Must Know Drink Recipes

The modern American cook is obsessed with recipes when mastery of a few basic techniques would make recipes less important. The same is pretty much true with the modern American home bartender.

Like food recipes, many drink recipes are based on formulas more so than ingredients. All highballs, for instance, are one part liquor and three parts mixer.

If you’ve ever watched a professional bartender at work, you’ll know he spends most of his time with a bottle of liquor in one hand and a bar gun in the other. The bar gun has several buttons; pushing a button causes the gun to release any one of an assortment of mixers. The gun dispenses mixer at three times the rate the liquor comes out of the bottle with a pour spout attached. This makes mixing highballs, the most popular type of mixed drink, quick and easy. As the liquor is being poured, the mixer gun is dispensing the right amount of mixer at the same time. Traditional bar glasses are just the right size to hold one jigger (shot) of liquor to three jiggers of mixer over ice.

Highball mixers are water, club soda, tonic water, soft drinks, and fruit juice. Some highballs, such as the Bloody Mary, have some unique flavors or spices added.

Many highballs are served as doubles. That simply means two shots of liquor instead of one so it packs a double wallop. The amount of mixer stays the same.

Drink Recipes

In contrast, some highballs are served tall. These drinks use just the one shot of liquor but they are served in glasses taller than usual, so they hold more mixer, making them weaker in alcoholic content.

Other must know drink recipes rely on formulas, too. Many of the most popular cocktails are three parts liquor and one part flavored liqueur or fortified wine:

  • A Martini is three parts gin or vodka and one part dry vermouth;
  • A Manhattan is three parts whiskey, one part sweet vermouth, and a splash of bitters;
  • A Cosmopolitan three parts vodka, one part cranberry juice with a splash of orange juice;
  • A Margarita is three parts tequila, one part triple sec or orange liqueur, and a splash of lime juice.

Using this 3:1 formula for an individual cocktail, three parts is one jigger and one part is a half a pony measure.

Some of the most popular must know drink recipes start simple and build from there:

  • A Black Russian is three parts vodka (a jigger), one part Kahlua (half a pony), using that same 3:1 formula again.
  • A White Russian is just a Black Russian topped off with a splash of milk or cream.
  • A Colorado Bulldog goes one ingredient further and calls for a taller glass. To make this one, fill a tall glass with ice, mix up a White Russian, then fill the glass with Coke.

Every restaurant or bar has a drink or two it claims as its own, even when that proprietary cocktail is no more than a slight variation of a classic cocktail. Tropical drinks, punches, toddies, flips, slings, fizzes, and anything with an exotic-sounding or attention-getting name are just variations on these formulas. Some of them are rather unique and others combine many different liquors, such as a Long Island Iced Tea. This amnesia-inducing drink is made from any combination of clear liquors poured over ice in a tall glass with just enough Coca-Cola added on top to give it the color of iced tea. A Texas Tea is made the same way, as long as a shot of tequila is one of the clear liquors used to make it.

For these drinks, it’s best to consult a bartenders’ manual or recipe because the variations are endless. They’re also beverages that are served less often than the others. You will want to limit your party’s beverage menus to just one or two of these at a time and mix them up in batches beforehand whenever possible, adding ice and carbonated ingredients as they’re served.

Experiment before the party, perfect your technique, and don’t worry too much about substitutions or alterations. It’s the substitutions and alterations that made some cocktails famous. Get creative and have fun. Develop your own signature drink and give it a truly whacky or personalized name.