We’ve certainly mixed up our share of passionfruit caipirinhas, elderflower cosmopolitans and pineapple margaritas to understand there is a place for those types of drinks. Yet, when a single classic cocktail recipe spawns such a riot of variations, it’s only because the original drink was truly great from the start.
The following are the classic cocktails from which have come literally dozens of spin-offs and variations. Commit these easy recipes to memory and you’ll be set behind a bar for life.
Just as important as learning how to make the drink is knowing which glass to select for serving it! Use a short tumbler (known as low-ball or old-fashioned glass) for a margarita on the rocks, caipirinha, or old-fashioned; select a martini glass for a martini served straight up or a Cosmopolitan, and a highball glass for a mojito or Moscow Mule (if you don’t have the traditional copper mug).
James Bond would scoff at the multitude of cocktails that now place themselves in the martini category. Shaken or stirred? Well, that one nuance of the classic that’s always up to you.
This national drink of Brazil is made with a rum known as cachaça, which is distilled from fresh sugarcane juice. If you can’t find cachaça, use light rum instead.
If any one drink can be credited for the resurgence of the cocktail in recent years, it’s the Cosmopolitan, which appeared in bars across the country in the mid-1990s and has since become the most popular new drink to come along since the martini.
Made with light rum, lime juice, fresh muddled mint and sparkling water, the mojito is particularly refreshing on a hot day. If you don’t have sugar cubes on hand, you can use substitute a spoonful of superfine sugar or a splash of simple syrup.