10 Best Classic Cocktail Recipes

By Gayot Editors

When it comes to mixing spirits, following a classic cocktail recipe is your best bet for a delicious libation. Sophisticated and sweet, salty and sour, complex and cool — the best mixed drinks are all about balance.

On GAYOT’s list of the 10 Best Classic Cocktails you’ll find carefully crafted recipes that have stood the test of time. Each recipe makes one cocktail, but you can always double, triple or quadruple it for friends! Read on to learn how to mix these drinks at home.

Want even more drink recipes to impress your guests? Take a look at our Best Craft Cocktail Recipes for a list of the most sophisticated sips.

1. Bloody Mary

This savory tomato juice cocktail pairs well with brunch fare and thanks to its reputation as a hangover cure, is the tippler’s best friend.

– 2 oz. vodka
– 4 oz. tomato juice
– 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
– 1/2 teaspoon horseradish
– 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
– 3 dashes hot sauce
– pinch celery salt
– pinch freshly-ground black pepper
– lemon wedge, for garnish
– celery stalk for garnish

• Combine the vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce in a chilled mixing glass.
• Stir to combine.
• Pour into an ice-filled Collins glass and add the salt and pepper.
• Garnish with the lemon and celery.

> Tip: The heat of the spices can be turned up or toned down according to preference.

2. Mai Tai

Mai Tai

Synonymous with tiki bars that evoke the South Pacific, the Mai Tai brings island flavors stateside. Sweet, tart and citrusy, this elixir tastes like paradise.

– 1 oz. dark rum
– 1 oz. light rum
– 1 oz. fresh lime juice
– 3/4 oz. orange Curaçao
– 1/4 oz. orgeat syrup
– 1/4 oz. simple syrup
– mint sprig
– maraschino cherry

• Place all ingredients except the mint sprig and cherry in an ice-filled cocktail shaker.
• Shake until chilled, then pour the liquid and ice into a rocks glass.
• Garnish with the mint sprig and cherry.

3. Manhattan


According to legend, this was J.P. Morgan’s cocktail of choice at the close of a trading day. Down the drink favored by Manhattan moguls since the 1870s and watch your stock rise.

– 2 oz. whiskey
– 1 oz. sweet vermouth
– dash Angostura bitters
– maraschino cherry for garnish

• Add the whiskey, vermouth and bitters into a mixing glass filled with ice.
• Stir rapidly with a bar spoon until the glass is cold.
• Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
• Garnish with the cherry.

4. Martini


James Bond may order this drink shaken, not stirred, but there’s a practical reason to use a spoon.

– 1/2 oz. dry vermouth
– 3 oz. gin
– lemon twist for garnish

• Pour the vermouth and gin in an ice-filled mixing glass.
• Stir rapidly with a bar spoon until the glass is chilled.
• Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
• Garnish with the lemon twist.

> Tip: Shaking chips the ice and clouds the libation, whereas stirring in even circles results in a clear liquid, yielding a more sophisticated sip.

5. Mint Julep

Mint Julep

Saddle up for a cocktail that’s been satisfying Southerners since at least 1803. Famously sipped at the Kentucky Derby, this minty beverage refreshes on any occasion.

– 2 mint sprigs, separated
– 1 oz. simple syrup
– 3 oz. bourbon

• Place one mint sprig and the simple syrup in a chilled julep cup and gently muddle to release the herb’s essential oils.
• Fill three-quarters of the cup with finely shaved ice, then add the bourbon.
• Stir with a bar spoon until the cup whitens with frost
• Fill the rest of the cup with additional finely shaved ice.
• Garnish with the remaining mint sprig.
• Use a straw to sip.

6. Negroni


Sometimes it’s good to be bitter.

– 1 oz. Campari
– 1 oz. sweet vermouth
– 1 oz. gin
– orange peel for garnish

• Place the Campari, sweet vermouth and gin in an ice-filled rocks glass.
• Stir until combined.
• Garnish with the orange peel.

> Tip: This aromatic apéritif prepares the palate for the meal ahead.

7. Pisco Sour

Pisco Sour

Chile and Peru have long debated the bragging rights for this sublimely sweet and tart libation.

– 2 oz. pisco
– 3/4 oz. simple syrup
– white of a small egg
– 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
– dash Angostura bitters

• Place the egg white, pisco, lemon juice and simple syrup in an ice-filled shaker.
• Shake vigorously until the shaker is chilled and the egg white emulsifies.
• Strain, then pour into a chilled cocktail glass.
• Add the bitters.

8. Sazerac


New Orleans has always been a cultural melting pot, and the Sazerac epitomizes the city’s spirited history. In the 1830s, workers in the Big Easy chugged it for breakfast. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

– 1/2 oz. absinthe
– 2 oz. rye whiskey
– sugar cube
– dash Peychaud’s bitters
– dash Angostura bitters
– lemon twist for garnish

• Chill a rocks glass.
• Add the absinthe, and swirl to coat the glass.
• Discard remaining absinthe.
• In a second rocks glass, add the sugar cube, bitters and a splash of water.
• Muddle until the sugar dissolves.
• Place four ice cubes in the glass, and add the rye.
• Stir until the glass is chilled, then strain the contents into the absinthe-glazed glass.
• Garnish with the lemon twist.

9. Sidecar


This smooth and potent Prohibition-era drink is the blueprint for more casual cocktails like the margarita and cosmopolitan.

– 1 1/2 oz. Cognac
– lemon wedge
– white sugar
– 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
– 3/4 oz. triple sec
– lemon twist for garnish

• Rub the rim of a chilled cocktail glass with the lemon wedge, then dip the glass in a plate of white sugar.
• Set the glass aside.
• Pour the Cognac, lemon juice and triple sec in a shaker filled with cracked ice.
• Shake vigorously until chilled, then strain into the cocktail glass.

> Tip: Selecting a fine cognac lends gravitas to the sugared rim of this citrus-splashed sipper.

10. Tequila Sunrise

Tequila Sunrise

This highball earns its name from the low-tech special effect that happens once the grenadine is added.

– 2 oz. tequila blanco
– 5 oz. fresh orange juice
– 1 teaspoon grenadine
– orange wheel for garnish

• Pour the tequila into an ice-filled Collins glass, followed by the orange juice.
• Top with the grenadine.
• Garnish with the orange wheel.

> Tip: The red liquid sinks, creating the illusion that a sun is rising in the glass.