Gone are the days when super sweet, syrupy drinks took the top spot on bar menus. When bellying up to the bar, you'll notice plenty of craft cocktails that are short on the ingredient list but prepared with quality, housemade infusions. What are Americans drinking? Each year Drinks International interviews bartenders across the country, and recently there's been an uptick in bold and bitter flavors, as well as a return to vintage classics that are surprisingly easy to make at home. In addition to listing the favorites, master mixologists provide their best tips for preparing bar drinks at home.

List of the Ten Most Popular Cocktails in the U.S.

Old Fashioned

There's nothing old-fashioned about this sophisticated sipping cocktail. According to bartenders and restaurant staff, it's the most-ordered drink in about 30 percent of bars across the country. To make the sophisticated cocktail yourself, you'll need to roll up your sleeves and get muddling.

1 sugar cube
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 ounces bourbon
Garnish with orange slice and maraschino cherry

Add the sugar cube to a rocks glass and pour the bitters over the top. Use a muddle or fork to mash up the saturated sugar cube. Next, fill the glass with ice and add the bourbon. Stir until combined and add the garnishes.

Negroni

This Italian classic combines Campari with sweet vermouth and dry gin, and is definitely bringing bitter back to the top of cocktail lists. Combine the ingredients in a rocks glass with ice and stir gently.

1 ounce Campari
1 ounce gin
1 ounce sweet vermouth
Garnish with orange slice

Whiskey Sour

A little sweet, a little sour and very whiskey-forward, this classic has made a comeback, according to bartenders from Boston to Boise. Combine the liquids in a shaker with ice and strain into a glass made for sipping.

2 ounces whiskey or bourbon
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
Garnish with orange slice and maraschino cherry

Daiquiri

This is not the frozen slushie extruded from drink machines that line the counters of dive bars. Bartenders implore you to try the original rum-forward recipe that's quick and easy to make. Put the three ingredients into a shaker with ice and give a few whirls to chill, then pour into any glass you have handy.

2 ounces white rum
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup

Manhattan

Said to have originated in the 1870s at the Manhattan Club of New York City – an elite social club for Democratic men – the cocktail has experienced newfound fame in speakeasy-style bars and cocktail clubs. To sip the drink from the comfort of your own tufted leather sofa, fill a rocks glass with ice, add the ingredients and give it a stir.

2 1/2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Drop a maraschino cherry in the glass

Dry Martini

This iconic cocktail is traditionally prepared with gin, not vodka, and bartenders urge you to stir, not shake (contrary to the advice of James Bond) in a large glass with ice. The reason? Shaking breaks up the ice and adds too much water to the final drink. After a gentle stir, pour the ingredients into a chilled martini glass.

2 1/2 ounces dry gin
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
Garnish with green olives

Espresso Martini

With trendy coffee shops combining coffee menus in the morning and bar menus at night, the espresso martini is boosting caffeine intake around the clock. To prepare the boozy picker-upper for friends, prepare espresso and let chill, add all of the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker and give a vigorous shake, then pour into chilled martini glasses.

2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce coffee liqueur
1 ounce espresso

Margarita

Margaritas have moved beyond Tex-Mex joints and are on bar drink menus across the country. When ordering, be on the lookout for varieties that feature a housemade base with fresh lime juice as opposed to the bottled sour mix. To prepare the limey treat in your own kitchen, mix the ingredients in a shaker with ice and pour into a salt-rimmed glass.

1 ounce Cointreau
2 ounces tequila
1 ounce fresh lime juice

Aperol Spritz

The famous Italian aperitif has made its way beyond the standing wine bars and seaside resorts overlooking the Mediterranean. To sip this slightly sweet, slightly bitter effervescent drink poolside, fill a wine glass with ice and add:

3 ounces prosecco
2 ounces Aperol
1 ounce club soda
Garnish with orange slice

Moscow Mule

Sorry, Russia history buffs, but the drink didn't originate in Moscow. The ice-cold concoction of vodka, lime juice and ginger beer is said to have been invented in Manhattan in the 1940s. To make it at home, fill the iconic copper mug with ice and add:

2 ounces vodka
1 ounce lime juice
3 ounces ginger beer
Garnish with lime wedge

Popular Drinks With Vodka

While bourbon and gin cocktails have taken over in popularity, vodka drinks continue to be a mainstay on bar menus. However, bartenders in small craft bars and large halls across the United States encourage vodka fans to move beyond the vodka soda and to experiment, even if just a little bit, with mixes like:

  • Vodka martini: Like the dry martini, but made with vodka instead of gin.
  • Cosmopolitan: Combines vodka, cranberry juice, fresh lime juice and orange liqueur.
  • Bloody Mary: This boozy brunch favorite is a mix of vodka, tomato juice and a little pepper or spice to give it a kick.
  • Screwdriver: For those who want a kick of vitamin C, the cocktail is simple, made with just vodka and orange juice poured over a glass full of ice cubes.

How to Make Bar Drinks at Home

A night out spent drinking cocktails at sleek bars served by bartenders who shake and pour in a rhythmic fashion can be a highlight of your week. But, if you're wondering how to make popular bar drinks yourself, stock up on the basics. You'll be pouring like a pro in no time. The most popular list of cocktails is actually quite easy to re-create at home, as each requires no more than three or four ingredients. According to the professionals, you'll need:

Hardware: You don't need as many pieces as you think. Stock your bar kit with a few essentials and you can make the most popular cocktails.

  • Set of sipping glasses like a rocks glass (named because the large, flat glass easily holds ice cubes).
  • Martini or wide-mouth Champagne glasses.
  • Cocktail shaker with strainer.
  • Long-handled bar spoon.
  • Small measuring glass.
  • Silicon molded ice cube trays.

Liquor and garnishes: Keep your cabinet stocked with the top five liquors and a few garnishes, and you'll find that you have everything you need to make the majority of cocktails on bar menus:

  • Gin
  • Bourbon
  • Rum
  • Vodka
  • Tequila
  • Vermouth
  • Bitters
  • Simple syrup, which is just 1 cup sugar mixed with 1 cup water and brought to a boil, then chilled. It stores in the fridge for about a week.
  • Orange
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Maraschino cherries

About the Author

Kristin Amico

Kristin Amico is a travel and food writer who quit her full-time job in 2017 to travel the globe while freelancing. Her work has appeared in Hemispheres, Fodor's, The Independent and USA Today. She blogs at howtotraveltheglobe.com.