5 Must Know Cocktails for Beginner Bartenders

If you've ever worked in a bar before, you understand that the people who order these cocktails, have made it their lifestyle. The people like what they like, and they likely order one of these every time they go out. I'm looking at you "Old Fashioned with a big cube" drinkers.
This is why it is crucial to master these basic cocktail recipes, to wow your guests over a cocktail that could not be simpler to make.
#1 - The Old Fashioned
This is really a trick question, because a long standing argument amongst bartenders everywhere is how to actually make the "perfect" old fashioned. The bottom line is that you will need:
Old Fashioned Recipe
2 oz of bourbon (or rye if you're feeling spicy)
2-3 dashes of angostura bitters (orange bitters can be nice too)
Sugar - either 1/4 oz of strong simple syrup, or a sugar cube (simple syrup is faster if it's already prepared)
Ice (regular rocks or a big cube are both fine)
Your garnish MUST include an orange in some fashion, whether this be a rind or a slice. Some people will also add a Luxardo cherry to the garnish as well.
How to make an old fashioned:
Stir together the bourbon, bitters, and simple syrup, and then pour over ice. That's it!
If you're using a sugar cube, you can put it into the glass first and muddle it with the bitters before adding the liquor. This method often leads to grainy sugar in the glass, so it is not a preferred method, though it is considered to be more traditional.
#2 - The Martini
two martinis with olives in them
A classic if there ever was one. Like Audrey Hepburn...or Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.
Martini Recipe:
2.5 oz of gin or vodka
1/2 oz of dry vermouth
*Olive garnish
How to make a martini:
  1. Pour liquor, vermouth, and olive juice into a shaker tin with ice.
  2. Shake or stir for 10-12 seconds.
  3. Strain cocktail into a martini glass.
  4. Garnish with olive
Important Martini Terminology
"I want my martini dirty" = with olive juice in the drink
"With a twist" = zest a little strip of lemon peel over the drink in place of the olive
"Make it extra dry" = very little vermouth
"Shaken" = build the drink in the shaker with ice, shake, and strain into the glass
"Stirred" = build the drink in the shaker, use your cocktail spoon to stir it in the shaker for 10 seconds in each direction
"Served Up" = the cocktail should be chilled and served without ice (all martinis should be served this way unless your guest specifically asks for rocks in their glass)
"Gibson" = traditionally, a martini made with gin and a bar olive as a garnish. Many people will order it with vodka, so generally, "Gibson" means "with onion instead of olive".
#3 - Manhattan
Like an old fashioned, but different.
manhattan cocktail
Manhattan Recipe:
2 oz bourbon or rye whiskey
1 oz sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
How to make a Manhattan
  1. Fill a mixing glass with ice.
  2. Add bourbon or rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters to the mixing glass.
  3. Stir well with a long spoon until the ingredients are well combined and chilled.
  4. Strain into a chilled Manhattan glass.
  5. Garnish with a cherry (Luxardo is always a good option)
This drink will be served up like a martini, with no ice. But you will need ice to chill the drink before you pour it!
#4 - Moscow Mule
Spicy, sweet, and 100% delicious.
Moscow Mule Recipe:
2 oz vodka
1/2 oz lime juice
4-6 oz ginger beer
How to make a Moscow Mule
  1. Fill a copper mug with ice.
  2. Add vodka and lime juice to the mug.
  3. Top with ginger beer.
  4. Stir gently to combine.
  5. Garnish with a lime wedge
*Whiskey instead of vodka make it a 'Kentucky Mule'*
You do not have to serve this in a copper mug, but it will stay frostier longer and it will be considered more "legit".
Check out our Moscow Mule cocktail mixer that is already mixed and ready to pour with your vodka of choice. Always made with natural and locally sourced ingredients.
#5 - Margarita
How many ways can you say, "I will ruin your life" in tequila?
There are SO many different ways to build the perfect margarita, but we are going to give you the easiest and simplest way to bring la playa into your casa.
Margarita Recipe:
2 oz tequila
1 oz lime juice
1/2 oz Cointreau or Triple Sec (you need an orange flavored liqueur of some kind)
Salt (optional)
How to make a Margarita
  1. Rub the rim of a Margarita glass with a lime wedge, then dip the rim in salt (optional).
  2. Fill a shaker with ice.
  3. Add tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau or Triple Sec to the shaker.
  4. Shake well until the ingredients are well combined and chilled.
  5. Strain into the Margarita glass filled with ice.
  6. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Or, you could just get a bottle of your favorite tequila and add our "Spicy Margarita" or "Prickly Pear Margarita" mixer to some ice for a two-step cocktail that will knock your socks off...and maybe the rest of your clothes...
We will likely do a longer post with all of the different ways you can dress your margarita up or down, but for now, we recommend to stay away from those big plastic margarita mix bottles if you can. They are decent for blending, but the hangover is not worth it. Trust us.
Thank you for reading and good luck with your cocktail endeavors! Cheers!
Back to blog