“I’ll have what he’s having,” says the person at the bar who has no idea what to order. Whether you’re a total lightweight or a cocktail connoisseur, chances are, you’re drinking something with gin, rum, or vodka—turns out the most popular drinks feature one (or all) of these very distinctive liquors. Here’s the rundown of everyone’s favorite bar drinks. You can even try your hand at mixing them up at home.
This beloved highball is a traditional Cuban drink. To prepare, gently crush lime juice, sugar, and mint leaves in the bottom of a sturdy glass with a muddler. Add white rum, a little soda water, and top it all off with ice. Use flavored liqueurs to create variations like berry and apple mojitos.
The cosmo was Carrie Bradshaw’s drink for many reasons—it’s flirty, fabulous, and strong. Vodka is the star of the show, and it’s complemented with triple sec (an orange-flavored liqueur), cranberry juice, and lime juice. Serve it in a martini glass with a lemon wedge to garnish.
A classic margarita is a symbol of a good time—tequila, anyone?! Add some triple sec and lime or lemon juice and it’s good to go. It can be served straight, on the rocks, or blended—but always with salt on the rim. Margarita glasses have a distinctive shape with two ‘bowls’ and a long stem, but the drink is often served in a standard cocktail glass, too.
Is there any drink more classic than a martini? It’s usually made with gin and dry vermouth, but purists believe that the glass should only be rinsed out with vermouth before pouring in chilled gin. Some bartenders mix three parts gin to one part vermouth in a cocktail shaker, and then pour it into a glass. Add a green olive and little bit of olive brine to make it “dirty.” A twist of lemon is common garnish, too. Many variations with vodka now exist, but these aren’t considered genuine martinis. (Tell that to James Bond, who drinks vodka martinis.)
The word maitai means “good” in Tahitian, and this most island-y cocktail of all was supposedly invented at a Polynesian restaurant in the 1940s. It’s a sweet drink combining white rum, dark rum, orange curaçao, pineapple juice, sugar syrup, and lime juice. Sometimes apricot and/or almond syrups make an appearance.
The main ingredient of this famous Brazilian drink is cachaça, a spirit similar to rum that’s made from fermented sugar cane. It’s basic, yet perfect in every way. Cut a lime into wedges and muddle it in a sturdy glass with sugar. Add crushed ice and pour in cachaça. Done and done.
Contrary to popular belief, a classic daiquiri isn’t a blended, fruity, froufrou drink. The original recipe is just white rum, sugar syrup, and lime juice, shaken, then poured into a chilled martini glass. Sweet and simple.
If you like piña coladas … Who doesn’t? This national drink of Puerto Rico is a sweet treat with white rum, coconut, cream, and pineapple juice. Serve it in a large goblet with crushed ice.
Long Island Iced Tea
Despite its name, there’s no tea in this cocktail. Vodka, tequila, gin, rum, triple sec, and a splash of Coca-Cola comprise this heady drink. Pour everything into a shaker, mix thoroughly, and pour into a tall glass. Some people like to add simple syrup or sweet and sour mix (a blend of lemon juice and sugar). Now that’s a stiff drink.
This drink is so named because of the vodka (Russia’s national drink), though it’s believed to have originated in the U.S. A White Russian mixes vodka with Bailey’s and a coffee liqueur such as Tia Maria. Serve it over ice.