46 Classic Cocktails You Need to Know
This A to Z list of mixed alcoholic drinks will teach you everything you need to know about the world's most well-known cocktails.
Few drinks have a more debated history, namesake and recipe than the Bloody Mary. While its origins may be debated, most recipes involve equal parts vodka and tomato juice mixed with additions like lemon juice, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, fresh herbs, brown sugar and cracked black pepper. Learn how to make the best-ever Bloody Mary.
The exact origins of this sweet drink are mostly a mystery. Many believe it became popular in the 1970s when Italian spirits started making their way to the U.S. Traditionally made with amaretto liqueur and fresh lemon juice, some also add an egg white to this classic cocktail. Check out these easy mixed drinks you need to know.
The Aviation cocktail was invented by Hugo Ensslin, a bartender at the Hotel Wallick in New York. It is typically made with gin, maraschino liqueur (what’s the difference between liquor and liqueur anyway?), creme de violette and lemon juice. While some choose to omit the flower-powered creme de violette, others consider it essential to create the Aviation’s signature lavender hue.
Made with Prosecco, peach puree and a little raspberry juice, this bubbly cocktail was invented in the mid-1930s by Giuseppe Cipriani in Venice. Considered to be the mimosa’s Italian cousin, it is said that Cipriani named this drink after the famed Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini.
Also check out what are bitters and how do you use them in cocktails?
Made simply with two parts coffee liqueur and five parts vodka, a black Russian like this is the White Russian’s older brother. The cocktail first appeared in Brussels in 1949 and was named for its strong use of vodka (a classic Russian spirit) and the deep, dark color of the coffee liqueur.
Like a Negroni, a Boulevardier is also made with sweet vermouth and Campari. However, rather than gin, a Boulevardier is made with bourbon. The origins of this drink can be traced back to Erskine Gwynne, who founded the Paris-based magazine Boulevardier in 1927.
Fun fact about this brandy cocktail: It was John Lennon’s favorite because it “tasted like milkshakes.” Served straight up and made with brandy, cognac, creme de cacao and cream, a brandy Alexander is a variation of the gin-based drink known simply as an Alexander.
Despite being called Bronx Cocktail, some actually claim this cocktail was created in Philadelphia and brought back to New York by a Bronx restaurateur. Made popular prior to Prohibition in the United States, this drink is basically a gin martini with a splash of orange juice.
Made with gin, lemon juice, dry vermouth, raspberry syrup and an egg white, the ingredients of this drink are combined and shaken with ice before being poured and served straight up. People love Clover Clubs for their well-paired berry and botanical flavors as well as their foamy tops.
Originally created in the late 1980s after the release of Absolut Citron, the Cosmopolitan skyrocketed to pop culture stardom in the ’90s thanks to Sex in the City. Made with citrus vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice and fresh lime juice, this drink has become a symbol for working women. Go the extra mile and use this homemade cranberry juice.
While most associate the daiquiri with the blended, sugary, umbrella-topped drinks served poolside at resorts, a true daiquiri is much simpler. Made with rum, lime juice and sugar, an authentic daiquiri isn’t blended but shaken with ice and then strained into a cocktail glass. See what other classic rum drinks you should know.
Dark and Stormy
This drink gets its name from the turbulent waters of the Caribbean, but it could have easily been dubbed the Caribbean mule. However, unlike a Moscow mule, which starts with vodka, a Dark and Stormy begins with dark rum before being mixed with ginger beer and lime juice. Find more tropical rum drinks to make at home.
This bubbly champagne drink has some extra zip thanks to the addition of gin. Mixed with lemon juice and sugar, the French 75 was first recorded in 1925 as the “75” but with slightly different ingredients. The modern-day version was published in The Savoy Cocktail Book five years later.
“A real Gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice and nothing else.” This single line from Raymond Chandler’s 1953 novel The Long Goodbye gave birth to the popular cocktail. While some may opt for vodka rather than gin, most say Rose’s Lime Juice is a quintessential ingredient.
Gin and Tonic
Made with just gin and tonic water garnished with a wedge of lime, the G&T is a classy drink with a secret. It glows! Due to quinine, a chemical found in tonic water, the drink will glow when exposed to ultraviolet light.
Made with gin, lemon juice, sugar and carbonated water, some also add an egg white to give this classic cocktail a foamy top. Other variations include a golden fizz, made with an egg yolk, or a green fizz, made with creme de menthe. See our fresh take on the gin fizz.
The origin of the first Hot Toddy is widely debated. Some link it to India where it was prescribed as a medicinal drink. Others place it in Scotland, where bartenders would add a splash of hot water to whiskey for their patrons to help ease the sting of winter.
Speaking of warm drinks, Irish coffee is made by adding a shot (or two) of whiskey to brewed coffee with sugar or simple syrup. Then, it’s topped with cream. This heartwarming drink is often credited to Joseph Jackson who would make the drink for his comrades while fighting in World War II. It was later made famous by another Joe, Joe Sheridan, bartender at the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco.
Lemon Drop Martini
Perhaps one of the most popular martini variations, this Lemon Drop rose to popularity in the 1970s. Many attribute this cocktail to Henry’s Africa in San Francisco which was famous for creating “girly drinks” made extra sweet to mask the taste of alcohol.
Long Island Iced Tea
Despite its name, a Long Island doesn’t contain tea. Don’t let its refreshing name fool you! The Long Island contains vodka, gin, tequila, light rum, lemon juice, triple sec and a small splash of cola and, at 22% ABV, contains a much higher alcohol concentration than other highball drinks.
Considered to be one of the original tiki cocktails, the Mai Tai was invented by Victor Jules Bergeron, aka Trader Vic. His original recipe called for light rum, dark rum, lime juice, orange curacao, orgeat syrup and rock candy syrup with a mint garnish.
Dating back to the 1880s, the Manhattan remains one of the most ordered drinks in bars and lounges. Traditionally made with rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters, this drink has seen a plethora of adaptations over the years like swapping brandy or bourbon for the classic rye whiskey.
The margarita, meaning “daisy” in Spanish, is a Mexican twist on a Brandy Daisy. Made with tequila, the drink became popular during Prohibition when Americans would cross the border for alcohol. Served on the rocks or blended, a classic margarita is 50% tequila, 29% Cointreau and 21% fresh lime juice.
First published as a recipe in the 1888 edition of Harry Johnson’s Bartender Manual, the martini is a classic drink long associated with sophistication. Believed to have evolved from the Manhattan, a martini is made with gin, dry vermouth and garnished with a lemon twist or olives.
Recognized as the Bloody Mary’s brunch partner, the mimosa is a cocktail made with equal parts of sparkling wine and orange juice. Served in a champagne flute, many credit this fizzy drink to bartender Frank Meier who served it at the Ritz Bar in Paris starting in 1925.
Renowned as the official cocktail of the famed Kentucky Derby, 120,000 of these tasty drinks are consumed every year at the event. Made with Kentucky bourbon, simple syrup, mint leaves and crushed ice, mint juleps are traditionally served in frosty pewter cups. Here’s our step-by-step guide to making a julep.
Indigenous to Cuba, the mojito is a popular rum cocktail dating back to the 16th century. Said to be the favorite drink of Ernest Hemingway, a mojito is served in a highball glass over ice with muddled mint, white rum, lime juice, simple syrup and a splash of club soda. See how to craft one at home.
This trendy cocktail has recently seen a rise in popularity and is famed for its iconic copper mug. Made with vodka, lime juice and ginger beer (not to be confused with ginger ale), recent studies show that you may want to skip the copper mug to avoid copper poisoning. Yikes!
Perfect for a cozy winter night or a holiday celebration, mulled wine is made by gently heating wine with fruit, spices and a spirit. This additional alcohol could be bourbon, brandy, whiskey or even rum. Any way you go, this slow cooker mulled wine is not to be missed when the weather turns cold.
Don’t let the sweet red color of this drink fool you. A Negroni is not for the faint of heart. Made with gin, vermouth, Campari and a single orange peel, it lacks any sort of simple syrup to mask the punch of the alcohol’s strong, bitter flavor.
No list of mixed alcoholic drinks would be complete without mentioning the Old-Fashioned. While a gin-based version of this famed cocktail was first published in 1862, the modern Old-Fashioned came later in 1880 when bartender James E. Pepper first mixed the drink in Louisville, Kentucky. In Wisconsin, the Old-Fashioned is typically made with brandy.
Like a Greyhound, a Paloma is made with tequila, rather than gin or vodka. Popular throughout Mexico, this cocktail is made by mixing tequila with lime juice and a grapefruit-flavored soda like Fresca, Squirt or Jarritos and served over ice. Learn how to make a Paloma.
Cue the Rupert Holmes song! If you like getting caught in the rain, then according to the lyrics you will also likely enjoy a pina colada. All kidding aside, this fruity rum drink is made with white rum, dark rum, pineapple juice and Coco Lopez coconut cream.
There’s no need to spike this punch. Dating back more than a century, Planter’s Punch is made with dark rum, grenadine, pineapple juice and a splash of club soda. Often garnished with fruit, this rum cocktail is said to have originated at the Planters Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina.
Ramos Fizz (New Orleans Fizz)
New Orleans is the birthplace of the fizzy, creamy concoction known as a Ramos fizz. Made with gin, lemon juice, lime juice, simple syrup, orange flower water, vanilla, cream, egg whites and sparkling water, a Ramos fizz is named after Henry C. Ramos of NOLA’s Imperial Cabinet Bar.
This classic cocktail was probably your grandfather’s drink of choice. It’s made with scotch and Drambuie, a scotch-based liqueur infused with honey, herbs and spices. Bold and stiff, it’s a drink best served in a rocks glass over ice.
Sangria is considered a Spanish wine punch. However, it wasn’t always that way. Historians have dated variations of sangria back to Greco-Roman times when they would add sweeteners and spices to their wine. Today, sangria can be made red or white and mixed with assorted juices and cut fruit. Sangria is one of our favorite birthday cocktails!
This uniquely prepared New Orleans cocktail is made with cognac, absinthe, bitters and sugar. Made using two Old-Fashioned glasses, the drink begins by swirling absinthe in one glass. Then, in the second glass, the remaining ingredients are mixed and strained into the first. See why the Sazerac is the coolest cocktail around.
Made with just vodka and orange juice, a screwdriver is a simple yet tasty cocktail. Some say that this drink got its name because it was created by oil workers who would use a screwdriver to mix the ingredients since spoons were not always readily available.
While the English and French both lay claim to this cognac-based drink, both agree that it was named after a customer who arrived at their bar in the sidecar of a motorcycle. Shaken with ice, cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice, the ingredients are strained and then garnished with a single orange twist.
The modern tequila sunrise was created in the 1970s by mixing tequila, orange juice and grenadine. It became popular after Mick Jagger tried the cocktail and began ordering it all across America during a tour.
A Tom Collins is essentially a fizzy, spiked lemonade made with sparkling water, lemon juice, simple syrup and a London dry gin, like Bombay Sapphire. There is much debate over whether the origin of this drink is American or European, but all agree that it is classically delicious.
This iconic drink is James Bond’s drink of choice. Also called a vesper martini, it is often requested to be shaken, not stirred. Made with a 3:1 ratio of gin and vodka with a touch of Lillet blanc aperitif, the drink is served straight up with a single lemon twist.
While the original whiskey sour is believed to have been created by sailors in the 18th century to help cure seasickness, scurvy and malnutrition, the recipe wasn’t officially penned until 1862. First written in The Bartender’s Guide, a whiskey sour is made with powdered sugar, seltzer, lemon juice and whiskey.
This cocktail will forever be a part of American pop culture thanks to the film The Big Lebowski. Made with vodka, coffee liqueur and cream, the cream is often shaken before being poured over the other ingredients to enhance the creaminess of the drink.
Created by Donn Beach, the father of tiki culture in the United States, the zombie was invented shortly after the end of prohibition. It is made by mixing three different kinds of rum, lime juice, Falernum, bitters, Pernod and grenadine with a combination of cinnamon syrup and grapefruit juice.
Next, check out these 15 types of cocktail glasses that serious mixologists recommend.