12 Classic Cocktail Recipes Everyone Should Know

Brush up on your bartending skills with these classic recipes.

Grapefruit Kombucha Margarita
Photo: Stephen DeVries

We love a fancy, complicated craft cocktail just as much as the next person. But who has all the unusual ingredients they tend to require? (What even is Yuzu?) Frankly, there's just something about unfussy, classic drinks that keeps us coming back time and again.

Whether you've got company coming over or you're just craving something basic and boozy, one of these easy recipes will do the trick. We made the instructions and ingredients as pared down as possible so you can keep them in your back pocket for future entertaining endeavors. If you already have some of these committed to memory, even better. We'd bet you can mix up most of them with what's already on your bar cart (read: no egg white foam or blood orange reduction required).

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Classic Margaritas
Dana Gallagher

What You Need

  • ¾ cup tequila
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice (from 4 to 6 limes)
  • ½ cup Triple Sec or Cointreau
  • ½ cup water

How to Make a Margarita

In a medium pitcher, combine tequila, fresh lime juice, Triple Sec or Cointreau, and water. If desired, rub the rims of 4 glasses with a lime slice and dip in salt to coat. Serve the margaritas in the prepared glasses over ice and garnish with the lime slices. Makes 4 drinks.

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Holiday Negroni
Brie Passano

What You Need

  • 4 ounces gin
  • 4 ounces Campari
  • 4 ounces sweet vermouth

How to Make a Negroni

Combine gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth in a large pitcher. Divide the mixture among 3 4-ounce glasses. Place a strip of orange peel in each. Makes 3 drinks.

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Mint Julep

Mint Julep
Greg DuPree

What You Need

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 mint leaves
  • 3 ounces bourbon

How to Make a Mint Julep

In a mint julep cup or thick glass, mix the sugar with the water until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Clap the mint leaves in your palms to release the herbs' oils, then add them to the simple syrup. Pack the glass with crushed ice and top with the bourbon. Serve garnished with mint sprigs. Makes 1 drink.

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Amaretto Sour

Amaretto Sour
Charles Masters

What You Need

  • 1½ ounces Amaretto liqueur
  • 1 ounce simple syrup (dissolve an equal amount of sugar in water)
  • ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice

How to Make an Amaretto Sour

Pour Amaretto liqueur, simple syrup, and fresh lemon juice into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a glass filled with ice. Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry. Makes 1 drink.

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Maura McEvoy

What You Need

  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ounce brandy
  • 1 thinly sliced navel orange
  • ½ pint blackberries
  • 1 cup club soda

How to Make Sangria

Combine a bottle of red wine (we recommend Rioja or other light- or medium-bodied red wine) with sugar, and brandy in a large pitcher and stir to dissolve sugar. Add 1 thinly sliced navel orange, blackberries, and club soda. Refrigerate for 1 hour or more before serving to allow the fruit to macerate and sweeten sangria. Serve in tall glasses filled with ice. Makes 6 drinks.

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Moscow Mule

Frozen Moscow Mule

What You Need

  • ½ ounce lime juice
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 4 to 6 ounces ginger beer
  • 1 slice of lime

How to Make a Moscow Mule

Fill a Moscow mule mug with ice. Add lime juice and vodka. Top with ginger beer and stir. Garnish with a slice of lime. Makes 1 drink.

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Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned cocktail
Sarah Karnasiewicz

What You Need

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 4 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1¾ ounces rye whiskey

How to Make an Old Fashioned

Saturate a sugar cube with Angostura bitters. Place the cube in an old-fashioned glass, add water, and muddle the sugar until it dissolves. Fill the glass with ice, pour in rye whiskey, and stir. Garnish with a slice of orange. Makes 1 drink.

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Cherry Manhattan

Manhattan cocktail
Sarah Karnasiewicz

What You Need

  • 2½ ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • a dash of orange bitters
  • 1 maraschino cherry

How to Make a Cherry Manhattan

Combine bourbon or rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and a dash of orange bitters in an ice-filled bar glass. Stir until very cold. Serve up, strained into a cocktail glass, or on the rocks, in an old-fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. Makes 1 drink.

09 of 12


Martini cocktail
Sarah Karnasiewicz

What You Need

  • 3 ounces of vodka or gin
  • ¾ ounce dry vermouth
  • 1 olive

How to Make a Martini

Combine vodka or gin and dry vermouth in an ice-filled bar glass. Stir until very cold. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with an olive. Makes 1 drink.

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White Russian

Getty Images

What You Need

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce Kahlúa
  • 1 ounce heavy cream

How to Make a White Russian

Fill a cocktail glass with ice. Pour the vodka and Kahlúa over the ice. Add heavy cream and mix.

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Cranberry-Lemon Spritz

Greg DuPree

What You Need

  • 8 frozen cranberries
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ cup (2 oz.) vodka
  • 2 tablespoons cranberry juice cocktail
  • ½ cup club soda, chilled

How to Make a Cranberry-Lemon Spritz

Add cranberries, lemon juice, and sugar to a tall glass. Mash the cranberries with the end of a wooden spoon. Pour in vodka and cranberry juice. Mix, add ice, and top with club soda.

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Easy Blender Eggnog
Tom Schierlitz

What You Need

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¾ cup brandy

How to Make Eggnog

Simmer the heavy cream, nutmeg, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Blend the eggs on low for 1 minute. Gradually add the hot cream mixture. Blend the mixture until it's frothy, and then about 30 seconds more. Add brandy to combine. Serve warm.

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