How to Find Your Signature Cocktail in Five Minutes

Pick your poison and follow these flowcharts.

The Aristocrat
Photo: Patrick Michael Chin

Mixing the exact cocktail to suit you mood is a skill. Mixing the exact cocktail to fit the vibe of a party (or a Sunday brunch, or a night in front of the fireplace with a few close friends) is a rare skill. But does it have to be? Carey Jones and John McCarthy, authors of the new cocktail guide Be Your Own Bartender (and Food & Wine contributors!) seem to think, "no." Which is why they've devised a genius shortcut (or, rather, a series of genius shortcuts) to picking the perfect drink—flowcharts for different boozy occasions, leading you to the exact cocktail you didn't even know you wanted.

W. W. Norton & Company

If you're ready to start with something easy (and maybe find your signature drink?) zoom in on the flowchart above. Pick a spirit—gin, tequila, vodka, rum, cognac, whiskey, or sparkling wine—and go from there. The first series of questions gets straight to the point: Sure you like gin, but are you down with martinis? Maybe you're in the mood for a rum drink, but do you own a cocktail shaker? And, you've got the tequila, but are you willing to pull out your blender? (Your answer could could kick frozen margaritas out of the running.)

While the book has its share of basic cocktail recipes, it's also interspersed with more inventive options (some are twists on classic drinks, others were dreamed up by the co-authors). So, if you picked "whiskey" at the start, you may find yourself faced with a recipe for a "Lemon-Mint Buck" (rye, ginger ale, and lemon juice shaken with muddled strawberry, cucumber, and basil), or a "Kick the Safe" (Jack Daniels, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, Angostura bitters, and hard cider).

W. W. Norton & Company

Also worth checking out (especially ahead of the holidays): the book's guide to answering the question, "Is it a hot drink kind of night?" Take a peek at Jones and McCarthy's suggested cocktail pairings for tree trimming and turkey carving in the flowchart above, and to find out what, exactly, a "Cold in Quogue" is (and how to make it), pick up a copy of Be Your Own Bartender($16 at

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles