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Clint Lanier and Derek Hembree Headshot

10 Cocktails Every Bartender and Cocktail Connoisseur Should Know

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COCKTAIL
Clint Lanier and Derek Hembree

In today's world of craft cocktails the unique and unusual have become the norm. From bartenders' self invented nightly specials to drinks that have taken the nation by storm -- see Cosmopolitan and Lynchburg Lemonade -- there is no shortage of creative selections to be had.

But at the core of bartending are the classics -- drinks like the Martini, the Manhattan and even the Mai Tai. These drinks not only served as the cornerstone of bars in the past, but many have also served as the basis for the drinks we have come to love and enjoy today.

Unfortunately these classics have taken a backseat to some of the more popular cocktails of today while becoming a second thought to many bartenders. Following is a slideshow of 10 cocktails every bartender and cocktail connoisseur should be able to make and a few of the common twists.

  • Martini
    Flickr:0000007
    The Martini is forever the gentleman's classic- the name alone garners images of manly man James Bond ordering his all time favorite, "Martini, shaken not stirred." 2 oz. Vodka/Gin Dash Dry Vermouth Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a skewer of olives. Common twists: -Dry - No vermouth. -Dirty - Dash of olive juice. -Shaken - Shake vodka/gin with ice instead of stirring. -On The Rocks - Served in a rocks glass with ice.
  • The Manhattan
    Flickr:mattwunderle
    This drink is as easy as New York City’s area code...2-1-2… 2 oz of bourbon/whiskey 1 oz. sweet vermouth 2 dashes of bitters. Build ingredients over ice, stir, strain into martini glass if you're serving it up or into a rocks glass with ice if it’s being served on the rocks, garnish with a Cherry. Bonus - Make a perfect Manhattan by substituting the sweet vermouth with 1/2 oz of dry and 1/2 oz of sweet vermouth.
  • Long Island Ice Tea
    Flickr:allaboutgeorge
    Dating back to the 1920s or 1970s, depending on which story you choose to believe, this is one classic that packs a punch! 1/2 oz. Vodka 1/2 oz. Rum 1/2 oz. Gin 1/2 oz. Triple Sec 1/2 oz. Tequila 1/2 oz. Sour Mix Cola Build the first four ingredients over ice in a highball glass, add sour mix, top with cola and garnish with a lemon or lime. Bonus - Substitute the Sour Mix and cola for Midori to make it a Tokyo Tea.
  • Old Fashioned
    Flickr:illustir
    One of the oldest cocktails in the U.S. the name is the shortened version of "Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail." To keep it true to the classic Rye Whiskey is the go-to choice. Cherry and Orange Slice 1 tsp sugar or 1 sugar cube 1 1/2 oz. American Rye or Bourbon 2 dashes Angostura Bitters Muddle the cherry (without stem), orange slice, bitters and sugar until is has been reduced to mush. Add whiskey and ice, stir and serve.
  • Margarita
    Flickr:TheLunchBelle
    Exactly where and how the margarita was founded has been lost in the ever changing history of the cocktail. What is certain is that a margarita is a top pick for taking the edge off those hot summertime afternoons--and once you get the basic recipe down it is one of the easiest to personalize. 1 oz. Tequila 1 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec 1 oz. Sour Mix Build ingredients over ice and shake, pour into a highball glass with a salted rim, garnish with a lime.
  • Black Russian
    Rumored to have been created in a bar in Brussels in the 1940's it’s believed the name is either based on the use of the black colored coffee liqueur and Russian vodka or is in homage to the beginnings of the cold war. Regardless, this easy-to-make cocktail is both tasty and the basis for two other popular drinks; the White Russian and the Colorado Bulldog. 1.5 oz. Vodka 1/2 oz. Kahlua or Coffee Liqueur Add ingredients to mixing glass with ice and stir, strain into a rocks glass over ice. Bonus - To make a White russian simply add 1/2 an oz of cream to the recipe. To make it a Colorado Bulldog add 1 oz of cream, pour into a highball glass with ice and top with Cola.
  • Mai Tai
    Flickr:Sam Howzit
    Ah, the infamous Mai Tai! No drink on this list comes close to the controversy behind the origination of this drink. One claim is it was first served at Trader Vic's in 1944, the other is that it was created at Don The Beachcomber's in 1933. Regardless, the recipes far out number the claims to its founding so below is one that is sure to please the pallet of most Mai Tai connoisseurs. 3/4 oz. Bacardi Light Rum 1/4 oz. Bacardi 151 Rum 1/2 oz. Orange Curacao 1/2 oz. Lime Juice 1/2 oz. Orgeat Syrup 1/2 oz. Simple Syrup Build in a highball glass over ice and stir. Garnish with Mint, Cherry, and Pineapple.
  • Negroni
    Flickr:Geoff Peters 604
    This apertif--served as an appetizer before a meal--originated in Florence Italy in 1919. It is thought that the bitters--historically used as a medicinal--are good for you and the gin isn’t, making it the perfect 'balanced' drink. 1.5 oz. Sweet Vermouth 1.5 oz. Gin 1.5 oz. Campari Combine ingredients in a rocks glass over ice and stir. Garnish with an orange twist. Bonus - Check out the Mas Chingoni (LINK)
  • Whiskey Sour
    Flickr:theogeo
    The oldest known written example of the Whiskey Sour can be found in a Wisconsin magazine dating back to 1870. Today there are numerous recipes to choose from in addition to the original and below is one of our favorites. 1 1/2 oz. Whiskey 1 1/2 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice (Half a lemon) 3/4 oz. simple syrup Build in a shaker with ice, shake, strain and serve straight up or or over ice (both are acceptable versions), garnish with a cherry.
  • Pina Colada
    Flickr:David Berkowitz
    The official drink of Puerto Rico has a past almost as controversial as the Mai Tai. Some believe the recipe dates as far back as the early 1800’s and others claim it wasn’t created until the 20th century. Despite its vague past, the Pina Colada has become a favorite at backyard BBQ’s and the local Tiki bar. 1 1/4 oz. Light Rum 2 oz. Pineapple Juice 2 oz. Cream of Coconut Combine all ingredients with ice in a shaker and shake, pour into highball glass and garnish with a slice of pineapple and/or a cherry. Bonus - Blend all ingredients with ice to make the popular frozen version.