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18 Type of Drinks Should Every Good Bartender Know How To Make

A bartender preparing a rum cocktail.

A study looked at 36 different cocktails around the globe and found that the ten most popular cocktails in the United States include several classics like the martini and the manhattan. In any pursuit, it’s helpful to know your basics first.

Classic cocktails are like your basics when it comes to bartending, because once you can do them well, once you have it all down, then you can add your own spin and experiment.

1. Martini

Vodka martini gin cocktail in original glass with olives in metal bowl and bamboo sticks on dark wooden background.

  • 2 ½ oz. gin or vodka
  • ½ oz. dry vermouth
  • Lemon peel or olives
  • Olive brine is optional

Like making an incredible bloody mary, there is some tinkering that goes into making the perfect martini. I’ve had many Martinis made by different bartenders in various restaurants, in different states, and countries. But there is one that stands out. It was the best martini I ever had and still is to this day.

Here’s something close:

Gin:

Add gin to a shaker with ice, pour into a martini glass with a lemon twist. You may also serve this on the rocks.

Vodka:

Coat the inside of a chilled martini glass with a bit of dry vermouth. Pour whatever bit is left in the glass into a shaker filled with ice. Don’t shake it. Stir it up a bit before straining into the vermouth coated martini glass. Garnish with two or three olives on a skewer.

Vary the amount of vermouth to taste:

Dry

Less vermouth

Extra dry

No vermouth

Bone dry

Chill a glass, coat it with vermouth, stir gin or vodka and strain into the glass.

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Wet

Extra dry vermouth

Use more or less olive brine for a dirty martini.

Dirty

Either half the amount of vermouth or just ask. Tastes vary. The smallest splash of olive brine often does it.

Extra dirty

Usually equal parts vermouth and olive brine.

Filthy

Use more brine than vermouth. You may even replace it altogether.

I believe that my perfect martini had the golden ratio of vermouth to olive brine and could make a martini just dirty enough–not too clean, but not filthy either.

Try making it so that the vodka isn’t overpowering but you can still taste it, which is what you want to achieve for good balance. Add just enough olive juice so that you can taste it but it isn’t too salty.

2. Old Fashioned

Tegroni Cocktail drink with fruits and ice cubes on black background.

  • 1 ½ oz. Bourbon
  • Bitters (2 dashes)
  • I cube sugar (4 g)
  • Spritz of water

Put the sugar cube in a glass, add bitters, then add water. Fill the glass with ice, add bourbon, and garnish with cherry and a slice of orange.

3. French 75

  • 2 oz. Champagne
  • ½ oz. lemon juice
  • 1 oz. gin
  • simple syrup (2 dashes)

To make a classic French 75, start by adding lemon, gin, and syrup to an ice-filled shaker, strain into a glass, and top it off with Champagne.

4. Manhattan

  • 1 ¾ oz. Rye whiskey
  • ⅔ oz. sweet vermouth
  • A dash of bitters
  • Serve on the rocks with a cherry garnish.

I think this is a good list to have around and keep updated while bartending, even if most of your regular bar guests always just order the usual.

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5. Margarita

  • 2 oz. tequila
  • ⅔ oz. cointreau
  • ½ oz. lime juice

Salt for rim

Line the rim of the glass with salt. Shake with ice and pour into the ice-filled glass. Garnish with a slice of lime

6. Tequila Sunrise

  • 2 oz. tequila blanco
  • 4 oz. orange juice
  • ¼ oz. grenadine

Pour the tequila and orange juice into an ice-filled glass. Top off with grenadine and garnish with one or two orange slices and a cherry.

7. Long Island Iced Tea

Long island iced tea with a pineapple slice on a bar counter.

  • ½ oz. vodka
  • ½ oz. gin
  • ½  oz. white rum
  • ¼ oz. triple sec
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Up to ½ cola to top off

For a Texas Long Island Iced Tea, replace the rum with tequila.

Shake up your ingredients in an ice-filled shaker then pour everything into a glass, including the ice. Top off with cola, then lemon wedges to garnish. A word of caution, these can sneak up on you really fast! When made well, they taste just like homemade iced tea.

8. Mai Tai

  • 2 oz. dark rum
  • ¾ oz. lime juice
  • ½ oz. orange curacao
  • ¼ oz. simple syrup

Combine the ingredients and garnish with mint.

9. Bloody Mary

  • 3 oz. tomato juice
  • 1 ½ oz. vodka
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Black pepper
  • Hot pepper sauce served with to taste

Combine the ingredients, shake, then pour over ice. You can add a stalk of celery and some olives to garnish, but I’ve seen other items used too, like pepperoncinis or pickled okra. There are so many variations of the bloody mary.

10. Bourbon and Coke

Borboun with ice cubes on a wooden black table.

  • 1 oz. Bourbon
  • 2 oz. cola
  • Lime garnish (optional)
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11. Vodka Soda

  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. club soda

Additionally, you may use tonic water, fruit juice, or ginger ale. The usual garnish is a lime wedge.

12. Gin and Tonic

A freshy prepared gin tonic placed on a black table.

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 4 oz. tonic water
  • Garnish with a lime wedge

13. Tom Collins

  • 2 oz. dry gin
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Simple syrup

Add dry gin, lemon juice, and syrup to a glass full of ice and top it off with soda water. Stir. Garnish with a cherry and lemon wedge.

14. Appletini

  • 1 ½ oz. vodka
  • ¼ oz. lemon juice
  • ½ oz. green apple schnapps

Chill a martini glass and add ice to a shaker to shake up the ingredients. Garnish with an apple slice.

15. Sazerac

  • Absinthe, to use as a rinse
  • 1 ½ oz. rye whiskey
  • 1 ¾ oz. cognac
  • One cube of sugar
  • 3 dash bitters

Coat a chilled, old-fashioned glass with absinthe. In a separate glass of ice, add the sugar cube and bitters and stir it up, then, stir the rest of the ingredients and strain the mixture into the absinthe coated glass. Use a lemon peel for garnish.

I think Absinthe is an underrated spirit. It’s derived from various plants, pale green in color, and has a distinct taste. The flavor profile tastes of anise and herbs with a slight sweetness.

16. Mojito

  • 12 mint leaves
  • 2 slices of lime
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 ½ oz. rum
  • 4 ½ oz. lemon lime soda

First take your mint leaves, lime, and sugar and put them into a glass to crush them all up to get the juice. Be sure to crush the mint leaves really well. Add ice to the glass, then pour in the rum. Top with soda and stir. You may garnish the mojito with a lime wedge.

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17. Whiskey Sour

Cocktail drink whiskey sour at bar counter in the nightclub.

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • ¾ oz. lemon juice
  • ¾ oz. simple syrup

Add bourbon, lemon juice, and syrup to a shaker and shake for 20-30 seconds. Strain into a glass filled with ice and garnish with a cherry and orange slice.

18. Irish Coffee

Irish coffee in a bar placed on the table.

  • ¾ cup of hot coffee (average coffee mug size)
  • 1 ⅓ oz. Irish whiskey
  • 1 oz. cream
  • 1 tsp. sugar

One thing I love to do with an Irish coffee to make it even better is to use whipped cream instead of cream (or both if you choose). Then, top it off with some creme de menthe liqueur.

Irish coffee isn’t super popular all year round, at least not where I live. Maybe it’s more popular in areas where temperatures are lower throughout the year. But it’s a great after-dinner drink that you can be prepared to make for the occasion.

A study using 15 cities in the US looked at the most popular types of drinks with customers. The study found that the types of drinks ordered the most were low in sugar. Also, drinks with less alcoholic content were preferred.

According to the study, spicy mixers, cocktails, and hard seltzers were more popular too. Additionally, many people were drawn to drinks with fresh or interesting ingredients and opted for higher quality alcohol over budget liqueur brands.

The study predicted specialty bar drinks are expected to grow in popularity as well. Drinks such as:

  • Hard seltzers
  • Mocktails
  • CBD infused cocktails

As a bartender, it might be a good idea to try your hand at a few of these types of cocktails too, if you haven’t already.

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