likely invented in London or Paris at the end of WWI. It is essentially a margarita, but with cognac instead of tequila.

Sidecar Ingredients:

  • 1 shot cognac
  • 1/2 shot triple sec
  • 1 and 1/3 Tablespoons lemon juice

How to Make a Sidecar:

  1. Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 with ice.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Preferred glass: Cocktail glass

Garnish options: None

#9. Mai Tai

Mai Tai

Mai tai's and Polynesian holidays go together like, well, rum and curaçao liqueur! Allow your mind to wander to the beaches of Maui while sipping on this tropical classic from the convenience of home.

Mai Tai Ingredients:

  • 1 shot white rum
  • 1/2 shot dark rum to float
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice, plus rind
  • 1 Tablespoon orange curaçao liqueur
  • 1 Tablespoon orgeat syrup

How to Make a Mai Tai:

  1. Place white rum, lime, curaçao liqueur and orgeat syrup in a shaker filled 1/3 with ice and shake.
  2. Pour into a glass.
  3. Float the dark rum on top and garnish.

Preferred glass: Highball glass

Garnish options: Lime peel, pineapple spear and/or cherry

#10. Cosmopolitan


A cosmopolitan, essentially a vodka sour, became a wildly popular drink in New York City in the mid 1990's, and is still the drink of choice for many classy urbanites.

Cosmopolitan Ingredients:

  • 1 shot lemon-flavored vodka
  • 1 Tablespoon Cointreau
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice, plus lime wedge
  • 2 Tablespoons cranberry juice

How to Make a Cosmopolitan:

  1. Add all the ingredients except garnish in a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 with ice.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Strain into cocktail glass and garnish.

Preferred glass: Cocktail glass

Garnish options: Lemon slice or lime wedge

Bartending Basics: Home Bar Equipment

In the post-recession era of DIY, many people have chosen to do their entertaining from home, and that includes mixing their own cocktails. A cocktail at a bar can run anywhere from $6 at a decent happy hour to $13 (or more). However, by purchasing a few key gadgets and ingredients, you can make an array of cocktails that are as cheap as they are delicious. And what's more, the process of experimentation helps you personalize cocktails to exactly your liking, be it straight-up, stiff, or on the rocks.

Here is a list of items that you'll want to keep stocked in your liquor cabinet or home bar to make cocktail hour easy:

  • Cocktail shaker
  • Shot glass (standard usually measure 1.5 oz)
  • Tablespoon and teaspoon
  • Long spoon
  • Jar of Spanish olives
  • Cocktail skewers
  • Cherries
  • Lemons, limes, and oranges. *When using the rind for garnish, be sure to buy organic citrus.
  • Citrus press (handheld or electric)
  • Sugar cubes
  • Carbonated water
  • Muddler
  • An assortment of glasses for serving. The four most common glassware for cocktails include:
    • Stemmed glass (cocktail glass)
    • Tumbler-like glass (rocks glass)
    • Tall chimney glass (highball or Tom Collins glass)
    • Pint glass (for juicier cocktails like bloody mary's)
  • Lots of ice!


  • Bloody Mary (Cocktail), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Mary_(cocktail)
  • Cocktail 101: Glassware Basics, http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2011/03/cocktail-101-glassware-basics-different-types-of-cocktail-glasses.html
  • Cosmopolitan (Cocktail), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmopolitan_(cocktail)
  • Manhattan (Cocktail), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manhattan_(cocktail)
  • Mai Tai, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mai_Tai
  • Margarita, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margarita
  • Martini (Cocktail), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martini_(cocktail)
  • Old Fashioned, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Fashioned
  • Sidecar (cocktail), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidecar_(cocktail)
  • Tom Collins, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Collins
  • Vermouth, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vermouth
  • Whiskey Sour, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiskey_sour