The six essential cocktail recipes in this article are non-negotiable. You have to be able to make these.
Because if you master these six cocktail recipes, you’ll have learnt the skills to make thousands of variations.
What are the Six Essential Cocktail Recipes?
The most famous list of essential cocktails comes from Cocktail Codex, an award-winning book by the legendary bartenders at New York’s Death & Co.
They list the the Old Fashioned, the Martini, the Daiquiri, the Sidecar, the Whiskey Highball, and finally the Flip as the core cocktails to know.
We think you could also add the Espresso Martini and Negroni to the list. Here’s why…
Let’s start with the one’s we’ve added to the list.
The Negroni is a cocktail that often comes in and out of popularity each decade.
Right now, it’s on the up thanks to a boom in gin.
One thing that remains constant, however, is the Negroni’s reputation as being one of the simplest cocktails of all time!
The Negroni recipe 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!
Make the Negroni Recipe
Our Negroni cocktail making kit means you can make one of the six essential cocktail recipes without the hassle of sourcing ingredients.
We’ve added this one to the list as it teaches you how to use a muddler.
Few cocktails bring the holiday vibes and flavour of the Caribbean 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.
Try our take on the Mojito recipe.
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 Daiquiri recipe is very straightforward to make whilst also being a widely popular option when hosting guests!
Try a Coconut Daiquiri
Unlike others on this list, the Espresso Martini recipe 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.
Make the Espresso Martini
Our Espresso Martini cocktail making kit comes with a recipe card to talk you through the steps of making this modern classic.
If you’re looking for the ideal party cocktail, make a Margarita.
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 recipe 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.
Try our favourite Margarita
The Tommy’s Margarita recipe switches out triple sec orange liqueur for a smoky Agave syrup.
Agave is the plant which tequila comes from, so it’s a winner flavour wise.
We love this cocktail so much we created a Tommy’s Margarita bottled cocktail premixed and ready to drink.
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 recipe 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!
Make An Old Fashioned Cocktail
Made with the finest Woodford Reserve bourbon and a small batch demerara syrup handmade in England, our Old Fashioned cocktail making kit is the best way to experience this elite cocktail.
Do I need to know more than six essential cocktail recipes?
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: that we see lots of 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!
Which brings us back to Cocktail Codex by the team at Death & Co.
They list the Old Fashioned, Daiquiri, Martini, Sidecar, Whiskey Highball, and Flip as essential cocktails to know.
Their reasoning is that if you make these cocktails you’ll have used the ingredients and flavour combinations for several others.
For example the seltzer used in the Whiskey Highball can also be used in the Americano recipe.
The mix of citrus and orange liqueur in the Sidecar is very similar to the Margarita.
And the egg, lemon, and spirit in the Flip is similar to a sour cocktail like the Gin Sour.
So, to start the journey towards mixology mastery learn the six essential cocktail recipes we list above, plus the Martini, Sidecar, Whiskey Highball and Flip recipes from Cocktail Codex.
What else do I need to know to make the six essential cocktail recipes?
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 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:
Learn your cocktail making techniques.
Shaken, stirred and blended are techniques that can be picked up very quickly.
Get the right 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…
Choose the right 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).
Become a better home bartender
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Written by Simon Byrne, with additional material from Joel Davidge