12 Essential Cocktails to Know

February  5, 2014

January is over, and it's time to get the parties started again. And getting those parties started, naturally, involves cocktails: lots of them. Here are our definitive 12 cocktails that everyone should have up their sleeve -- for all the partying you'll be doing for the rest of the year. Practice makes perfect! 


Martini from Food52

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Margarita from Food52


Old Fashioned 

Old Fashioned by Food52


Horseradish Vodka Bloody Mary 

Bloody mary from Food52


Classic Daiquiri 

Daiquiri from Food52


Rum Punch 

Rum Punch from Food52



Sazerac from Food52



Sangria from Food52


Dark 'n Stormy 

Dark n Stormy from Food52



Negroni froM Food52



Gimlet from Food52


Moscow Mule  

Moscow Mule from Food52

 What are your most essential cocktails? Let us know in the comments!



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  • Richard Hamasian
    Richard Hamasian
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  • Kate Haynes
    Kate Haynes
Brette Warshaw

Written by: Brette Warshaw

I'm a reader, eater, culinary thrill-seeker, and food nerd.


Richard H. April 16, 2015
What the heck! Where's the Manhattan! ?!
Michael April 2, 2014
I'm glad to see you included the Negroni and the Sazerac, but I agree with the earlier posts regarding the Manhattan (especially made with rye) being an essential classic. And how about the Vieux Carre?
Mickey February 20, 2014
Summer -- Corpse Reviver #2.
Winter -- Saratoga.
Transcendancing February 9, 2014
My top classic coctails are the Charlie Chaplin and the Aviation. Also, the Amaretto Sour is seriously underated (but not quite a patch on my favourites...)
Kate H. February 9, 2014
I love these comments. lots of great ideas. here in the heartland we're enjoying Pinckney Bend Gin and Pinckney Bend classic tonic syrup. The best g and t to be had.
rsimpson3 February 9, 2014
I've tried their tonic syrup and it is very, very good. And cheaper in the long run than buying either Q or Fever Tree. Their gin isn't available here, but it makes perfect sense that a gin and tonic made with it and their tonic syrup would be fantastic since I'm sure they tweaked their tonic to complement the botanicals in their gin. Have you ever tried making your own tonic syrup? It's not hard: Jeffrey Morgenthaler has a great recipe on his website. You'd probably have to buy chichona bark online but you can then tweak his recipe to complement ANY gin.
Sherita N. February 9, 2014
Gaahhh!! This is so helpful! Thanks!
Nuala February 9, 2014
Where can I find that beautiful carafe pictured with the sangria recipe??
scarymonster February 6, 2014
Pretty good list. I would add the sidecar and the Manhatten.
Robert February 6, 2014
Dry Rob Roy scotch, dribble of dry vermouth w/lemon twist
Marcela G. February 6, 2014
rsimpson3 February 5, 2014
I think this is a fine list and wouldn't quibble with any of the drinks. In the interest of greater variety, though, I'd add the Blood and Sand just for the sake of getting scotch into the mix. It's equal parts blended scotch, sweet vermouth, cherry herring and orange juice. Often I'll make one for someone who's never had one and not tell them what's in it. Invariably, I get looks of disbelief when I tell them it contains scotch. Also, the name's origin is of more interest than most: it's named for a Rudolph Valentino film of 1922.
ragebil February 5, 2014
French 75 is my favorite!
Marylouise S. February 5, 2014
Manhattans, the way my friend Bill makes them! 1 part good Bourbon, 1/2 part red vermouth, several dashes of Angostura bitters and a sliver of orange peel. The orange peel is very important. No cherries or lemon peel. I sometimes put in a thin orange slice.
rsimpson3 February 5, 2014
Have you ever drank a Manhattan made with rye? I feel that the spiciness of rye is a better complement than bourbon to the sweetness of the vermouth. I love the addition of the orange peel. I've never liked cherries in Manhattans and leave them out whenever I make one for myself. Have you ever flamed the orange peel? I'm betting it would be great.
deanna1001 February 9, 2014
Manhattans must be made with rye! And if you make your own maraschino cherries (sour cherries steeped in Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur) you'll never go back. I've play with other bitters too - if you like the orange idea, add a dash of Regan's No.6 orange bitters. I recently tried Hella Bitters - they make a lovely citrus one. Or for a deep and smoky one, try Bitterman's bitters.
deanna1001 February 9, 2014
Whoops - I meant The Bitter Truth bitters - Their aromatic is darker and deeper in flavor than angostura.
rsimpson3 February 9, 2014
I've tried several ways of making homemade cherries, including using Luxardo's maraschino liqeuer. But that stuff can be so scarce around here (I was just able to buy a bottle after 5 months of unavailability), I'd rather save it for Aviations, Last Words and La Floradita's daiquiri #4. I've even splurged for an $18 jar of Luxardo's real deal maraschino cherries. Cherries just don't have a big payback for me in cocktails. I don't use them in making Old-Fashioneds, either, eschewing the fruit salad approach in favor of Jeffrey Morgenthaler's recipe using only simple sugar, bitters, orange peel and either rye or bourbon (I'm in a bourbon Old-Fashioned phase right now).

While Regan's orange bitters are de rigueur in a Martini, for Manhattans I rotate between Angustura, Regan's, Peychaud's, my own homemade bitters and the two varieties of aromatic bitters made by Fee Brothers. I'd love to get my hands on one of the newly bottled versions of Boker's bitters, which is what Jerry Thomas called for in the very first bar guide (published in 1862). Bitters are essential in a Manhattan, but my taste can vary so that no one brand is a clear favorite.
rsimpson3 February 9, 2014
Hah, I'm not the only one that confuses The Bitter Truth and Bitterman's. The only product from The Bitter Truth I've been able to try is their orange bitters. Friends and I did a taste comparison of orange bitters, trying Regan's #6, homemade Regan's #5, Angustura, The Bitter Truth and Fee Brothers in Martinis. Regan's #6 won unanimously with Angustura coming in second. I just spotted The Bitter Truth's grapefruit bitters here last week. But I haven't found a recipe requiring them, yet.
Cristina R. February 5, 2014
Aperol spritz!
Kenzi W. February 6, 2014
Ah, good one.
olive February 5, 2014
a sidecar !!!!!
Jay T. February 5, 2014
A Cosmo !!!!!