A Basic List of Bartending Drinks

A Basic List of Bartending Drinks

You’re going to be a bartender, so you need to know some drink recipes.

To start, memorize 100 drinks. It seems like a lot, but it really isn’t that bad.
This can done in a few days.  When I taught bartending, in one of those schools that you don’t need, the list was about 89 drinks and people had them memorized in about 3-4 days.  The 5th day we tested and most people did fine.

Keep in mind that some drinks build on something basic and that helps with memorizing.
Cape Codder = Vodka & Cranberry Juice

Sea Breeze = Vodka & Cranberry Juice & Grapefruit Juice  —> Cape Cod is next to the Sea (Ocean)
Bay Breeze = Vodka & Cranberry Juice & Pineapple Juice  —> Think of a Tropical bay. Pineapple grows in the tropics. 

Use different search engines to find classic cocktails, “the top 100 drinks of all time”, “drinks every bartender should know”.

As you do your research for a basic list of bartending drinks you will notice that the same drinks will appear in many of the lists.  Those are the most important drinks for a bartender to know.

Learn classic cocktails first. 

These are drinks that have been around for a long time.  The latest and fad drinks of the moment are probably based on traditional drinks.  Even shots, often times are based on the old drinks.

When I was learning to bartend there was a drink I had to learn called a sidecar.  This drink was way out of fashion in the 90’s.  So I promoted it as a shot.  People liked it.  Now it’s back to being a cool drink that people want.
Another example of a classic that fell out of favor was the Moscow Mule.  I worked in a bar that had the copper cups from back in the 70’s when the bar first opened.  People would see the copper mugs behind the bar and ask what they were for and I’d explain the drink, make it for them and most people didn’t like it.  Now it’s all the rage in 2020.

The point is that classics always tend to come back.  If they aren’t in fashion right now you can still make them for people that drink something similar.

Customers love when bartenders can tell them about different drinks from the past and how the new drinks are similar.

When you have a basic list of bartending drinks memorized it will also help you with knowing what to buy when stocking a bar.

Liquor Knowledge

Knowing about the products you serve is an important part of the job.

Mixology is something all bartenders need to learn. 

A good way to begin is to pick your favorite liquor and start tasting it.  That seems simple enough.

Don’t just start drinking to get drunk.  Really taste what it is.  

Learn what it’s made from and how it’s made.
Vodka can be made from grains or potatoes. 
Which is better?
What does it taste like plain and on ice?

Do you like it in a box?  Do you like it with a fox?

Try the cheap stuff and compare it with a more expensive brand. 
What are the differences?

You want to see if price makes a difference when used with different mixers. 
Will the cheap brand make as good of a drink without spending as much? 
That’s good to know if you’re buying liquor for a private party that you’re bartending.

Once your liquor knowledge of one product is at the expert level, you move on to the next.

Eventually, one sip at a time, you will be an expert at:

Vodka, Gin, Rum, Tequila, Mezcal, Whiskey, Bourbon, Scotch, Brandy and Cognac.

It takes time, but it is fun.

The knowledge you gain from doing this will give you a ton of confidence.  
That confidence is great for building business with lots of happy customers that want to tip you.

Here’s a small list of bartending drinks to get you started.

Bacardi Cocktail

Bacardi cocktail is the only cocktail issued a copyright from the United States government.

  • 2 oz. Bacardi Light Rum

  • 1 oz. Rose’s Lime Juice

  • 1/2 tsp Sugar


    1/2 oz. Rose Grenadine

Mix in a shaker with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass.

Brandy Alexander

A sweet and creamy delight. A favorite to all until Baileys came around.

  • 1-1/2 oz. Brandy or Cognac

  • 1/2 oz. Dark Crème de Cacao

  • 1 oz. Sweet Cream or Ice Cream

Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a Margarita glass.

Bloody Mary

This cocktail is probably the most famous of the “Hair of the Dog” morning-after concoctions.

  • 1-1/4 oz. Vodka

  • 2-1/2 oz. Tomato Juice

  • dash Worcestershire Sauce

  • dash Tabasco Sauce

  • dash Salt and Pepper

Pour Vodka over ice in a tall glass. Fill with Tomato Juice. Add a dash or two of Worcestershire Sauce and Tabasco Sauce. Stir and garnish with a Celery Stalk. For those who enjoy their Bloody Marys extremely spicy, add more Tabasco or even Horseradish.


The most popular drink of the new millennium.

  • 2 oz. Vodka

  • 1/2 oz. Cointreau

  • Juice of 1/2 Lime

  • 1/2 oz. Cranberry Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass.

Long Island Iced Tea

This one isn’t for the lightweights. However, whether on vacation or simply looking for a singular cocktail to offer a hefty buzz, this boozy “tea” will get the job done.

  • 1/2 shot vodka
  • 1/2 shot white rum
  • 1/2 shot white tequila
  • 1/2 shot gin
  • 1/2 shot triple sec
  • 1/2 shot fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 shot simple syrup
  • Cola
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • Serve in a hurricane glass

Shake everything except for the cola and strain into a hurricane glass with ice. Top with cola, then add the lemon wedge garnish.


If you make this cocktail correctly, you’ll never hear your guests utter this classic line from The Simpsons: “What did I do to deserve this flat, flavorless Manhattan?”

  • 2 oz. American or Canadian Whisky

  • splash Sweet or Dry Vermouth

  • dash Angostura Bitters

Stir ingredients in a rocks glass. Garnish with a Cherry.


A great drink for a hot summer day.

  • 1 oz. Tequila

  • 1 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec

  • 1 oz. Sweet & Sour Mix or Lime Juice

Shake ingredients with ice or blend ingredients with crushed ice. Serve in a salt-rimmed glass. Garnish with a Lime Wheel.


A simple and elegant classic.

  • 2 oz. Gin

  • dash Extra Dry Vermouth

Shake or stir Gin and Vermouth with ice. Strain and serve in a cocktail glass straight up or over ice. Garnish with a twist or an Olive.

Tequila Sunrise

You will have a warm summer glow after this one!

  • 2 oz. Patrón Tequila

  • 3 oz. Orange Juice

  • 1/4 oz. Grenadine

Pour Grenadine into a tall glass first. Then add Tequila and fill with ice and Orange Juice. Garnish with an Orange Slice

White Russian

If you’re worried about calories, you can use whole milk or half-and-half rather than cream, but cream tastes better. Skim and 2-percent milk produce unsatisfactory results. The Dude in The Big Lebowski settled for nondairy creamer powder in one scene; that option is for emergencies only.

  • 1-1/2 oz. Vodka

  • 1/2 oz. Kahlúa

  • 1/2 oz. Cream

Shake ingredients and serve over ice in a rocks glass.

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