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 (what even is yuzu?). But there's just something about 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—and 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).

01 of 12

Margarita

Classic Margaritas
Dana Gallagher

In a medium pitcher, combine ¾ cup tequila, ½ cup fresh lime juice (from 4 to 6 limes), ½ cup Triple Sec or Cointreau, and ½ cup 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.

Get the recipe: Classic Margarita

02 of 12

Negroni

Holiday Negroni
Brie Passano

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

Get the recipe: Big-Batch Negronis

03 of 12

Mint Julep

Mint Julep
Greg DuPree

In a mint julep cup or thick glass, mix 1 tablespoon sugar with 1 teaspoon water until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Clap 6 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 3 ounces bourbon. Serve garnished with the mint sprigs. Makes 1 drink.

Get the recipe: Mint Julep

04 of 12

Sazerac

Sazerac Pitchers
J Muckle; Styling: Rebekah Peppler

Combine 2 cups (16 ounces) rye whiskey, ½ tablespoon absinthe, ¼ teaspoon bitters, 2 ounces orange simple syrup, and ½ cup filtered water in a large bowl or pitcher. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. To serve, ladle into cocktail glasses and garnish each with an orange peel. Makes 5 drinks.

Get the recipe: Sazerac Pitchers

05 of 12

Amaretto Sour

Amaretto Sour
Charles Masters

Pour 1½ ounces Amaretto liqueur, 1 ounce simple syrup (dissolve an equal amount of sugar in water), and ¾ ounce 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.

Get the recipe: Classic Amaretto Sour

06 of 12

Sangria

Sangria
Maura McEvoy

Combine a bottle of red wine (we recommend Rioja or other light- or medium-bodied red wine) with 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 ounce brandy in a large pitcher and stir to dissolve sugar. Add 1 thinly sliced navel orange, ½ pint blackberries, and 1 cup club soda. Refrigerate for 1 hour or more before serving to allow fruit to macerate and sweeten sangria. Serve in tall glasses filled with ice. Makes 6 drinks.

Get the recipe: Red Sangria

07 of 12

Moscow Mule

Frozen Moscow Mule
wmaster890

Fill a Moscow mule mug with ice. Add ½ ounce lime juice and 2 ounces vodka. Top with 4 to 6 ounces ginger beer and stir. Garnish with a slice of lime. Makes 1 drink.

Get the recipe: Moscow Mule

08 of 12

Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned cocktail
Sarah Karnasiewicz

Saturate a sugar cube with 4 dashes of Angostura bitters. Place the cube in an old-fashioned glass, add 1 tablespoon water and muddle the sugar until it dissolves. Fill the glass with ice, pour in 1¾ ounces rye whiskey and stir. Garnish with a slice of orange. Makes 1 drink.

Get the recipe: Clementine and Ginger Old-Fashioned

09 of 12

Manhattan

Manhattan cocktail
Sarah Karnasiewicz

Combine 2½ ounces bourbon or rye whiskey, 1 ounce 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.

Get the recipe: Cherry Manhattan

10 of 12

Martini

Martini cocktail
Sarah Karnasiewicz

Combine 3 ounces of vodka or gin and ¾ ounce 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.

Get the recipe: Martini

11 of 12

Gimlet

Gimlet cocktail
Sarah Karnasiewicz

Combine 2½ ounces gin and ¾ ounce Rose's lime juice in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. Makes 1 drink.

Get the recipe: Cucumber and Basil Gimlet

12 of 12

Sidecar

Sidecar cocktail
Sarah Karnasiewicz

Combine ½ ounce fresh lemon juice, 1 ounce triple sec, and 1½ ounces brandy in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. Makes 1 drink.

Get the recipe: Sidecar Punch

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