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Law Abiding Citizen
Photograph: Filip Wolak

The 15 best easy cocktail recipes to make at home

Impress all your party guests with these surprisingly simple cocktail recipes from America’s top bartenders

By Dan Q Dao

With serious cocktail culture on the rise nationwide, booze enthusiasts today have an unprecedented amount of resources at their fingertips, including great cocktail books, cocktail apps and essential items for the home bar. But as any pro bartender will tell you, some of the most complex-tasting cocktails are refreshingly simple to prepare, involving three or four ingredients that can be found around the house. Ready to go? Shake and stir your way through this Time Out-approved list of the 15 best easy cocktail recipes from top bartenders in America.

RECOMMENDED: See America’s best cocktails

Best easy cocktail recipes

Horse Apple at Suffolk Arms
Photograph: Courtesy Suffolk Arms/Oleg March

1. Horse Apple by Giuseppe González of Suffolk Arms, New York, NY

Bars Cocktail bars Lower East Side

At his newly-opened Manhattan cocktail pub, bar king Giuseppe González serves a pick-your-poison elixir that requires just an apple, horseradish and spirit. Customize the recipe with whatever booze you’ve got stashed at home.

1½ oz choice of spirit
1 freshly-juiced Granny Smith apple
Grated horseradish

Juice Granny Smith apple and combine with choice of spirit in a double rocks glass. Add ice and stir. Top with grated horseradish for garnish.

Bittersweet Symphony
Photograph: Courtesy Shannon Sturgis

2. Bittersweet Symphony by Jeffrey Morgenthaler of Clyde Common and Pepe Le Moko, Portland, OR

For his take on a gin-aperitif-vermouth drink, Portland’s star bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler (Clyde Common, Pépé le Moko) layers the botanicals of Fords gin with bright orange Aperol and Punt e Mes, a bitter and sweet Italian vermouth.

1.5 oz Ford’s gin
.75 oz Aperol
.75 oz Punt e Mes

Combine ingredients and stir with ice cubes until cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and gains with a lemon twist.

Ginger Snap at Whisler's
Photograph: Courtesy Whisler's/Daniel Nguyen

3. Ginger Snap by Brett Esler of Whisler’s, Austin, TX

Bars Cocktail bars East Cesar Chavez

Austin bartender Brett Esler spruces up the tried-and-true negroni swapping out Campari for Domaine de Canton, an elegant liqueur shot with Vietnamese baby ginger, eau de vie and cognac and a hint of orange liqueur.

½ oz Aviation gin
1 oz Dolin dry vermouth
1 oz Domaine de Canton
1 barspoon Combier orange liqueur

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and stir for about 20 seconds or until properly chilled. Strain into an old-fashioned glass over 1 large ice cube, express and place the lemon peel as a garnish, and serve.

Commander's Palace
Photograph: Courtesy Commander's Palace

4. Brandy Milk Punch by Ferrel Dugas of Commander’s Palace, New Orleans, LA

At the landmark Commander's Palace in New Orleans’ Garden District, bar chef Ferrel Dugas whips up a creamy, vanilla-laced sip that doubles as a spiked dessert. Substitute almond milk for cream for a lighter sip.

2 ounces brandy
1 ounce simple syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ ounces cream or almond milk

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a light dusting of freshly grated nutmeg. Serve immediately.

St-Germain Cocktail at Baldwin Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Baldwin Bar

5. St-Germain Cocktail by Ran Duan of the Baldwin Bar, Boston, MA

This refreshing, bubbly elixir has become a modern classic in recent years, appearing on menus across the country. Young-gun barkeep Ran Duan serves his version at Boston’s Baldwin Bar, a craft cocktail bar housed within a family-owned Sichuan restaurant.

1½ oz St-Germain elderflower liqueur
1 oz Martini prosecco (or Champagne)
1 oz sparkling water

Build ingredients in a Collins glass. Fill with ice. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Juan Lockwood at Middle Branch
Photograph: Courtesy Middle Branch

6. Juan Lockwood by Lucinda Sterling of Middle Branch, New York, NY

Bars Cocktail bars Kips Bay

Agave fans will love this equal parts mescal-and-tequila drink, rounded out by just a splash of rich, spicy chocolate bitters.

1½ oz Espolón Tequila Reposado
1/2 oz Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
Dash of chocolate bitters
1 barspoon agave syrup

Combine ingredients in a rocks glass. Stir in the glass with a double rock. Garnish with an orange twist.

Tí Punch at Lost Lake
Photograph: Courtesy Lost Lake

7. Tí Punch by Paul McGee of Lost Lake, Chicago, IL

Bars Cocktail bars Avondale

At Chicago’s famed tiki haunt, barkeep Paul McGee offers his Tí Punch with a choice of nine different unaged rhum agricoles, served traditionally or with ice. This refreshing recipe highlights the rhum’s grassy funk through a simple, stirred preparation.

2 oz Rhum Agricole Blanc
1 quarter-sized lime disc (with flesh)
1 barspoon cane syrup

In a rocks glass, squeeze the lime disc, add cane syrup and rhum. Add one large ice cube and stir for five seconds.

Far and Away at Hinoki & the Bird
Photograph: Courtesy Hinoki & the Bird

8. Far and Away by Gregory Westcott of Hinoki & the Bird in Los Angeles, CA

Restaurants Contemporary American Century City

At this Japanese-inflected American eatery in L.A., veteran beverage director Gregory Westcott shakes a fun and fruity sip with muddled strawberries, lemon and almond milk. That makes it healthy right?

1 strawberry
¾ oz vanilla almond milk
¾ oz lemon juice
2 oz bourbon

Slice the strawberry from top to bottom. Save one slice for garnish. Muddle remaining strawberry. Shake vanilla almond milk, lemon juice and bourbon with ice cubes for 12 seconds. Pour over new ice. Add strawberry garnish and cracked black pepper.

Kirkland Whisky Smash at Kirkland Tap and Trotter
Photograph: Courtesy Kirkland Tap and Trotter

9. Kirkland Whisky Smash by Carl York of The Kirkland Tap & Trotter, Somerville, MA


In addition to grub from a James Beard-recognized chef and a selection of craft suds, this New American eatery offers a number of house quaffs such as this grill-ready summertime whiskey smash prepared in a blender. Customize the drink with any spirit, and make sure to add enough liquid to make sure the lemons are blended properly.

2 oz choice of spirit
1 small lemon
1 teaspoon sugar
Mint leaves
Pinch of salt

Combine ingredients in blender and blend. Strain and serve over crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Drunken Earl at Presidio Social Club
Photograph: Courtesy Presidio Social Club/Chloe Jackman

10. Drunken Earl by Maureen Donegan of Presidio Social Club, San Francisco, CA

Restaurants Presidio

Turn up traditional afternoon tea with this boozy Earl Grey recipe, fortified with rye and Drambuie, a refined, Scotch-based liqueur.

1 oz Wild Turkey Rye
1 oz Drambuie
1 Earl Grey tea bag

Preheat a footed mug. Add rye, Drambuie and tea bag. Fill with hot water. Serve with a small plate and teaspoon so the tea bag may be removed. Cream is optional.

East & Tonic Reimagined

11. East & Tonic Reimagined by Mara Urushido of Saxon + Parole and Madame Geneva, New York, NY

The basic gin & tonic gets an Asian-inflected twist courtesy of New York’s Mara Urushido. At Saxon + Parole in NoHo, the bar man plays on the gin’s natural spices with added fresh garnishes including a stem of fragrant lemongrass.

1½ oz Bombay Sapphire East gin
3 oz Fevertree tonic
Lime wedge
Lemongrass stem
Option fresh garnish (juniper berries, coriander, lemongrass)

Press lemongrass stem and lime wedge into base of a stemmed balloon glass. Add gin and tonic. Fill with ice and build additional fresh garnish on top.

Law Abiding Citizen
Photograph: Filip Wolak

12. Law Abiding Citizen by Ryan Gannon of Cure, New Orleans, LA

Created for a cocktail competition in 2014, this recipe by Cure's Ryan Gannon won the judges over with a simple but thoughtful blend of tart pomegranate liqueur and an exceedingly complex, fruity amontillado sherry.

¾ oz PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
1 ½ oz Hidalgo Napoleon Amontillado Sherry
¾ oz lemon juice
¼ oz simple syrup

Shake ingredients with ice. Double strain and serve up in a coupe glass.

Morning Buzz

13. Morning Buzz by Pamela Wiznitzer of Seamstress, Belle Shoals and Trademark Taste & Grind, New York, NY

Put that Jägermeister in your cupboard to good use with this boozy pick-me-up created by bar maven Pam Wiznitzer and served at her newly opened café-bar hybrid Trademark Taste & Grind.

.5 oz Jägermeister spice
1.5 oz Tin Cup Whiskey
2 oz coffee
.75 oz orgeat

Shake with ice, strain and serve in a Collins glass.

Café Racer at the Whistler
Photograph: Courtesy the Whistler

14. Café Racer by Luke Andrews of the Whistler, Chicago, IL

Bars Cocktail bars Logan Square

Bartender Luke Andrews riffs on the classic, Campari-based Americano cocktail by employing two types of vermouth along with a splash of orange liqueur.

½ oz Carpano Antica
½ oz Punt E Mes
¾ oz Campari
¼ Combier

Combine ingredients in a highball glass. Top off with soda water and garnish with an orange peel.

Brugal Mule at Mr. Purple
Photograph: Courtesy Mr. Purple

15. Brugal Mule by Nico Szymanski of Mr. Purple, New York, NY

Bars Cocktail bars Lower East Side

At this newly-opened, 15th-floor terrace gastropub, bar man Nico Szymanski swaps cask-aged rum into a traditional Moscow Mule recipe.

2 oz Brugal Añejo rum
½ oz fresh lime juice
¼ oz simple syrup
3 oz ginger beer

Shake rum, lime and simple syrup with ice and strain into a Collins glass over new ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with a lime wedge.


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