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The 30 Classic Cocktails You’ve Got to Try at Least Once in Your Life

Whether you're a cocktail connoisseur or someone who prefers to have a drink once in a while, you're bound to find a new favorite on this list.
The 30 Classic Cocktails You’ve Got to Try at Least Once in Your Life

There are hundreds of cocktails out there, with new variations on classics popping up every year among trendy bars all across the United States. But who could forget about the classics? The cocktails that were the foundations of the trend—you know, the ones that popped up prior to the Prohibition era or even several centuries before that? For all of the cocktail enthusiasts, and those who just appreciate one from time to time, we have showcased a list of some of the classic cocktails we think you should try at least once in your life. You may just have a new favorite go-to after reading this list.

1

The Salty Dog

three salty dog cocktails Shutterstock

Ingredients: Gin or vodka, fresh grapefruit juice, salt, grapefruit wedge (optional)

Why it’s iconic: The salty dog is essentially the greyhound cocktail (vodka or gin mixed with grapefruit juice) except the rim of the glass is coated in coarse salt. The grapefruit juice gives this cocktail a refreshing quality, which is why it’s best enjoyed in the hot summer months.

2

Paloma

paloma cocktail grapefruit fruit garnish in glass on tray Shutterstock

Ingredients: Mescal or tequila, fresh grapefruit juice, lime juice, club soda, sugar, salt, grapefruit wedge or lime wedge (optional)

Why it’s iconic: The paloma cocktail is a go-to drink in Mexico. It’s fizzy from the club soda, sweet from the tequila, and even a bit bitter from the grapefruit juice. Fun fact: in Spanish, paloma means dove.

3

The French 75

the french 75 cocktail in champagne glasses Shutterstock

Ingredients: Gin, Champagne, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, long spiral lemon twist (for garnish)

Why it’s iconic: This cocktail originated sometime in the 1920s by Harry MacElhone, the founder of the long-standing cocktail bar in France, Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. The French 75 was then popularized in the U.S. by the legendary bar The Stork Club in New York City.

4

Old Fashioned

old fashioned cocktail on coaster Shutterstock

Ingredients: Rye or bourbon, sugar, angostura bitters, orange slice and twist (optional)

Why it’s iconic: The old fashioned cocktail is arguably one of the most commonly ordered cocktails. In fact, Drinks International conducts a poll annually that surveys bartenders among the world’s best bars, where they’re asked to rank their 10-best selling cocktails. For the fifth year in a row, “nearly 30% of bars polled said it was their number one selling classic cocktail.”

The old fashioned first debuted as we know it today in 1880, but the classic whiskey drink was likely being made well before then, with the word “cocktail” making its first appearance in American newspapers in 1806. A cocktail, back then, was described as a drink that included a spirit with sugar, bitters, and water.

5

White Russian

white russian stirred in glass on bar Shutterstock

Ingredients: Vodka, Kahlúa, heavy cream

Why it’s iconic: The White Russian is a derivative of the Black Russian drink, which just consists of vodka and Kahlúa. The White Russian is said to have debuted in the 1960s after an individual cleverly added cream to the Black Russian. A resurgence of the drink’s popularity occurred after The Big Lebowski hit theaters in 1998 with several shots of the character, the Dude, sipping on the sweet drink.

6

Mojito

mojito in glass Shutterstock

Ingredients: White rum, simple syrup, club soda, fresh lime juice, mint leaves

Why it’s iconic: This is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in the books, with origins dating back to 16th century Cuba. Evidently, it was one of Ernest Hemingway‘s favorite cocktails.

7

Moscow Mule

Moscow mules Shutterstock

Ingredients: Vodka, ginger beer, lime juice

Why it’s iconic: You can almost always count on getting this cocktail in that signature copper mug. The Moscow Mule has been an American favorite for almost 80 years.

8

Sangria

assorted sangria cocktails in short wine glasses Shutterstock

Ingredients: Red wine, apple slices, quartered orange slices, orange liqueur, apple juice, prosecco

Why it’s iconic: Sangria, in Spanish, translates to a mix of fruit and wine. Fitting, yes? This is another timeless cocktail that’s likely been around for multiple centuries. The fruity beverage originally debuted in the U.S. at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.

9

The Manhattan

Manhattan whiskey cocktail Shutterstock

Ingredients: Bourbon or rye, sweet vermouth, angostura bitters, orange bitters

Why it’s iconic: The inception of the Manhattan took place in—you guessed it—Manhattan! The classic cocktail debuted at the Manhattan Club in New York City supposedly around 1880.

10

Bellini

Bellini drink Shutterstock

Ingredients: Fresh white peach purée, prosecco

Why it’s iconic: This sweet cocktail only contains two ingredients: peach and prosecco. The Bellini was created by the founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice, Giuseppe Cipriani in 1948. Originally a seasonal drink, this cocktail soon became prevalent on bar menus year-round. However, it’s probably best to order this drink when white peaches are in season for optimal flavor, which is the summer!

11

Kir Royale

kir royal cocktail in tall champagne glass Shutterstock

Ingredients: Chambord or Crème de Cassis, Champagne

Why it’s iconic: There’s a reason this cocktail has a luxurious name—this Champagne-based cocktail is either sweetened (and spiked) with a high-class, French black raspberry liqueur called Chambord or a blackcurrant liqueur called Crème de Cassis. In other words, this is the kind of cocktail you order at a fancy dinner out on the town.

12

The Vesper

the vesper cocktail in tall glass with lemon peel garnish Shutterstock

Ingredients: Gin, vodka, and Lillet blanc apéritif

Why it’s iconic: The Vesper or Vesper Martini was popularized by Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond book series. The cocktail appeared in the 1953 book Casino Royale, with its name attributed to Vesper Lynd—the fictional double agent. You may recall James Bond asking for the Vesper “shaken not stirred.”

13

Negroni

negroni cocktail glass with orange peel garnish Shutterstock

Ingredients: Gin, Campari, sweet vermouth

Why it’s iconic: This drink is exactly 100 years old, with its debut occurring in Florence, Italy, in 1919. The Negroni has made quite the comeback in popularity in recent years as well. According to Drinks International “The World’s Best-Selling Classic Cocktails 2019” the Negroni took second place for the fifth consecutive year, with 19 percent of bartenders from some of the world’s most famous bars saying it’s their top selling cocktail.

14

Bloody Mary

Bloody mary toppings Shutterstock

Ingredients: Tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, hot sauce, salt, black pepper, lemon juice, 1 celery stick, lemon wedge (optional)

Why it’s iconic: The Bloody Mary may be most iconic for its ability to supposedly cure a hangover (a la hair of the dog), which explains why so many people order the drink at brunch. There are a lot of variations to this classic cocktail, but this is a typical recipe!

15

Margarita

assorted margarita cocktails with salt on rim Shutterstock

Ingredients: Tequila blanco, lime juice, agave (or simple) syrup, salt, a slice of lime (optional)

Why it’s iconic: You don’t have to be a cocktail enthusiast to have tried a margarita, thanks to the plentiful (and colorful) margarita mixes you can find in the store. This cocktail is also fantastic when it’s frozen. Boozy slushie, anyone? Yes, please!

16

Daiquiri

Frozen daiquiri Shutterstock

Ingredients: Light rum, fresh lime juice, Demerara sugar syrup

Why it’s iconic: Lovers of rum likely enjoy this cocktail above the rest. It’s said to have been invented during the Spanish-American War in 1898. The cocktail was named after the mining town in Cuba that it was created in, Daiquiri. You can order these cocktails shaken or frozen like a slushie and with multiple flavor enhancements.

17

Whiskey Sour

whiskey sour cocktails in glass with cherry lemon garnish Shutterstock

Ingredients: Bourbon, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, orange slice, and Maraschino cherry (optional)

Why it’s iconic: It’s said that sailors of the British Navy used to drink something similar to the whiskey sour when water was scarce.

18

Aperol Spritz

women holding aperol spritz cocktails Shutterstock

Ingredients: Brut prosecco, Aperol, club soda, slices of lime or orange

Why it’s iconic: This cocktail just recently made a comeback in popularity. The drink is said to be one of the most popular apéritifs (an alcoholic drink that helps to stimulate digestion before a meal) in Italy. This drink is perfect for the person who prefers a fizzy and lower-in-alcohol content cocktail.

19

The Cosmopolitan

cosmopolitan cocktail on bar in tall glass Shutterstock

Ingredients: Citrus vodka, Cointreau, fresh lime juice, cranberry juice

Why it’s iconic: Perhaps you learned about this cocktail during its peak of popularity from Sex and the City on HBO. It’s no question that women who watched this show in the ’90s and early ’00s were in awe of how cool Carrie Bradshaw made ordering this pink cocktail look.

20

Long Island Iced Tea

Long island iced tea Shutterstock

Ingredients: Gin, white rum, silver tequila, vodka, triple sec, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, cola

Why it’s iconic: It’s no wonder a Long Island Iced Tea is known as one of the “stronger” cocktails out there—just look at what all goes into it! There are four very different spirits mixed together in this cocktail, and there isn’t a trace of tea in sight.

21

Irish Coffee

irish coffee cocktail in tall glass mugs Shutterstock

Ingredients: Irish whiskey, brown sugar, brewed coffee, whipped cream (optional)

Why it’s iconic: Sipping on a glass full of coffee mixed with whiskey may just be one of the most warming drink combinations. Add in a dollop of whipped cream, and you’ve got yourself a creamy cocktail. As one would infer, the first Irish Coffee was made in Ireland, but the first Irish Coffee made in the U.S. is still sold today at The Buena Vista in San Francisco.

22

Gin & Tonic

gin & tonic cocktail in glasses lemon garnish Shutterstock

Ingredients: Gin, tonic water, lemon or lime wedges

Why it’s iconic: It’s one of the most simple, yet sophisticated, mixed drinks out there. It’s also one of the more lower-calorie cocktails, with absolutely no added sugar or syrups.

RELATED: The science-backed way to curb your sweet tooth in 14 days.

23

Mint Julep

mint julep cocktail in cup Shutterstock

Ingredients: Bourbon, simple syrup, mint leaves

Why it’s iconic: This is the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby, and it’s traditionally served in a classy silver Julep cup. Patrons have been sipping on this cocktail since the 18th century.

24

Boulevardier

boulevardier cocktail in tall glass with orange peel garnish Shutterstock

Ingredients: Campari, sweet vermouth, Bulleit rye whiskey, orange peel or twist (optional)

Why it’s iconic: The Boulevardier is actually the Negroni cocktail’s cousin—the only difference is the vodka is swapped out for whiskey. The cocktail was invented during the Prohibition era.

25

Mai Tai

mai tai cocktail in glass with straw Shutterstock

Ingredients: Rum, lime juice, rock candy syrup, Orgeat almond syrup, orange curaçao, mint sprig, and lime rind (optional)

Why it’s iconic: First off, there are a lot of different ways to make this drink, hence the reason why you may see this drink be served in all colors of the sunset. In Tahitian, Mai Tai means “the best out of this world!” Try this sweet cocktail yourself—you can be the judge of that!

26

Sidecar

sidecar cocktail in tall fishbowl glass Shutterstock

Ingredients: Cognac, Cointreau, fresh lemon juice, orange peel, and sugar (optional)

Why it’s iconic: This is the classic sour cocktail, which makes the sugar coating on the rim of the glass all that more important!

27

Gimlet

gimlet cocktail in glass with cucumber garnish Shutterstock

Ingredients: Gin, simple syrup, fresh lime juice

Why it’s iconic: Would you believe that the gimlet was invented as a means to help sailors prevent getting scurvy (a severe deficiency in vitamin C) while at sea? Cheers to preventive care, or um, cocktails!

28

Mimosa

mimosa cocktails in glasses with orange slice on rim Shutterstock

Ingredients: Champagne, orange juice, orange slices

Why it’s iconic: Have you ever been to a boozy brunch without mimosas? The mimosa is probably the most basic cocktail of them all, but it’s also one of the most popular of them all. Where the first mimosa was truly concocted is still up for debate—its origins are disputed between a Paris bar and a London club.

29

Dark ‘n Stormy

dark n stormy cocktail in glass with lime garnish Shutterstock

Ingredients: Gosling’s Black Seal rum, ginger beer, rum

Why it’s iconic: This drink is the unofficial cocktail of the shipwreck capital of the world, Bermuda.

30

Clover Club

clover club cocktail on window sill with raspberry garnish Shutterstock

Ingredients: Gin, egg white, fresh lemon juice, raspberry syrup, raspberries

Why it’s iconic: Known as a pre-Prohibition classic cocktail, the Clover Club was named after a men’s club in Philadelphia. It recently experienced a resurgence in popularity, and there’s even a bar in Brooklyn, New York, that’s named after the signature drink.

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