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8 Classic Cocktails Every Budding Bartender Should Know


If you’re looking to hone your bartending skills, either professionally or just in the comfort of your own home, there are a few cocktails that you should know how to make at the drop of a hat. And being a bartender involves remembering cocktail ingredients, it also means understanding the nature of different drinks, employing the right garnishes and choosing the right glassware for the occasion.

Knowing a selection of classic cocktails will give you the tools to whip up a delicious drink for and occasion Here's a guide to the top 8 cocktails every beginner should learn how to make:

1. Daiquiri

Dating back to 1898, this cocktail was supposedly named after the Cuban town where it was created. It’s invention has been attributed to Jennings Cox, an American Mining Engineer who believed that the mixture of lime and alcohol would protect his workers from getting Spanish Flu. Back then the cocktail was usually shaken, although today it’s made with blended ice.

Origin: Created by Jennings Cox during the Spanish-American war.

Ingredients: 15 ml white rum, 15 ml simple syrup, 30 ml lime juice, ice cubes.

Preferred Glass: Cocktail glass

Garnish: Lime wedge or twisted lime peel.

2. Old Fashioned

Truly where it all started. When the term ‘cocktail’ was first used in print back in 1806, it referred to a mixture of spirits, sugar and bitters – exactly the combination that became the Old Fashioned. Typically made with Bourbon or Rye whisky, it can also be made with other spirits. It’s literally the foundation of cocktail culture and should be a part of every budding mixologist’s arsenal.

Origin: Invented by James E. Pepper in 1880.

Ingredients: 60 ml bourbon or rye, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, 1 sugar cube, ice cubes, a few dashes of water.

Preferred Glass: Old fashioned glass

Garnish: Cherry and orange peel.

3. Moscow Mule

Vodka may be a bar staple today but back in 1940s America, it was still a novelty. The Moscow Mule is thought to be the creation of an enterprising lady called Sophie Berezinsky who owned a copper factory and moved to the US with 2000 copper mugs and needed a way to sell them. She then met John Martin and Jack Morgan, owners of the Smirnoff Vodka Distillery, and together they created the Moscow Mule, a vodka-based drink served in a copper mug which served both parties well.

Origin: Created by Sophie Berezinsky in 1941.

Ingredients: 60 ml vodka, 15 ml lime juice, 180 ml ginger beer, ice cubes.

Preferred Glass: Copper-plated Moscow Mule mug

Garnish: Lime wedge.

4. Negroni

As with so many great things in the culinary world, the Negroi was born by a happy accident. It was in 1919, at the Caffe Casoni in Florence, Italy that Count Camillo Negroni requested his favourite cocktail, The Americano, but asked the bartender Fosco Scarselli to add something for more of a kick. Scarselli improvised and added gin instead of the regular soda and replaced the usual lemon garnish with an orange slice to signify the birth of this new beverage.

Origin: Invented in Florence, Italy, in 1919.

Ingredients: 30 ml gin, 30 ml Campari, 30 ml sweet red vermouth.

Preferred Glass: Old fashioned glass

Garnish: Orange twist.

5. Mojito

This bubbly Cuban refresher has been around so long that its true origins can’t be determined. Some say it was created by African slaves working in the sugarcane field while others believe explorers to Cuba brought the idea with them. Wherever it came from, it quickly rose to fame and became a favourite in Cuba and beyond.

Origin: Uncertain, popularised in Havana, Cuba, in the 1900s.

Ingredients: 60 ml white rum, 15 ml lime juice, 5 ml sugar, 3 mint leaves, cracked ice, club soda, 15 ml simple syrup.

Preferred Glass: Collins glass

Garnish: Lime wedge and mint sprig.

6. Whiskey Sour

The first official mention of this cocktail was in the 1872 cocktail bible  Jerry Thomas Bartender’s Guide. But it’s believed that seamen in the British Navy had been drinking a similar cocktail for many years before that since on long sea voyages, spirits were usually a safer option than water to drink. It’s thought that Vice Admiral Edward Vernon was the first to suggest mixing rum with lime or lemon to combat scurvy.

Origin: Created by Vice Admiral Edward Vernon in the 1700s.

Ingredients: 60 ml bourbon, 22 ml lemon juice, 22 ml simple syrup, 15 ml egg white (optional).

Preferred Glass: Old fashioned glass 

Garnish: Orange slice and cherry.

7. Bloody Mary

Though most-often touted as a hangover cure, this cocktail has a bevy of followers who love the cocktail for its simplicity. It began in Paris in the 1920s when an enterprising bartender had a surplus of tomato juice and vodka and decided to create something new. Today, it can be found on cocktail menus all over the world.

Origin: Invented by Fernand Petiot in 1921.

Ingredients: 5 ml salt, lime wedge, 120 ml tomato juice, 2 dashes Tabasco sauce, 10 ml horseradish, 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce, ice cubes.

Preferred Glass: Highball glass 

Garnish: Celery stalk, lime wedge, olive, and red pepper.

8. Margarita

It may be a simple combination of tequila and citrus, but its origins are heavily debated. The Mexican spirit was quickly gaining popularity in the United States in the 19th century, and it’s thought that the Margarita is an evolution of the classic Daisy cocktail which used to be made with brandy (Margarita translates to ‘daisy’ in English). Today it comes in a host of flavours but the classic citrus flavours are still the default.

Origin: Unknown, but popular in America and Mexico.

Ingredients: 60 ml tequila, 30 ml lime juice, 30 ml orange liqueur, lime slice, salt, ice cubes.

Preferred Glass: Margarita glass (180-600 ml).

Garnish: Lime wedge.


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