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The 10 Best Classic Cocktail Recipes You Need To Know, Part One

Posted by Evan Prish on

Not all cocktails are created equal.  A slight variation of a certain ingredient can alter both a cocktail’s taste and appearance.  This is especially true with classic cocktails that have specifically defined recipes.  Just like your favorite dinner dish, a cocktail is made up of different ingredients.  Also, like food dishes, cocktails have their own recipes made up of various ingredients in the forms of liquors, liqueurs and other mixers.  Changing the proportions of an ingredient or leaving one out all together will completely change the flavor of a cocktail.  A margarita with no triple sec would be like a chocolate chip cookie with no chocolate chips, it would lose all its sweetness and flat out would not be as enjoyable.

Professional bartenders will often taste the drinks they make before they serve them.  Not by taking a sip (that would be disgusting) but, while the cocktail is still in the shaker, using a straw and their thumb to get a tiny amount of the liquid from the shaker to their mouth.  This is because a good bartender knows what the drinks he or she is making should taste like and can easily identify a defective cocktail.  A good recipe matters, any proper bartender will tell you that. 

With that being said, and with everything going on in the world at the moment, there's a good chance you haven't gone to a bar in a while.  If that happens to be your current situation, then boy do I have a treat for you.  Today I’m going to share with you the perfect recipes for some of the most classic cocktails of all time, all of which you can easily make in the comfort of your home.  Everything from the smoothest Old-Fashioned to the most delicious and satisfying Margarita.

However, before I do, I think it’s only fair to tell you a little about why you should trust me.  I’ve worked for one of the biggest restaurant groups in New York and I’ve bartended for years at different establishments around the New York area.  Before I ever stepped foot behind a bar, I became certified in mixology, a course certified by the NYS Department of Education. Briefly, I worked for a liquor supplier as an events manager and attended some of the biggest spirits trade shows in the world, including Bar Convent Berlin.  If you don’t know what that is, trust me, you’ll want to.  Check it out here.

Alright alright, I know what you’re thinking, “Just shut up and tell me the recipes,”.  And I’m about to get there.  The reason I included my experience is so you understand that I’m not just some random person writing this, I actually know what I’m talking about.  I’ve made thousands of cocktails in both professional and recreational settings.  And now, I’m going to share with you part one of The Millennium Road’s 10 Best Classic Cocktail Recipes You Need To Know

Some basic bar tools you’ll need to make these cocktails are a shaker, a bar spoon, a strainer (unless you have a three-piece shaker), a muddler and a jigger: a bar tool used for measuring proportions.  Don’t have these?  Check out our 5-Piece Cocktail Mixology Set here that has everything you’ll need and more to craft these cocktails like a pro, and with some style!  While a mixing glass is the preferred tool for some of these cocktail recipes, a shaker bottom will get the job done just fine.  You can also just use a regular old pint glass as your mixing glass.

Now, without any further delay, here are the recipes.


Old-Fashioned Recipe

Old Fashioned Cocktail


  • 2.5 oz rye whiskey (or bourbon)
  • 1 orange slice
  • 1 black cherry
  • ½ teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 1 tsp of filtered water


Combine all ingredients in mixing glass and muddle until fruit is broken up and fully mixed in with the liquid. Then, fill mixing glass with ice and stir 20 times.  Finally, strain over ice into an old-fashioned or rocks glass and garnish with an orange peel and/or a cherry.  If you’re not into the fruit, leave it out and just use sugar. 

About the cocktail:

The Millennium Road’s cocktail of choice, the Old-Fashioned has been around since the mid-1800s, when brown spirits were the dominant form of liquor in the United States.  It has since turned into a pop-culture icon having been referenced in the tv series Mad Men, the hit show M*A*S*H and the movie Crazy Stupid Love.  The recipe has been recorded as early as 1895, and originally called for lemon as opposed to orange.  However, in the latter part of the 20th century, orange became a popular substitute for lemon because of its sweetness. 

Rye whiskey is the preferred whiskey for this recipe, but bourbon works as well.  A maraschino cherry can be substituted for the black cherry if you prefer.  The water helps open up the whiskey’s taste profile and bring out all the different flavors the cocktail has to offer.  Too much water, however, and the drink will become watered down and lose its flavor.  A couple of ice cubes should do the trick and if you have a tray to make large cubes, even better. 


Mojito Recipe

Mojito cocktail


  • 2 oz white rum
  • ½ of a lime
  • 4 mint leaves
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • Club Soda


Combine rum, lime, mint and brown sugar in a shaker bottom. Muddle ingredients together until all the juice is squeezed out of the lime.  Add ice and shake.  Then pour (not strain) into rocks or highball glass with the shaken ice.  Top with club soda until glass is full.  Garnish with a lime wedge and mint sprig. 

About the cocktail:

The Mojito was originally created on the Northern-Caribbean island country of Cuba.  While its exact origins are unknown, one tale has it that the South American Natives of modern-day Cuba used a crude version of the Mojito medicinally as early as the 1600s.  This tasty and refreshing cocktail has since moved away from its Cuban origins and today is one of the most popular cocktails throughout the entire world. 

One trick to making this cocktail is to put the mint leaves on the open palm of one of your hands, and then clap your other hand down on your palm holding the mint leaves.  By ‘smacking’ the mint leaves you help release their aroma and flavors before you put them into the shaker.  Also, one key point:  DO NOT (and I can’t stress this enough) add the club soda to the ingredients in the shaker.  You NEVER shake carbonated beverages.  Ever shaken a bottle of soda and then immediately opened it up?  Imagine that happening with your shaker.  Club soda is always the final ingredient, only to be added once the main parts of the cocktail are in the serving glass.  A Mojito does not need to be strained as straining can prevent some of the lime pulp and crushed mint leaves from reaching the glass.  Just pour it into the glass right out of the shaker.  No need for fresh ice on the finish with this one. 


Cosmopolitan Recipe

Cosmopolitan in martini glass with a lemon peel garnish.


  • 2oz citrus vodka
  • ¾ oz Cointreau (or 1oz Triple Sec)
  • ½ oz fresh lime juice
  • 2 tsps of cranberry juice


Combine all ingredients in shaker. Shake well.  Strain into a martini glass.  Garnish with a lemon twist.

About the cocktail:

Informally known as the ‘Cosmo’, this famed cocktail gained international recognition as a frequent order of the characters on the 1990s television show Sex and the City.  Its origins, however, have been widely debated.  Over the years, many bartenders throughout the United States have claimed to be the inventor of the cocktail, but none of their stories have ever been validated.  Cointreau is the key ingredient to this recipe, packing a punch with 40% Alcohol By Volume as opposed to the typical 15-20% ABV for Triple Sec.  If all you have is Triple Sec, it’s a fine substitute as they both are citrus liqueurs.  However, Cointreau is The Millennium Road’s preferred ingredient for this cocktail. 

The lemon twist is a signature garnish.  If you have a lemon and a peeler or a knife, you can make one.  First, peel a long piece off the lemon.  Then, cut that peel so its super thin, about the width of your pinky nail.  Run the bottom part of the lemon peel around the rim of the glass so every sip has some extra lemony flavor.  Finally, take that thin lemon peel and twist it like a corkscrew.  Hold it for a few seconds so it retains its shape.  Voilà, you have a lemon twist!  Plop that sucker right in the drink and you’re good to go.   


Margarita Recipe

Margarita cocktail


  • 2oz silver tequila
  • ¾ oz Cointreau (or 1oz Triple Sec)
  • ½ oz fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz agave nectar
  • kosher salt (optional)


Combine all ingredients in shaker. Shake well.  Strain over ice into a rocks glass, or strain into margarita glass.  For salt on the rim-- take a lime wedge and run the citrus side around the full rim of the glass.  Lightly spread some kosher salt on a small plate.  Take the glass and gently place it rim side down on the plate of salt.  Move the rim around the plate until the rim is sufficiently covered in salt. 

About the cocktail:

Everyone’s favorite party drink, the Margarita has been one of the most popular cocktails in the world for decades.  Its recipe was featured in Esquire magazine as early as 1953.  Singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett loved margaritas so much, he dedicated a song and a chain of restaurants to them!  Sweet, sour and salty, this cocktail offers a variety of flavors that have contributed to its immense popularity.  A margarita can be enjoyed on the rocks, up or even frozen! 

The secret ingredient to this cocktail is the agave nectar, which is a honey like substance derived from the blue agave plant.  Tequila, the main ingredient in the margarita, is also made from the blue agave plant.  Agave nectar is not quite as thick as honey but is similarly sweet.  It’s addition to the cocktail provides the perfect amount of sweetness and gives it an incredibly refreshing yellowish-green hue.  Just like the Cosmopolitan, Cointreau is the recommended ingredient here, but Triple Sec is second best if that’s what you’re working with.  If you don’t care for tequila, substitute vodka and leave out the agave nectar.  You now have yourself a ‘Kamikaze’. 


Negroni Recipe

Negroni cocktail


  • 1oz gin
  • 1oz Campari
  • 1oz Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth (or 1oz regular sweet vermouth)
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 1 tsp filtered water


Combine all ingredients in mixing glass. Fill mixing glass up with ice and stir 20 times.  Strain over ice in a rocks glass.  Garnish with an orange peel or slice.

About the cocktail:

This relatively simple cocktail is most popular in Italy, however, Negronis are enjoyed by gin drinkers around the world.  With a bit of sharpness to it, the Negroni’s taste can be an acquired one for cocktail drinkers who are not used to their drinks having a bite to them.  At the same time, this is why drinkers of the Negroni love it.  Just like the Old-Fashioned, a small amount of water in this cocktail will help open it up and bring out its flavors. 

Similarly to what Cointreau is to Triple Sec, Carpano Antica is a higher quality ingredient than your standard Sweet Vermouth.  Regular Sweet Vermouth will do just fine if that’s what you have, but Carpano Antica is The Millennium Road’s Sweet Vermouth of choice.  If you’re unfamiliar with Campari, it’s a bitter Italian liqueur with a dark red color.  Someone who prefers sweet cocktails might want to stay away from this one.  But, if bitterness doesn’t bother you and gin is your liquor of choice, then the Negroni is probably right up your alley.


That concludes part one of The 10 Best Classic Cocktail Recipes You Need to Know.  Be sure not to miss part two coming next week, featuring the Manhattan, the Piña Colada and more classic cocktail recipes!

If you’re now dying to make these cocktails but don’t have any of the bar tools necessary, we got you covered.  Check out our 5-Piece Mixology Cocktail Set here.  It’s got everything you need to make all of these cocktails just like a professional bartender (and with some style.)

Questions?  Comments?  Just wanna say hi?  We’d love to hear from you!  Email for any and all inquiries.  We’ll get back to you as soon as we can!

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