Posted on: May 30, 2024

Cocktails Every Bartender Should Know

Cocktails Every Bartender Should Know

Stepping behind the bar for the first time can be exhilarating and, let's be honest, a bit nerve-wracking. The clinking of ice, the buzz of conversation, and the pressure to whip up perfect cocktails are enough to make even the coolest head sweat. Not to worry! Before you crack open your first shaker, it’s important to get equipped with the essentials: a handful of classic cocktails that every bartender should know inside and out.

These aren't just trendy Instagram fads. These are the timeless titans, the crowd-pleasers, the drinks that have stood the test of time, and countless thirsty patrons. Mastering these will not only ensure you can answer any order with confidence but will also help build a solid foundation for exploring the endless world of mixology.

The Spirits

First things first, let's get familiar with the main players. You'll likely be working with the "big five": vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, and tequila. Each has its own distinct personality, so understanding their flavor profiles and how they interact with other ingredients is key. Vodka is a blank canvas, versatile and neutral. Gin brings herbaceous complexity, rum offers tropical sweetness, whiskey delivers a warm spice, and tequila adds a fiery punch.

The Classics

Some drinks are more popular than others. On a busy night, you might get 50 orders for a Margarita and only 2 Negronis. It’s important to know the recipes of the most popular cocktails your patrons might order so you can be quick and efficient behind the bar.

Old Fashioned

This gentleman's drink is making a major comeback. Muddle a sugar cube with bitters in a rocks glass, add whiskey (bourbon or rye), a splash of water, and ice. Stir gently, express an orange peel over the glass, and garnish with a cherry and the peel.


The epitome of elegance, the martini is all about simplicity and balance. In a chilled cocktail shaker, combine gin or vodka with dry vermouth (start with a 2:1 ratio and adjust to taste). Shake with ice, strain into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with an olive or a lemon twist.


The ultimate rum cocktail, the daiquiri is light, refreshing, and deceptively simple. Combine freshly squeezed lime juice, simple syrup, and white rum in a shaker with ice. Shake hard, strain into a chilled coupe glass, and garnish with a lime wedge.


This Cuban mint julep is the perfect summer drink. Muddle mint leaves and sugar in a highball glass, add white rum, lime wedges, crushed ice, and top with soda water. Garnish with a mint sprig and lime wedge.


This whiskey-fueled masterpiece is smooth, sophisticated, and oh-so-satisfying. Combine rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters in a mixing glass with ice. Stir, strain into a chilled coupe glass, and garnish with a brandied cherry.


The salty-sweet queen of tequila cocktails, the margarita is a must-know. Combine tequila, fresh lime juice, orange liqueur (like Cointreau), and a salted rim (optional) in a shaker with ice. Shake hard, strain into a margarita glass with the salted rim, and garnish with a lime wedge.

Moscow Mule

This refreshing concoction is perfect for warmer weather. Combine vodka, ginger beer, and fresh lime juice in a copper mug filled with ice. Garnish with a lime wedge, and let the copper keep your drink icy cold.


We did mention this one a little earlier, so we couldn’t just leave you without this recipe. This bitter beauty is a favorite among cocktail connoisseurs. Combine equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth in a rocks glass filled with ice. Stir, garnish with an orange peel, and enjoy the complex symphony of flavors.

Remember, consistency is key. Invest in a jigger and practice measuring precisely. Master the basic pouring techniques like free-pouring, splash pouring, and counting. And most importantly, have fun! Experiment with different ratios, garnishes, and ice shapes to create your own signature twists on these classics.

This is just your first dip into the vast ocean of mixology. As you gain experience, delve deeper into different spirits, explore historical cocktails, and create your own masterpieces. Now, armed with these classic cocktails in your back pocket, you're ready to conquer your first shift with confidence. But remember, with great power comes great responsibility. Serving alcohol comes with a vital obligation to keep your customers safe and your establishment thriving.

Here's where TIPS comes in. Our comprehensive online courses can help provide you and your staff with the knowledge and skills to navigate the exciting world of alcohol service with confidence and care.

Imagine navigating tricky situations with ease, handling intoxication with professionalism, and ensuring everyone enjoys a safe and memorable experience at your bar. TIPS alcohol safety training courses can empower you to do just that, providing in-depth lessons on responsible service, alcohol awareness, legal compliance, and conflict resolution.

Head to our website to enroll today