It seems like there is a new cocktail creation every five minutes. New spirits, bitters and techniques dot the cocktail landscape, catching the enthusiast’s attention and confusing the newcomer. If you are an at-home bartender, there are a few classic cocktails that you must know how to make yourself. These classics are based not only on their merit but also on technique. From proper muddling to dry shaking, these five classics are definitely a must know.
Before the era of sweet, easy to drink cocktails that just had “–tini” hooked on the end of it, a martini meant a gin martini. This classic uses gin, a healthy dose of dry Vermouth and orange bitters. This cocktail is stirred rather than shaken to keep a lush oily texture and finished with a twist of lemon. Martinis are all about personal preferences. Variations such as burnt (scotch rinsed), dirty (the addition of olive brine), or dry (little vermouth), shaken or stirred, gin or vodka, olives or lemon, it all comes down to what you enjoy most. Experiment with your proportions and discover the taste difference.
1½ oz Gin
¾ oz Dry Vermouth
2-3 dashes orange bitters
1. Stir until with ice until desired dilution and temperature is reached. The easiest way to do this is to simply taste.
2. Strain into martini glass.
3. Garnish with a twist of lemon.
Probably one of the most famous tropical cocktails and well known as a beach or poolside treat. This cocktail needs muddled ingredients. The process uses a tool like a pestle to release flavour and essential oils, but when muddling citrus, avoid the rind as it produces a bitter flavour, and focus on the pulp. Herbs, like mint, can become over-extracted and bitter when over-muddled. I recommend simply smacking the mint in your hand, or expressing oils, before placing it in your drink.
2 oz Rum, I prefer to use a spiced rum
½ lime, chopped
handful of mint, with oils expressed
1 oz simple syrup
1. Build directly in the glass by adding the chopped lime and sugar and muddling to release the lime juice. Fill your glass half way with ice, add your rum and smack your mint, stir with a bar spoon.
2. Top with more ice and finally soda. Stir and enjoy.
3. Garnish: Mint sprig and lime wheel
If you were to hit up a high-volume bartender and ask for a whiskey sour, there is a chance that you would receive “Bar Lime” an artificial “lime” juice with a shot of whiskey. The classic sour is a little more complex: Whiskey, fresh lemon, simple syrup, egg white and bitters.
Why is it important to know how to make a sour? Egg. When making a sour, it is important to dry shake (shaking before the addition of ice) to emulsify the egg white.
This creates a velvety smooth froth essential to a sour. The recipe below is a classic whiskey sour but there are many variations.
2 oz Whisky (Canadian, Bourbon, Irish or even Scotch Whisk(e)y)
5 oz fresh lemon juice
¾ oz simple syrup
3-4 dashes aromatic bitters
1 fresh egg white
1. Add all ingredients into a shaker tin. If you don’t have a tin on tin shaker, you can use a mason jar with a sealable lid. Dry shake vigorously to emulsify the egg white.
2. Add ice and shake again. Strain.
3. Garnish: Lemon wedge or wheel
Perhaps the first drink labelled as a cocktail, it contains only four ingredients: sugar, spirit, water, and bitters. While many bartenders have their own version, the old fashion is the definition of a ‘cocktail’, and it is important to know how to make one. Like any cocktail, you can substitute different spirits, bitters, or sugar to create your own variation. Below is a basic recipe using the classic ingredients.
2 oz Rye whisky
1 brown sugar cube
5-6 heavy dashes Aromatic Bitters
Orange & Brandied Cherry Garnish
1. Directly in the glass, place sugar cube and dash the bitters over the cube to soak the sugar with bitters. Muddle the sugar until smooth. Add whisky. Stir well. The more you stir before you add the ice, the better the three ingredients will be combined.
2. Add ice, stir well, and repeat. Make sure to taste your cocktail, from here you may decide that it needs more bitters, dilution, or ice.
3. Garnish: Orange rind, with oils expressed and cherry
The classic Margarita, created in the United States, is possibly one of the most desired cocktails and it’s not hard to see why. Though some people either love or hate tequila, the addition of Cointreau and fresh lime creates a refreshing, easy to drink cocktail. There any many variations to this classic and it’s always fun to try new things.
1½ oz Blanco Tequila
½ oz Cointreau
1 oz Fresh lime juice
1 oz agave syrup 1:1
1. Rim your glass using a lime then follow with salt. The lime will help the salt stay on the glass.
2. In a shaker combine all ingredients and shake well. Strain over fresh ice into your glass.
3. Garnish: Lime wheel