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  • Writer's pictureChris Mads

Cocktail recipes you need to know

Cocktail making is a skill, but it is one which in my humble opinion is worth mastering.

I'll admit now that I have a slight headstart here having spent a couple of years working the bar in nightclubs and cocktail bars.

But outside of work it is useful to have a couple of drinks you can knock out if and when you need them. I am not suggesting you should be a flaring mixology master, but a few drinks you can turn out as needed are a benefit.

Tom Cruise cocktail

I have five recipes I can knock out off the cuff and they fall into three categories; two personal ones, two party tricks and a classic.

The trick is to have ones with simple ingredients which you can keep easily stocked - there is no point knowing how to make a drink but not having the stuff to do so.

My go-to cocktails are The Old Fashioned, Pink Gin, Espresso Martini, Mojito and a Martini.

This means I have bourbon, Angostura bitters, sugar, gin, vodka, Kahlua, ice, rum, mint and Martini close to hand along with a lemon and orange. To help out here are my top recipes.

Old Fashioned

Don Draper

This is my cocktail of choice and has been for a while. Mad Men made it very popular, much to the chagrin of many bar staff. For the record, it is a fiddle to make properly, but worth the effort.

Ingredients 50ml bourbon 3 dashes Angostura bitters 1 tsp sugar Ice


Put the sugar in the glass and add the Angostura. Muddle and mix the two to form a syrup, you can add a dash of soda water if you want or need to. Swill the syrup round the glass. Add ice and mix/muddle the glass' contents again. Add the bourbon and stir.

Pink Gin

This is my dad's drink of choice. It is another one which is a faff to make properly, but you can taste the difference when it's done right.

Ingredients 3 dashes of Angostura bitters 50ml gin Ice

Method Add the Angostura to a small bulb-shaped glass. Swill it around until the glass is coated. Shake the gin over ice until it is cold. Pour the gin into the glass.


One of my party cocktails, this one is fiddly to make but is always well received in summer.

Ingredients 50ml rum Mint leaves 1 tsp sugar Ice

Half a lime Soda water

Method Add the sugar and mint to the glass and muddle the two together until the mint leaves are crushed into the sugar.

Add the lime, sliced, and crush and muddle again to mix in the juice and slices. Add the ice and mix it again. If you want to make this complicated (but better) use crushed ice and mix the mint and sugar in with the ice. Add the rum and mix well. Top up with soda water if needed.

*You can vary and spice up this recipe with berries if you so wish, and it's great for parties because you can adjust the rum and water measures depending on how inebriated your guests are.

Espresso Martini

My other party trick cocktail. This sounds complicated but isn't and it goes down a storm.

Ingredients 50ml vodka 35ml Kahlua 25ml espresso Ice

Method Add the vodka, Kahlua, espresso and ice to a cocktail shaker and shake until cold. Pour into a Martini glass.


The classic. Made with gin, not vodka, you are not James Bond. Shaken or stirred is up to you. I shake.

Ingredients 50ml gin A splash of dry Martini Ice

Method Prep your Martini glass with ice and soda water to cool it and put it to one side. Add the gin and martini to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Empty the glass and pour in the booze.

If you want it stirred, just empty the glass once it is cooled, add the gin and Martini and stir. Personally I prefer my Martinis "dirty" so add olives once it is in the glass and possibly a dash of juice from the olive jar to the mixture.


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