New Bartenders Need Know Less Than 100 Cocktail Recipes
Here we go – the 100 most popular and common cocktail recipes and shooters. Don’t sweat over this! Once you go over them a few times you’ll start to get the hang of it.
Download my “Cheat Sheet” and start studying. It’ won’t take you long at all to master this list.
We’re going to assume that the bar pours 1 ½ ounces for regular drinks/cocktails. 2 ounces for “on the rocks,” and 2 ½ ounces for Martinis and Manhattan’s and similar drinks.
If this differs on any of the cocktails below – I’ll point it out. Keep it simple. All bars are different, and it depends on what the bar owner dictates.
There is one more thing that I want you to be aware of. Many bars (and bartenders) will make slight variations of many of these drinks. There is certainly nothing wrong with this. As long as you have the basic ingredients down – it’s more than enough to satisfy the person interviewing you. Remember – you are inexperienced, the interviewer’s knows this, and their expectations of your drink knowledge is probably rather low.
Popular Vodka Drinks
Screwdriver, Cape Cod, Greyhound, Salty Dog (Vodka, One Juice)
Highball Glass. Add orange, cranberry, or grapefruit juice. No Garnish, except Cape Cod gets a lime squeeze. Salty Dog: It’s simply a Greyhound with a salted rim. Many bartenders throw a cherry in there.
Californian, Bay Breeze, Sea Breeze, Madres (Vodka, Two Juices)
Highball glass. In order, related to above, orange/grapefruit, cranberry/pineapple, cranberry/grapefruit, cranberry/orange. Feel free to add a cherry.
Vodka, Tom, Rum, John Collins (Liquor, Sweet ‘n Sour, Plain Soda, cherry/lime)
Tall Collins glass. Vodka, Gin, Rum, or Whiskey. Add Sweet ‘n Sour, splash of soda, lime wedge and cherry. You’ll probably never make a John Collins.
Bloody Mary (Vodka, Bloody Mary Mix, Lime/Celery)
Tall or specialty glass. Vodka, Bloody Mary mix, lime wedge, celery. Tequila (Bloody Maria), is also popular instead of vodka. Most bars will have their own special recipe (if not using a bottled mix), but it’s more common for a bartender to have his own specialty. I love horseradish and beef bullion in mine. Mix from scratch: Simple, as it’s just tomato juice, salt and pepper, Tabasco, and Worcestershire. There are so many recipes – some include celery salt, lemon juice, beef bouillon, garlic, herbs, spices, horseradish, etc. Stick with the basics. At one bar I worked at, we garnished them with a stick of beef jerky and a large cocktail shrimp. The “Surf and Turf Mary.” $12.95 – and we sold a ton of them. And, yes, it was my idea.
Cosmopolitan (Vodka, Triple Sec, Cranberry Juice, Lime or Cherry)
Very popular. Cocktail or martini glass. Vodka, Triple Sec, Cranberry. Shake or stir with ice. Some bars and/or customers want it blended. Lime wedge, but customer may want a cherry. Two liquors, so the bar will probably charge the same as a Martini or Manhattan.
Lemon Drop (Vodka, Triple Sec, Sweet ‘n Sour, Lemon Wedge or Wheel)
Cocktail/Martini glass. Some like a sugared rim. Stir or shake and pour. Sometimes blended. Many times bartenders will make a batch of these and pour into “Shooters.”
Black/White Russian (Vodka, Kahlua, Milk or Cream)
Rocks glass with ice. 2 parts Vodka to one part Kahlua. Add cream/milk for “white.” About 2 ounces total. Price bump. Some people order with a premium vodka and you have to bump the price – a lot.
Godmother (Vodka, Amaretto, Cherry)
Rocks glass with ice. 1 Ounce each. Price Bump.
Gimlet (Vodka, Lime Juice, Lime Wedge)
Rocks glass. Some want it chilled and “Up.” Simply vodka and a splash or two of lime juice. Garnish with lime wedge. Some customers will ask for gin – ask them to make sure! On the rocks price.
Moscow Mule (Vodka, Ginger Beer, Lime Juice, 2 or 3 Lime Wedges)
Vodka, ginger beer, lime juice. Crushed ice. Serve in copper mug with lime wedges. Probably a “Specialty” drink price. Tons of variations.
Vodka (or gin, or flavored), splash Dry Vermouth. About 5 or 6 to 1 Vodka to Vermouth. Many bartenders are skipping the vermouth. Shake/Stir/On the Rocks. Garnish with olive. Dirty: add olive juice. Only difference is that Gibson is garnished with a cocktail onion. You’ll probably never get a call for a Gibson – but it’s nice to know the difference! 2 ½ Ounces.
*You’re going to add 100 drink recipes to your arsenal by reading this carefully! You can go crazy with martinis – but recipes are easy because customers will “call” the flavoring liquor. On almost all martinis, generally speaking, start with vodka, eliminate the vermouth, and add the flavored liquor. Shake or stir into a chilled (preferably) glass. It all depends upon what the bar carries. Many flavored schnapps and brandies go with vodka. So do mixers: grenadine, pomegranate juice, pineapple/cranberry/orange juice. Just garnish with something that makes sense – usually NOT an olive!
Side Note: Always remember that if you’re adding an additional liquor to the drink – the price goes up! Follow bar pricing policy.
*You will add another 100 drink recipes to your tally by doing the same thing with Margaritas and Daiquiri’s!
Sex on the Beach (Vodka, Peach Schnapps, OJ, Cranberry, Lime or Cherry)
Highball, but may be specialty glass. Vodka, Peach Schnapps, OJ, Cranberry, some bartenders add Crème de Cassis. 2 Ounces total. May be blended and served in a cocktail glass. Sometimes served as “Shooters.”
Long Island Iced Tea (Vodka, Gin, Rum, Triple Sec, Tequila, Sweet ‘n Sour, Coke, Lemon Wedge)
Tall glass, but may be a specialty glass like a “Poco Grande.” Clear liquors: Vodka, Gin, Rum, Triple Sec. ½ oz each. Purists claim tequila also belongs here. Sweet ‘n Sour, splash of coke. Lemon wedge.
Kamikaze (Vodka, Triple Sec, Lime Juice)
Cocktail glass. Chill it, and serve “Up.” Some like it on the rocks. 3 – 1 vodka to lime juice. Very much like a gimlet. Many bars cut back on the ingredients and serve as “shooters.” Some add sweet ‘n sour.
Martini (Gin, Dry Vermouth, Olive)
Gin, Dry Vermouth. Just like a vodka martini – only with gin. Always ask the customer if they want vodka or gin – 90% will say vodka. Many customers will ask for a twist of lemon instead of an olive. 2 ½ Ounces.
Gimlet (Gin, Lime Juice, Lime Wedge)
Same as a vodka gimlet, only gin. Rocks glass. Gin, lime juice, lime wedge. Customer may call for it “up” like a martini. No problem. On the rocks price.
Singapore Sling (Gin, Cherry Brandy, Benedictine, Lime Juice, Bitters, Plain Soda, Cherry)
Tall glass. Gin, cherry brandy, Benedictine, lime juice, splash of soda, a few drops of bitters. The only reason I added this drink to the list (I think I’ve made maybe 5 of these in my entire career), is that I was asked, no less than three times, the ingredients for this drink in job interviews. I have no idea why a bar manger would ask you to recite this drink recipe. I wouldn’t. 2 Ounces total.
Gin and Juice (Gin, Grapefruit Juice)
Highball. I’m surprised at the number of people who order a drink this way. They usually mean gin and grapefruit juice – but you better ask them. A “Greyhound” with gin instead of vodka. No garnish. 1 ½ Ounces – regular price.
Fizzes (Basically, a Tom Collins with Egg Whites)
Tall or specialty glass. Old school. Gin, usually sweet ‘n sour, soda, maybe egg whites. I worked at only one bar that specialized in these types of drinks. Just think gin and something fizzy or frothy. Usually some kind of lemon flavoring, sugar/simple syrup, and a splash of soda. Shake it up and add the soda last. You could probably make a Tom Collins and they wouldn’t know the difference.
Negroni (Gin, Campari, Sweet Vermouth, Orange Peel)
Stir it up and pour over ice. Easy. 1 Ounce each – not a lot of Sweet Vermouth. Martini price.
Mojito (Rum, Sugar, Lime Juice, Soda, Mint)
Tall glass or specialty. White rum, sugar, lime juice, soda water, mint. Garnish with mint leaves. Many bartenders “cheat” and simply make a “Collins” with rum. Many variations – go with the house recipe. Ernest Hemingway helped make this drink popular. Tons of variations.
Cuba Libra (Rum, Coke, Lime Wedge)
Tall glass. Rum and coke with a lime wedge. Name means “Free Cuba!” You’ll make a lot of these.
Mai Tai (2 types of rum, Triple Sec, Lime Juice, Pineapple Juice)
Tall or specialty glass. Light or dark rum. Or both. Some use Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum. Triple sec (or any orange liqueur), orgeat syrup (almonds, sugar, rose or orange flower water). Really, garnish with any combination of fruit you have on hand – cherries, orange slice, pineapple wedge, lime. Interestingly, many of your customers will think that pineapple juice goes in this drink – which almost all bartenders use instead of the orgeat syrup. 2 Ounces total.
Daiquiri (Rum, Sweet ‘n Sour, Lime)
You better know this one. Tall or specialty glass – or blended into a cocktail glass. Rum, lime juice and sugar is the very simple original recipe. These days, most bartenders are just blending up rum and sweet ‘n sour. Garnish with a cherry or lime. Another drink that you can go crazy on – just like martinis and margaritas. Simply add some sort of flavored liquor or mixer – and you just increased your drink knowledge by 100!
Zombie (4 types of Rum, Lime, Lemon, Pineapple Juice, Grenadine, Cherry)
Tall or specialty glass. White, dark, spiced, AND 151 rum. Pineapple juice, lime juice, lemon juice (Or sweet ‘n sour), Grenadine. So many variations of this drink, and many bars have their own. It’s kind of like a Long Island Iced Tea in that you add a bunch of booze and charge a ton. Customers believe they are getting a strong drink, and they are, and the bar can charge a hefty price for it. You can’t go wrong with just 2 or 3 types of rum, pineapple juice, grenadine for color and any kind of garnish. 2 Ounces total.
Pina Colada (Rum, Pina Colada Mix, Cherry, Maybe a Pineapple Wedge)
Tall or specialty glass. Rum, Pineapple juice, coconut juice. Garnish with cherry and pineapple wedge if the bar carries it. Most bars will have a Pina Colada mix.
Hurricane (2 Types of Rum, OJ, Passion Fruit, Lime Juice, Grenadine, Cherry)
Tall or specialty glass. Light and dark rum. Passion fruit syrup, OJ, lime juice, grenadine. Garnish with cherry and orange slice. Most bars do not have passion fruit and will use pineapple juice. By the way, for fruity exotic drinks, adding pineapple juice to anything will pass the test with most customers – they’re usually clueless as to what, exactly, they’re drinking. 2 Ounces total.
Watermelon (Rum, Peach Schnapps, Simple Syrup, Lemon Juice, Fresh Watermelon)
So many variations of this. Cut down the ingredients and make shooters. Otherwise, blend it up and serve in cocktail/martini glass. Some use Watermelon Schnapps or Midori Melon Liqueur.
Jolly Rancher (Apple Vodka, Peach Schnapps, Cranberry Juice)
Another shooter like the Watermelon above – most of the time.
Whiskey and/or Bourbon Drinks
A general rule about whiskey: Many people enjoy their whiskey or bourbon straight up or on the rocks. It’s “sippin” stuff. You will, however, sell a lot of whiskey cokes. There’s really not a whole lot of whiskey “Cocktails” that you’re going to run across. “Whiskey” includes American Whiskey, Canadian Whiskey, Scotch Whiskey, Irish Whiskey, Bourbon (which is a whiskey), and Rye Whiskey. Japanese Whiskey is also becoming popular. Whiskey, and whiskey cocktail recipes are easy because almost all people will “Call” the brand.
Manhattan (Bourbon, Sweet Vermouth, Dash Bitters, Cherry)
Cocktail/Martini or rocks glass. Original recipe called for Rye Whiskey. These days, it can be any kind of whiskey – customer will call it, otherwise, I always used bourbon. Add about ½ ounce Sweet Vermouth and a dash of bitters. Serve “up” like in a Martini glass. Shake or stir. Add a cherry. 2 ½ Ounces.
Side Note: Manhattans, like Martinis have three “styles.” Can be regular (sweet) as shown above or Dry (use Dry Vermouth), or Perfect (use both dry and sweet vermouth). Cherry – Olive – Lemon Twist garnishes for the different types.
Old Fashioned (Bourbon, Sugar Cube, Water, Bitters, Orange Peel)
Rocks glass, but can be “Up.” Just a teaspoon of water. 2 ½ Ounces. Some bartenders insist on only one ice cube. Old Fashioned’s and Manhattans are very similar, and customers get mixed up. The lines have crossed. It got so I would ask people exactly what they wanted.
Whiskey Sour (Whiskey, Sweet ‘n Sour, Cherry)
Cocktail/Martini glass. Any kind of whiskey and Sweet ‘n Sour. Blend it up with ice. Some like it on the rocks. You could also make this with any kind of whiskey. And Vodka, Gin, Rum, etc.
Lynchburg Lemonade (Jack Daniels, Triple Sec, Sweet n’ Sour, 7-Up, Lemon Wedge)
Build in a tall or specialty glass like a Long Island. Simple. 2 ounces total.
Irish Coffee (Irish Whiskey, Coffee, Whipped Cream)
Whiskey and coffee – that’s it. You can use any kind of whiskey. Actually, you’ll get calls for all kinds of different liquors and coffee. Give them what they want. Ask if they want whipped cream. There’s always a price bump for coffee drinks.
Boilermaker (Whiskey, Beer)
“Give me a shot and a beer!” That’s all it is. NEVER automatically drop the shot of whiskey into the beer – let the customer do it! Most just slam the shot and then sip the beer. Some customers will slam the entire drink. Keep an eye on those guys!
Rusty Nail (Scotch, Drambuie, Lemon Twist)
Rocks glass. Scotch, Drambuie (A Scotch-based liqueur). About 2 – 1 Scotch to Drambuie. Simple. Add a twist, charge a lot!
Rob Roy (Scotch, Sweet Vermouth, Bitters, Cherry)
A Scotch Manhattan
Godfather (Scotch, Amaretto)
Rocks glass. 1 Ounce each. About 2 – 1 Scotch to Amaretto. Some bartenders throw in a cherry.
Brandy Alexander (Brandy, Crème de Cacao, Cream, Nutmeg)
A dessert cocktail. Blend it up like a sour drink. Original recipe calls for white crème de cacao, but most bartenders use dark. Grate some nutmeg on top if the bar carries it.
Sidecar (Brandy, Triple Sec, Sweet n’ Sour, Cherry or lemon slice)
Cocktail glass. Blend it up and rim the glass with sugar. Original recipe calls for lemon juice, but like almost all drinks requiring that – bartenders use sweet ‘n Sour.
Margarita (Tequila, Triple Sec, Sweet ‘n Sour, Lime Wedge, Salt)
Margarita glass. Many order it on the rocks or frozen. Salt the rim. You can flavor these things with almost anything. Bars that specialize in Margarita’s may pour a bit heavier than usual – and charge more.
Tequila Sour (Tequila, Sweet ‘n Sour, Cherry and Lime Wedge)
Just like any other sour. Blended or on the rocks.
Tequila Sunrise (Tequila, OJ, Grenadine, Lime and Cherry)
Tall glass with ice. Float the grenadine. Easy.
Cadillac Margarita (1800 Tequila, Cointreau, Sweet n’ Sour, Lime Wedge)
I know, it’s just a “Call” Margarita – but it’s upscale. However, you’ll probably sell a lot of these. Charge a ton!
Tequila Maria (Tequila, Bloody Mary Mix, Celery, Lime Wedge)
Some customers simple call out “Bloody Maria.” Same thing as a regular Bloody Mary – only Tequila.
Additional Popular Drinks
Amaretto Sour (Amaretto, Sweet n’ Sour, Cherry)
Make it like any other sour. Blended or on the rocks. Purists will insist on egg white.
B52 (Kahlua, Bailey’s, Grand Marnier)
On the rocks or chilled “up.” The original was layered in a cordial glass. About 2/3 ounce each liquor. This drink, and many other drinks made with Kahlua, will sometimes substitute with Coffee Liqueur.
Mudslide (Vodka, Kahlua, Bailey’s)
Very much like a B52, above. Many like it frozen, and some will insist on ice cream. Just remember the ingredients and make it the way the bar/customer wants you to make it.
Mimosa (Champagne, OJ)
Technically not a cocktail, but you’re going to make a lot of these. About half each, and use a champagne flute.
Hot Toddy (Whiskey, hot water, Lemon Juice, Honey, Lemon Wedge)
The original was made with whiskey, but I’ve found that most people want brandy. Tons of variations. Really, a Hot Toddy can be any kind of liquor with hot water – so ask your customer to be specific. Garnishes are all over the place. Nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon twists and squeezes, etc.
Slippery Nipple (Sambuca, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Cherry)
Sometimes layered. Or, in a cocktail glass. About half and half on the liquor. Sambuca, layer or float the Bailey’s, drop in a cherry. Simple.
Midori Sour (Midori Liqueur, Sweet ‘n Sour, Cherry)
Cocktail/Martini glass. Some bartenders add Triple Sec. Blend it up. Some like a sugared rim.
Melon Ball (Vodka, Melon Liqueur, Pineapple Juice or OJ,)
Usually a shooter. But many like it as a “Sour” drink. 2-liquor charge.
Jaeger Bomb (Jägermeister, Red Bull)
Cocktail/Martini glass. Blend it up. Some make it into shooters. Some in a regular highball. Customers will call Jägermeister with almost anything.
Blow Job (Kahlua, Bailey’s, Whipped Cream
Usually a shooter. Half and half on the liquor. Whipped cream on top. You’ll never get asked this recipe in a job interview!
Alabama Slammer (Amaretto, Sloe Gin, Southern Comfort, OJ)
Usually a shooter, but some like it on the rocks or blended. 1/3 each on the liquors.
Closing Thoughts On Cocktail Recipes
Do a simple online search for the most popular cocktail drinks. First in an “incognito” window, and then another search in your normal browser so Chrome or Firefox, or whatever, will pick up on your location. You’ll find many of the drinks that I listed above.
What’s interesting here, is that many drinks on those lists you’ll never make. In fact, there’s a lot of drinks listed online that I have never heard of. It has a lot to do with what area of the country you are in.
So, if this is the case, why would you spend so much time memorizing all of those drinks – when you will never get a call for them? Stick to the basics! The interviewer (most, that is), will ask you a BASIC drink recipe – nothing fancy.
Remember that the person interviewing you knows that you have no experience behind the bar! He’s not going to ask you the recipe for some obscure drink that even he has never made.
If the interviewer is going to ask you about a couple of drink recipes, I’m about 99% sure it will be the recipe of one of the drinks I have listed. Don’t sweat drink recipes!
Check out Section 20 – Resources, for downloadable “Cheat Sheets” on Cocktail Recipes.