The six essential cocktail recipes in this article are non-negotiable. You have to be able to make these.
There’s no denying that cocktail making is a skill. Anyone can throw a few ingredients into a glass and claim it’s a “cocktail” but if you want to make a drink that people actually enjoy, you need to have a solid foundation to work from.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be cocktail trained in order to knock up a great cocktail at home. By “solid foundation”, we simply mean that you should have a few select cocktails that you know how to make, and then over time learn how to make them very well.
Fortunately, there are a number of classic cocktails, and we need to emphasise the word classic, which will get you started. The only issue is that we’ve seen similar lists along the lines of “30 cocktails everyone should know”.
Now we appreciate that there is a good range when it comes to cocktails, but as a beginner, anything over 10 is excessive, to say the least!
Therefore, We’ve compiled a list of just six essential cocktail recipes that everyone really should know.
Before getting into this list, it’s worth checking out some of the ingredients in our ultimate cocktail kits consisting of everything you need to get started on some of the recipes below.
Six Essential Cocktails Everyone Should Know
When it comes to making cocktails, it can seem like a bit of a daunting task. A quick search online brings up cocktail recipes that have more ingredients and steps that are needed to make them than what you’d see in a cookbook!
The truth is that most people of the legal drinking age (aka adults) should know how to make a decent cocktail. Not only is the process fun, but you’ll also become a great host for parties and even save yourself some money-making cocktails at home rather than relying on your local cocktail bartender to make you your favourite drink.
Before getting started then, there are just a few points to keep in mind:
● Cocktail making techniques – Shaken, stirred and blended are techniques that can be picked up very quickly.
● Cocktail equipment – you’ll need glassware and a measure (jigger) for most cocktails. Over time, you can then build up your set with items like Boston shakers, bar spoons, muddler, blender etc…
● Ingredients – To make most cocktails you’ll need to stock up on some essential ingredients including:
– Alcohol base, depending on individual preference (vodka, whiskey, bourbon, gin)
– Bitters, syrups or liqueurs (all of these are not essential and will depend on the cocktail you are making)
– Mixers like fruit juices and soda water
– Garnish (typically fruit but a garnish is a finishing touch for visual display so don’t get too worried about a lemon twist not turning out perfectly).
With the above in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the six essential cocktail recipes that everyone should know. These should be your staple options when hosting dinner parties and a base from which you can then experiment with more advanced cocktails… If you want to!
The Old Fashioned is a timeless classic and one of the oldest cocktails on record (hence the name). In terms of popularity, the Old Fashioned stakes a claim as arguably the most popular cocktail of all time, but that’s for you to judge…
Having been invented sometime between 1800-1810, this cocktail is estimated to be over 200 years old and that’s a testament to its reputation as a go-to cocktail for bartenders and casual drinkers alike.
The original Old Fashioned is a drink of few ingredients. There was a whiskey base mixed with sugar, bitters and water, though over the years, bourbon has become the most commonly used spirit base with some people even using brandy!
Old Fashioned Cocktail Ingredients
50ml Bourbon (or 50ml rye whiskey for a more classic variant)
1 Cube Brown Sugar
3 Dashes Angostura Bitters
1 Teaspoon Water
Garnish – Orange Slice or Zest
How To Make An Old Fashioned Cocktail
Using an old fashioned lowball glass, add the sugar cube, bitters, and water and stir all ingredients using a bar spoon until the sugar has almost dissolved. Then add the bourbon and fill the glass with ice cubes and stir again to combine all ingredients. Finally, garnish with an orange slice or zest (and a cocktail cherry for a 1960 style finish)
The Negroni is a cocktail that often comes in and out of popularity each decade (with 2018 onward proving to be a particular resurgence due to the boom in gin popularity). One thing that remains constant, however, is the Negroni’s reputation as being one of the greatest cocktails of all time!
The Negroni is an Italian cocktail that’s over a hundred years old. Its origins are claimed to have been invented in the early 20th century by a Count in Florence (Count Camillo Negroni) who wanted his Americano cocktail strengthened by swapping out soda for gin.
While it used to be considered a real “man’s drink”, times have changed. Due to the simplicity of making this cocktail alongside the countless riffs (bartender recreations) created globally, it’s now a timeless cocktail appreciated by many and its inclusion on this list was a no-brainer!
Negroni Cocktail Ingredients
Garnish – Orange Zest
How To Make A Negroni Cocktail
The Negroni is a drink of few ingredients, yet strong and complex in taste. Add the gin, vermouth, and Campari into an old fashioned or rocks glass and stir a few times to mix the ingredients. Add the orange zest and you’ve now made the perfect Negroni.
When you first want to learn to mix cocktails, a Daiquiri is not only a fun cocktail to experiment with but it’s also one that has countless tried and tested variants. Once you master one you’ll then open up a range of possibilities – Frozen Daiquiris anyone?
A Daiquiri is similar to the Old Fashioned and Negroni being that it’s over 100 years old though it offers a much more fruity/citrus/sweet alternative, especially considering the time of its inception. Originally thought to have been invented in Daiquiri, a small mining town in Cuba, the drink made its way over to New York and the rest as they say is history.
While there are countless variations on this classic, the original recipe is very straightforward to make whilst also being a widely popular option when hosting guests!
Daiquiri Cocktail Ingredients
50ml White Rum
25ml Lime Juice
15ml Simple Sugar
Garnish – Lime Zest
How To Make A Daiquiri Cocktail
Chill a coupe or martini glass in the fridge (or fill with ice and leave to chill). Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake until chilled. Strain ingredients into the chilled coupe and garnish with a lime wedge on the rim of the glass.
Unlike others on this list, the Espresso Martini is not a cocktail steeped in history. It was invented in 1983 at Soho Brasserie by the now globally known cocktail bartender, Dick Bradsell. The story goes that Dick created this cocktail as a “wake me up” upon request from a model and it’s since become an iconic cocktail.
As it was designed to be a stimulating drink, the Espresso Martini is a smooth yet strong beverage combining vodka, espresso, coffee liqueur, and sugar. With that combination of ingredients, the drink is ideal for those that struggle to keep up the pace on a night out (or having an evening drink at home).
This drink is not one you’re likely to perfect on the first attempt though as you will need to make use of a cocktail shaker and strainer. Don’t worry though, it’s still one of the easier ones to make when it comes to a shaker.
Espresso Martini Cocktail Ingredients
25ml Coffee Liqueur
25ml Fresh Espresso Coffee
Sugar Syrup (to taste)
Garnish – 3 Coffee Beans
How To Make An Espresso Martini Cocktail
Place a martini glass in a fridge to chill (or fill with ice). Add all of the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake vigorously for 10-20 seconds to create a soft, foamy head and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish by floating the coffee beans
Interesting Fact – The inclusion of the three coffee beans floating on top come from Italy and are meant to represent the three blessings: Health, wealth, and happiness.
If you’re looking for the ideal party cocktail, you’ll want to have a Margarita in your arsenal.
While most cocktails on this list have an origin story (even if some are unconfirmed), the Margarita is a mystery drink with no real confirmed inventor, we only know it came from Mexico. In spite of this, the Margarita is actually the most popular cocktail in the US and isn’t far behind the top of the list in the UK.
If you really want to get into cocktail making, the Margarita is one of the best options to develop your mixology skills. The key to a good Margarita, however, lies in the quality of the tequila. Opt for a tequila that is made from 100% blue agaves like an El Rayo, Cazadores or AquaRiva.
Margarita Cocktail Ingredients
50ml Tequila (reposado or blanco depending on individual taste)
25ml Lime Juice
15ml Agave Syrup
Garnish – Lime Wedge, Salt
How To Make A Margarita Cocktail
Take a chilled rocks glass and run a lime wedge along the top rim of the glass, wipe any excess juice away from the inside. Place a tablespoon of salt onto a saucer and roll the rim over the glass over the salt. Add all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice and shake hard for 10-20 seconds to chill the ingredients. Strain into the glass and add additional garnish with a lime wedge.
The most popular cocktail in the UK is currently the Mojito. It’s been difficult to travel abroad so most people are looking to bring the party vibes to the comfort of their own home instead, and few cocktails do that better than the Mojito!
A classic Mojito can be quite tricky to make (muddling lime juice, sugar, and mint) and while it can be good to experiment with, we’d recommend starting out with a simpler serve.
Mojito Cocktail Ingredients
50ml White Rum
15ml Simple Syrup
4 Mint Leaves
4 Lime Wedges
Top Soda Water
How To Make A Mojito Cocktail
Squeeze the lime wedges into a highball glass, drop the wedges in and add the simple syrup, rum and stir to mix the ingredients together. ¾ fill the glass with crushed ice, stir in the mint leaves and top with soda to taste.