Your browser is not supported. We do our best to optimize our websites to the most current web browsers. Please try another browser.

A Guide to Classic Cocktails — So You Can Order Your Next Drink Like a Pro

Three refreshing cocktails on a pink background
Getty Images

The world of mixology brings its own niche subculture and classic cocktails, and has traditionally been reserved for drink aficionados and, often – men. Thankfully, this is changing. From gin cocktails to vodka to champagne cocktails and beyond – cocktails offer a world of possibilities to imbibe in. 

Whether this realm is new to you or you find it plain intimidating and tend not to venture out, beyond a single favourite mixed drink, fear not – we got you covered with a guide to 15 classic cocktails you’re likely to see on the menu, so you can order your next drink like a pro. 

See also: What is pink sauce — and why is everyone talking about it?

Classic gin cocktails

Gin and tonic cocktail

Gin and Tonic

As the name suggests, the key spirit in this classic cocktail is gin, which is then diluted with a splash of tangy, bubbly and bitter tonic. The G&T’s light, crisp combination works so well that it has become a fast favourite for many. Mixologists and at-home fans typically garnish it with a wedge of lime. While the drink stretches back into the 1800s, it didn’t become popular in the western hemisphere until the 1930s. You’ll often find it served in a highball glass. 

Woman holding a Negroni


A popular Italian export, Negroni evokes the same warmth of Old Fashioneds and Manhattans (see the Whisky section below). It is a delicate blend of gin, red vermouth and Campari – typically served on ice and a splash of soda. It tugs at the tastebuds enough with its mild bitterness to offer complexity and challenge, but it’s still smooth enough of a blend to easily enjoy in the late evenings or ahead of a meal as an aperitif to open your appetite. It’s often served in an Old Fashioned glass on ice. This blood orange Negroni is the perfect twist on a classic cocktail.

Related: What to eat to feel your best at each phase of your cycle.


Classic vodka cocktails

Martini on a bar ledge


Made popular by another classic (in this case, the James Bond franchise), Martinis can be made either shaken or stirred. Regardless of your preference, you will most often find it as a vodka-based cocktail (though gin was the original alcohol) and cut with vermouth or even plain iced water. However you mix it and cut it, the classic Dry Martini is often a symbol for sophistication – simple, direct and strong. Still, the cocktail provides a base for endless variations, so you’ll never get bored. You’ll find it served in that quintessential stemmed cocktail (martini) glass, garnished with a simple olive or two or a lemon twist. This is now one of the most popular drinks served at cocktail bars. 

Already a fan and want to try a new way to enjoy this classic vodka cocktail? Give this gin-based Earl Grey Mar(tea)ni a try.

Classic Moscow mule copper mug with garnish

Moscow Mule

Moscow Mules are a delicious, fizzy and tangy combo of vodka, ginger beer and lime juice typically served in a copper mug, (try it garnished with mint and sugared ginger). It is now one of the most popular vodka-based cocktails in bars, having made a major comeback in the 2010s.  

Kick off cozy season with this Autumn-inspired apple cider Moscow Mule.

You may also like: 10 best foods to eat before and after sex — and 5 foods to avoid.

Overhead shot of a cosmo cocktail


Made famous as the drink of Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, Cosmos are synonymous with sophistication and modern, career-driven urbanites everywhere. It’s known as a “sour” and is made of lemon-flavoured vodka, fresh lime juice, Cointreau and cranberry juice. It’s a perfect fun and casual drink when you’re out with friends for drinks or on a date. Expect to get it in a traditional stemmed cocktail glass. 

Any hour is cocktail hour thanks to Ina Garten’s classic Cosmopolitan


Mojito cocktail


Made famous by author and journalist Ernest Hemingway’s time in Havana, the Mojito muddles mint and combines it with lime juice, sugar, rum and soda. The sweet-tangy and refreshing cocktail saw a resurgence in America following the bevvy’s popularization by Cuban emigrants in Miami and is still a favourite for many looking for a delicious, light and refreshing drink to enjoy. Expect to get it in a tall Collins glass and often with a straw.

See also: ‘Shelflation’ caused Canadians to waste over $500 million worth of food: Study.

White russian cocktail on the bar stand on rubber mat.
Getty Images

White Russian

One of two cocktails on this list to count coffee in its ingredients, the White Russian packs all the comforts of a creamy milkshake. It combines vodka with a coffee liqueur (often Kahlua) and heavy cream, shaken with enough ice to create a frosty finish. If you’ve ever seen the Coen Brothers’ cult favourite The Big Lebowski, you’ll recognize the drink as the protagonist’s main form of sustenance. Expect to get it in a traditional Old Fashioned or rocks glass. 

Next time you’re looking for a holiday-inspired drink, try this easy White Russian and eggnog cocktail

Bloody Caesar cocktail

Bloody Caesar

The Canadian cousin to America’s Bloody Mary, the savoury and often spicy morning cocktail is complex way to start a morning (or follow a hangover). What sets it apart from Bloody Mary is that the Canadian variation combines clamato juice (part tomato, part clam juice) over plain tomato juice (trust us, it isn’t as terrible as it may sound). Other ingredients include vodka, spices, a hot sauce (such as Tabasco), Worcestershire sauce and a celery-salt rim. It is served in a highball glass and garnished with lime, and a celery stalk, though you’ll also see some inventive garnishes out there (like a slice of pizza).

You may also like: 20 of the most beautiful Canadian cities to live in.


Classic champagne cocktails

Mimosas on a table


Otherwise known as “Champagne Orange,” Mimosas are a brunch staple. The simple-yet-delicious cocktail serves up equal parts chilled champagne and orange juice. The drink took off in Paris as a popular “morning drink,” much like two other morning drinks on this list. It is most often served in champagne flutes.  

Elevate your next brunch with this fun and easy carrot twist on the traditional Mimosa.

Classic tequila cocktails

Margarita cocktail


Credited for popularizing tequila beyond Mexico, Margaritas are a sweet, refreshing blend of the spirit with lime juice, triple sec curacao and the trademark salted rim. They are also the unofficial drink of vacation and a carefree lifestyle, made famous by Jimmy Buffet’s 1977 song “Margaritaville,” where the drink (like Pina Coladas) became a symbol of a bohemian lifestyle. Often best enjoyed on hot summer days, you can have it in crushed ice form or served up as a cold bevvy in a traditional margarita glass. 

This spicy Watermelon Margarita will kick-start your weekend the right way.

Related: The richest celebrities who own tequila brands — ranked by net worth.

Classic whiskey cocktails

Old fashioned cocktail

Old Fashioned

You might know it as the drink your dad or uncle reaches for, but it is a sophisticated blend of sugar (or in some Canadian twists, maple syrup), bitters, ice, American whiskey and garnished with an orange peel and the occasional maraschino cherry. It is as classic as classic cocktails get because the earliest mentions of cocktails from the start of the 1800s suggest just this combination of ingredients: spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters. This mixed drink generally throws a curveball at any notions that cocktails women reach for need to be simplistic in flavour profile, sugary, colourful and sweet. It is a drink that draws you in with its complexity, depth and warmth of flavour. You’ll most often see Old Fashioneds served in a traditional rocks glass (sometimes also called the Old Fashioned glass). 

A server pours bourbon Manhattan cocktails for two from a bottle filled with applewood smoke, into glasses garnished with maraschino cherries impaled on rosemary twigs.
Getty Images



Mixed with American whiskey, bitters and vermouth (some versions include a fortified wine), the silky Manhattan is a close cousin to the Old Fashioned and it is known for making quite a stir in the bartending scene in the 1870s or early 1880s. As the name suggests, its origin story stems from its namesake New York City borough. It is rich, warm and slightly sweet, perfect for those cold, dark months or even on a dock, overlooking a lake on late summer afternoons. You’ll often find it served in a champagne coupe or a rocks (Old Fashioned) glass.

See also: ‘Shrinkflation’ is real: Package sizes are getting smaller — but not prices.

Homemade Irish Coffee with Whiskey and Whipped Cream
Irish Coffee

Irish Coffee

This popular morning cocktail is also a “hot cocktail” and often enjoyed during the holidays. As its name suggests, it packs coffee, and is made relatively simply with sugar or simple syrup, Irish whisky and a dollop of whipped cream. Enjoy it in an Irish coffee mug.  

As a fun, delicious twist, try this Bailey’s Irish float

Other common cocktails to order and try

Aperol spritz cocktails line up

Aperol Spritz

Thought of as the original Sprtizer, this cocktail goes back nearly 180 years, and is also based on a white wine and seltzer water blend. While it’s changed since that time to include the Italian light bitter called Aperol, it became a popular drink of choice in Italy as the go-to summer drink, and since – the world over, seeing a recent resurgence in bars and homes everywhere. It is refreshing, slightly bitter, based largely with white wine (or more recently prosecco) and works great as an aperitif, ahead of a meal. It is often served in a stemmed glass, and garnished with an orange wheel. 

Travel back in ‘thyme’ with this seasonal twist on a classic Aperol Spritz.


Related: TikTok has people drinking a gallon of water a day, but this is how much you actually need.

Sangria next to a sangria-filled jug


A popular go-to for those visiting Spain and Portugal, Sangria is a delicious combination that most often combines red wine (though recipes can also call for white), fruit, sugar, brandy, spices and, sometimes, a mixer, such as a soda. It is sweet and refreshing, with fruity flavours, and a great companion to casual eats such as tapas or other lighter fare. You’ll often get it in a stemmed wine glass.

Woman reaching for a white wine spritzer in a bath

White Wine Spritzer

For those nights (or days) when you’re craving a refreshing glass of white wine, but don’t want the punch that comes with booze, you can lighten the load by requesting a White Wine Spritzer. Easy and refreshing, it combines chilled white wine, club soda or mineral water and a citrus garnish, such as lime. The wines that work well in spritzers are ones that have strong aromatic finishes, such as a Riesling, Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. You can enjoy it at the end of a long day or can expect to get it in a traditional stemmed wine glass. 

Curious about other types of spritzers? Try the strawberry rhubarb Gin Spritzer.

Related: ‘Tip-flation’ is real in Ontario — this is how much the average tip is right now.

Latest News

This content is restricted to adults of legal age.
Please enter your birthdate to confirm.
Date of Birth