But guess what? I don’t like beer. I don’t like how carbonated it is, I don’t like how full it makes me feel, and I don’t like the way it looks at me enticingly. You know what I do like? Cocktails. I like how they’re efficient at bringing on a buzz. I like how you can mix liquors, liqueurs, bitters, extracts, tinctures, peels, and herbs (oh my!) to concoct an aromatic, pleasing-to-the-eye drink. Also, they make for a much cuter Instagram post.
This is a definitive guide to choosing the right cocktail for you – from what’s in them and what occasion they’re best for to some cool facts about them, because who doesn’t want to look like the ultimate lush life expert? Cheers!
via: ShutterstockComposed of gin, crème de violette, maraschino liqueur, and lemon juice, this classic cocktail is for the herbal enthusiasts. And, like all good things, it was first originated in a hotel bar. So the next time you see someone cute in the hotel lobby, order them one of these. It'll put some sophistication in your game, and that’s what we’re here for.
via: ShutterstockFeeling a little mob style-drink? Perhaps you're visualizing a smokey cigar bar and tons of male pinky rings? The Godfather might be the Boisson de choix. Served up with Scotch and a heavy dose of Amaretto, this cocktail is enjoyed over rocks. What’s Amaretto, you ask? Well, it means “a little bitter" in Italian but it’s really not that bitter at all. It comes from the Sarrono region of Italy and is an almond liqueur.
Mist and ShadowHave a taste for the unusual? Or maybe you’re already acquainted with the classics and want to push your bounds a bit. Meet the Mist and Shadow, a cocktail that features saké as its primary spirit. Saké is a Japanese rice wine. It's well worth sampling on its own, as you may be surprised how this humble grain can vary in taste. This recipe calls for the addition of sugar snap pea pods, St. Germain, lemon juice, few dashes of celery bitters, and a sprig of dill. Almost as trippy as a Satoshi Kon film.
Champagne CocktailIf this drink caught your eye, I’ll bet that you're someone who likes a french manicure and wishes you lived inside an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. You’re also a Virgo – kidding. But on a serious note, this cocktail is an easy, sophisticated accessory to any celebration and thanks to the champagne will hasten your buzz. Pour it up using cognac, Angostura bitters, a sugar cube and to top it off, some bubbly.
Better Luck Tomorrow
via: GettyDo you go to restaurants, seeking out the chili pepper icon? The more spice the better, right? Right! That’s why there’s Ancho Reyes, a liqueur made from ancho and poblano chiles. There are two varieties, the green, and the red label. Go with the former if you want a brighter, more herbal drink and opt for the latter if you prefer a warmer, complex flavor. This cocktail asks for the red label, along with a slew of other tasty ingredients like blanco and reposado tequila, ginger syrup, lemon juice, and even a few dashes of chocolate bitters. Bring it on.
via: GettyIf you love a little pucker on your palate, switch it up from a traditional Whiskey Sour and opt for an Amaretto Sour instead. There are several versions, but as someone who regularly imbibes, I’d recommend substituting sour mix with some lemon and bumping up that ABV with some bourbon as well. When you’re not hungover from a sour mix overload the next morning, you’ll thank me.
via: GettyA bartender and native Londoner, Dick Bradsell, is the brain behind the Bramble. He claims that the inspiration for the cocktail is based on his memories of going blackberry picking in his youth. The Bramble calls for dry gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and crème de mûre, a blackberry liqueur. This cocktail is best suited for the spring when those bramble bushes are in full swing.
via: ShutterstockThis is one of the most iconic and popular cocktails in Italy and for good reason, it’s delicious. Aperol, Prosecco, and soda water are all it takes to create this apéritif. Aperol is a liqueur that is made from gentian, rhubarb, and cinchona so it has an herbaceous and sweet tone to it. Mix that with Prosecco and soda water and you may feel as light and effervescent as the drink itself.
via: GettyDo you harbor the spirit of wanderlust? While in between your jet-setting, drink as the locals do in Peru and order a Pisco Sour. Pisco is a distilled white brandy, made in the same regions in Peru and Chile that produces its grapes. This boozier cousin to wine is paired with lime juice, simple syrup, egg white, and Angostura bitters for a refreshing drink. ¡Salud!
via: GettyDrink like Hemingway (just not as much) with the El Floridita. This cocktail is named after the bar that he apparently frequented while spending time in Havana, Cuba. It’s simple and well suited for the rum lover– just white rum, lime juice, and maraschino liqueur.
Pineapple Raki Sour
via: GettyLove it or hate it, anise is a commonly featured spice in the spirits world. I happen to love it, so I want to give a shout out to Raki, a Turkish spirit. Raki is wildly popular in Turkey and is this country’s equivalent to Sambuca or Ouzo. Surprisingly, it is delicious in a sour and with the addition of pineapple juice, The Pineapple Raki Sour is born.
White RussianI will never look at this cocktail the same after watching The Big Lebowski – I can’t help but picture “The Dude" in his slippers and bathrobe, stirring up some vodka with a side of creamy goodness. If you love your coffee with a little cream and you also like getting drunk, a White Russian may be the perfect play. It’s simple – vodka, coffee liqueur, and cream.
via: GettyMaybe the Italians have had their fair share of bad ideas (chopines) but they’ve had more good than bad, that’s for sure. Among the best is the Negroni, a gin cocktail that’s blended with Vermouth and Campari before it’s garnished with an orange peel. It’s boozy, simple, and is meant to be enjoyed as an apéritif. So do as the Italians do – order a Negroni, live in the spirit of sprezzatura, and enjoy.
via: GettyOriginally hailing from Attaboy bar in NYC, the Penicillin was developed by an Australian bartender. Perhaps it was the treacherous litter of critters in his homeland that inspired the name, but this cocktail is a lovely mix of smoky, sweet, and spicy. Scotch, honey, lemon juice, and garnished with a chubby nub of candied ginger, the Penicillin won’t be going out of style anytime soon.
via: ShutterstockThe Rosita cocktail doesn’t appear to have a lengthy, storied past so I’ll just cut to the chase and say, it’s pretty good. It calls for reposado tequila, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, campari, Angostura bitters, and a little lemon twist for appearances. Reposado, along with some blanco and añejo, makes up the three main categories of tequila. Blanco is not aged so it can be the harshest of the three varieties, but if distilled well can certainly make for a tasty tequila. Reposado is aged between two months and one year in oak barrels, and its taste is rounded well for mixing and cocktails. Añejo literally translates to old and unsurprisingly is aged the longest, spending one to three years in oak before being enjoyed.
via: GettyRye whiskey is spicier than its relatives, Scotch and Bourbon, and it can hold its own in a cocktail. This drink is spirit forward, only sharing its glass with Vermouth and Campari and much like its namesake, it won’t betray you when you’re in need of a stiff drink.
via: GettyThis drink has a little sweet, a little citrus, and a lot of herbal flavors. The Quill uses gin, campari, vermouth, and absinthe so if you’re an oddball like me and actually enjoy the flavor of black licorice, this drink could be for you.
The Clover Club
via: ShutterstockAny history buffs in the house? Join the club – The Clover Club. This drink originated during the prohibition in Philadelphia and is named for the men’s club that held court in the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel on South Broad Street. Its ingredients include gin, raspberry juice, lemon juice, and a shaken egg white.
via: ShutterstockIf you want a drink that tastes like a dressed up Old Fashioned, a Sazerac will do just fine. You can choose between a Rye whiskey or Cognac for the base, and add in Absinthe, a sugar cube, and a few dashes of Peychaud’s bitters. Absinthe is a spirit that provides a punch of fennel and anise flavor and if you ask me, is what sets the Sazerac apart from the chaff.
The Industry Sour
via: GettyJust when you thought the sour was overplayed, think again! This version uses Fernet, Green Chartreuse, lime juice and simple syrup. Not only does the Green Chartreuse make the drink sit pretty, but it adds some zen – this liqueur is named for the French monastery it originated from. Monks in Chartreuse brewed this “elixir of long life" in the early 1600’s and used over 130 herbs and plants to perfect the recipe.
The ZombieRemember that scene from The Pirates of the Caribbean where the enemy pirates are turned into an army of zombies? It may be that they just had one too many Zombie cocktails. This drink is a veritable witches brew of various rums, juices, spirits, and bitters. But when made well, it’s easy to see why one might be prone to drinking too many. The classic version is made with Puerto Rican golden rum, Jamaican rum, Demerara 151 rum, grapefruit juice and cinnamon syrup, lime juice, falernum, grenadine, Absinthe, and Angostura bitters. “Where did all the rum go?" – in this drink, that’s where.
Bitters and Smoke
via: ShutterstockIt took me a while to warm up to tequila – my first experience drinking it did not end well. But thankfully now I can enjoy it and I do. If you find the traditional margarita a bore, try this drink. It blends tequila and mezcal, cynar, and Fernet-Branca. If almost all of that read as Klingon, allow me to elaborate. Mescal is a particular kind of tequila made from slow-cooked agave, lending it a smoky flavor. Cynar is a bitter liqueur that is principally made from artichoke and Fernet-Branca is another bitter that incorporates spices like myrrh, cardamom, saffron, and chamomile.
via: GettyThis cocktail is like the city it’s named for – straight up. Rye whiskey, vermouth, and Angostura bitters are all it takes to enjoy this drink. Order it up with some duck or other fatty delicious food and you’ll see that rye acts as the perfect sweet and spicy balance.
via: GettyFernet Branca is an underused spirit if you ask me, and this drink is meant to put it front and center. This drink calls for ginger, Fernet Branca, Irish whiskey, simple syrup, and a little mint garnish to keep things cool.
Oaxaca Old Fashioned
via: GettyIf you’re the person who’s ordering a round of tequila shots for you and all your friends, consider the Oaxaco (wa-HAW-kah) Old Fashioned. All it takes to elevate your game from shots to a cocktail is reposado tequila, mezcal, Angostura bitters, and an orange peel to keep it real.
via: ShutterstockLike your coffee bitter and black? Then you’ll like this bitter and bubbly drink. Cynar is what gives the drink its bitter punch, while falernum, sparkling wine, and dark rum balance it out with some sweetness and herbal infusion.
The Chicago Fire Extinguisher
via: GettyHave you ever whiffed your clothes after a campfire and thought, “I wish I smelled like this all the time!" Well, I can’t help you there but I can help you with a cocktail that offers (almost) just as much smokiness. The Chicago Fire Extinguishers uses Scotch, Angostura bitters, Fugit Crème de Noyaux, and Luxardo Abano to create a heady libation.
The Velvet Smoking Jacket
via: GettyNow if you tried the Chicago Fire Extinguisher and just thought, “Sure, this is okay but I could take it up a notch," then try on the Velvet Smoking Jacket for size. It incorporates both a famed Scotch, Laphroaig, and mezcal to impart a super smoked-out flavor. That said, if we’re getting technical (and we are) it’s a misnomer to call Scotch “smoky" because it’s really the peat that is fired and used to dry the wet malt that gives it that flavor. Balance out this cocktail with velvet falernum, orange bitters, and lemon peel.
Seven Seas Swizzle
via: GettyFeeling kind of hipster and obscure with your drink tastes? Same. Batavia Arrack is a spirit from everyone’s favorite archipelago, Indonesia! Specifically, Java. It’s a funky blend of molasses and rice that’s been described as similar to rum, but with a malty finish. Enjoy it in the Seven Seas Swizzle, which stirs in Batavia Arrack, orange bitters, lime juice, and green tea infused simple syrup (so it’s healthy).
The American Raven
via: ShutterstockYou probably haven’t heard of Chareau, and that’s okay, just know that you should. It’s an aloe based liqueur that uses cucumber, spearmint, muskmelon, and lemon peel to balance out its naturally bitter flavor. Imbibe with an American Raven cocktail, which uses Chareau, Cognac, and Fernet Branca to make one damn good drink. There you have it, cocktails decoded. It's genuinely mind-boggling how many varieties of liquor there are and how many ways we humans have devised to enjoy it. But boy I'm happy that we did. Now, does anyone want another round?