The 9 Cocktail Recipes Everyone Should Memorize
The history of the cocktail is relatively brief—it only dates back some 200 years. The first documentation can be found in Jerry Thomas’s How to Mix Drinks or the Bon Vivant’s Companion: The Original Cocktail Guide in 1862.
And though, over time, we’ve been privy to the ebbs and flows of spirits and beverages in general (goodbye Prohibition, helloooo bottle flipping à la Tom Cruise in Cocktail), the classics—the originals, if you will—do not require a Master’s Degree. The formula is simple: combinations of spirits, sugar, water and bitters in ratios that are easy to remember.
Below we’ve got those combinations and ratios for you. Commit them to memory and you’ll always have a drink at the ready.
Click through to learn these essential drinks...
...and take notes!
The 9 Cocktail Recipes Everyone Should Memorize
The great Manhattan cocktail—a sharp combination of whiskey (usually Rye), sweet Vermouth, and Angostura bitters—came to fruition in the 1880s. William F. Mulhall penned in his Valentine’s Manual in 1923 that the drink was invented by a man named Black who tended bar on Broadway near Houston Street in Manhattan. Thank you, kind sir. You’ve given us everything we’ve ever wished for in an alcoholic beverage.
Instructions: Fill a tall mixing glass with ice; add 2 oz. Rye whiskey, 1 oz. sweet Vermouth and a dash of Angostura bitters and stir well; pour into a chilled glass and garnish with a cherry.
Thirsty for more? Swap the Vermouth with Amaro for this version called The Ellis Island.
Though the history of the Martini is quite unclear—popular theories include invention in San Francisco during the Gold Rush or at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York—the drink started cropping up in cocktail guides around the world in the late 19th century. The common law for a Martini today, however is simple: a 3:1 ratio of gin to dry vermouth stirred together over ice and strained into a cocktail glass. Though the ratios has changed some over the years (from 2:1 all the way up to 8:1), and the addition of bitters became acceptable, the ultra clean Martini has remained the most popular cocktail in existence.
It’s also worth noting that the only garnishes to be included are either an olive or a lemon twist. (None of the over-the-top, unnecessary things we’ve seen over the recent years. An olive. Or a lemon twist.)
Instructions: Fill a pint glass with ice. Add 3 oz. gin, 1 oz. dry vermouth, and 2 dashes of orange bitters and stir well. Strain into a chilled martini glass or coupe and garnish with the lemon twist or olive.
We’ve seen a definite spike in the rise of Negronis across bars around the world, and for good reason: the cocktail featuring equal parts of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari is delightfully bitter. The Negroni can be traced back to 1919, debuting in the Caffè Casoni bar in Florence. Per Gary Regan, bartender and author of The Negroni: Drinking to La Dolce Vita, legend suggests that a Count Camillo Negroni demanded the bartender make him a stiffer version of the Americano.
Interested in returning to the scene of the crime? Caffè Casoni exists now as Caffè Giacosa, where they boast an entire menu dedicated to the libation. All hail the Negroni.
Instructions: Fill a tall mixing glass with ice; add 1 oz. gin, 1 oz. sweet Vermouth, and 1 oz. Campari and stir until well-chilled; pour over ice and garnish with orange peel.
There is nothing more straight-forward than the Old Fashioned cocktail: muddle sugar with bitters and add whiskey. The drink dates back to the early 18th century, and officially got its name later on in the 1880s at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky. It grew so popular—rightfully so—that the recipe was taken to the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. Years later, Don Draper would show us all that it’s absolutely acceptable to have an Old Fashioned (or two, or three) during the work day.
Instructions: In a rocks glass, combine 1 sugar cube and 3 dashes of Angostura bitters. Add a splash of water or club soda. Muddle to a paste. Stir in 2 oz Bourbon. Add ice and garnish with a two-inch strip of lemon peel.
The Old Fashioned wasn’t the only thing going on in Louisville. Also during the early 1800s, bartenders were muddling mint and sugar together and serving it up with Bourbon. The first notation of the drink can be found in Travels of Four Years and a Half in the United States: 1798 - 1802 by John Davis. The Mint Julep grew in such popularity that it became a track staple at Churchill Downs in 1938.
Instructions: In a chilled julep cup or fizz glass, muddle 8 mint leaves and 1/2 oz Simple Syrup. Add 2 oz bourbon and crushed ice. Set a swizzle stick or bar spoon in the cup and spin between your hands to mix. Top with additional crushed ice and garnish with the mint sprigs.
By now it’s safe to say that the public’s knowledge of the Daiquiri goes above and beyond the blended concoction with extra floater shots we’ve become accustomed to.
The daiquiri actually found its place shortly after the Spanish-American War as there was a subsequent influx of Americans in Cuba. A gentleman by the name of Jennings S. Cox, a mining engineer, can be credited with the drink's creation. (The result of running out of gin and turning to Cuba’s resident spirit: rum.)
Instructions: Add 2 oz. white rum, 1 oz. lime juice, and 3/4 oz. simple syrup to a cocktail shaker filled with ice; shake until chilled and strain into a chilled Martini or coupe glass.
Known to the French as simply, “Sioxante Quinze,” the French 75 dates back to World War I, named after the French army’s 75 mm field gun. The cocktail gained popularity in the New York after the publication of Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails by Harry MacElhone in 1922.
Instructions: Combine 1 1/2 oz. gin, 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice, and 1/2 simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously; strain into a chilled Champagne flute and top with 2 oz. Champagne. Garnish with lemon twist.
Named after a small, piercing hand drill, the aptly-named Gimlet packs a punch. Thought to have been popular in the Navy, the first printed recipe can be found in MacElhone’s tome in 1922, noting that the only two ingredients are gin and lime juice. Nowadays, bartenders are making gimlets with more subtle flavors like cucumber and basil.
Instructions: Combine 1 oz. gin and 1 oz. Rose’s lime juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously; strain into a chilled Martini or coupe glass and serve immediately.
Elevate your gimlet with Meyer lemon.
Like many other libations, there are several theories behind the history of the Margarita. A very popular (and most likely) story suggests that Carlos “Danny” Herrera, bartender/owner of the Tijuana-based Rancho La Gloria restaurant, was tasked with creating a drink for a picky customer allergic to all spirits other than tequila in 1938. He used the basic elements of the traditional tequila shot (tequila, salt, and lime) with the addition of triple sec to create what we now know as the Margarita.
Instructions: Combine 2 oz. Tequila, 1 oz. freshly-squeezed lime juice, and 1 oz. triple sec or Cointreau in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously, and pour over ice into a salt-rimmed glass.