Classic Drinks All Bartenders Should Know


You should know that there has been a recent rebirth of the classic cocktail. There’s a marrying of the classics with modern mixology shaking up the nation that won’t reach most bars in America, however as a bartender you should know what’s going on in your chosen profession. Did you know that the cocktail turned 200 years old in 2006?





By far, the Martini is the King of cocktails. It is the icon of the cocktail culture and whole books have been written about its simplicity with a dash of controversy. You should know that no one knows when, who, or where the first Martini was created. What we do know is that Jerry Thomas published a cocktail recipe called a Martinez in The Bartenders Guide in 1887. It consisted of gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, bitters and a lemon twist. This sounds like someone was trying to create a Manhattan spin-off.


In 1907 William Boothby published a Dry Martini Cocktail in his book, The World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them. That recipe consisted of gin, French dry vermouth, orange bitters, a lemon peel and an olive.

During prohibition, Martinis flourished because gin didn’t require aging like whiskey, so it was readily available in speakeasies. At the time Martinis were being made with equal amounts of gin and dry vermouth. Through the years the amount of dry vermouth decreased and by the 1950s Hollywood movie stars were swirling just a couple of drops of dry vermouth in the glass on the silver screen.

All hell broke loose when Ian Fleming wrote about a fictional British spy named James Bond in the novel Casino Royale. Bond orders a cocktail called a Vesper (name of his love interest) containing of gin, vodka and Kina Lillet aperitif shaken, not stirred with a lemon twist.

By the second Bond novel the handsome and debonair spy was drinking Vodka Martinis with a catch phrase; shaken not stirred.


Glass: Martini or rocks.
2 ounces of gin
1/4 ounce dry vermouth

Mixing Method: Shake and strain or stir and strain depending on what the guest wants.
Garnish: Lemon peel or green olive.

Note: If you’d like to try the original Martini then add a dash of orange bitters. When a guest orders a Dry Martini it means that you only use a couple of drops of dry vermouth. When they order it very dry or extra dry it means that you don’t use any vermouth at all. An in & out or upside down Martini is when you swirl a few drops of dry vermouth to coat the inside of the glass then pour it out. A Perfect Martini (or perfect anything for that matter) means to use half dry vermouth and half sweet vermouth. A Dirty Martini means that you add olive juice. And a Martini garnished with cocktail onions is called a Gibson. Martinis can also be requested on the rocks.

More things to know about the Martini

When you shake a Martini
, the melting ice creates essential water needed for the cocktail. Some guests like it to be shaken until there are thin shards of ice on top and after straining. The feel of a shaken Martini is light and airy on the tongue because you’ve added air to the mix while shaking. The initial look will be a little hazy. Martini connoisseurs call this bruising the gin.

When you stir a Martini for half a minute, it creates a heavy satiny and silky feel on the tongue. The look is very translucent. This is the way Martinis were made before James Bond was created.

Martini connoisseurs say that you shouldn’t keep liquor in the freezer or start making a Martini with the liquor being cold because you don’t get the same dilution of water from the ice. Truly, it’s all how you like it. Lots of people like just a small amount of water being added to their Martini.

A Martini Mister is a small stainless steel refillable spray canister that you fill with dry vermouth to mist the top of your Martini.

There is much debate over how many olives a Martini should get. Most of the experts agree with one dropped to the bottom and will accept two speared olives through the sides on a cocktail pick due to the pressure of movies, TV, artist renditions, photos, cartoons, etc., because it’s hard to get away with what’s been crammed down the masses' throats. Three or more olives are unacceptable unless requested by the guest or you work at a low-end bar that stocks the tiny olives.

Olive stuffers can be found in upscale bars. The most popular ingredient to stuff in olives is bleu cheese.

The reason why gin and dry vermouth
go well together is because gin is infused with herbs and botanicals and dry vermouth is a fortified wine meaning that herbs have been added.

Know that the flavored modern Martinis of today make Martini connoisseurs' toes curl and actually made bartenders everywhere cringe when this marketing ploy started. It’s said that Absolut Citron started it all with the Cosmopolitan because up until that time no other cocktail, other than a gin or vodka Martini, was strained into a martini glass. It was actually inevitable due to the explosion of infused spirits hitting the market. Amazingly, within just a couple of years Martini Bars and Martini menus popped up everywhere, but the main thing to know is that the modern Martinis of today are really just the shooters of yesterday. Instead of being chugged they are being sipped in elegant martini glassware.Z

You’ll find that Dirty Martini lovers like different strengths of dirtiness, so I’ve learned to ask, Would you like it R, X, or XXX rated? They always smile, but get it.





There are many stories of people claiming to have invented the Manhattan, but all agree on the location in which it was invented, Manhattan. What we do know is that it was first made with rye whiskey since it was plentiful at the time (late 1800’s). In modern times it can be made with a favorite bourbon or whiskey. And in Minnesota and Wisconsin it’s made with brandy.

Glass: Martini or rocks.
2 ounces of rye, bourbon whiskey
1 ounce of sweet vermouth
2 dashes of Angostura bitters

Mixing Method: Stir and strain.
Garnish: Cherry.

Note: A Perfect Manhattan calls for half sweet vermouth and half dry vermouth with a lemon twist. A Manhattan can be requested on the rocks and if you replace the whiskey with scotch whiskey you’ve made a Rob Roy.

Rusty Nail


Glass: Rocks.
1 1/2 ounces of scotch whisky
3/4 ounce of Drambuie (dram-BOO-ee)

Mixing Method: Build.
Garnish: None.

Note: You will find that Rusty Nail drinkers have a preference when it comes to the ratio of scotch to Drambuie. Also, you’ll find several ratios in many other cocktail recipe books, however this measurement seems to satisfy most Rusty Nail lovers from my experience.

Just so you know, Drambuie is a Scotch based honey and herb liqueur. It’s proof is very high (80 proof) for a liqueur so it makes this cocktail very potent.



Glass: Rocks.
2 ounces of brandy or Cognac
1 ounce of white crème de menthe

Mixing Method: Shake and strain into a rocks glass of ice.
Garnish: None.

Note: Some older guests may request for the stinger to be made with crushed ice. Also if you replace the brandy with vodka this vodka stinger is called a White Spider.




Glass: Rocks.
1 ounce of blended Scotch whisky
1 ounce of amaretto

Mixing Method: Build.
Garnish: None.

Note: Replace the Scotch with vodka and you’ve made a Godmother.


(The G sounds like the G in Gum)


The key ingredient in a Gimlet is Rose's lime juice, which is a brand of sweetened lime juice invented by Lauchlin Rose in 1867. Rose invented this non-alcoholic cordial when he was trying to find a way to preserve fresh Caribbean limejuice to keep on long voyages at sea to help sailors combat scurvy (a disease from not getting enough vitamin C).

Cocktail/martini glass or rocks glass
2 oz dry gin
.75 oz Rose’s lime juice
Lime wedge garnish


Vodka Gimlet


Glass: Rocks.
2 ounces of vodka
3/4 ounce limejuice
Lime wedge garnish

Champagne Cocktail


The Champagne Cocktail was invented sometime in the early 1800s making it a true classic. It made its way to the first bartender book by Jerry Thomas in 1862.

Glass: Champagne.
1 sugar cube soaked with bitters (about 5 dashes)
Fill with Champagne
Garnish: Lemon twist.
Lay a sugar cube on a saucer and soak it with the bitters. Drop the cube into a champagne flute then add the brut champagne. Twist a thin piece of lemon rind (the twist) over the cocktail so that the lemon oils cascade into the glass. Gently rub the oils from the twist around the rim of the glass rim then drop into the cocktail. Allow the cube to slowly melt while partaking.




It’s said that the Mimosa was invented in Paris, France at the Ritz Hotel in 1925. They would also add a tablespoon of Grand Marnier calling it a Grand Mimosa or a Buck’s Fizz. If you replace the orange juice with cranberry juice it’s called a Hibiscus, which matches the hibiscus bloom much better than a mimosa flower bloom matches the color of a Mimosa.

Glass: Champagne.
2 ounces of orange juice
Fill with Champagne

Mixing Method: Build.
Garnish: Strawberry.

Note: The Mimosa is a traditional brunch cocktail and is often included in a buffet brunch'es price.




The Bellini is said to have been invented in Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy in 1945 and named in 1949 by Gluseppe Cipriani.

Glass: Champagne.
1 ounce of white peach purée
5 ounces of Prosecco (sparkling wine from Italy)

Mixing Method: Pour the peach puree into a mixing glass with ice cubes, then slowly add the Champagne. With a bar spoon, gently stir by dragging the puree up from the bottom, much like folding egg whites. Strain into a Champagne fluted glass.
Garnish: None

Note: This cocktail is usually only found in high end bars that make their own white peach puree and stock Prosecco. Some cheat using peach nectar and house Champagne or sparkling wine and pass it off as a Bellini.


(rhymes with ear)

The Kir is named after a French mayor of Dijon named Felix Kir who lived from 1876-1968.

Glass: Champagne.
1/4 ounce crème de cassis (kuh-CEASE)
Fill with white wine

Mixing Method: Build.
Garnish: Lemon twist

Note: Crème de cassis is a black currant liqueur. When you replace the white wine with Champagne you’ve made a Kir Royale. When using white wine, Chablis or chardonnay is preferred. Substitute the crème de cassis in a Kir Royale for Chambord and you’ve made a Kir Imperial.


Cuba Libre


Teddy Roosevelt wore many hats throughout his life
and one of them was commander of the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment during the Spanish-American War. They were called the Rough Riders. While the Rough Riders were in Cuba fighting the Spanish in 1898, this drink was invented and named after the battle cry Free Cuba.

Glass: Highball.
1 1/2 ounces of light rum
Juice from a lime wedge
Fill with Cola

Mixing Method: Squeeze the juice from a lime wedge over the ice, rim the glass with the same lime and throw away then build the rest of the ingredients.
Garnish: Lime wedge.

Note: Notice that a Cuba Libre is just Rum & Coke with the extra lime action.


There are many many other classic cocktails that are mentioned in the other categories. Here they are for you. Note: When "sour" or "sour mix" is mentioned it means fresh lemon juice and simple syrup. Also some people use cream instead of half & half. Bar punch is equal parts orange, pineapple and sour mix with grenadine for flavor and color.

Juicy Classics
Bloody Mary: vodka and bloody mary mix.
Bocce Ball: amaretto and orange juice.
Harvey Wallbanger: vodka, Galliano, and orange juice (A Screwdriver with Galliano on top)
Screwdriver: vodka and orange juice.
Tequila Sunrise: Tequila, orange juice and grenadine.

Creamy Classics
Brandy Alexander: brandy, dark crème de cocoa, half & half.
Golden Cadillac: white crème de cocoa, Galliano, and half & half.
Grasshopper: green crème de menthe, white crème de cocoa, half & half.
Pink Squirrel: white crème de cocoa, crème de noya (also called noyeaux), and half & half.
White and Black Russian: vodka & coffee liqueur (Just add half & half for a White Russian).

Sour Classics
Bacardi Cocktail: Bacardi light rum, sour mix, and grenadine (by law it must be made with Bacardi).
Between the Sheets: rum, brandy, triple sec, sour mix.
Daiquiri: light rum, simple syrup and fresh lime juice.
Margarita: Tequila, triple sec, and lime juice.
Sidecar: brandy or Cognac, triple sec, and sour mix. Can be served with a sugared rim.
Singapore Sling #1: gin, sour mix, soda water, bitters and a cherry brandy floater.
Singapore Sling #2: gin, Cherry Heering, Cointreau, Benedictine, pineapple juice, lime juice, grenadine, and bitters.
Tom Collins: gin, sour, and soda water.
Whiskey Sour: whiskey and sour mix.

Tropical Classics
Hurricane: light rum, dark rum, passion fruit juice, and bar punch mix.
Mai Tai #1: light rum, amber rum, orange Curaçao, orgeat syrup, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, mint garnish.
Mai Tai #2: light rum, dark rum, triple sec, amaretto, sour, and pineapple juice with a pineapple flag garnish. Dark rum is floated on top.
Piña Colada: rum and piña colada mix (Coco Lopez and pioneapple juice).
Planters Punch: dark Jamaician rum, lemon & lime juice, simple syrup, grenadine, and bitters.
Zombie: light rum, gold rum, 151 demerara rum, lemon, lime & pineapple juices, passion fruit syrup, brown sugar, and Angostura bitters.

Hot Classics
Irish Coffee: Irish whiskey, 3 packets of sugar, hot fresh coffee, and real whipped cream.

Stick Classics
Mint Julep: bourbon, sugar, spearmint leaves.
Mojito: rum, lime, sugar, mint, soda water.
Old Fashioned (original): rye, whiskey, or bourbon, muddled lemon twist, and Angostura bitters.
Old Fashioned: rye whiskey, muddled orange & cherry, and Angostura bitters. Some don't muddle the cherry.


More Classics You Should Be Aware Of


Americano: Campari, sweet vermouth, and a splash of soda.
Black Velvet: Guinness and Champagne.
Dark N’ Stormy: Gosling’s Black Seal rum and ginger beer.
Gin Rickey: gin, juice of half a lime, soda water.
Moscow Mule: Smirnoff vodka, limejuice, and ginger beer.
Negroni: gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth.
Pink Gin: gin and bitters.
Sazerac: rye whiskey, Peychaud’s bitters, simple syrup, stirred and served in a chilled absinthe rinsed glass with a lemon twist not dropped into the drink.
Ward 8: whiskey, orange juice, lemon juice, and grenadine.
White Lady: gin, Cointreau, and lemon juice.


You Should Also Know...

There are "types" of cocktails that received their names from the 1800's.

Cobbler: contains a spirit, sugar, and a garnish of fruits.

Collins: contains a spirit, lemon juice, simple syrup,and carbonation.

Daisy: contains a base spirit, lemon juice, and a sweetener such as gum syrup, raspberry syrup, or grenadine.

Fix: contains a spirit, lemon juice, sugar, and served with crushed ice.

Fizz: like the collins; contains a spirit, lemon juice, simple syrup,and carbonation. Almost like a Sling.

Flip: contains a spirit, egg, sugar, and spice (no cream).

Egg Nog: contains a spirit, egg, cream, sugar, and spice.

Julep: contains a spirit, sugar, and mint.

contains a spirit, lime juice, and club soda.

Sling: contains a spirit, lemon juice, sugar, and sometimes carbonation served in a tall glass. Almost like a Fizz.

The Juicy Family The Shot Family
The Creamy Family The Classic Family
The Sour Family The Highball Family
The Tropical Family The Stick Family
The Hot Family Misc. Family