16 Cocktails Every Bartender Should Know


A well-made cocktail can be the cherry on top of a great event — something people enjoy and remember. And while the list of popular libations is ever-evolving and growing, there is a handful that every good drink-slinger should know by heart.

While there’s generally no singular iteration of a given cocktail, these recipes can serve as building blocks that you can update, modify, and make your own as you hone your skills. We’ll leave the fancy shaker techniques and bottle juggling tricks up to you.

The Aperol Spritz

1. Aperol Spritz

This wine-based Italian cocktail is a big trend here in the United States. With its refreshing, aromatic nature, it’s hard to resist.

  • 2 shots Aperol
  • 2 shots prosecco
  • 2 shots soda
  • 1 orange slice
  • Serve in a wine glass

Add all the ingredients over ice cubes, then lightly stir before garnishing.

2. Bloody Mary

A longtime brunch menu staple, the Bloody Mary is a favorite for those that like a more savory drink than sweet. The level of spice can be tweaked to taste.

  • 2 shots vodka
  • 4 shots tomato juice
  • 3/4 shot fresh lemon juice
  • 3 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 3 dashes Worcester sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon horseradish (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • 1 celery stick
  • Serve in a hurricane glass

Roll (don’t shake) ingredients from one shaker to another until the mix is chilled. Strain into an ice-filled hurricane glass, then add the lemon wedge and celery garnishes.

3. Cosmopolitan

Sure, a certain HBO show skyrocketed this particular pink cocktail to big-time fame. But all these years later, the citrusy concoction still stands the test of time.

  • 1 1/2 shots citrus vodka
  • 1/2 shot triple sec
  • 1/4 shot simple syrup
  • 1/2 shot fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 shot cranberry juice
  • Serve in a coupe glass

Shake all ingredients and strain into a chilled coupe cocktail glass.

The Daiquiri

4. Daiquiri

No summer drink menu is complete without the daiquiri. While simple to assemble, it still packs a flavor-filled punch.

  • 2 shots light rum
  • 1 shot fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 shot Demerara sugar syrup
  • 1 lime twist
  • Serve in a coupe glass

Shake all ingredients. Strain into a chilled coupe cocktail glass, then garnish with a lime twist.

5. Dark ‘n’ Stormy

This sailor-inspired drink has been trademarked by Bermuda-based Gosling Brothers Ltd since the early ’90s, but it can still be found on menus across the country and beyond.

  • 1 1/2 shots dark rum
  • 3 shots ginger beer
  • Lime wedge
  • Serve in an Old-Fashioned, rocks, or lowball glass

Pour the rum over ice in the glass, then add ginger beer. Garnish with a lime wedge.

6. Dirty Martini

As one of the most classic drink recipes out there, every bartender will do well to perfect this briny cocktail.

  • 2 1/2 shots vodka
  • 1⁄2 shot dry vermouth
  • 1⁄2 shot olive brine
  • 2 olives
  • Serve in a cocktail glass

Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and gently stir. Then, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with olives.

7. Long Island Iced Tea

This one isn’t for the lightweights. However, whether on vacation or simply looking for a singular cocktail to offer a hefty buzz, this boozy “tea” will get the job done.

  • 1/2 shot vodka
  • 1/2 shot white rum
  • 1/2 shot Blanco tequila
  • 1/2 shot gin
  • 1/2 shot triple sec
  • 1/2 shot fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 shot simple syrup
  • Cola
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • Serve in a hurricane glass

Shake everything except for the cola and strain into a hurricane glass with ice. Top with cola, then add the lemon wedge garnish.

The Mai Tai

8. Mai Tai

Tiki Tuesday, anyone? This flavorful rum bev has Polynesian roots and is the perfect pairing to a warm evening on a breezy patio.

  • 1 shot white rum
  • 1/2 shot dark rum
  • 1/2 shot orange Curacao
  • 1 shot lime juice
  • 1 pineapple wedge
  • Mint sprigs
  • 1 cherry
  • Serve in an Old-Fashioned, rocks, or lowball glass

Add all ingredients except dark rum into a shaker with ice. Add ice (whole or crushed) to the glass and strain the mix over. Top off with dark rum and garnish with the pineapple wedge, mint sprigs, and cherry.

9. Manhattan

Craft cocktails and the Manhattan go hand in hand. And shouldn’t every good bartender know how to serve up one of the most popular libations of all time?

  • 1 1/2 shots bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 1 shot sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • Brandied cherry
  • Serve in a chilled coupe glass

Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a brandied cherry.

10. Margarita

Whether you prefer the rim salted or unsalted, or like your ice whole or crushed, there’s no arguing that the margaritas go best with a side of tortilla chips, salsa, and a hefty scoop of guac.

  • 1 1/2 shots Blanco tequila
  • 1 shot triple sec
  • 3/4 shot fresh lime juice
  • Salt for rim (optional)
  • 1 lime wheel
  • 1 dash agave syrup (optional)
  • Serve in a chilled Margarita glass

Add all ingredients to an ice-filled shaker and shake. Strain into a chilled margarita glass filled with ice and rimmed with salt (if applicable), then garnish with a lime wheel. Add a dash of agave syrup before shaking for a sweeter taste.

11. Mojito

The mojito is a longstanding drink and still going strong. When the weather warms up, you can expect mojito orders to increase.

  • 5 lime wedges
  • 5 fresh mint leaves
  • 3 mint sprigs
  • 2 shots white rum
  • 2 teaspoons of granulated white sugar or 1/2 shot simple syrup
  • A dash of club soda
  • Serve in a highball or Collins glass

Muddle lime wedges and sugar in the glass until the sugar is dissolved or until well-mixed with simple syrup. Add rum and mint leaves. Fill with crushed ice and stir well, then top with soda water and crushed ice. Garnish with mint sprigs.

The Negroni

12. Negroni

This Italian drink is so appealing with its blend of bold bitterness and smooth gin. While the Negroni has many variations, it’s good to have the basics down.

  • 1 shot gin
  • 1 shot Campari liqueur
  • 1 shot sweet vermouth
  • 1 orange peel or twist
  • Serve in a rocks glass

Add all the ingredients in a rocks glass. Add ice and stir until chilled, then garnish with the orange.

13. Old-Fashioned

The Old-Fashion cocktail was Don Draper of Mad Men’s drink of choice. This sweet cocktail is unlikely to go out of style anytime soon.

  • 2 shots rye whiskey
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Orange peel
  • 2 cherries
  • Serve in an Old-Fashioned, rocks, or lowball glass

Fill a mixing glass with ice, then add all ingredients. Stir to chill, then strain into an Old-Fashioned glass with fresh ice. Garnish with orange peel and cherries.

14. Piña Colada

No blender, no problem! While this recipe is often made frozen for lounging at the beach or poolside, you can easily sub in some crushed ice.

  • 2 shots light rum
  • 1 1/2 shots cream of coconut
  • 1 1/2 shots pineapple juice
  • 1/2 shot lime juice
  • Pineapple wedge
  • Pineapple leaf
  • Serve in a chilled hurricane glass

Add all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake until mixed and chilled well. Strain into a hurricane glass over crushed ice. Garnish with a pineapple wedge and pineapple leaf.

15. Whiskey Sour

When it comes to three-ingredient cocktails (give or take), it doesn’t get much more old-school than the whiskey sour. This one’s so simple to make, and the results are impressively yummy.

  • 2 shots bourbon
  • 1 shot fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 shot simple syrup
  • 1/2 an egg white (optional)
  • 1 maraschino cherry
  • 1 orange slice
  • Serve in an Old-Fashioned, rocks, or lowball glass

Mix all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake until blended well. Strain into a glass, then garnish with the orange slice and cherry.

The White Russian

16. White Russian

The richness of this drink is why some overlook the White Russian, while others are loyal fans. Its newfound popularity in the last few decades is admittedly thanks to the protagonist’s penchant for them in the film The Big Lebowski.

  • 2 shots vodka
  • 1 shot Kahlúa liqueur
  • 1 splash heavy cream
  • Serve in an Old-Fashioned, rocks, or lowball glass

Add vodka, Kahlúa, and ice to the glass. Top with a large splash of heavy cream, then stir.

This list of drink recipes is by no means a be-all-end-all guide. But once you become familiar yourself with some of these drink menu favorites, you can feel more comfortable expanding your creativity to make the perfect signature beverage for your next event.

If you’ve mastered these classic drinks and are looking for some more ideas, take a look at past episodes of our Facebook Live show, Cocktails with Kate and James, or check out recipes from the show on Pinterest.

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