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Learn How To Name A Cocktail: 40 Cocktail Names And Recipes

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Tessa ZuluagaAuthor

An underrated skill in the service industry is the ability to name and perfect cocktails. Cocktail creation is a tedious game of balancing just the right amount of ingredients together. Quite a lot of science, chemistry, and psychology goes into mastering the perfect mixed drink. For example, the glass in which the bartender chooses to present the drink is in fact more than just a presentation. The shape and density of the glass can affect both the taste and aroma of the cocktail. We greatly acknowledge this in wine tasting, but do you notice a difference in your margarita in a large martini glass vs. a rocks glass? Now we’ve got you thinking.

Presentation is also a critical part of cocktail mixology. Not only will guests be more likely to order a more expensive cocktail for the appearance, but it can actually make them think it tastes better. This is because our brains associate the appearance of a drink with its taste. A nice presentation with a fresh garnish can make all the difference. However, constantly constructing new cocktails and coming up with witty names can be time-consuming. This is where we come in!

In this article, we’ll break down the top cocktail names and recipes from classic cocktails to modern creations. Get your shaker ready.

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The 25 classic cocktails

These classic cocktails speak for themselves. We suggest you leave their names as they are and add them to the “classic cocktail” section of your drink menu, or don’t feature them at all because if you have a full bar it’s implied that you serve these.

Martini

When a guest orders “a martini” this should means nearly nothing to a bartender. A martini is created based on a guest’s taste and preference. Typically, a martini is served up with their choice of gin or vodka, made dry or dirty. Do they want olives or a twist? When making a martini make sure you ask all the questions to create the drink the guest is expecting. A classic recipe is as follows:

  • 2 1/2 oz Gin or vodka

  • 1/2 oz Dry vermouth

  • Lemon twist or olive (extra points for blue cheese stuffed olives) for garnish

  • Stir gin or vodka with dry vermouth in a mixing glass filled with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or olive

Manhattan

Next up and just as boozy, we have the Manhattan. It’s said that the Manhattan was first created around the 1880s, but the exact origins are a bit of a mystery. Many credible records place its creation at New York City’s Manhattan Club. Unlike a martini, the Manhattan sticks to a pretty consistent recipe. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 2 oz Rye whiskey

  • 1 oz Sweet vermouth

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

  • Maraschino cherry for garnish

  • Stir whiskey, vermouth, and bitters with ice, then strain into a chilled glass.

  • It’s most commonly served up, but some guests prefer it in a cocktail glass, then garnish with a cherry.

Old Fashioned

If you have a guest that likes whiskey, they’ll consistently love an old fashion. Old fashions just take like lightly sweetened bourbon. This classic cocktail became popular in the late 1700s when it was fashionable to add a few dashes of bitters to a glass of whiskey. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 2 oz Bourbon or rye whiskey

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

  • 1 sugar cube

  • Orange twist for garnish

  • Muddle the sugar cube with bitters and a splash of water in a glass. Add whiskey and ice, stir gently, and garnish with an orange twist.

Negroni

This one is for your gin drinkers! The Negroni is a bitter yet fruity cocktail with orange undertones and is slightly sweetened by its sweet vermouth. The Negroni is said to have been invented in Florence by the dauntless Italian Count Camillo Negroni in the early 20th century. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 1 oz Gin

  • 1 oz Campari

  • 1 oz Sweet vermouth

  • Orange twist for garnish

  • Stir gin, Campari, and vermouth with ice, then strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with an orange twist.

Daiquiri

Some people think a daiquiri is something served frozen with a coconut rim and a strawberry garnish. However, a classic daiquiri is a simple rum cocktail that’s refreshing. The OG daiquiri is said to have been created around 1898 in a mining village near a beach on the southeastern tip of Cuba. Today people still sip on this drink near many beaches. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 2 oz White rum

  • 3/4 oz Fresh lime juice

  • 1/2 oz Simple syrup

  • Lime wheel for garnish

  • Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain into a glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Mojito

A similar white rum cocktail is a mojito. This is arguably the most popular rum cocktail if your guests don’t mind fresh mint getting stuck in their straws. Mojitos are commonly enjoyed near a beach or a pool. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 2 oz White rum

  • 1/2 oz Fresh lime juice

  • 1/2 oz Simple syrup

  • 6-8 Fresh mint leaves

  • Soda water

  • Mint sprig and lime wedge for garnish

  • Muddle mint leaves with lime juice and simple syrup in a glass. Add rum and ice, top with soda water, and stir gently. Garnish with a mint sprig and lime wedge.

Margarita

Tequila drinkers- rise up! The Margarita is currently the most-ordered cocktail in the United States, according to a 2023 report by CGA by Nielsen IQ. The combination of fresh lime and orange liquor with the distinct flavor of tequila makes for a refreshing, flavorful cocktail. Most people believe the margarita was invented in Mexico, and choose to sip their margs over chips, salsa, and tacos. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 2 oz Tequila

  • 1 oz Triple sec (if making a ‘skinny’ margarita swap this out for some agave)

  • 3/4 oz Fresh lime juice

  • Salt for rimming (optional)

  • Lime wheel for garnish

  • Shake tequila, triple sec, and lime juice with ice, then strain into a salt-rimmed glass filled with ice. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Cosmopolitan

If your guests want a pretty vodka drink that’s still boozy, suggest a cosmo! The cosmopolitan has always been a classic cocktail and the hit show Sex And The City only increased this demand. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 1 1/2 oz Vodka

  • 1/2 oz Triple sec

  • 1/2 oz Fresh lime juice

  • 1/2 oz Cranberry juice

  • Lime twist for garnish

  • Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lime twist.

Bloody Mary

Opening early and/or serving brunch? You need a good Bloody Mary on the menu. The Bloody Mary is a popular choice for brunch or as a hangover cure due to its savory and revitalizing qualities. A Bloody can be spicy or mild. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 1 1/2 oz Vodka

  • 3 oz Tomato juice

  • 1/2 oz Fresh lemon juice

  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce

  • 2-4 dashes Hot sauce

  • Pinch of salt and pepper

  • Celery stalk and lemon wedge for garnish

  • Build all ingredients in a highball glass filled with ice, stir gently, and garnish with celery stalk and lemon wedge.

Moscow Mule

You can always spot a Moscow Mule because it has its own distinct glass, the copper mug. This cocktail is for easy drinking, as the lime and ginger beer mask the vodka quite a bit while the copper mug keeps it nice and cold. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 2 oz Vodka

  • 1/2 oz Fresh lime juice

  • Ginger beer

  • Lime wheel for garnish

  • Build vodka and lime juice in a copper mug filled with ice, top with ginger beer, stir gently, and garnish with a lime wheel.

Mai Tai

Time for another classic rum drink, and this one features both white and dark rum! The Mai Tai is one of the most famous Tiki drinks in the world, commonly served at poolside/beachside bars and restaurants. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 1 1/2 oz white rum

  • 1/2 ounce dark rum

  • 3/4 oz Fresh lime juice

  • 1/2 oz Orgeat syrup

  • 1/2 oz Orange liqueur (such as curaçao or triple sec)

  • Mint sprig and lime wheel for garnish

  • Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig and lime wheel.

Gimlet

A gimlet is an underrated cocktail that is as simple as it is delicious. This drink falls under the category of sour but is still pretty easy drinking. A classic gimlet is a gin cocktail served up with just lime juice and simple syrup. You literally can’t mess this one up- it’s too good! The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 2 oz Gin

  • 3/4 oz Fresh lime juice

  • 1/2 oz Simple syrup

  • Lime wheel for garnish

  • Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Sidecar

*Cognac has entered the classic cocktail chat*. Introducing the sidecar, which is most likely the most popular cognac drink overall. This drink itself is very dry and tart, but it’s slightly sweetened by its sugar rim. The Sidecar was likely invented around World War I, and the classic recipe is as follows:

  • 2 oz Cognac

  • 3/4 oz Triple sec

  • 3/4 oz Fresh lemon juice

  • Sugar for rimming (optional)

  • Lemon twist for garnish

  • Shake cognac, triple sec, and lemon juice with ice, then strain into a sugar-rimmed glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Sazerac

If your guests like old fashions, they’ll most likely also enjoy a Sazerac. They’re similar in taste with the exception of sazerac’s feature of rye as opposed to bourbon. In 2008, the state of Louisiana passed legislation that made the Sazerac Cocktail the official cocktail of New Orleans. It has long-time been the most popular drink associated with the vibrant city and in 2008 they simply decided to make things official. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 2 oz Rye whiskey

  • 1/4 oz Absinthe or Herbsaint

  • 1 sugar cube

  • 2 dashes Peychaud's bitters

  • Lemon twist for garnish

  • Rinse a chilled rocks glass with absinthe or Herbsaint, then discard excess. Muddle a sugar cube with bitters in another glass, add whiskey and ice, stir, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Tom Collins

Love gin? Love a sour cocktail? The Tom Collins is what you’re looking for. The Tom Collins is essentially a gin sour spritz. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 2 oz Gin

  • 3/4 oz Fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 oz Simple syrup

  • Club soda

  • Lemon wheel and cherry for garnish

  • Shake gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup with ice, then strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with club soda, stir gently, and garnish with a lemon wheel and cherry.

French 75

More gin, please. The French 75 is named for the fast-firing 75-millimeter field gun that was utilized by the French during World War One. However, the drink itself is quite elegant. It has a lemon flavor and is bubbly thanks to the champagne. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 1 1/2 oz Gin

  • 3/4 oz Fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 oz Simple syrup

  • Champagne or sparkling wine

  • Lemon twist for garnish

  • Shake gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup with ice, then strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne or sparkling wine, and garnish with a lemon twist.

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Paloma

Although the margarita was also supposedly invented in Mexico, the Paloma is the national drink of the tequila-loving country. A Paloma is meant to be refreshing, and kept simple with only 3 key ingredients: tequila, lime juice, and grapefruit soda. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 2 oz Tequila

  • 1/2 oz Fresh lime juice

  • Grapefruit soda (such as Jarritos or Squirt)

  • Grapefruit wedge for garnish

  • Build tequila and lime juice in a highball glass filled with ice. Top with grapefruit soda, stir gently, and garnish with a grapefruit wedge.

Bellini 

Another cocktail for the brunchers! A Bellini is a sparkling classic that tastes like peach, and some guests prefer it to mimosas. The first Bellini was poured in the summer of 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder and barman of the legendary Harry’s Bar in Venezia. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 2 oz white peach puree

  • Prosecco

  • Peach slice for garnish

  • Pour peach puree into a chilled champagne flute, then top with prosecco. Stir gently and garnish with a peach slice.

Espresso martini 

Guess what time it is? Espresso tini time! This cocktail has absolutely skyrocketed in popularity over the last few years. According to Forbes, the espresso martini is one of the best-selling cocktails in America (2022). A good espresso martini can be enjoyed at brunch, during dinner, and over dessert. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 2 oz Vodka

  • 1/2 oz Coffee liqueur (such as Kahlúa)

  • 1 oz Freshly brewed espresso (some bars use strong cold brew instead)

  • 1/4 oz Simple syrup

  • Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled martini glass.

  • Coffee beans or coco powder for garnish

The Last word

The Last Word is sweet yet strong and sharp. After decades of being lost to history, the Last Word was one of the first pre-prohibition drinks to lead the cocktail revival. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 3/4 oz Gin

  • 3/4 oz Green Chartreuse

  • 3/4 oz Maraschino liqueur

  • 3/4 oz Fresh lime juice

  • Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Irish coffee

Ever heard of Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco? This spot is known for its world-famous Irish Coffees. On a busy day, the San Francisco bar can serve more than 2,000 Irish Coffees. This drink is warm, creamy, and delicious. However, if you can’t make it out to San Francisco to try one, perfect one at your own bar. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 1 1/2 oz Irish whiskey

  • 6 oz Hot brewed coffee

  • 1 oz Heavy cream

  • 1 tsp Brown sugar (optional)

  • Nutmeg or cinnamon for garnish (optional)

Corpse reviver No. 2

According to Liquor.com, “The Corpse Reviver No. 2 is a classic drink that belongs to a family of pre-Prohibition cocktails that were said to be created and consumed for the chief purpose of rousing the drinker from the dead—in other words, meant to cure hangovers, increase vigor and otherwise improve one’s morning.” Bring your guests back from the dead! This cocktail is both sour and sweet and tastes quite citrusy. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 3/4 oz Gin

  • 3/4 oz Cointreau (or another orange liqueur)

  • 3/4 oz Lillet Blanc (or another dry vermouth)

  • 3/4 oz Fresh lemon juice

  • Absinthe or absinthe substitute (such as Pernod) for rinsing

  • Lemon twist for garnish

White Russian

Another option for your caffeine-loving guests is a white Russian. This is a sweet, creamy cocktail that only has 3 ingredients and is easy to make. The White Russian is technically a spin-off of the Black Russian, but this version tends to be more popular today. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 2 oz Vodka

  • 1 oz Coffee liqueur (such as Kahlúa)

  • 1 oz Heavy cream

  • Ice cubes

Paper plane

The Paper Plan is technically a spin-off of The Last Word, although still very different. This is not a gin cocktail, but instead a bourbon drink that’s bitter yet beautiful. It’s only similar to The Last Word in how the measurements of each ingredient create the drink. Some people make tequila versions of this cocktail but it’s still typically made with bourbon. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 3/4 oz Bourbon (or tequila)

  • 3/4 oz Amaro Nonino (or another amaro)

  • 3/4 oz Aperol

  • 3/4 oz Fresh lemon juice

  • Lemon twist for garnish

Aperol spritz  

Last but not least for the classic cocktails we have a refreshing Aperol spritz. This is an Italian creation that was designed to be served right before dinner. This is a low-alcoholic drink that’s meant for summer and patios. The classic recipe is as follows:

  • 2 oz Aperol

  • 3 oz Prosecco (or another dry sparkling wine)

  • Splash of soda water

  • Orange slice or twist for garnish

  • Ice cubes

The 15 contemporary cocktails and names

Now that we’ve established the 25 classic coktails that every bartender should know, let’s discuss some of their modern twists. These are the drinks you can claim to be your “specialty cocktails” on your menu but all stem from the original 25. You can get creative with these names and their glassware. Let’s get into it.

Spicy Margarita

This is a margarita variation- just spicy! A spicy marg can be made the same as a regular margarita, just either sub the blanco tequila for jalapeño infused tequila or add some muddled jalapeños before straining.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. blanco tequila or jalapeño infused tequila

  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice

  • 0.75 oz. triple sec or orange liqueur

  • 0.5 oz. agave nectar (adjust to taste)

  • 2-3 slices of fresh jalapeño

  • Ice

  • Tajín rim for the glass

  • Garnish: lime wheel or jalapeño slice

You can name this a lot of different ways depending on your restaurant type. Consider:

  • The Diablo

  • Firecracker Margarita

  • Spice-arita

Maple Old Fashioned

This Old Fashioned variation is simple yet delicious. All you have to do is uses maple syrup instead of sugar.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz bourbon or rye whiskey

  • 1/4 oz pure maple syrup

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

  • Orange peel, for garnish

  • Ice

Some maple old fashion cocktail names could be:

  • Bourbon & Birch

  • Whiskey in the Woods

  • The Lumberjack Libation

Boulevardier

This Negroni Variation replaces gin with bourbon or rye whiskey.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz bourbon or rye whiskey

  • 1 oz sweet vermouth

  • 1 oz Campari

  • Orange peel, for garnish

  • Ice

Boulevardier on its own isn’t a bad name but if you’re looking for something different consider naming it something like “Bourbon Boulevard Bliss”. Or if you’re making it with Bullet whiskey try, “Bullet’s Boulevardier”.

Cucumber Martini

A cucumber martini is a refreshing and light cocktail that combines the crispness of cucumber with the classic martini base. Some variations of the cucumber martini may also incorporate additional ingredients like lime juice, simple syrup, or fresh herbs such as mint or basil for added complexity and flavor. Here’s how to make it:

  • 2 oz gin or vodka

  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth

  • 2-3 slices of cucumber

  • Ice

  • Cucumber slice or twist, for garnish

Some fun names to consider are:

  • Cool Cuke Martini

  • Cucumber Breeze Martini

  • Cuke-tini

Strawberry Basil Mojito

This Mojito variation incorporates strawberries and basil for a twist. Here’s what you need:

  • 2 oz white rum

  • 1 oz fresh lime juice

  • 3-4 ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced

  • 4-6 fresh basil leaves

  • 1 oz simple syrup (adjust to taste)

  • Club soda

  • Ice

  • Strawberry and basil leaf, for garnish

A strawberry basil mojito can be named a plethora of different ways but consider the following:

  • Strawberry Fields Spritzer

  • Basil Berry Breeze

  • Basillicious Mojito

White Cosmopolitan

This cosmo variation uses white cranberry instead of traditional red cranberry juice for a lighter color and slightly simpler flavor. Here's the simple recipe:

  • 2 ounces vodka

  • 1 ounce white cranberry juice

  • 1/2 ounce triple sec (orange liqueur)

  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

  • Ice

  • Lime twist or wheel, for garnish

Some fun cocktail name ideas include:

  • Frosty Cosmopolitan

  • Winter white cosmo

  • Pearl Cosmo Martini

Pomegranate Cosmopolitan

Similarly, this Cosmopolitan variation substitutes pomegranate juice for cranberry juice. It's a refreshing and visually appealing drink that's perfect for various occasions. Here’s how to make it:

  • 2 ounces vodka

  • 1 ounce triple sec

  • 1 ounce pomegranate juice

  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

  • Ice cubes

  • Pomegranate seeds or lime twist for garnish (optional)

Now, for some cute cocktail names for your Pomegranate Cosmopolitan:

  • Pomegranate Kiss Cosmo

  • Pom Pom Cosmo

  • Cosmo Pom Pop

Black Manhattan

A Black Manhattan is a sophisticated variation of the classic Manhattan cocktail. The Black Manhattan uses Averna or other amaro instead of the sweet vermouth of a traditional Manhattan. It's a bold and elegant drink that's perfect for those who enjoy a twist on a timeless classic. Here’s the recipe:

  • 2 ounces rye whiskey

  • 1 ounce amaro liqueur (such as Averna or Ramazzotti)

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

  • Orange twist or cherry for garnish (optional)

Now some witty cocktail names for your Black Manhattan:

  • Noir Nectar

  • Midnight Elixir

  • Gotham

Mexican Mule

Replaces vodka with tequila for a refreshing Mexican Mule instead of a Moscow Mule. This is a great option for a guest who prefers tequila and is looking for a refreshing cocktail other than ranch water. Here’s what you need:

  • 2 oz tequila blanco (or silver tequila)

  • 1 oz lime juice

  • 4 oz ginger beer

  • 1-2 slices jalapeño pepper (optional)

  • Lime wedge for garnish

Here are some specialty cocktail bar menu name options:

  • Mexican Mule

  • The Agave Lounge

  • Jalisco Juleps

Hemingway Daiquiri

The Hemingway Daiquiri adds grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur to a standard daiquiri recipe. Ingredients:

  • 2 oz white rum

  • 1 oz fresh grapefruit juice

  • 1 oz fresh lime juice

  • 1⁄2 oz maraschino liqueur

  • 1⁄4 oz simple syrup (or to taste)

  • Lime wheel for garnish

Some fun cocktail name options:

  1. Hemingway's Hideaway

  2. The Literate Libations

  3. Prose & Potions

Tequila espresso martini

If your guests aren’t drinking vodka but want a caffeine boost, make ‘em a tequila espresso martini instead. The ingredients are simple- espresso martini necessities sub tequila:

  • 2 oz reposado tequila

  • 1 oz coffee liqueur (e.g., Kahlua)

  • 1 oz freshly brewed espresso, cooled

  • 1⁄2 oz simple syrup

  • Coffee beans for garnish

For the name consider one of the following:

  • Espresso Martequila

  • Espresso Repo

Elderflower Collins

This Tom Collins variation adds elderflower liqueur for a floral twist. Let’s make it:

  • 2 oz gin

  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice

  • 1 oz elderflower liqueur (e.g., St-Germain)

  • 4 oz club soda

  • Lemon wheel for garnish

Calling it an “Elderflower Collins” is already a pretty decent name, but feel free to get creative!

White Lady

This is a sidecar variation that substitutes the cognac for gin and lemon juice. This is especially great because cognac hasn’t been super popular recently. Here’s how to make it:

  • 2 oz gin

  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice

  • 1 oz triple sec (or other orange liqueur)

  • 1 egg white (optional)

  • Lemon twist for garnish

Specialty cocktail menu name options:

  • Lady in White
  • The Ivory Elixir
  • Citrus Silk
  • Gin's Fair Lady

Vieux Carré

Vieux Carré is a Sazerac Variation that adds sweet vermouth to the classic Sazerac. This one is for the rye drinkers! Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 oz rye whiskey

  • 1 oz Cognac

  • 1 oz sweet vermouth

  • 1 barspoon Bénédictine

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

  • 2 dashes Peychaud's bitters

  • Lemon twist for garnish

If Vieux Carré isn’t the name you’re looking for consider one of the following instead:

  • The French Quarter

  • Crescent City Classic

  • Bourbon Street Boulevardier

Mezcal Paloma

The Mezcal Paloma replaces Blanco tequila with smoky mezcal. This is a super easy-to-make cocktail that Mezcal lovers truly enjoy. Let’s make it:

  • Smoky Grapefruit Sipper

  • Agave Aperitivo

  • Mezcal Mist

Set your bar up for success

Now that you have 25 classic and 15 contemporary cocktails and their names ready to go, make sure you set your bartenders up for success. Here are some related bar resources to make your day to day operations run smoothly:

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