There are classic cocktails that you order when out for drinks with friends, and then there are classic cocktails that you drink on a sunny day on the beach. Here, we will be looking at classic cocktails that can be ordered in bars or made at home to enjoy watching a movie or spending time with your loved ones.
Major classic cocktail families
Each of these classics falls into a cocktail family. There’s no definite definition of cocktail families; many authors have written books attempting to define exactly what constitutes each. Here are the major cocktail families we’ve found encompass most of the popular classic cocktails:
- Sour cocktails: Mixed drinks made of liquor, citrus, and sweetener. Includes Whiskey Sour, Margarita, Gimlet, Daiquiri, Sidecar.
- Spirit-forward cocktails: Cocktails made only of liquor with no non-alcoholic mixers. Includes Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Sazerac
- Highball cocktails: Cocktails that use base alcohol and a larger percentage of a mixer, like fruit juice or soda water. Includes Tom Collins, Moscow Mule, Americano, Gin, and Tonic.
- Champagne cocktails: Cocktails that use champagne. Includes French 75, Champagne Cocktail.
- Spritzes: Cocktails with a mixer, soda water, and champagne. Includes Aperol Spritz.
Popular Classic Cocktails to Try
The classic martini is made with gin and dry vermouth. It can also be made with vodka, but most people believe that the classic martini should only use gin.
A Manhattan is a classic cocktail made from bourbon or rye whiskey, sweet red vermouth, and bitters.
For those who enjoy a little of the citrus sweetness, this is a tried-and-true classic cocktail. Orange liqueur, cranberry juice, and lime make up the vodka component of this refreshing drink. Serve in chilled martini glasses.
Long Island iced tea
A Long Island iced tea is a classic cocktail made with vodka, gin, tequila, rum, and triple sec. It is served over ice in a highball glass and typically sweetened with cola or lemon-lime soda
The Margarita is a classic Mexican cocktail that was first created in 1938 by Carlos “El Charro” Herrera. It is made with tequila, orange liqueur (like triple sec or Cointreau), lime juice, and sweetened with sugar or simple syrup
The Tequila Sunrise was first created in the early 1970s by Bobby Heugel. The drink gets its name from the colors of the drink which are like a classic sunrise. The recipe is made with tequila, orange liqueur (like triple sec or Cointreau), and grenadine syrup
The White Russian was first said to have been invented in the 1950s by an American who visited Russia and noticed that they served vodka over ice cream. It is made with vodka, coffee liqueur (like Kahlua or Tia Maria), and cream
The Whiskey Sour is a classic cocktail made with whiskey, lemon juice, sugar, and egg white. It gets its name from the fact that it is served over ice in a sour glass
The Negroni is a classic cocktail made with gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. The Negroni was invented in Florence, Italy at Caffè Casoni
The Bloody Mary gets its name from the fact that it’s served over ice with lots of water and garnished with a celery stalk. It is a classic cocktail made with vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, lemon juice, and salt
The Moscow Mule was invented in 1941 at Chatham Bars Inn on Cape Cod by John Martin. The recipe is made with vodka, ginger beer (like Bundaberg), and lime juice
The Tom Collins is a classic highball cocktail made with gin, lemon juice, sugar, and carbonated water. It was invented in 1876 by John Collins at the Limmer’s Hotel in London
The Buck’s Fizz is a classic champagne cocktail that gets its name from the fact that it is served in a Buck’s glass. The recipe is made with champagne, orange juice, and grenadine syrup.
The Manhattan cocktail is made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. It was first created in the 1870s at a Manhattan club called The Players Club
The Mojito is a classic Cuban cocktail that has been around since the 18th century. It is made with rum, sugar/syrup (like Demerara or turbinado), fresh mint leaves, and lime juice
There are loads of Daiquiri variations but the classic cocktails are made with white rum, lime juice, and sugar. It is said to have been invented by an American mining engineer in Cuba in the early 1900s
The Aperol Spritz is a classic Italian cocktail that was created in Venice, Italy in 1919. It is made with Aperol (an orange-flavored liqueur), prosecco, and soda water.
More Classic Cocktails You Want to Try
Sex on the beach
The Sex on the Beach was invented in 1988 by three friends at TGI Friday’s in Florida. It is made with vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry juice, and orange juice
The Singapore sling was invented in 1915 by Ngiam Tong Boon at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. It is made with gin, cherry brandy, Benedictine, lime juice, and grenadine syrup
The Espresso Martini was created by Dick Bradsell at Fred’s Club in Soho, London in 1983. It is made with vodka, coffee liqueur (like Kahlua or Tia Maria), and espresso
New York sour
The New York Sour was created by Hugo Ensslin at the Hotel Theresa in 1917. The recipe is made with bourbon or rye whiskey, sweet red vermouth, and lemon juice
The Boulevardier was created by E. H. Taylor Jr in 1929 at the Manhattan Club, but it didn’t get its name until a classic cocktail book called “Old Waldorf Bar Days” published this recipe under the name “Boulevardier Cocktail.” It is made with bourbon or rye whiskey, Campari, and sweet vermouth
The Mimosa is a classic brunch cocktail that is made with champagne and orange juice. It was first created in the 1920s by Frank Meier at the Ritz-Carlton in Paris
The Bellini was invented in 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy. It is made with prosecco and peach puree
Mix one part Mescal or tequila, three parts fresh grapefruit juice, two parts lime juice, and one part club soda in a large mixing glass. Sugar and salt are optional; however, the cocktail is better without them! The Paloma drink is popular in Mexico. It’s fizzy thanks to the club soda, sweet due to the grapefruit juice.
The classic Mint Julep is made with bourbon, mint leaves, and sugar syrup. It was said to be invented in the mid-18th century by a horseman who wanted a way to keep his whiskey drink cold while he raced his horses at Churchill Downs in Louisville during hot summer days
The Mai Tai was created by Victor J. Bergeron in 1944 at his restaurant, Trader Vic’s in Oakland, California. It is made with rum and orange curacao liqueur (like Grand Marnier) and orgeat syrup (almond-flavored syrup that can be found online and in good alcohol stockists)
The classic cocktail Sidecar was created by Harry MacElhone, the barman of Buck’s Club in Paris. It is made with brandy or cognac, triple sec (like Cointreau), and lemon juice.
Enjoy those classic cocktails
Classic cocktails never go out of style. Whether you’re looking for a drink to enjoy during happy hour or something to order at your favorite brunch spot, there’s sure to be a classic cocktail that fits the bill. This roundup features some of the most popular classic cocktails, so be sure to try them all!