Just like almost everyone else in the world, I’ve been more stressed than usual thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic. Normally at the end of a stressful day at work, I’d stop at a bar with coworkers or a group of friends and grab a drink on my way home. But since I’m working from home (like most office workers) and bars are closed, that’s not an option.
Instead, I started teaching myself how to make great cocktails at home. I bought a book of cocktail recipes and started making my own elaborate alcoholic drinks. If you’re like me and are missing the bar, here’s an overview of some of the best cocktails you can make at home.
Tips for Making Great Cocktails at Home
- Plan ahead. There’s nothing worse than realizing you’re out of a key ingredient halfway through making your drink.
- An overstocked bar is better than running out of ingredients.
- Invest in the right tools. You’ll want a cocktail shaker, peeler, muddler, mixing glass, and glassware that matches the drink you’re making.
- Keep plenty of ice on-hand. It doesn’t have to come out of any fancy molds (though that doesn’t hurt); whatever you have in your freezer will do. Good cocktails take a lot of ice.
- Don’t forget garnish! A lemon wedge or bit of lime peel goes a long way. And that includes liquid garnish. Blue curacao, Campari, or crème de menthe can all add a pop of color to your cocktails.
16 Great Cocktail Recipes You Get to Know
#1 Great Cocktails: Margarita
This classic party drink is normally synonymous with noisy, crowded bars, but it’s no less charming enjoyed solo at home. It’s also incredibly easy to make. The classic iteration has only three ingredients: Cointreau, lime, and tequila. Invest in good tequila for this; it’ll make or break the recipe. And don’t forget to salt the rim and garnish with a wedge of lime.
#2 Great Cocktails: Moscow Mule
You were probably introduced to Moscow mules at an intimate house party, but they’re an ideal at-home cocktail in my opinion. It’s another easy one. It’s just vodka, ginger beer (not ginger ale-big difference), and lime juice.
#3 Great Cocktails: Mojito
Who doesn’t love a mojito? Fill a Collins glass with muddled lime and mint leaves, crushed ice, simple syrup, white rum, and club soda. It’s an excellent classic as-is, but it also lends itself well to customizations and riffs with other flavors. Toss in a few blueberries or sliced strawberries for a refreshing twist on the classic.
#4 Great Cocktails: Hot Toddy
Hot toddies are an excellent way to unwind on a cold night or when you’re feeling just a tad bit under the weather. Blend hot water, whiskey, honey, and lemon juice. Pour into a mug and garnish with a lemon round and a cinnamon stick. Sip, get cozy, and enjoy.
#5 Great Cocktails: Whiskey Sour
Whiskey sours are a bit out of fashion at the moment, but that really just means they’re retro. The drink consists of bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters for garnish. If you want to try it the authentic way, shake it with an egg white for a bit of froth.
#6 Great Cocktails: Negroni
If you’re missing your favorite atmospheric speakeasy, learning how to whip up a quick negroni will be your fix. This simple, aromatic drink is simple – just gin, Campari, sweet vermouth, and an orange peel for garnish.
#7 Great Cocktails: Daiquiri
A traditional daiquiri is just rum, lime, and sugar, but that’s also a perfect blank slate to add flavoring to. If you’re up for planning ahead, I recommend making your own frozen daiquiri. And garnish is a must.
#8 Great Cocktails: Long Island Iced Tea
Famous for being strong yet sippable, the Long Island Iced Tea consists of vodka (bonus point if you hav orange-flavored vodka on hand), rum, gin, tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice. Top with a splash of Coke and an orange slice for garnish.
#9 Great Cocktails: Manhattan
Manhattans are the perfect combination of sweet and bitter, and I’ve found myself gravitating to them frequently while I reminisce about the hustle and bustle of the city. There’s something about a Manhattan that evokes the feeling of meeting a stranger at a bar and chatting the night away.
#10 Great Cocktails: Screwdriver
The screwdriver was practically invented for beginner mixologists. Just stir vodka and orange juice together and you have yourself a refreshing cocktail, perfect for at-home brunch or after-work drinks.
#11 Great Cocktails: Bloody Mary
Speaking of at-home brunch, every amateur mixologist should have a Bloody Mary recipe they swear by. The traditional cocktail has vodka, orange juice, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco. Serve with an olive, celery, or a great brunch.
#12 Great Cocktails: Caprioska
This is another simple, but great one: lime, vodka, and sugar. If you’re feeling fancy, toss in some mint leaves.
#13 Great Cocktails: Cosmopolitan
Shake vodka, cranberry juice, and lime in a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour into a martini glass and garnish with a bit of orange peel. The bright pink color is a perfect pick-me-up all on its own.
#14 Great Cocktails: Sangria
Perfecting your own personal sangria recipe is perhaps the best way to spend quarantine I can think of. The classic recipe consists of cut fruit (like apples, oranges, or whatever's in season), red and orange wine, and 7Up. But sangria is also often used as a catch-all term for punch with wine and fruit. Play around with what types of wine (white wine can be excellent in a sangria) and different types of fruit. That way, when house parties and potlucks become a reality again, you’ll have something to bring to wow a crowd.
#15 Great Cocktails: Tom Collins
The Tom Collins is rumored to be named after a practical joke. But I like it because it’s refreshing and reminds m e of golfing at the country club. It’s also incredibly easy to make. Fill a Collins glass with ice and chill it in the freezer while you put the other ingredients (gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and ice) into a shaker. Strain it into the chilled Collins glass. Top it with club soda and a lemon wedge.
#16 Great Cocktails: Gin and Tonic
If you can say the name of this drink, you can make it – it’s literally just gin, tonic water, and a lime wedge for garnish. Because it’s so simple, the gin you use really matters. Experiment and find your favorite gin. This is also a great drink for experimentation. Try adding in a splash of fruit juice or botanical liqueur to make it your own.
Not being able to go to bars during the pandemic is frustrating. And sure, you won’t get the same ambience and social experience drinking at home or with friends on a Zoom call. But I’ve found that learning how to make cocktails at home has encouraged me to broaden my flavor horizons. And it’s definitely made me appreciate the work that bartenders do all the more. I know I’ll be tipping my bartenders a lot more when things go back to normal.