The Two Most Classic Cocktails Everyone Should Know

If you go to a bar today there are thousands of drink recipes you could order.  If you want to be a bartender today, many of these recipes will drive you insane with their complexity.  Fortunately, there seems to be a fondness for the old days when drinks were simple and straightforward. As such, if you are going to be a bartender today—or you want to get the respect of a bartender—you should know about some of the classics that helped establish mixology as we know it now.

With that in mind here are, perhaps, the two most classic École du Bar de Montréal cocktails every bartender should know (and ever patron should respect).Image result for The Two Most Classic Cocktails Everyone Should Know


While the origins of the word “cocktail” are a bit fuzzy, we do know that it first appeared in print in an 1806 newspaper from upstate New York.  This publication described a cocktail as “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters…”

Over the rest of the 19th century, “cocktail” came to mean many different things.  People used it to refer to not only “spirits” but also liqueurs and fortified wines, and even the associated garnishes.  Dozens of drinks came into existence but many drinker preferred a libation fitting the more classic description, so they would ask the bartender for an “old-fashioned.”  

Although the recipe of an old-fashioned “cocktail” calls for “spirits of any kind” the best type of liquor for this drink is bourbon or rye whiskey.  Still, you can use just about anything you want (tequila, rum, mezcal, vodka, etc) but be prepared for a very different palate

To make an Old Fashioned put a couple dashes of Angostura bitters in an Old Fashioned glass and add a few drops of water. Add one tsp sugar (1 sugar cube) and 2 oz bourbon or rye whiskey and stir.  Garnish with an orange peel and/or cherry.


You might think that the martini was one of the first cocktails but, in fact, the martini is the grandchild of the Martinez.  Also prevalent during the 19th century, the Martinez consists of [Old Tom] gin and sweet vermouth and was regarded as fitting for an elegant after-dinner drink.  

To make a Martinez you simply combine 50mL (2oz) gin, 30mL sweet vermouth, 10mL maraschino liqueur, and a dash or two of Angostura bitters in a mixing glass. Stir well and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist a lemon peel over the top and garnish with the peel.

Sarah Estrada

Sarah Estrada