It’s never a bad idea to have a few classic cocktail recipes in your back pocket. Whether you’re mixing up drinks for a cozy date night, having a delicious brunch and need a drink pairing, or want to enjoy a chill night in with friends, knowing how to make some simple cocktails is an easy way to elevate any gathering. Luckily, once you have a few key items on your bar cart, making most of these classic cocktails couldn’t be easier.
No matter which spirit you like — be it gin, vodka, whiskey, tequila, bourbon or something else — there’s sure to be a cocktail that suits your fancy. If you’re not someone who enjoys hard liquor, then you can always go for a champagne cocktail or one that is made with cold beer or sparkling wine. Some of these classic cocktail recipes could even become mocktails if you’re going alcohol-free altogether. And if you are short on time or ingredients, there are even canned cocktail options where all you have to do is crack open the can and enjoy.
Plus, some of these cocktail recipes are easy to scale up, so you can prep a big batch before your next party and have more time to relax with your guests. What are you waiting for? Here are some of the best classic cocktail recipes to enjoy all year long.
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Take your next brunch up a level with these flavorful, colorful drinks made with beer, tomato juice and spices.
Get the Zesty Michelada recipe.
A gin fizz is a classic, easy cocktail. The addition of homemade pear syrup and a thinly-sliced garnish takes things up a notch.
Get the Pear Gin Fizz recipe.
This sophisticated cocktail comes together in just five minutes, and uses ingredients you probably already have on hand.
Get the Maple Whiskey Sour recipe.
Big-Batch Watermelon Margaritas
These cocktails are basically summer in a glass, thanks to the watermelon and lime flavors. But there’s definitely no rule saying you can’t make this easy big-batch recipe for any party in fall, winter or spring!
Sparkling Pomegranate Cocktail
These moody, fizzy cocktails couldn’t be easier to make. All you need is pomegranate juice, sparkling wine, and pomegranate seeds (plus rosemary for garnish, but it’s optional!)
Ginger-Sage Rye Cocktail
Looking for an elegant drink to impress your beau on date night? Look no further. This drink calls for homemade ginger-sage syrup, but don’t worry, it’s easy to make.
Get the Ginger-Sage Rye Cocktail recipe.
Dirty Martini with Stuffed Olives
This citrusy drink is said to have started its path to popularity by thirsty Americans (Ernest Hemingway, for one) living or visiting Cuba during Prohibition. Although you’ll see variations churning away in frozen slush machines in bars and restaurants all over, the original was once served, very cold, over ice.
Get the Classic Daiquiri recipe.
We made this lemon, honey and gin cocktail with black pepper for a spicy twist, but feel free to leave it out to keep it classic.
Get the Bees Knees recipe.
Even in the late 1800s, the basic three-ingredient version (whiskey or brandy, sugar and bitters) of this spirits-based drink was considered a throwback to the “good old days,” when cocktails were made without trendy additions like vermouth or curaçao. In the early 20th century, the occasional addition of muddled citrus and cherries became an embellishment we still love today.
Get the Classic Old-Fashioned recipe.
In 1944, Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron, founder of the international Polynesian restaurant chain (yes, that Trader Vic) served his new tiki drink to friends visiting from Tahiti. One sip and it was declared “Maitai’i roe a’e” (“out of this world, the best,” in Tahitian).
Get the Classic Mai Tai recipe.
Mary Pickford Cocktail
Known as America’s Sweetheart, Mary Pickford was more than just one of our very first movie stars. She was a pioneering producer and businesswoman as well (she helped cofound United Artists studio), so it’s more than appropriate she had a cocktail named after her. This fruity drink was concocted for Pickford by a bartender in Cuba during a stay there.
Get the Mary Pickford Cocktail recipe.
Reach for a flute if you fancy a tart, bubbly beverage, originally developed in Paris in the 1920s. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake 2 oz gin, ¾ oz lemon juice and ½ oz simple syrup. Strain into a flute and top with 2 oz sparkling wine. Serve with a lemon twist.
One of the most popular drinks in the U.S., this refreshing cocktail originated in Mexico and was discovered by Americans in the early 1920s. Stories differ on how it came to be, but the name gives a hint: Margarita is Spanish for “daisy,” a flower, but also once a variety of mixed drinks consisting of a spirit plus citrus and a sweetener.
Get the Classic Fresh Lime Margarita recipe.
Saloon owner Carl Ramos added egg white and orange blossom water to a traditional fizz. Those additions, and vigorous long-term shaking, gives this cocktail its signature silky texture. It was so popular in Ramos’s New Orleans pre-prohibition bars, especially during Mardi Gras, that he hired employees just to shake the cocktails — they would pass to the next man when they got tired. We think it’s delicious even shaken for just a few minutes, but it makes for a fun party game to pass it on!
Get the Ramos Gin Fizz recipe.
Pimm’s No. 1 is a gin-based aperitif that was invented in the 1820s in England by oyster-bar owner James Pimm. Its secret formula is a refreshing combination of dry gin, fruit juices and spices. There are other numbered Pimm’s aperitifs, each with a different base liquor.
Get the Pimm’s Cup recipe.
This classic aperitif (best enjoyed before dinner!), first created in Florence, Italy in 1919, is the perfect balance of bitter and citrusy. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, stir 1oz gin, 1 oz Campari and 1 oz sweet vermouth. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and serve with an orange twist.
This Cuban favorite goes as far back as the 1910s, and it is apparently still just as popular in bars in Old Havana today.
Get the Classic Mojito recipe.
Rumor has it that this elegant drink was created by Lady Randolph Churchill, the mother of Winston, in the 1880s. It’s much easier to master than it looks too (the secret is really good cherries!). In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake or stir 2 oz rye whiskey, 1 oz sweet vermouth and 2 dashes bitters. Strain into a rocks glass with one large cube and serve with a cherry.
Dating back to 1900s Peru, this frothy drink is fizzy from vigorous shaking and the addition of an egg white, and refreshing from a hit of both lime and lemon juice. Pisco, a lightly aged brandy distilled from grapes, originated in either Peru or Chile.
Get the Pisco Sour recipe.
A type of spirit similar to rum, cachaça is the base of this simple Brazilian cocktail. One origin story: the combo was first consumed in place of water during cholera outbreaks in the 1850s. We don’t suggest that, but we do suggest sipping it on a hot summer day.
Get the Classic Caipirinha recipe.
The term julep originates from a Persian word “gulab,” which was adapted into English as another term for medicine. It eventually came to slyly refer to a drink as a morning pick-me-up. In 1938, this mint- and bourbon-based julep was named the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby, where it’s now consumed throughout the day.
Get the Mint Julep recipe.
This potent drink calls for whiskey, sugar, bitters and absinthe, which was illegal in the United States from the 1900s until 2007. If the idea of a liqueur that was once rumored to have caused hallucinations (among other things) makes you a little wary, try the version made at the Sazerac Bar in New Orleans, made with Herbsaint instead.
Get the Sazerac recipe.
No romantic origin story here: Reportedly, in the 1940s, a ginger beer maker and a vodka distributor (not to mention a copper mug manufacturer) all had products that needed a boost, so they teamed up and came up with the Moscow Mule. Cheers to cooperation and innovation!
Get the Moscow Mule recipe.
The savory Bloody Mary has nursed (or created) many a hangover. The original was served by the bartender at the King Cole Bar in New York’s St Regis Hotel as early as 1934 and was known for some years as a Red Snapper (the owner of the hotel reportedly didn’t like the original — and now current — name.)
Get the Bloody Mary recipe.
A celeb favorite in the 1980s, the Cosmo became the go-to drink of the glam characters of Sex and the City in the late ’90s, and fans everywhere followed.
Get the Cosmopolitan recipe.
The Prohibition era sidecar cocktail is a simple combination of three ingredients: cognac (a type of brandy, made only in the Cognac region of France), orange liqueur and lemon juice. The mix of warming brandy, deep orange and bright lemon makes the cocktail not too sweet, not too tart.
Get the Classic Sidecar recipe.
This light winter twist on the classic Aperol spritz combines champagne, Aperol, and blood orange juice for a festive cocktail that’s simple enough to make at any party.
Get the Blood Orange Spritz recipe.
There’s nothing more refreshing on a summer day than a glass of classic sangria. This batch combines berries, lemon and basil for a satisfying boozy bev.
Get the Classic Fruit Sangria recipe.
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