This blog was written by Charlie Wilson of Armana Produtions. Armana Productions works with restaurant and bar owners on design and implementation of bar shelves and materials.
Many new bartenders do much of their learning on the fly. After getting thrown to the dogs on the first night with a few essential cocktail recipes underneath the belt, the greenhorn bartender gets his feet wet by pouring a few beers with confidence early in his shift only to have that confidence shaken (not stirred) by the first fancy cocktail order of the night.
A lot can go wrong early on in a bartender’s career, and Murphy’s Law tells us that a lot will go wrong.
To combat those early hiccups, anyone trying their hand at bartending should be familiar with what’s trending.
To find what drinks are the most popular, we can take a look at the top 10 most Google-searched cocktails of June 2015, because the drinks that people are trying to make at home are the same ones they’re going to be ordering when they’re out and about. A bartender that knows these recipes like the back of her hand will have a solid base with which to start, and shouldn’t have too much trouble, at least until Veronica Corningstone needs a drink.
The Top 15 Cocktails of June 2015
Components: 7 parts tequila, 4 parts triple-sec (Cointreau, if you want to be particular), and 3 parts lime juice, garnished with salt and lime
Preparation: Wet the rim of the margarita glass with a lime slice so that, when dipped into salt, the salt will stick to the rim. Pour the ingredients into a shaker with ice, shake to cool, and pour into garnished margarita glass over ice.
Other info: Popular in the summer, a margarita will also often be ordered frozen. The drink is essentially the same, but blended with ice to add an ice slush consistency. Another popular variation of the margarita is a Coronarita——a margarita served with a bottle of Corona upturned into the glass.
Components: 6 parts gin, 1 part dry vermouth, garnished with an olive or lemon twist
Preparation: Pour into mixing glass with ice, stir well, and strain into martini glass. Served straight (no ice). Squeeze lemon peel into the martini or garnish with an olive.
Other info: If James Bond just happens to enter your bar, be prepared to make an alternate version of that martini. He likes them with vodka instead of gin, and it must be shaken, not stirred.
3- Old Fashioned
Components: 1 shot of whiskey (Bourbon or Rye), 2 dashes of bitters, 1 cube of sugar, and a splash of water, garnished with orange slice and cherry
Preparation: Muddle the sugar cube, water, and bitters in an Old Fashioned glass or rocks glass until dissolved. Fill the glass to the brim with ice and then add the whiskey of choice. Finish by garnishing with an orange slice and cherry.
Other info: By the time the 21st century rolled around, the Old Fashioned was nearly an extinct drink order. However, in 2007, a new TV show on AMC called Mad Men featured a protagonist, Don Draper, whose drink of choice was the Old Fashioned. As a result, the drink has significantly regained popularity.
Components: 4 parts white rum, 3 parts lime juice, 5 leaves of mint, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and soda water.
Preparation: Muddle the sugar, lime juice, and mint leaves, then fill the glass with ice. Pour the white rum overtop the ice, then top the glass off with soda water. Garnish with extra mint leaves.
Other info: Although an incredibly crisp summer drink, the mojito might not have originated as a liquid refreshment. There are contradicting origin stories, but one from 1586 starts with the English crew of explorer Sir Francis Drake suffering from dysentery and scurvy. From Cuba, they learned of an effective medicine. The ingredients: lime, mint, sugar cane juice, and rum. So take solace in the fact that, by drinking mojitos, you’re staving off scurvy.
5- Moscow mule
Components: 1 part vodka, 3 parts ginger beer, and a splash of lime juice. Oh, and of course a copper mug.
Preparation: Pour the vodka and ginger beer into a copper mug filled with ice. Add the lime juice and gently stir. Garnish with a slice of lime.
Other info: The copper mug is pretty much essential if you’re going to serve Moscow mules. But, keep in mind that these mugs are hot items among the drinking crowd, and they’re also fairly expensive (i.e. people like to steal them). Keep an eye on them.
6- Bloody Mary
Components: 3 parts vodka, 6 parts tomato juice or bloody mary mix, 1 part lemon juice. Optional ingredients include: Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, horseradish, celery, olives, salt, black pepper, and celery salt.
Preparation: Add your components to a tall glass with ice and stir. Garnish with celery, olives, and lemon.
Other info: With some experimentation, a bartender can develop a signature Bloody Mary. It’s the one drink with the most optional ingredients, and it can be prepared numerous ways. I’ve even seen a splash of Guinness in a Bloody Mary that added a touch of creaminess. Don’t be afraid to get creative, but make sure you’re trying things out when you’re off the clock and not serving customers.
Components: 9 parts white rum, 5 parts lime juice, and 3 parts simple syrup.
Preparation: Pour all 3 ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake well. Then, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Serve straight, with no ice. Garnish with a lime slice.
Other info: The list of alleged drinkers of daiquiris who are also well-known historical figures includes President John F. Kennedy and author Ernest Hemingway.
8- Mint Julep
Components: 2 shots bourbon whiskey, 4 mint leaves, 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 teaspoons water
Preparation: Muddle the mint, sugar, and water in a glass. Fill the glass with ice, add the bourbon, and stir. Garnish with extra mint.
Other info: This one made the Google Trends list solely because the Kentucky Derby is held each year on the first Saturday of May. It’s not an essential year-round, but it’s a safe bet that these will be a popular order in the spring time and early summer.
Components: 5 parts rye whiskey, 2 parts sweet red vermouth (to get the right color), a dash of bitters, garnished with maraschino cherry
Preparation: Pour into mixing glass with ice, stir well, and strain into martini glass. Served straight (no ice). Garnish with the maraschino cherry.
Other info: Be aware that it is not uncommon for a Manhattan to be requested on the rocks and in a lowball glass.
10- Mai Tai
Components: 8 parts white rum, 4 parts dark rum, 3 parts blue or orange curacao, 3 parts orgeat syrup (or simple syrup), 2 parts fresh lime juice
Preparation: Shake the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and serve on the rocks. Garnish with available fruits like pineapple or strawberry to add to the tropical vibe of the drink.
Other info: “Maita'i” is the Tahitian word for “good.” Do what you will with this information.
Components: 1 part gin, 1 part sweet red vermouth, 1 part campari
Preparation: Stir into a large rocks glass over ice. Typically served on the rocks. Garnish with an orange peel.
Other info: Your final fun bar fact: the Negroni was invented in Florence, Italy by Count Negroni in 1919 when he asked his bartender, Fosco Scarselli, to make his favorite cocktail, the Americano, a little stronger by adding gin instead of soda water.
12- Tom Collins
Components: 3 parts gin, 2 parts lemon juice, 1 part simple syrup, 4 parts soda water
Preparation: Add the gin, lemon juice, and syrup to a collins glass over ice and stir. Then, top off with the soda water and garnish with a lemon wedge.
Other info: The collins glass gets its name from the Tom Collins cocktail. Again, use this fun fact with customers once the bar conversation becomes stale.
13- Tequila Sunrise
Components: 3 parts tequila, 6 parts orange juice, 1 part grenadine.
Preparation: Add the tequila and orange juice to a glass over ice. Then add the grenadine and do not mix so that the grenadine will sink to the bottom, resulting in a drink colored to look like a sunrise. Garnish with an orange slice and cherry.
Other info: To assist the formation of the color scheme you can add the grenadine via a spoon, guiding the syrup down the walls of the glass. This will speed up the settling of the components.
Components: 4 parts gin, 1 part sweetened lime juice
Preparation: Mix the components and serve garnished with lime. Can be ordered straight or on the rocks.
Other info: Since a gin gimlet and a vodka gimlet seem to be comparably popular, think about asking what’s preferred if someone simply orders “a gimlet.”
Components: 4 parts vodka (citron, if you want to be particular), 1.5 parts triple sec (again, Cointreua if you’re doing it right), 1.5 parts fresh lime juice, 3 parts cranberry juice
Preparation: Pour everything into a shaker with ice, then double strain into a martini glass, straight, and garnish with a lemon or lime wheel.
Other info: If your final product isn’t a cloudy pink, something’s gone wrong.
The Rest Of The List
The list goes on, so study up if you’d like to be super-prepared.
- Whiskey Sour
- Dark ‘N’ Stormy
This should serve as sufficient base knowledge for any beginner bartender. Having these down pat would be impressive of a novice. After having mastered these, it shouldn’t be too difficult to expand your cocktail repertoire to include more complicated drinks.