If you consider yourself a true cocktail lover, chances are you’ve sipped a fair number of drinks in your lifetime already. But there’s no better way to develop a real appreciation for the art of cocktailing than by attempting to mix them yourself. Whether you fancy yourself a mix-master or not, you need to make these 17 cocktails at least once in your life.
17 Cocktails You Need to Make Before You Die
One of the absolute easiest cocktails any home bartender can learn how to make is the Old Fashioned. All its takes is whiskey, sugar, bitters and a bit of muddling, and you’ve mastered one of the oldest and most beloved drinks in existence. It’s a great recipe to have in your repertoire for any occasion and it can be easily altered by swapping out the whiskey base for something a little more unusual, like rum, mezcal or even Old Tom gin (one of our favorites).
Mastering the sweet, sour and all-around delightful Margarita is a great way to understand how to balance sweet and sour flavors—a skill that comes in handy for a number of cocktail recipes—but, more importantly, it’s a crowd pleaser.
Whether or not you’re drawn to whiskey cocktails, the Manhattan is just one of those recipes that every home cocktailian should know. The seemingly simple drink is a masterpiece that balances sweet vermouth with spicy rye, and demonstrates just how powerful a couple of dashes of bitters can be.
Yes, the Ramos Gin Fizz is delicious—but it’s also a monumental pain to make. From shaking (and shaking and shaking) this New Orleans classic (you’ll never need that Shakeweight again) to adding just the right amount of orange blossom water, getting first-hand experience with this difficult drink will help you understand why that brunchtime bartender gave you the evil eye for ordering it during a rush.
London Dry Gin
If there’s one classic tiki cocktail you should know how to make properly, it’s the popular but often misunderstood Mai Tai. While you could hack one together with a premade mix in less than a minute, that would be doing yourself—and cocktail history—a disservice. It doesn’t take that much more effort to buy a bottle of orgeat (or make your own) and make the yummy rummy drink from scratch.
Every year when winter rolls around, we extol the virtues of the Hot Toddy. There’s nothing quite like sipping one of these lemon, honey and clove-infused drinks in front of a flickering fire. If you’ve never witnessed its power to keep a cough at bay, it’s high time you found out what you’ve been missing.
Because your cocktail exploits shouldn’t only involve decades-old recipes, adding a modern classic to your cocktail making bucket list is a must. The Penicillin, which blends scotch, ginger and honey, was created by a New York bartender in 2005 and has, since then, inspired dozens of riffs and earned its status as a modern classic.
Winter parties practically beg for a rich and decadent large-batch cocktail, and a classic Eggnog is just the ticket. No store-bought carton of ‘Nog can compare to a homemade pitcher of the nutmeg-topped treat. Plus, once you master the original, you can start to play around with its many variations.
The perfect (and somewhat underrated) savory brunch drink for those unwilling to spend hours perfecting their Bloody Mary Mix, this easy-drinking beer-tail includes many of the same ingredients—tomato juice, salt, pepper, hot sauce, etc.—without all the work. Plus, it’s much more food friendly.
Ah, the beauty of the Italian aperitivo. No afternoon of al fresco sipping is complete without this fizzy, low-proof cocktail. The bitter amaro-spiked drink is proof that you don’t need hard liquor to make a fantastic drink.
Throwing ingredients in a shaker or glass isn’t the only way to craft a cocktail. Thanks to the technological advancements of the 20th century, the blender is also a fantastic tool for making drinks. Though many of the icy concoctions you order at bars tend to overdo it on the sugar, home bartenders can more readily control the balance of flavors in blended drinks. It’ll come in handy the next time you throw a backyard shindig in 100-degree weather.
Topped with Champagne and spiked with an additional boost of either gin or Cognac, the French 75 is guaranteed to make you feel classy as hell. Sophisticated drinkers have been nursing these since the dawn of boozy times, so it’s only natural for you to continue the tradition.
Like the Manhattan, the Martini may seem like an easy mix of liquor, vermouth and bitters, but it’s proven time and again that mastering it at home isn’t as easy as it seems. Be sure to have fresh vermouth on hand when you do make the attempt, and experiment with different amounts of dry vermouth to find your perfect Martini mix.
No more difficult than the Old Fashioned—and another great example of how to use amaro in cocktails—the equal parts Negroni is one of the most popular drinks of the moment. Make one of these and you’ll know how to mix the whole family of Negroni drinks, including the Boulevardier, the Negroni Spagliato and the Americano.
Though some may argue that the only coconut drink you need to learn how to make is the Piña Colada, we beg to differ. This 1970s cocktail beautifully blends the best flavors of summer: coconut, pineapple and, of course, rum. With the addition of orange juice and nutmeg, it’s become such a staple tropical drink that you’ll find it at just about every bar in the Caribbean. The best part is it’s not excessively coconut-flavored, so even those who aren’t fans of the coco-heavy Colada can find a tropical escape with just a sip.
Cream of Coconut
If you’ve made it this far in life without ever making a Jello shot, you’ve been missing out big time. You could dismiss the wiggly shooter as something only a college kid should drink (eat? slurp?), but that ignores just how darn delicious and fun they are. Plus, you can channel some of your favorite cocktails in these one-ounce jigglers, including the extra tasty Sex on the Beach and Margarita.
Any Clear Spirit
If you don’t live in a dorm room, it might not make a lot of sense to make a big batch of boozy, sugary Jungle Juice—but who cares? This is one of those drinks that just about everyone should try at least once and (believe us) there’s an art to making it well. It’s just the thing for a throwback party.