Trying to name the most popular cocktails ever is something of a fool’s errand. Drinks trends are notoriously fickle (remember the grasshopper?), and it’s not like there’s some kind of national agency tracking what ends up on people’s bar tabs at the end of every night.
Still, we’re not above taking a few educated guesses about some of the nation’s most-ordered tipples. Here are 10 classic cocktails that we’re confident have been shaken, stirred, sipped, and swilled by millions of enthusiastic imbibers around the world–and that still deserve a place in your cocktail shaker today. Plus, we’ve taken the liberty of suggesting some of our favorite spirits to feature in these iconic combinations.
Bartender and author Jim Meehan says the first printed recipe for a Manhattan was published in 1884. Almost 150 years later, it’s still a favorite.
Because the recipe for a Manhattan is so simple, the quality of every ingredient matters—even the garnish. You can use a variety of American whiskeys for the base spirit, but we’re partial to rye.
- Two ounces Pikesville Rye
- One ounce Antica Torino sweet vermouth
- Two dashes Angostura bitters
- One Luxardo maraschino cherry, for garnish
Add whiskey, vermouth, and bitters to a mixing glass filled with ice, and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with maraschino cherry.
Put down that bottle of fluorescent sour mix; a real whiskey sour is a thing of art. Freshly squeezed citrus juice gives this cocktail brightness and verve, while egg white contributes an unmistakably silky texture. Plus, it’s a great way to learn a fancy mixology technique called the dry shake. However, if raw egg white isn’t your thing, feel free to leave it out.
- Two ounces Belle Meade Bourbon
- ¾ oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ oz simple syrup
- ½ oz egg white
- Angostura bitters, for garnish
Combine bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg white in a shaker without ice. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds (this is the “dry shake,” which just means a shake without ice). Add ice, and shake again until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. To garnish, dot with 2-3 drops of angostura bitters, then drag a toothpick through the dots to create hearts.
This iconic tropical cocktail is the fastest way we know of to get those tropical beach vibes, no flight required. It’s a little bit tiki, a little bit retro, and entirely delicious. You can make it in the blender as described below, or you can shake and strain it over pebbled or shaved ice for a more elevated experience
- 2 oz Cutwater White Rum
- 1.5 oz cream of coconut
- 1.5 oz pineapple juice
- ½ oz lime juice
- One cup ice
- Pineapple wedge, for garnish
Combine all ingredients except garnish in a blender, and blend to a smoothie-like consistency. Pour into a chilled glass, and garnish with pineapple wedge.
Bartenders famously sigh when guests order a mojito, since it’s so labor-intensive to muddle the mint. One sip of this Cuban refresher, and you’ll see why it’s worth the extra effort. There’s just something magical about the combination of white rum, lime, and mint—plus the sparkle from the soda water makes it an ideal cocktail for a warm summer afternoon
3 mint leaves
- ½ oz simple syrup
- 2 oz Big 5 Silver Rum
- ¾ oz freshly squeezed lime juice
- 3 oz club soda
- Garnish: Mint sprig, lime wedge
Add the mint leaves and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Gently muddle the leaves with the syrup to release the essential oils. Add the rum, lime juice, and ice, and shake. Strain into a chilled highball glass filled with ice, then top with club soda and garnishes.
Is any drink classier than the martini? So simple it’s hardly a cocktail, the martini can be made with gin or vodka, but we’re partial to gin around these parts. Don’t skimp on the dry vermouth; without it, a martini is basically just a glass of gin. In fact, early martini recipes often called for an equal measure of sweet vermouth to the base spirit. This recipe is a bit more modern, but it still leans on the vermouth for complexity and just the faintest whisper of sweetness. You’ll also want to reach for a London dry style of gin here—the juniper bite is essential.
- 2.5 oz Plymouth Original Gin
- ½ oz Cinzano Vermouth Extra Dry
- (Optional) dash orange bitters
- Lemon twist, for garnish
Add gin, vermouth, and bitters (if using) to an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir for 20 to 30 seconds, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with lemon twist.
The Aperol Spritz burst onto the American drinking scene about a decade ago. Today, walk past any bar patio on a warm afternoon and you’ll see at least a handful of ice-filled goblets of this orange elixir. Aperol is an Italian aperitif featuring oranges, rhubarb, and a secret collection of roots, herbs, and spices. Citrussy and pleasantly bitter, it makes the spritz a wonderfully refreshing (and lower-proof) long drink.
2 oz Aperol
- 3 oz Prosecco or other sparkling wine
- 1 oz club soda
- Orange slice for garnish
Fill a large wine glass with ice. Add the Aperol, prosecco, and club soda and gently stir. Garnish with an orange wedge (you can even add a small splash of orange juice to amp up the citrus notes).
With seemingly endless riffs and variations, the Margarita is the gift that keeps on giving. Yet the classic recipe featuring little more than tequila, lime juice, orange liqueur, and ice is pretty much unimpeachable. We like to add a little bit of agave syrup to balance the drink, but it depends on how much sugar is in your orange liqueur. We like Grand Marnier, which is a little drier than triple sec, so the extra sweetness from the syrup is welcome.
2 oz Tequila Ocho Plata
- ½ oz Grand Marnier
- 1 oz lime juice
- ½ oz agave syrup
- Lime wheel and kosher salt, optional, for garnish
If using salt for garnish, run a lime wedge around half of the rim of your glass, then dip the glass rim into a plate of salt. Fill glass with ice and set aside.
Add tequila, Grand Marnier, lime juice, and agave syrup to a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into ice-filled glass, and garnish with lime wheel.
You know a drink is special when it has its very own glass. A classic Moscow Mule is served in a copper mug. Why? It’s not entirely clear, although it was unequivocally a marketing coup for copper mug makers. Invented in the 1940s as a way to sell more vodka, this simple, easygoing cocktail quickly became a backyard classic. Bonus: no shaker needed for this super-simple recipe.
- 2 oz Chopin Rye Vodka
- One half of a lime
- 3 oz ginger beer
- Lime wheel, for garnish
Squeeze the lime into your copper mug (a highball glass is fine if you don’t have a mug), then put the entire squeezed lime half in and pour in the vodka. Add ice, then top with ginger beer and the lime wedge.
Is it brunch without a Bloody Mary? Let’s not find out. Omelets and eggs benedict just don’t taste the same unless they’re washed down by this savory tomato-based vodka cocktail. Feel free to get creative with the garnishes here; beyond the requisite celery stick, we’ve seen pickled vegetables, hard boiled eggs, even strips of bacon festooning the glass.
- 1 lemon wedge
- 1 lime wedge
- 2 oz Crater Lake Vodka
- 4 oz tomato juice
- 1 tsp prepared horseradish
- 2 dashes tabasco or other hot sauce
- 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- Pinch black pepper
- Pinch celery salt
- Celery stalk, lime wedge, and green olives for garnish
Squeeze lime and lemon wedge into a shaker filled with ice. Add vodka, tomato juice, horseradish, tabasco, Worcestershire, black pepper, and celery salt. Shake, then strain into a chilled pint glass filled with ice. Garnish, and enjoy.
The ‘90s are certainly back when it comes to fashion. Could the triumphant return of the Cosmopolitan be far away? Made famous by Sex In The City, this strong yet fruity drink was hugely popular around the turn of the millennium, but it hasn’t quite been getting the respect it deserves in recent years. No matter. Make a good one, and you’ll see what all the fuss was about.
- 1.5 oz Honeybell Citrus Vodka
- 1 oz Cointreau
- ½ oz freshly squeezed lime juice
- ¼ oz cranberry juice
- Lime wheel, for garnish
Shake vodka, Cointreau, lime juice, and cranberry juice in a cocktail tin filled with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe, then garnish with lime wheel.