21 Drinks Every Bartender Should Know

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Gabriela Tan
March 2, 2023
A bartender is at the bar preparing a popular drink for a customer.

“Anyone can be a bartender. You just need to know how to pour a beer or mix a cocktail, right?” The answer is: Not quite! Being a good bartender requires much more than just that. It requires a deep knowledge of different drinks, a good sense of timing, and the ability to cater to each customer's unique preferences. 

From classics like the Martini to modern creations like the Espresso Martini, there are a vast number of drinks that every bartender should know. The Margarita and the Old Fashion are the most popular cocktails, with an honorable mention to the Mimosa, which is the most popular breakfast cocktail. However, despite all the fun cocktails to choose from, beer is the most popular alcoholic drink worldwide.

In this article, we will explore 21 drinks that every bartender should know, including their ingredients and tips on how to make them perfectly every time.

1. Margarita

Margaritas are known for their tangy and refreshing taste. They are a popular choice for enjoying on a warm summer day or while enjoying Mexican cuisine. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. silver tequila
  • 1 oz. Cointreau
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • Salt for the rim

Directions: 

Rub a lime wedge around the rim of the glass, pour some salt onto a small plate, and then dip the rim into the salt to coat it. Other popular options to rim the glass with are sugar for sweetness and tajin for some spice. Next, fill the glass with ice. In a shaker, combine the silver tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, and some ice. Shake for about 10 seconds and strain the mixture into the glass. Garnish with a lime wedge. 

Two Margaritas with lime, the most popular cocktail.

2. Martini

Martinis can be spotted from across the room in their distinctive V-shaped Martini glasses. They’re known for their elegant and sophisticated appearance and are often associated with a sense of luxury. 

Ingredients: 

  • 3 oz. gin or vodka
  • ½ oz. dry vermouth
  • Lemon twist or olives

Directions:

Combine the gin or vodka with the dry vermouth in a shaker with ice. Stir for about 30 seconds, or until the mixture is well-chilled. Strain the mixture into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or olives. Note that the proportions of gin or vodka to vermouth can be adjusted to suit guests’ taste. Some prefer a “dry martini” with less vermouth, and others prefer a “wet martini” with more vermouth. 

A Martini with three olives, a popular alcoholic drink.

3. Espresso Martini

Although sharing a similar name with the classic Martini, an Espresso Martini is better known for having rich, bold flavors. People love it for the caffeine kick from the espresso, making it one of the most popular drinks to have after dinner or for a late-night pick-me-up. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. coffee liquor (such as Kahlua)
  • 1 oz. espresso, cooled
  • ½ oz. simple syrup
  • 3 coffee beans

Directions:

Brew a shot of espresso and let it cool to room temperature. Fill a shaker with ice, then add the vodka, cooled espresso, coffee liqueur, and simple syrup. Shake vigorously for about 10-15 seconds. Strain the mixture into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with three coffee beans. 

An Espresso Martini, a popular and trendy drink.

4. Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned gained popularity during the early 1900s during the Prohibition era when the use of bitters and other flavorings helped mask the harsh taste of bootlegged spirits. The drink has remained a timeless and beloved classic ever since. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 1 sugar cube (or 1 tsp. granulated sugar)
  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 1 orange slice
  • 1 maraschino cherry
  • Club soda (optional)

Directions:

Place the sugar cube in the bottom of a mixing glass or shaker. Add the bitters (and a splash of club soda if using) to the sugar. Use a muddler or spoon to mix until the sugar dissolves. Add the bourbon or rye whiskey and stir until well combined. Fill an Old Fashioned glass with ice and strain the drink mixture into the glass over the ice. Garnish the drink with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry. If a guest prefers the drink to be less sweet, the amount of sugar can be adjusted or the cherry can be removed. If you’re looking for a way to elevate the drink, you can flame the orange peel to release its oils and add a smoky aroma to the drink. 

An Old Fashioned, a classic drink that every bartender should know.

5. Manhattan

The Manhattan is considered to be one of the most iconic drinks in the world of mixology. It packs a strong punch, along with a complex flavor profile, that isn’t for the faint of heart. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 1 maraschino cherry

Instructions:

Fill a mixing glass with ice and add the bourbon or whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Stir for about 30 seconds and strain the mixture into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. 

A Manhattan, an iconic drink that every bartender should know.

6. Daiquiri

Whether enjoyed on a tropical beach or in the comfort of your own home, a Daiquiri is a refreshing drink that captures the essence of summer. Although this drink can sometimes be associated with an overly sweet cocktail with a slushy texture, a classic Daiquiri has the perfect balance of tangy and sweet. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. white rum
  • ¾  oz. fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz. simple syrup
  • Lime wheel or twist 

Directions:

Combine the rum, lime juice, and simple syrup with ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for about 10-15 seconds. Strain the mixture into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel or twist. 

A slushy Strawberry Daiquiri.

7. Mojito

Another popular drink to enjoy during the summer is the Mojito, and we have Cuba to thank for this one. Mojitos are light, refreshing, and packed with zesty flavors. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. white rum
  • ¾ oz. fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • 8-10 mint leaves
  • Club soda
  • Lime wedges and/or mint sprigs 

Directions:

Muddle the mint leaves in a cocktail shaker or glass, and then add the rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. Fill with ice and shake. Strain into a tall glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and stir gently. Garnish with a lime wedge and/or a sprig of fresh mint. 

A Mojito with limes, a popular Cuban drink.

8. Gin and Tonic

Gin and Tonic originated back in the 1700s from British soldiers and gained popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries. Although this drink has a rich history, the Gin and Tonic has become a classic and is still enjoyed all over the world today.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 4-6 oz. tonic water
  • Lime wedge

Directions: 

Fill a highball glass with ice. Add the gin and tonic water, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with a lime wedge. 

A Gin and Tonic, a classic drink that every bartender should know.

9. Whiskey Sour

Living up to its name, the Whiskey Sour has a perfect combination of both sour and sweet flavors. A standard Whiskey Sour is a classic; however, there are other variations of this drink, such as a Boston Sour (with egg whites) and a New York Sour (with full-bodied red wine on top). 

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. whiskey
  • ¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • Orange slice and maraschino cherry

Directions: 

Combine the whiskey, fresh lemon juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for about 10-15 seconds and then strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with an orange slice and maraschino cherry. 

A Whisky Sour, a classic drink that every bartender should know.

10. Aperol Spritz

Aperol Spritzes have a distinct bright orange color that make them unique and distinguishable from other cocktails. Originating in Italy, this popular drink is both refreshing and slightly bitter, which makes it perfect for sipping on a hot summer day. 

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz. Prosecco
  • 2 oz. Aperol
  • 1 oz. soda water
  • Orange slice 

Directions:

Fill a wine glass with ice. Add the Aperol, Prosecco, and soda water into the glass. Stir gently to combine. Garnish with an orange slice. 

An Aperol Spritz with orange slices, a popular Italian cocktail.

11. Long Island Iced Tea

With a combination of five different liquors in a Long Island Iced Tea, it’s the type of drink that can sneak up on you quickly. If you’re looking for a strong, flavorful cocktail with just a hint of sweetness, look no further. 

Ingredients:

  • ½ oz. vodka
  • ½ oz. rum
  • ½ oz. gin
  • ½ oz. tequila
  • ½ oz. triple sec
  • 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • Cola
  • Lemon wedge

Directions:

Add the vodka, white rum, gin, tequila, triple sec, lemon juice, and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well for about 10-15 seconds. Strain into a tall glass filled with ice. Top off the glass with a splash of cola. Garnish with a lemon wedge. 

A Long Island Iced Tea, an alcoholic drink with many ingredients.

12. Bloody Mary

The Bloody Mary is a classic brunch cocktail known for its bold flavor and savory ingredients. It has a rich, full-bodied texture and a slightly spicy kick that makes it a crowd favorite. 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 4 oz. tomato juice
  • ½ oz. fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 3-5 dashes of hot sauce (e.g. Tabasco)
  • Pinch of celery salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • Celery stalk
  • Lime wedge
  • Picked green bean or olive

Directions:

Fill a cocktail shaker with the vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, celery salt, black pepper, and smoked paprika with ice. Shake for about 10-15 seconds. Strain into a tall glass filled with ice. Garnish with a celery stalk, lime wedge, and a pickled green bean or olive. 

A Bloody Mary with celery and olives, a classic brunch cocktail.

13. Negroni

Named after its inventor, Count Camillo Negroni of Italy, the Negroni is a symbol of Italian cocktail culture. It has a bitter-sweet taste and a complex flavor profile that evolves with each sip. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • Orange twist

Directions:

Fill a mixing glass with ice, and add the gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Stir the ingredients for 15-20 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with an orange twist. 

A Negroni with an orange slice.

14. Cosmopolitan

Perhaps better known by the nickname “Cosmo”, the Cosmopolitan is known for its pink color, citrusy flavor, and glamorous reputation. This popular drink appeals to a wide range of tastes and is a great choice for those looking for a touch of sophistication and fun. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. triple sec
  • ½ oz. fresh lime juice
  • ¼ oz. cranberry juice
  • Orange or lime twist

Directions:

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the vodka, triple sec, lime juice, and cranberry juice, then shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with an orange or lime twist.

A Cosmopolitan with a lime wedge, a popular drink that every bartender should know.

15. Paloma

The Paloma is a tequila-based cocktail that originated in Mexico. It’s a simple cocktail with a tart and tangy flavor. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. tequila
  • ½ oz. fresh lime juice
  • Grapefruit soda (e.g. Squirt or Jarritos)
  • Salt
  • Grapefruit wedge or slice

Directions: 

Run a lime wedge around the rim of a highball glass and dip the rim into a small dish of salt. Fill the glass with ice. Add the tequila and fresh lime juice and stir to combine. Top off the glass with grapefruit soda. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge or slice. 

Two Palomas with lime and mint.

16. Moscow Mule

Traditionally served in a signature copper mug, the Moscow Mule has a cool and crisp taste. This drink was invented back in the 1940s in an effort to popularize vodka in the United States. Safe to say that it was successful considering that this drink is just as well-known today as it was in the ‘40s. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 3-4 oz. ginger beer
  • ½ oz. fresh lime juice
  • Lime wedge
  • Mint sprig (optional)

Directions:

Fill a copper mug with ice, add the vodka and lime juice, and stir to combine. Top off the glass with ginger beer. Garnish with a lime wedge, and if desired, the mint sprig.

A Moscow Mule in its signature copper mug.

17. Sidecar

With a sophisticated flavor profile and elegant presentation, the Sidecar is perfect for a variety of occasions, from formal events to casual gatherings. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. cognac
  • ¾ oz. Cointreau
  • ¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
  • Sugar (optional - for rimming the glass)
  • Lemon twist

Directions:

If choosing to rim the glass, wet the rim of a chilled cocktail glass with a slice of lemon, and then dip the rim into a plate of sugar. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice, and shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds. Strain into the chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

A Sidecar with a lemon slice.

18. Mimosa

A Mimosa is another classic brunch cocktail, but is wildly different from the Bloody Mary. The great balance of sweet and tart makes it a refreshing drink. Not to mention the bright color and festive bubbles make it a perfect choice for brunch, celebrations, or even lazy weekends. 

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup fresh orange juice, strained
  • ½ cup chilled champagne or sparkling wine
  • Orange slice (optional)

Directions:

Chill the champagne or sparkling wine beforehand. Fill a champagne flute about ⅓ of the way with orange juice. Pour the chilled champagne or sparkling wine to fill the rest of the flute. Gently stir with a spoon to combine. Garnish with an orange slice, if desired. 

Two Mimosas, the most popular breakfast cocktail.

19. Sangria 

Originating in Spain, Sangria is a fruity wine punch that’s well-loved by many around the world. There’s a variety of ways you can make sangria, which makes it easily customizable depending on your preference of wine and fruits. Restaurants and bars often have their own Sangria recipes, making it a unique addition to any drink menu. Here, we have a recipe for a classic red wine Sangria. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of red wine (750 ml)
  • ¼ cup brandy or triple sec
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 sliced orange
  • 1 sliced lemon
  • 1 sliced lime
  • 1 sliced apple

Directions:

Combine the red wine, brandy or triple sec, orange juice, and sugar in a large pitcher and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the sliced orange, lemon, lime, and apple, and stir to combine. Cover the pitcher with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-24 hours. Just before serving, add ice to the pitcher and stir. Pour the drink into wine glasses and garnish with extra fruit slices, if desired. 

A glass of red wine Sangria.

20. Pina Colada 

A Pina Colada is the quintessential drink to have on a sunny day at the beach. The combination of flavors in a well-made Pina Colada could easily transport you to a place with swaying palm trees and ocean breezes. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. rum
  • 2 oz. pineapple juice
  • 2 oz. coconut cream
  • 1 cup ice
  • Pineapple wedge and/or cherry

Directions:

Add the rum, pineapple juice, coconut cream, and ice to a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth and creamy. Pour the drink into a glass and garnish with a pineapple wedge and/or cherry. 

A refreshing Pina Colada with a pineapple slice.

21. Mai Tai

Similar to a Pina Colada, a Mai Tai can feel like taking a mini-vacation to an island paradise. This classic Polynesian cocktail is characterized by its signature amber hue.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. dark rum
  • 1 oz. orange curacao
  • ¾ oz. lime juice
  • ½ oz. orgeat syrup
  • ¼ oz. simple syrup
  • Mint sprig and/or lime wedge

Directions:

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the dark rum, orange curacao, lime juice, orgeat syrup, and simple syrup to the shaker, and shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds. Strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig and/or lime wedge. 

A Mai Tai, a drink that every bartender should know.

Honorable Mention: Beer

Last, but not least, we have the number one most popular drink ordered at a bar: Beer! Although making cocktails can be fun, it’s just as important for a bartender to have extensive knowledge of beer. Guests often rely on bartenders to make recommendations on beers based on their preferences, food pairing, or occasion. Having a wide knowledge of different types of beers can help enhance the guest experience, and they’ll be likely to remember their interaction with you if you give them a recommendation they enjoy. On top of that, bartenders have the opportunity to upsell more premium beers, like centrifuge-enhanced beers, if they know the different types, unique features, and flavor profiles. 

A glass of beer, the most popular drink worldwide.

Final Pour on Drinks Every Bartender Should Know

Knowing the fundamentals of mixology and a range of classic drinks is essential for bartenders to provide quality service and enhance the guest experience. From a classic martini to a trendy margarita, these 21 drinks every bartender should know can provide you with a solid foundation, allowing you to mix and serve drinks with confidence and skill.

If you’re looking for a way to manage your restaurant or bar’s workforce, see what Push can do for you

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March 2023

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