Try Your Hand at Bartending with These 10 Classic Cocktails
Enjoy a fun Friday night at home with friends and family while trying these 10 classic cocktails, as well as, discover all the gear you need to achieve the look and flavour.
There aren’t many things in life better than a well-crafted cocktail. Learning a few basic cocktail recipes is a skill that’ll serve you well, so we’ve created this guide to making 10 classic cocktails that stand the test of time.
The classic margarita is one of the most popular cocktails of all time. Its origins are debatable, although the consensus seems to be that the margarita originated in Mexico sometime in the 1930s or 1940s. The staple recipe consists of just three equal parts of tequila, triple sec, and lime juice, shaken with ice and served in a salt-rimmed coupe glass. It’s a strong and refreshing cocktail that highlights the flavours of the spirits used, so the better quality your spirits, the better your margarita will be. You’ll notice the difference if you use a decent tequila such as Roca Patron Silver or Espolon Blanco. The best triple sec to use in a margarita is Cointreau, a premium French orange liqueur made from a balance of sweet and bitter orange peels. It cuts through the overpoweringly strong taste of tequila by adding a dash of sweetness.
The classic margarita has plenty of spin-offs, such as frozen margaritas, spicy margaritas, passionfruit margaritas, and lots more. There’s plenty of room for creativity once you’ve nailed the basic recipe. One quick tip for making margaritas for other people is to salt only half of the rim of the margarita glass – it stops the salt becoming too overpowering and gives space to sip from a non-salted part of the glass if someone doesn’t like it.
Another classic popular cocktail, you’ll find a mojito on the menu in just about every bar with a cocktail shaker. Originating from Havana in Cuba, a mojito is a rum-based cocktail that tastes like you’re sitting on the beach. The basic recipe is white rum, lime juice, sugar syrup, and muddled mint leaves, topped off with soda water. To make it, first muddle the mint leaves and then add ice, lime juice, rum, and sugar syrup to a cocktail shaker. Shake it up until the tin is cold and pour into a highball glass, keeping a few ice cubes, and top with soda water.
Bacardi or Havana Club Blanco are classic white rums that works great in mojitos. You could also try making mojitos with Malibu for an added coconut flavour that’s on brand with the tropical Cuban theme. As with margaritas, there’s also plenty of spin-off mojitos you can branch out into; try a strawberry or mango mojito for a fruity, summery taste.
When you think about cocktails a martini is the first thing to come to mind. It’s a sleek and sexy drink that’s all about nailing the basics - a traditional martini consists of just gin and vermouth. It’s best served as cold as possible, which you can achieve by stirring the drink amongst lots of ice until it’s frigid, then straining it into a chilled martini glass. It’s traditionally topped off by an olive on a skewer. To make a dirty martini, add a little olive juice.
Martinis can be served either dry or wet, which depends on how much vermouth you add to it – the less vermouth, the drier the martini will be. A typical dry martini is made with five parts gin to one part vermouth, which really brings out the aromatic flavours of the gin. As with margaritas, using a high-quality gin is key to creating a perfect martini. Try using a bottle of Tanqueray, Hendricks, or Four Pillars for a great tasting drink. You can also make a martini with vodka for a modern variation on the classic gin martini.
4. Espresso Martini
Not sure if you’re in the mood for a coffee or a stiff drink? Enter the espresso martini. The espresso martini was allegedly created in the 80’s when supermodel Kate Moss asked London bartender, Dick Bradsell, for a drink that would ‘wake me up and **** me up.’ It used to be referred to as a vodka espresso, or a pharmaceutical stimulant, until the name evolved into espresso martini.
To make an espresso martini combine vodka, espresso, coffee liqueur, sugar syrup, and ice, shaking until it’s frothy, and garnish with three coffee beans. Try making it with vanilla flavoured vodka for extra sweetness or add a shot of a nutty liqueur like Frangelico for added flavour.
5. Pina Colada
If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain, then you’ll want to learn the classic pina colada recipe. Delicious creamy and coconut-y, a well-done pina colada will transport you to a sandy beach no matter where you are. It’s a summer classic that never gets old like a worn-out recording of a favourite song.
You can make a pina colada either shaken or blended depending on your preferences. For a shaken pina colada, mix Malibu rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice in a cocktail shaker with ice and garnish with a fresh slice of pineapple. For a frozen pina colada, put the same ingredients through a blender with ice. Try adding vanilla ice cream to a frozen pina colada for a thicker consistency.
A cosmo is an aesthetically pleasing cocktail that tastes just as good as it looks on Instagram. Popularised in the 90’s by the TV show Sex and the City, it’s a classy cocktail invented by bartender Neal Murray in 1975. He added a splash of cranberry juice to a Kamikaze, saying ‘how cosmopolitan’ after tasting it.
To make a cosmo, shake up vodka, triple sec, and cranberry juice with ice and serve strained into a martini glass. If you want the mixture frothy for a nice top layer, try adding a dash of pineapple juice.
7. Mai Tai
A mai tai is a delicious Tiki cocktail that’s perfect to sip on throughout summer. It’s tropical, fruity, and rum-dominant, made with a blend of dark and whit rum. It’s another recipe with ambiguous origins, but it’s now the most recognisable Tiki cocktail.
The mai tai recipe is white rum, dark rum, orange curacao, orgeat syrup, and lime juice. To make it, shake all the ingredients together apart from the dark rum. Tip into an old fashioned glass, aka a whisky glass, with ice and float the dark rum on top. Garnish with a lime wheel, orange slice, or cherry. Try making it with a spiced dark rum, like Kraken, for extra flavour.
Any bartender will give you a nod of approval if you order a negroni. It’s a spirit-forward cocktail that’s traceable back to the 1920s in Florence, Italy. Technically an apéritif, this Italian classic is a perfect dinnertime drink.
A negroni consists of equal parts gin, vermouth, and Campari, stirred into an old fashioned glass over ice. It’s traditionally garnished with an orange peel for a little added sweetness. A negroni showcases the gin, so use something top shelf for a great drink.
9. Moscow Mule
The Moscow mule is a vodka-based cocktail traditionally served in a copper mug. The legend goes that the drink came about in 1941 when a Russian woman named Sophie Berezinski had 2,000 solid copper mugs she couldn’t sell, and an American called John Martin who’d just purchased the Smirnoff Vodka distillery was struggling to sell both vodka and his own brand of ginger beer to disinterested Americans. The two met, created the Moscow Mule to solve both their problems, and the rest is history.
To recreate a traditional Moscow Mule, stir vodka, lime juice, ginger beer, and ice together and garnish with a lime wedge. You don’t have to serve it in a copper mug if you don’t have one handy, but the cold metal works well to insulate the liquid, keeping the cocktail chilly and refreshing.
10. Old Fashioned
Another favourite of bartenders, the old fashioned is a sophisticated drink that any whiskey lover needs to learn to make. It’s one of the oldest mixed drink recipes, often considered to be the original cocktail – hence the name. The old fashioned is said to be a ‘true’ cocktail as it has all the components of a traditional cocktail; spirits, sugar, water, and bitters. The old fashioned first came about in London circa 1690 but came into vogue after the Prohibition in the United States.
To make it, add a sugar cube to an old fashioned glass, a dash of bitters, and a splash of water. Muddle these together until dissolved, fill the glass with ice cubes, and add whiskey; it’s traditionally made with either bourbon or rye whiskey. Garnish with an orange slice and a cocktail cherry.
Haven’t got your home bar fully set up yet? Browse the House barware range and find everything you need to start shaking up cocktails.Back to blog