Bartending: 10 Classic Cocktails Every Bartender Should Know

As any good bartender knows, keeping up with the latest fashionable drinks is part of the job. And yet, even with customers clamoring for the latest fashionable cocktails, there are a group of traditional and popular favorites that have stood the test of time.

Ironically, many of these classic cocktails seem to experience a rebirth every few years. For example, twenty years ago many bourbon drinks were rarely ordered as bourbon itself was relegated to the shadowy, dusty shelves. Now, these and other time honored drinks are back to the forefront. Here’s a list of ten all time favorite classic cocktails, including a handy recipe for each.

Here they are, listed by the main alcohol ingredient …

Rum Drinks

Daquiri: Typically made with a gold rum, although countless variations have been created. Best served in a martini glass, combine equal parts lime juice and sugar syrup along with the rum. Shake with ice, strain, and serve.

Mojito: You see this one everywhere now, but it’s a timeless drink. Combine the juice of 1/2 lime, 1 tablespoon of sugar syrup, muddled mint leaves, club soda, and a jigger of rum in a tall glass filled with crushed ice. Then, start the party!

Cuba Libre: With a nod to Cuba, this drink is particularly popular along the eastern seaboard. It’s easy to prepare as well, just take the juice of one lime and add it to a glass 3/4 full with ice and cola. Add white rum and top with cola.

Vodka Drinks

Screwdriver: A straightforward stalwart, combine orange juice with vodka over ice.

Harvey Wallbanger: Famous since the 1940’s, this is a personal favorite. It’s made with orange juice and four parts vodka to one part Galliano, a sweet Italian liquer. Add the orange juice and vodka to a highball glass filled with ice. Float the Galliano on top and put some good jazz on the jukebox.

Black Russian: Another simple standard, it’s two parts vodka to one part Kahlua, served over ice.

Gin Drinks

Gin Fizz: This one’s making a comeback, probably because it’s just such a good drink. Start with a tall Collins glass. Add a jigger of gin, two tablespoons of lemon juice, and one tablespoon of sugar syrup. Shake the ingredients with ice, strain into the glass, and top it off with the fizz, which is soda water.

Alexander: You don’t see this drink much these days, but it’s delicious. Combine one shot of gin, 1 shot of Creme de Cacao, and six ounces of light cream with ice. Shake, strain into a tall glass, and garnish with a cherry.


Mint Julep: The mint julep isn’t just a Derby Day tradition, they’re being served everywhere. Muddle fresh mint and 3 tablespoons of sugar syrup in the bottom of a julep glass. Discard the mint leaves and fill the glass with crushed ice. Add a jigger of bourbon and refill the glass with more crushed ice. Garnish the drink with fresh mint sprigs, dusted with powdered sugar.

Pimm’s #1: We’d love to see this great summer drink catch on again. Pimm’s #1 is an English specialty liquor. Add four shots of Pimm’s #1, a shot of gin, and lemonade to a tall glass filled with ice. Garnish with a mint sprig and serve.

Even if your favorite classic cocktail isn’t on this list, these 10 are sure to be a hit with your customers or guests.

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