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Key Cocktails That Every Bartender Should Know

So, you’ve obtained your RSA and you’re eager to begin work in a bar… then you learn the venues you’re applying to don’t just want you to pour beers, wines, and ciders, but to make cocktails too!

While a Responsible Service of Alcohol course covers the basics of preparing and serving drinks for customers, it won’t teach you how to create a variety of common cocktails that you may be asked to make.

There are several ways you can learn how to make cocktails. You could undertake a cocktail making course, shadow a talented bartender at your work, or do your own research and hone the skills yourself.

In today’s article, we take a look at some of the basic drinks for a bartender to learn. Below we cover 25 cocktails every bartender should know.

What are the 6 basic cocktails?

When people talk about the 6 basic cocktails, they could be referring to those listed in the classic book ‘The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks’ which was first published in 1948. In this book (which has often been touted as the ‘Bible’ of cocktail making), David A. Embury lists the 6 basic drinks as the Manhattan, the Martini, the Sidecar, the Daiquiri, the Jack Rose, and the Old Fashioned. In this blog, we’ll cover the basics of how to make each of these cocktails, plus more!


We’re kicking off the list with a very popular cocktail – the Manhattan. This drink has a little bit of flexibility when it comes to its creation. You’ll need 60mL of either bourbon, rye, or Canadian whiskey, 22.5mL of sweet vermouth, a dash of Angostura bitters, and a maraschino cherry and orange peel for garnish. Add all the ingredients into a shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled glass before garnishing with a maraschino cherry and orange peel.


The Martini is a well-known cocktail that is made with gin or vodka and dry vermouth. For this drink, you’ll need 90mL of your chosen spirit, 45mL of dry vermouth, and an olive on a toothpick for garnish. Add the ingredients into a mixer filled with ice and either shake or stir the mixture before straining into a chilled glass. Add an olive to garnish.


Sidecars are a brightly coloured drink, sure to impress your guests. For this basic cocktail you’ll need 50mL of cognac, 25mL of triple sec, 25mL of lemon juice, ice, and an optional splash of Angostura bitters. Add all these ingredients together in a shaker, shake well, then strain into a chilled glass.


The Daquiri is a classic cocktail you might like to master as a bartender. Combine 60mL of white rum with 22.5mL of simple syrup and 30mL of juice freshly squeezed from a lime in a shaker with ice. Shake well, then strain the concoction into a chilled glass and add a lime wheel for decoration.

Jack Rose

This cocktail is another brightly coloured option to add to your arsenal. To make it, add 30mL of apple schnapps, 10mL lemon juice, 30mL Creme de Rose, and 10mL Cawsey’s Grenadine Cordial. Add these ingredients to a shaker with ice, shake it up, then strain into a glass.

Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned is a drink that has been around for a long time and is still enjoyed by many. It’s a simple drink to make, containing just 60mL bourbon or whisky, a sugar cube (or 1 teaspoon of sugar), 1 or 2 dashes of Angostura bitters, an orange slice, and a splash of water. Add all these ingredients into a tumbler and mix them up until the sugar has dissolved. Next, place ice into your tumbler and pour the bourbon or whisky over the concoction and garnish with an orange slice.


One of the newer cocktails on this list is the Cosmopolitan. To make this drink you’ll need to combine 45mL vodka, 15mL triple sec, 30mL cranberry juice, and 15mL of fresh lime juice together in an ice cube-filled shaker and shake it up. Pour the concoction through a strainer and add a lime wheel to the rim of the glass.


The margarita is another popular bar drink you may be asked to make. To do this, first sprinkle some salt onto a saucer, rub lime along the edge of your cocktail glass, turn the glass upside down and rub the rim into the salt to coat the edge. Place ice, 50mL of tequila, 20mL of triple sec, and 25mL of lime juice into a shaker and shake well. Pour the mix over a strainer into the cocktail glass and place a lime wedge on the rim to garnish.


Need a refreshing cocktail? Consider the Mojito! Crush a small handful of mint, one juiced lime, and a tbsp of sugar in a small glass, then add the mixture plus ice into a cocktail glass. Add 60mL of white rum, enough soda water to top the glass up, and a sprig of mint for decoration.

Long Island Iced Tea

The Long Island Iced Tea is a bit more of a complex cocktail, but with the right ingredients and practice, you should be able to have it mastered. For this cocktail, you’ll need to add 50mL of vanilla vodka, 50mL of dry gin, 50mL of tequila, 50mL of rum, and 50mL of triple sec into a jug, combined with around 75mL of freshly-squeezed lime juice. Add ice to the jug and stir the mixture. Next, place around 500mL of cola into the jug. Serve up your cocktail, and add lime wedges to the glass rim for decoration.

Pina Colada

This cooling tropical cocktail is a hit at summer parties! Combine 120mL of pineapple juice, 60mL of coconut cream, and 60mL of white rum in a blender with ice and blend it all up until it’s smooth and creamy. Pour into a fun, tall glass and add tropical fruits such as pineapple to garnish. You may also like to add cocktail umbrellas to really get encompass the easy-going vibe of this cocktail.

… Other fun cocktails to learn include:

  • Screwdriver
  • Bloody Mary
  • Bourbon & Coke
  • White Russian
  • Irish Coffee
  • Tequila Sunrise
  • Sangria
  • Negroni
  • Mimosa
  • Paloma
  • Aperol Spritz
  • Whiskey Sour
  • Gin Fizz
  • Mai-Tai

We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about a few of the common cocktails to learn as a bartender! With a few simple recipes under your belt, you’ll be able to fulfil the requests of many customers. Cheers to that!


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