Make Cocktails at Home With These Easy Recipes From Top Mixologists

Even the most basic bar setup allows you to craft these easy, bartender-tested recipes that use ingredients you can find in your pantry, garden or refrigerator.

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March 30, 2020
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Simple Sips

It's all about keeping things simple these days, and using what you have on hand. For these easy cocktails, commonplace spirits, ingredients you already have in your fridge and minimal fancy mixologist technique will do. Now, you're the bartender! But easy doesn't have to translate to a lack of creativity: rev up your usual gin and tonic by adding an orange slice in place of your usual lime wedge. Mix in a sprig of thyme from your garden if you have it. Suddenly, a classic G+T is new again. Read on for more ideas for cocktails you can make even when your pantry is bare, many from inventive bartenders who also know how to use what's at hand.

Bramble Smash Cocktail

Charleston's Wild Common restaurant beverage manager Simon Stilwell shares an easy cocktail recipe using jam and vodka.

Bramble Smash

  • 1 ounce jam/preserves
  • 1 ounce lemon or lime juice (either works fine; pick the one you think tastes good with the jam you are using)
  • 1.5 ounces alcohol (vodka is a great base to build flavor on, but really any spirit will work)
  • Splash club soda
  • Herb garnish (mint, thyme or basil work best)

Add jam, citrus juice and spirit to a shaker. Shake, then pour mixture over ice, top with soda and garnish with the herb you have on hand.

Cucumber Gimlet

Add some herbaceous refreshment to a gimlet with cucumber and this recipe from Ocean Prime.

Cucumber Gimlet

  • 1.5 ounces gin
  • 1 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 ounce simple syrup*
  • 4-5 slices of cucumber

Add cucumber, fresh lime juice and simple syrup to a shaker. Muddle with three ice cubes until cucumber is dissolved. Add ice to shaker to fill halfway. Shake gently and strain into a highball.

*Simple Syrup recipe

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup water

In a saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil and simmer until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

La Llorona Cocktail

Atlanta's chef-centric Mexican restaurant Casi Cielo shares a spicy take on the margarita with the trending mezcal (tequila also works fine) spirit.

La Llorona

  • 1 1/2 ounces of mezcal or tequila
  • 1 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 1 ounce agave nectar or simple syrup*
  • 1/2 ounce jalapeño purée (jalapeño, habanero, Serrano, water)**

Mix all ingredients together. Garnish with lime and a jalapeño slice.

**Jalapeño Purée

  • 5 small fresh jalapeño chiles
  • 1/4 cup habanero pepper
  • 1 tablespoon serrano pepper
  • 1/2 cup water

Core and remove all seeds from peppers and large dice. Blend all ingredients well in a blender or food processor. If you can't find one of the varieties of peppers, substitute with another pepper you can find.

*Simple Syrup recipe

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup water

In a saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil and simmer until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

Sunday Stroll Cocktail

This bright, herbaceous cocktail comes courtesy of Brandi Carter, the beverage director at Elvie's in Jackson, Mississippi.

Sunday Stroll Cocktail

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice fresh squeezed
  • 1/2 ounce orange water**
  • 1/2 ounce rosemary simple syrup*
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 3 ounces sparkling wine

Combine all ingredients (except sparkling wine) in a shaker.

Add ice. Shake and strain into coupe glass (or whatever you’ve got at home!)

Garnish with sprig of rosemary wrapped in an orange spiral

*Rosemary Simple Syrup

  • 8 ounces water
  • 8 ounces demerara sugar (or white sugar)
  • 8 sprigs of rosemary (1 tsp of dried rosemary = 1 tbsp of fresh rosemary/sprig)
  • Combine water and sugar in small pot on medium-low until the sugar is melted into the water.

Add rosemary and steep for 1 hour (turn off stovetop).

Strain out rosemary and allow to cool completely.

**Orange Water

  • Peels from 2 oranges
  • 8 ounces water

Combine orange peels and water in a closed container. Strain and save orange peels for garnish.

Strawberry Cobbler

What could be more delicious than a strawberry-based cocktail with a graham cracker rim? STK Atlanta offers up this super easy dessert and drink in one.

Strawberry Cobbler

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 2 strawberries
  • .25 ounces fresh simple syrup
  • 1 ounce sour mix*
  • .02 ounce graham cracker

Add strawberries into the mixing glass. Muddle the strawberries, add vodka, simple syrup and sour mix into the mixing glass. Add ice then shake and strain into a graham cracker-crusted rimmed martini glass.

*Sour mix

  • 
1 cup sugar

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice



Make simple syrup by bringing the sugar and water to a boil, about 7 minutes. Stir to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and let cool.



While the syrup is cooling, strain freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice into a resealable bottle, discarding the pulp. Pour in the cooled simple syrup. Shake and use immediately or refrigerate.


Classic Gin Martini

When in doubt, this classic gin martini is one of the easiest and most elegant cocktails you can make.

Aviation Dry Martini

  • 2.5 ounces Aviation American Gin
  • 1/2 ounce Dolin Dry Vermouth (or any dry vermouth you have on hand)
  • 1 dash Regan's No.6 Orange Bitters (or any bitters you have on hand)
  • Lemon twist for garnish

In a mixing glass or a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the gin and the vermouth. Shake well, then strain into a martini glass. Top with a dash of bitters. Garnish with a lemon twist and serve.

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La Bohème Cocktail

Courtesy of the Atlanta French restaurant Aix, beverage director Matthew Gibbons shares his recipe for La Bohème which is based on a classic sour cocktail. But you can easily modify this recipe to fit what you have available in your home.

La Bohème

  • 1 ounce tequila (or other clear spirit like vodka, tequila, gin or rum)
  • 1 ounce strawberry tarragon syrup*
  • .75 ounces lemon juice (lime works too)
  • .5 ounces Campari (or any bitter liqueur you have on hand like aperol, cynar, suze)
  • Egg white
  • Dehydrated cranberry powder (optional)

Shake all ingredients hard without ice to help incorporate the egg and liquid. Then shake with ice to chill and dilute. Then strain and pour into a coupe glass. Sprinkle with cranberry powder.

*Fruit and herb syrup

Be mindful of the sweetness and strength of what you select and adjust to taste.

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sliced fruit (plus, cores, stems...throw it all in)
  • 1/4 cup herbs (toss the stems in too)
  • 1 cup sugar (feel free to get creative here with honey, brown sugar, agave, etc.)

Bring all ingredients to a boil on medium high. Simmer for a minimum of fifteen minutes and taste to see how the flavor is developing. Strain and allow to cool.

SHOP FOR CRANBERRY POWDER: Amazon, $26.90

Daisies & Rubies Cocktail

Get creative with these ingredients advises Aix beverage director Matthew Gibbons. The recipe, says Gibbons, "can easily be reworked to accomodate what you have on hand. That recipe was actually created to be a template that could change and shift with the seasons to reflect our ethos of 'a ce moment.'" And Gibbons says "final tidbit of advice" when thinking about crafting a cocktail is to always "taste and adjust." So have fun with it. "In home mixology, there are no rules. Just taste, and adjust."

Daisies & Rubies

  • 1 ounce hibiscus-infused vodka* (or any herb-infused neutral spirit like vodka, gin, rum or tequila infused with tarragon, rosemary, lavender, mint or basil)
  • 1 ounce satsuma mandarin syrup** (any citrus fruit combo can work)
  • .5 ounces Lillet Rose Vermouth ("...can be omitted if you're feeling really confident in your fruit syrup," says Gibbons. "We use the vermouth to cut the sweetness and flatten the texture of the fruit syrup.")
  • .5 ounces lemon juice (lime, grapefruit, blood oranges or mandarin orange juice also works)
  • .5 ounce Sparkling rosé or wine (or tonic, soda, La Croix)

Shake ingredients well with ice and strain into a highball glass. Serve with ice.

*Herb-infused vodka

My general ratio for herb infusions is 1:5 (herb:spirit). It's best to test out new infusions in small batches. Fill a Mason jar or airtight container with your spirit of choice. Rinse and add whole herbs. Give the jar a little shake daily as you watch the color develop. Allow the spirit to infuse for at least two days, shaking it along the way. At this point it will usually pick up a nice flavor. That flavor intensifies between 3 and 5 days. I think my best infusions happen between days 3 and 4.

**Mandarin fruit syrup

  • 1 cup satsuma mandarins (or other citrus fruit, peeled and halved)
  • 1/4 cup tarragon (or other herb, stem and all)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water

Combine all ingredients in pot, hand squeezing the juice out of the mandarins into the pot and opening them up. Bring to a boil on medium high. Simmer for 20 minutes. Strain.

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