10+ Simple, Classic Cocktail Recipes Your Bar Needs to Know
Cocktails are back. Whether shaken or stirred, nothing is more hip than ordering a classic cocktail. A good bar becomes great when your staff can nail drinks that many bartenders have never heard of. The drinks I will go over are straightforward, simple cocktails. They don’t take much preparation. They don’t require a shopping cart’s worth of ingredients. They do require proper execution, but avoid advanced technique that makes them inefficient. There is no fluff with these cocktails; just simple drinks made well. They will surprise and delight your guests.
Classic cocktails can revolutionize your bar by creating a cocktail program that is exciting and easy to execute.
In the days’ of yore, when people lived life slow and ate with wooden teeth, gin was the most popular spirit for cocktails. Gin in the 1890s was what Vodka was in the 1990s. But better. As such, it’s a common base for classic cocktails. Its renaissance as a mixing spirit is confirmed by the emergence of a contemporary style, categorized as New American. These gins’ swap the bitter juniper of London Dry styles for citrus and floral notes.
This beautiful cocktail gets it’s ethereal shade of purple from the Créme de Violette. It makes the drink as pretty as it is delicious.
It balances floral and citrus notes for a complex but refreshing drink.
1 1/2 oz. Gin
.75 oz. Maraschino Liqueur
.5 oz lemon juice
.25 oz Créme de Violette
.25 oz Simple Syrup
Method: Shake over ice. Strain and serve in martini glass or small coupé; garnish with Luxardo cherry.
Alternative: Blue Moon Cocktail
2 oz gin, .5 oz Dry Vermouth., 5 oz Créme de Violette, 3 dash Orange Bitters
Ah, the classic Italian drink. If you’ve had a friend vacation to Italy then you’ve probably had a friend that’s listed the virtues of a great Negroni. The cocktail is comprised simply of three ingredients combined in equal parts. A dry drink with bitter notes, it whets the appetite and helps digest after a meal.
1 oz. Gin
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
Stir ingredients and serve over ice or in a martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
You can substitute Aperol for Campari for more orange flavor and less bitterness. Add a dash of orange bitters for aromatics.
Alternative: Campari Spritz
1 1/2 oz Campari, 1 1/2 oz Prosecco, top with soda, garnish with orange twist
Vodka is an essential spirit for many drinkers. Colorless, odorless, and without taste, vodka is an easy spirit to mix with. It goes with most anything.
This drink has become extremely popular in the past 5 years. And for good reason. When made correctly, the drink is delicious. An earthy sweetness is balanced by lime juice and carbonation.
2 oz. Vodka
.5 oz Lime Juice
Top with Ginger Beer
Method: Build the cocktail in a collins glass, or the traditional moscow mule vessel, a copper mug. Add a dash of Angostura bitters to balance ginger beer’s sweetness and bring out it’s spicy character.
Variation: Trade the vodka for almost any other spirit and you can make a variation on the mule. The most popular substitute is bourbon, which makes a Kentucky Mule.
Bourbon and Rye Whiskey Cocktails
No spirit has played a bigger role in the cocktail revival than bourbon. And rye whiskey is seeing a huge increase in consumptions thanks to cocktails, as well. They are each the base spirits for two of the most iconic cocktails, the old fashioned and manhattan, respectively. Each day, they convert worshippers to the Church of Whiskey.
When mixing whiskey cocktails, marks with higher proofs are best to use. Whiskey with a higher ABV will retain more of its flavors despite the dilution imparted on a drink after mixing with ice.
1 oz Bonded Bourbon
1 oz Campari
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
Method: Stir and serve over the rocks, or serve “low.” Remember the negroni? Well, this is the same drink, with one exception: Swap the gin for bourbon.
(note: Bonded whiskey is a whiskey made under strict guidelines and the term indicates a government certified production process. Often labeled as “Bottled-in-Bond,” bonded whiskeys are all 100 proof, or 50% ABV.)
This cocktail is the classic New Orleans whiskey drink. Though often imitated, it’s rarely duplicated with success. But this recipe guarantees a great drink. As a bartender, one of my favorite compliments to receive from a satisfied patron is, when they, empty glass in hand, tell me my sazerac is as good as the ones they drank in New Orleans.
2 oz. Bonded Rye Whiskey
.5 oz simple syrup (2:1 sugar to water)
7 dashes of Peychaud Bitters
Method: Coat a rocks glass with absinthe, fill with ice to chill. Add ingredients to stirring glass. Stir, but not for too long, the drink should be a bit hot. Remove ice from rocks glass and strain cocktail. Express lemon oil over the cocktail and glass, discard.
Variation: Swap the rye whiskey for cognac. Cognac was the original spirit in a sazerac.
Rum isn’t reserved for vacations any longer. Nor does it have to be hidden beneath layers of sugar and technicolored mixers.
No, a daiquiri need not be frozen. In fact, one shouldn’t be frozen. Nor should the drink’s ingredients resemble the Chiquita Banana woman’s hat.
The daiquri is a simple cocktail. And one of the most abused ones. Part of the sour family, not much can match it’s refreshing quality when made well.
2 oz White Rum
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz. simple syrup (2:1 ratio)
Method: Combine ingredients and shake. Strain into a small coupé. Serve.
Variation: There are too many variations. Ignore them. Drink this.
For most drinkers, the margarita is the provence of Tequila. Or, tequila is a tapestry of regret in the form of shots, salt, and lime. But tequila’s Cuervo-damaged reputation is misguided. It’s a wonderful spirit. The aged reposado and añejo tequilas belong in the category of fine whiskey and scotch.
A light and refreshing tequila cocktail that is bright and bubbly.
2 oz. Blanco Tequila
2 oz. Grapefruit Juice
Splash of Lime Juice
Pinch of Sea Salt
Top with Soda Water
Method: Build the cocktail over ice in a collins glass. Garnish with lime or grapefruit peel. You can also salt the rim, but a dash of salt in the drink is sufficient.
Variation: The original recipe calls for a grapefruit soda like squirt, so can use that if available. You can also sweeten the drink with agave syrup, or even better, a pamplemousee (grapefruit) liqueur.
Scotch isn’t something you normally mix cocktails with. A dram of Scotch is a sacred pour. Many fret over the details. Is it okay to add a drop of water? Ice or no? A rocks glass or glencarigne? The answer to all those questions: However you like it. One way to take scotch is in an expertly mixed cocktail.
The Penicillin is neo-classic cocktail. Created New York City’s Milk and Honey in 2005 by Sam Ross, the drink is now etched in the cocktail canon.
Originally made with a honey-ginger syrup, our recipe uses fresh ginger slices instead of the syrup.
2 oz. Blended Scotch
3/4 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz. honey syrup (1:1 honey and water)
3 slice ginger, muddled
~ 1/4 oz of Laphroaig Scotch
Method: Muddle ginger slices in shaker, combine blended scotch, lemon juice, honey syrup, and shake. Pour over rocks. Top with Laphroaig float.
Variation: This drink can be served warm as a hot toddy.
Brandy, like Gin before it’s resurgence, has fallen from its shelf atop the spirits world. Once a popular drink, and the base for many cocktails now made with whiskey, brandy is full-bodied and flavored spirit that is much more versatile than an out-dated digestif.
The most popular brandy-based cocktail ordered today, the Sidecar is in the sour family of drinks.
It balances elegance with a robust sense of retro-cool.
2 oz. Cognac
.75 oz. lemon juice
.75 oz. Orange Liqueur
Method: Combine ingredients and shake. Strain and serve up. Garnish with orange peel or lemon. Lemon will add more brightness to the drink.
Variation: Add a dash of simple syrup for a sweeter version. You can also coat the rim with sugar, instead.
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