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9 Drinks Every Bartender Should Know: An At-Home Guide

Whether you're a seasoned bartending professional or an aspiring at-home mixologist, there are a few basic drinks every bartender should know how to make. From easy cocktail recipes to essential mixes and straightforward shooters, most people have a favorite drink from this list – that’s why it's important to understand how to make them!

Any bar or party is only as good as the person serving the drinks. Bartenders are part of the vibe and can make or break a venue or an event. They have to be friendly, approachable, confident, and knowledgeable about alcohol and drinks. They also have to read every guest's body language to give them the best service.

Even with all of these qualities, bartenders must know how to make all the most popular drinks! 

Bartending 101

Recipes for cocktails are abundant, especially when it comes to experimental boozy beverages!

But before you begin to make all kinds of exotic cocktails with elaborate decorations and fancy fruits, flaming shooters, or bespoke drinks that look like science experiments (complete with dry ice!), start with the basics. 

Simple cocktails are some of the most important drinks to know as a bartender, and are the starting point of every bartender drink list. Once you have these recipes down, it's simply a matter of learning the most crucial drink mixing techniques. 

If you can master the fundamentals, you'll be on your way to bartending brilliance!

Essential Drinks Recipes

First of all, there are some cocktails every bartender should know. It's about recipes, ratios, glasses, and garnishes. 

Believe it or not, it’s a good idea to start out learning some easy cocktails recipes. For parties or bars, these are always winners. Drinks don't have to look like they're about to take off into space for them to be popular. Here are some recipes for some of the best basic drinks for a bartender:

1) Long Island Iced Tea

This super-strong cocktail is a great way to begin a night. It's an excellent choice for people who are not sure about which spirit they want to have in their cocktail, because it has so many of them in it! 

Here's how you make it:

Ingredients: 

0.75 oz vodka

0.75 oz white rum

0.75 oz silver Tequila

0.75 oz gin

0.75 oz triple sec

0.75 oz simple syrup

0.75 oz lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Glass: Collins glass

Garnish: A slice or a wedge of lemon

Method: 

  1. Shake all the ingredients together, except for the cola. 
  2. Strain it into a glass.
  3. Top with cola.
  4. Warn the customer of how strong this drink is before you serve it!

TIP: If you are serving a Long Island Iced Tea, it's probably a good idea to recommend it as a good starting drink and only have one. Your patrons should watch out; this is a strong drink!

2) Margarita

The magic of a margarita makes you think of summer vibes, sprawling beaches, crystal-clear waters, and palm trees waving in the breeze. This is a potent cocktail with a tequila base, and it’s popular with people who enjoy a sour zing with the sweetness. 

Here’s how you magic up a margarita: 

Ingredients: 

2 oz white tequila

1 oz lime juice

0.5 oz triple sec

0.5 oz orange liqueur

1 oz lime juice, freshly squeezed

0.5 oz agave or simple syrup

Glass: Margarita glass with ice

Garnish: A slice or a wedge of lime and a salted rim

Method: 

  1. Wet the rim of the glass and dip it in salt.
  2. Shake all the ingredients together.
  3. Strain it into the glass onto the ice.
  4. Garnish and serve.

TIP: Margaritas are strong and have a sour tang, but are also quite sweet. The salt on the rim cuts through the sweetness. To make it more interesting, use finely crushed pink salt or even Hawaiian black salt for a smoky taste and exotic look!

3) Sex On The Beach

This colorful and fruity concoction tastes, looks, and smells like a vacation! It's as refreshing as a light summer breeze and easy on the palate. There's no harshness to this drink; it’s simply relaxation at its best!

Ingredients: 

1.5 oz vodka

0.5 oz peach schnapps

0.5 oz crème de cassis or Chambord (optional)

1.5 oz orange juice, freshly squeezed

1.5 oz cranberry juice

Glass: Tall glasses

Garnish: Maraschino cherries and a cocktail umbrella

Method:

  1. Fill two glasses with ice cubes (try out this clear ice makerfor perfect-shaped ice balls).
  2. Squeeze the juice out of the oranges.
  3. Shake all the ingredients together.
  4. Split between the two glasses.
  5. Garnish and serve.

TIP: Sex on the Beach is easy to customize, especially with fruit and fancy garnishes. Once it's shaken up, add slices of lime for some zing or crushed pineapple for a tropical surprise.

4) Old Fashioned

There is nothing old about this classy cocktail. It is silky smooth and just right for slow and sophisticated sipping while watching a sunset, or as a nightcap after a long day at the office. 

Here’s how you make this super cocktail:

Ingredients:

2 oz whiskey or bourbon

0.25 oz simple syrup

2 dashes of Angostura bitters

A splash of water

Soda water (optional)

A slice of orange

Glass: Tumbler

Garnish: A maraschino cherry and twists of lemon and orange peel

Method:

  1. Add whiskey or bourbon, syrup, and bitters to your glass and stir.
  2. Add soda water if desired and stir again.
  3. Fill the glass with ice.
  4. Give it another good stir.
  5. Add orange slice.
  6. Garnish and serve.

TIP: Zest a tiny bit of lemon rind into your Old Fashioned. This will elevate the flavor without overwhelming your taste buds.

5) Pina Colada

This cocktail is so cool, it's even had a song written about it! The Pina Colada is perfect for poolside parties. If you don't feel like swaying your hips after you've had a Pina Colada, you should probably have another one! 

This is how you make it:

Ingredients:

2 oz light rum

1.5 oz coconut cream

1.5 oz pineapple juice

0.5 oz freshly squeezed lime juice

Glass: Hurricane glass

Garnish: A pineapple wedge and a pineapple leaf

Method:

  1. Chill a hurricane glass over ice.
  2. Mix all the ingredients and shake it vigorously for around 20 to 30 seconds.
  3. Strain into the glass.
  4. Garnish and serve.

TIP: Instead of using a glass, serve your Pina Colada inside a hollowed-out pineapple and add some colorful cocktail umbrellas for an extra festive look. 

6) Mojito

Did you know that Mojitos used to be consumed as medicine? This crisp Cuban cocktail is a favorite, and for good reason! It’s a delicious and refreshing drink with well-balanced flavors.

Make it like this:

Ingredients:

3 large mint leaves

2 oz white rum

0.5 oz simple syrup

0.75 oz freshly squeezed lime juice

Club soda

Glass: Hurricane glass

Garnish: A wedge of lime and a sprig of mint

Method:

  1. Muddle the mint leaves with the syrup in the glass.
  2. Mix the ice, rum, and lime juice in a shaker, and shake it up!
  3. Strain into the glass and top with club soda.
  4. Garnish and serve.

TIP: Get a bit silly and theatrical! Before you garnish and serve, slap the sprig of mint a few times on the back of your hand. This releases aromatic oils, which will give your customer an olfactory experience as well as a great tasting drink! 

7) Bloody Mary

Some people enjoy this iconic cocktail as a hangover cure, and others simply enjoy the spicy flavor. No matter which variation of it you prefer, or what time of day you choose to drink it, the Bloody Mary is one of the few drinks that’s considered a meal as well as a beverage! 

Whip up one like this:

Ingredients:

2 oz vodka

1 lime wedge

1 lemon wedge

4 oz tomato juice

2 tsp horseradish

2 splashes of Tabasco sauce

2 splashes of Worcestershire sauce

A pinch of celery salt

A pinch of ground black pepper

A pinch of smoked paprika

Glass: Highball glass

Garnish: A sprig of parsley, a celery stalk, or a dill pickle spear

Method:

  1. Sprinkle some celery salt on a side plate.
  2. Rub the juice of the lime or lemon on the rim of a highball glass.
  3. Roll the edge of the glass in the celery salt until it is coated.
  4. Fill it up with ice and set it aside.
  5. Squeeze the lime and lemon slices into the shaker and put them inside with all the other ingredients.
  6. Gently shake and strain into the glass.
  7. Garnish and serve.

TIP: When you serve it, give the option to top off the Bloody Mary with Tabasco sauce, as some people like it extra spicy!

8) Classic Dry Martini

Sophisticated soirées and elegant evenings out call for James Bond's favorite cocktail. This classic drink was made popular with the 007 movies, but it's the unique taste that has helped it stand the test of time. 

It's also simple to make! Here's how:

Ingredients:

2.5 oz gin

0.5 oz dry vermouth

A dash of orange bitters

Glass: Martini glass

Garnish: A twist of lemon rind

Method:

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a mixer filled with ice.
  2. Stir until it's icy cold, around 20-30 seconds.
  3. Strain into the glass.
  4. Garnish, and serve.

TIP: If gin is not your jam, simply replace it with vodka. You don't have to stir vodka martinis; you can shake them, James Bond-style! If you shake gin, it agitates the top notes, and the flavor can become dull. 

9) Cosmopolitan

This pretty pink drink has been doing the rounds since the 1980s, but it was only in the 1990s that it shot to fame, thanks to the HBO hit showSex and the City. Cosmopolitans are not only beautiful-looking beverages – they also taste spectacular! 

The sweetness of the cranberry is beautifully balanced by citrus notes and a sharp hit of vodka, when it's made just right like this:

Ingredients:

1.5 oz citrus vodka

1 oz Cointreau

0.5 oz freshly squeezed lime juice

A dash of cranberry juice

Glass: Martini glass

Garnish: A wedge of lime

Method:

  1. Chill the glass on ice.
  2. Mix all ingredients together in a shaker full of ice. 
  3. Shake until thoroughly chilled.
  4. Strain into the glass.
  5. Garnish and serve.

TIP: Spritz some orange peel oils onto the rim of the glass by squeezing it to release the flavor. This brings a delicious citrus-infused aroma to the drink. 

Time to Get Mixing and Serving!

Once you know how to make these basic bartending drinks, you know exactly how to please a crowd! 

These are the very top drinks bartenders should know how to whip up in a jiffy. Armed with recipes for easy cocktails to make at home or at the bar, you now have what it takes to make your guests happy and help them have a great time!

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