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In a world of craft breweries and venue-specific cocktails, it can be difficult for a bartender to know it all. The good thing is that you don’t need to know every single mixed drink referenced in obscure movies. Instead, focusing on a few standby classics can be extremely helpful in pleasing your customers. From the fruity and fabulous to the classy and sophisticated, here are the top 4 cocktails that every bartender needs to know.


This Bond-approved classic is a must-have at high-end bars and evening parties. Mention the Martini and you’ll immediately be perceived as elegant and refined. There are several variations on this outstanding drink, which we’ll get to in a second, but the original recipe is as follows:

  • 2oz Gin
  • Dash of Dry Vermouth
  • Stir with ice and strain into martini glass.
  • Garnish with olives

Its beauty lies in its simplicity and makes it perfect for mixing up. Here are a few of the most common variations.

  • Vodka – simply substitute out the gin and put in vodka instead.
  • Shaken – the way James Bond likes it. It will make the drink extra cold and will dilute it a bit.
  • Dirty – drop in a spoonful or two of olive brine. Want more? Ask for Extra Dirty or Filthy until it’s right.
  • Dry – contains less vermouth.
  • Wet – contains extra vermouth. If you want even more, ask for a 50/50 Gin (or vodka) Martini.
  • Gibson – substitute cocktail onion for the olive garnish.
  • With a Twist – substitute a twist of lemon peel for the olive garnish.

There are lots more ways to change up the recipe, but these standard variations should keep you content.

Mai Tai

If you are a bartender in a tropical-themed bar or restaurant, get used to this deliciously fruity drink. There are several different stories as to how this drink came into existence, but it’s a long-standing favorite originating in the 30s or 40s (depending on who you ask!) that has been pleasing cocktail drinkers for a long time. Here’s how to make it.

  • ¾ oz Bacardi Light Rum
  • ¼ oz Bacardi 151 Rum
  • ½ oz Orange Curacao
  • ½ oz Lime Juice
  • ½ oz Orgeat Syrup
  • ½ oz Simple syrup
  • Pour all ingredients into a highball glass with ice and stir to combine.
  • Garnish with a spring of mint, a cherry, and a chunk of fresh pineapple.


While this classic cocktail has gotten a bit of a bad rap lately for its constant fruity variations, the classic version is a must-have in any bartender’s repertoire. It was claimed to have been invented in 1938 by restauranteur Carlos Herrera near Tijuana for the famous dancer Marjorie King, who preferred tequila to other spirits. Here’s the original version:

  • 1 oz Tequila
  • 1 oz Cointreau or Triple Sec
  • 1 oz Sour Mix
  • Salt the rim of a highball glass.
  • Shake all ingredients with ice and pour into highball glass.
  • Garnish with lime.
  • To personalize, add any fruity syrups to taste.

Long Island Iced Tea

Finally, we arrive at one of the most loathed-by-bartenders cocktails on this list. But we are including it because you will be asked for it over and over again. It is a booze-heavy drink which makes it a favorite among bar-goers, especially in the younger crowd. Ready? Here it is:

  • ½ oz Vodka
  • ½ oz Rum
  • ½ oz Gin
  • ½ oz Triple Sec
  • ½ oz Tequila
  • ½ oz Sour Mix
  • Cola
  • Pour the first four ingredients over ice in a highball glass and top with sour mix and cola.
  • Add lemon or lime twist to garnish.

The Bar Consulate

While these aren’t the only cocktails a bartender should know, they are a few good classic ones that will help you out. As some of the most-ordered drinks out there, knowing these ones will make sure you have the skills and recipes to satisfy any customer. Contact The Bar Consulate for all your bartender and spirit education requests!