7 Basic Cocktails Every
Bartender Should Know

Being behind the bar means that you handle a lot of responsibilities, including being at the ready when someone orders a cocktail. While drinks like gin and tonic, rum and Coke, and vodka cranberry are simple enough for anyone to make, other beverages require a bit of know-how. Here is a list of the most common, popular cocktails that every bartender should be able to craft.

The Cosmopolitan

The cocktail made popular by Carrie Bradshaw is still ordered in bars across the country today.

  • 1 ½ ounce citrus vodka
  • ½ ounce triple sec
  • ¾ ounce fresh lime juice
  • ½ ounce cranberry juice

Shake all the ingredients together and strain into the coupe/martini glass.

Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned has been around for 200 years, and it is still the choice for many bourbon lovers.

An Old Fashioned Cocktail - An Old Fashioned Cocktail with orange peel

  • 2 ounces rye whiskey
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Orange peel
  • 2 cherries

Add the sugar and bitters to a mixing glass and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add ice and bourbon and stir until well-chilled. Place a single ice cube in the lowball glass and strain the contents of the mixing glass over the ice cube. Express the oils from the orange peel into the glass and then garnish with orange peel and cherries.

Whiskey Sour

A delicious whiskey drink that only needs three ingredients, the whiskey sour is a refreshing drink that can be found in any establishment.

  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ ounce simple syrup
  • 1 maraschino cherry
  • 1 orange slice

Combine the bourbon, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously for about 20 seconds. Fill a lowball glass with ice and strain the shaker contents into the glass.. Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry.


A Negroni - A Negroni

An Italian staple that has been gaining popularity with younger generations thanks to popular English actors’ love for the drink. There are many variations of the negroni, but here is the basic recipe that you can experiment with:

  • 1 ½ ounce gin
  • 1 ½ ounce Campari liqueur
  • 1 ½ ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 orange peel or twist

Add ingredients into a lowball glass with ice. Stir until chilled and garnish with an orange peel.


A minty drink that is commonly ordered in the early summer, the mojito is a great way to cool off and enjoy the weather.

  • Fresh lime juice
  • 5 fresh mint leaves
  • 3 ounces white rum
  • 2 teaspoons of granulated white sugar or ¾ ounce simple syrup
  • A dash of club soda

Muddle the mint leaves in the bottom of a cocktail shaker until aromatic (Only a few taps to bruise the leaves, do not crush them). Then add the lime juice, rum, and simple syrup/sugar to the shaker with some ice. Shake vigorously until the ingredients are combined. Strain into a highball glass and add a dash of club soda. Garnish with mint sprigs.


Margarita with lime - Margarita with lime

Margaritas are best served with a side of chips and salsa, but can be enjoyed nearly anywhere. Often served with salt or tajin on the rim of the glass, there are dozens of different ingredients to add, such as jalapenos for a spicy kick and agave for a sweeter taste.

  • 2 ½ ounces Blanco tequila
  • 1 ½ ounces triple sec
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • Salt for rim (optional)
  • Tajin for rim (optional)
  • 1 lime wedge

Add all the ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a margarita glass and garnish with a lime wedge. (To add salt/tajin to the rim, add lime juice to a small plate and place the rim of the glass down. Ensure the entire rim is coated in lime juice. Spread desired rim flavoring on another plate and place the glass on the second plate to cover the rim.)


One of the most common cocktails of all time, the manhattan, can be found on nearly every craft cocktail menu.

  • 2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • Brandied cherry

Add the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a brandied cherry.

Master Your Craft Cocktails

These drinks are so popular that private-label cocktail mixers have been created to simplify the process of making them. However, many believe that making them with the raw ingredients and seeing them crafted behind the bar make these cocktails that much better. If you want to put your cocktail crafting skills to the test, then sign up with BenchConnect to find a gig behind the bar.

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