Classic Cocktails

These 32 cocktails range from simple, pared-down masterpieces to frothy dessert-like concoctions, but what they all have in common is their staying power; they’re just as good now as when they were invented. From negronis to martinis to Sazeracs, here are the essential drinks to add to your repertoire.

The Monkey Gland

The Monkey Gland

Blood and Sand

Scotch, Cherry Heering, vermouth, and orange juice create a smoky-sweet effect, equally good topped with extra juice and served for brunch. Get the recipe for Blood and Sand »

Sazerac

The Sazerac—a combination of rye, absinthe, sugar, and Peychaud’s bitters—is the official cocktail of New Orleans.

Original Bloody Mary

A combination of vodka, tomato juice, fresh lemon juice, Worcestershire, and fresh ground spices is simple, classic, and always delicious. Get the recipe for Original Bloody Mary »

Classic Daiquiri

Crisp, clean, and balanced, the daiquiri was a favorite of Hemingway.

Kentucky Club Margarita

Made without simple syrup, this elegant shaken margarita is more tart than sweet. See the recipe for Kentucky Club Margarita »

Manhattan

Bourbon is an unabashedly Southern spirit, but this classic cocktail was invented in the heart of Yankeedom: New York City. See the recipe for Manhattan »

White Russian

This smooth and sweet vintage cocktail is a cream-based variation on the vodka and coffee liqueur libation that became known as the Black Russian in the late ’40s. Some credit the White Russian’s resurgence in popularity to 1998 cult classic The Big Lebowski, in which the lead character “The Dude” consumes little else.

The Last Word

Equal parts gin, chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and fresh lime juice, this is an old-fashioned cocktail that feels awfully modern.

Mai Tai

“Trader Vic” Bergeron came up with this floral drink to showcase a 17-year-old gold Jamaican rum. Once all his bottles were gone, he re-created the drink’s complex flavor by layering two very different rums in the same drink. See the recipe for Mai Tai »

Corpse Reviver No. 2

Popularized by the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock, this classic cocktail is part of a succession of “Corpse Revivers” originally devised as a hangover cure. An ice-cold nip of this elixir is refreshing, astringent, and strong enough to perk up the senses. Get the recipe for Corpse Reviver No. 2 »

The Zombie cocktail

Donn Beach, the founding father of tiki bars and restaurants, set a limit of two per customer for this potent drink made with three kinds of rum, citrus, and spice. Get the recipe for The Zombie cocktail »

New York Sour

Just a few ingredients add up to a complex whole in this Gilded Age cocktail, an ideal vehicle for a rich VSOP cognac.

Whiskey Sour

This tart, warming cocktail is perfect all year.

Salty Dog

Vodka is the traditional spirit for this bright, briny cooler, but gin adds a wonderful, aromatic dimension.

Tom and Jerry

Experiencing the Tom and Jerry is like sipping a hot toddy through a brandy-laced, nutmeg-dusted froth. Serve this thick, batter-like concoction at your next holiday gathering.

The Moonwalk

Joe Gilmore, legendary Head Barman at the Savoy Hotel’s American Bar, invented this cocktail in 1969 to commemorate the first moon landing. The drink—a combination of grapefruit, orange liqueur, and a hint of rosewater, topped with Champagne—was the first thing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin sipped upon returning to earth.

Thousand-Dollar Mint Julep

This version of the classic three-ingredient cocktail—which combines three parts bourbon to one part of a simple syrup bracingly infused with fresh spearmint—is sanctioned by the Kentucky Derby itself as their official mint julep recipe. Get the recipe for Thousand-Dollar Mint Julep »

Brown Derby

Named for the famous hat-shaped restaurant, this simple cocktail of bourbon and grapefruit was the signature drink at LA’s 1930s Vendome Club.
The recipe for this potent drink, named for the French Quarter, or Vieux Carré (“old square” in French), comes from the Hotel Monteleone’s rotating Carousel Bar. This recipe first appeared in our April 2013 special feature on New Orleans. See the recipe for Vieux Carré »

Sidecar

This classic cocktail was likely invented at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, circa 1931. See the recipe for Sidecar »

Martinez

In the 1880s, Old Tom gin, a style with quite a bit more sweetness than London dry, was just beginning to gain popularity in America. This is the drink that put it over the top.

Old Fashioned

A bartender at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky, invented this cocktail, ostensibly to mask the flavor of bourbon for a Civil War veteran and club member who didn’t cotton to its flavor. See the recipe for Old Fashioned »

Gin and Tonic

Gin was invented in Holland, where it was called jenever (for the juniper berries with which it is flavored), and made its way to England in the 1600s. The gin and tonic was almost certainly developed in the tropics by the English, where quinine-dosed tonic water would have been valued for its medicinal properties as well as its flavor. The nicely bitter flavor of tonic offsets gin’s faintly herbal flavor admirably. See the recipe for Gin and Tonic »

Martini

When Ernest Hemingway “liberated” the bar at L’Hotel Ritz in Paris in 1944, he bought martinis for everybody. Even in peacetime, gin lovers consider this a perfectly acceptable gesture. See the recipe for Martini »

Mimosa

The simple method of mixing champagne and orange juice, popularized in Paris and London in the 1920s, has an enduring appeal. See the recipe for Mimosa »

Classic Negroni

There’s zero room for variation in the Negroni, which calls for equal parts gin, Campari, and vermouth with an orange garnish. It’s clean, potent, and flawless. See the recipe for the Classic Negroni »

Sherry Cobbler

Fruit-and-wine cobblers were popular in the United States in the mid-1800s. Author David Wondrich considers this one to be “as simple and tasty a drink as has ever been concocted by the hands of mankind.” In it, a touch of citrus offsets the sherry’s nutty character. See the recipe for Sherry Cobbler »

French 75

Named for an innovative piece of French artillery and comprising just four ingredients–gin, lemon, simple syrup, Champagne–the French 75, when made properly, features nose-tickling bubbly as the gateway to a perfectly integrated combination of floral gin and citrus. See the recipe for the French 75 »

Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon

Named after Ernest Hemingway’s 1932 novel about the rituals of bullfighting, this champagne cocktail takes its greenish hue from a splash of absinthe.

Paloma

One of Mexico’s most popular cocktails, the Paloma is a perfectly refreshing combination of sweet and tart with grapefruit, lime, and a pinch of salt. See the recipe for Paloma »

Tequila Sunrise

The recipe for this classic, layered cocktail originally appeared in Bottoms Up! Y Como!, a brochure published in 1934 by the Agua Caliente resort in Tijuana, Mexico. See the recipe for Tequila Sunrise »