classic cocktails

Are you new to the field of bartending? Whether you are starting your first part-time bartending gig, or entertaining guests at a cocktail party… If you are reading this, odds are you aren’t an expert.

Like any job, expertise, or skill – you face a “steep learning curve.” The experts in the field have spent years perfecting their craft and you may feel like you are far behind…

The truth is though, you don’t have to be an expert to become a bartender. Also, no one expects you to be a professional mixologist.

It’s like the saying, “If you know how to read, you know how to cook?” Well, bartending is not that far off.

You see, drinks build off one another behind the bar. By learning just a few drinks, you have the skills needed to learn many more. Daunting cocktails that are “complex” or “upscale” will soon be much easier to grasp.

Learn these classics and you’re half way there. These are drinks you can count on to get you started as a bartender.

Before you know it, you’ll be running the show. Here are five classic cocktails every bartender should know. It all starts here…

BONUS: Think you got what it takes to pass our 25-question cocktail quiz? Click here to put your knowledge to the test.

#1 – The Perfect Manhattan


  • 2 ounces Rye Whiskey
  • ½ ounce Sweet Vermouth
  • ½ ounce Dry Vermouth
  • 1 or 2 dashes of angostura bitters (optional)
  • 1 cup of ice cubes
  • Garnish:
    • 1 Maraschino Cherry

Bartender’s Note: A “perfect” Manhattan refers to the equal amounts of sweet & dry vermouth. (as shown in this recipe) A number of people simply enjoy a 2:1 ratio of Whiskey and sweet vermouth. Everyone’s got their own preference.


  • Stir the rye, vermouth and bitters will with cracked ice in mixing glass.
  • (Although some prefer to “shake” their manhattans, stirring is the traditional method)
  • Strain mix into a chilled glass
  • Garnish with maraschino cherry

This video gives you everything you need, along with a bit of history:

#2 – The Classic Martini


  • ½ ounce Dry Vermouth
  • 2 ½ ounce Gin
  • Garnishes:
    • Olive or
    • Lemon peel twist


  • Pour Vermouth and Gin into a mixing glass filled with ice cubes
  • Stir for 30 seconds
  • Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  • Garnish with the olive or lemon twist

The above recipe is a happy middle ground in complexity. Again, it’s all about the customers’ preference.

#3 – The Old Fashioned

When it comes to cocktails and whiskey, nothing compares to the Old Fashioned. This classic dates back far before the Martini and Manhattan.


  • ½ ounce Simple Syrup
    • Substitutes:
      • 1 teaspoon Sugar
      • 1 sugar cube
      • 1 teaspoon Brown Sugar
  • 2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 ounces Rye Whiskey or Bourbon
  • 1 splash Club Soda or Water (optional)
  • Garnishes:
    • 1 orange or lemon peel and/or
    • 1 maraschino cherry (optional)


  • Pour simple syrup, bitters, a quick splash of water/club-soda, and whiskey into glass
  • * (If using sugar/sugar cubes/brown sugar, crush the sugar with a wooden muddler or strong spoon)
  • Stir crushed sugar and ingredients BEFORE adding ice
  • Add a few large Ice cubes
  • Stir again and serve with garnishes of choice (lemon or orange peel is the traditional route)

#4 – The Margarita

Classic cocktails like the Margarita are irreplaceable. This one’s simple..


  • 1 ½ ounce to 2 ounce Tequila
  • 1 ounce Cointreu or triple sec
  • 1 ounce Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
  • Salt – for garnishing of glass (optional)


  • Combine tequila, cointreu, and squeezed lime juice into cocktail shaker.
  • Fill shaker with ice
  • Shake until thoroughly chilled
  • ** Run lime wedge around the OUTER rim of a serving glass and dip in salt (optional)
  • Fill glass with fresh ice and stain mixture into glass
  • Garnish with lime and serve!

**Bartenders Note:  You can serve this cocktail in three different ways; (1) Straight up – with no ice, (2) on the rocks – as shown in the video, or (3) frozen – with the use of a blender.

#5 – The Tom Collins


  • 2 ounces dry Gin
  • ¾ ounce Simple Syrup
    • Substitutes: 1 teaspoon Sugar
  • ¾ ounce Freshly Squeezed Lemon
  • 1 to 2 splashes Club Soda
  • Tom Collins (tall) glass
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnishes:
    • Orange wedge or
    • Lemon slice


**Bartenders Note: This is a cocktail that can be made IN the serving-glass. If you are using sugar instead of simple syrup, however, we then suggest the “shake and strain” method served in an ice-filled glass. Also, make sure club soda is cold.

  • In the serving glass… combine gin, simple syrup, and squeezed lemon juice
  • Add large ice cubes
  • Finish the mixture with the splashes of Club Soda without any shaking or stirring
  • Garnish with orange and serve!

Give yourself some credit.. You might not know it, but some bartenders cant even make one drink we just talked about.  Knowing these essentials now gives you an incredible advantage entering the workforce as a bartender.

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