Three Classic Cocktails to Add to Your Repertoire

Your ability to make or enjoy a cocktail should go beyond the trite gin/vodka and soda/tonic water with a lime.  While refreshing, it is boring and should only be used when your cupboards are bare and you ONLY have the two ingredients.  Fret not, I am going expand your horizons with three different cocktails that are sophisticated enough to order out during a date night, but easy enough to mix up after a long day at the office.  Salut!

The Old-Fashioned

The first cocktail on the list is the Old-Fashioned- named so because it is often credited as the first mix of ingredients to be called a “cocktail.”  Hailing from Kentucky it is mentioned all the way back in Jerry Thomas’s 1863 classic bartender tome How to Mix Drinks. The Old-Fashioned is prepared by muddling a sugar cube, orange slice, maraschino cherry, and bitters with a splash of soda water and then adding ice and bourbon.  It is a strong drink, but it has a good blend of sweetness and bitterness.  Order one of these while out on a date, poolside in Palm Springs, or on a late-night heater at the craps table.  This drink goes well anytime of the day or season.

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 2 orange slices
  • 2 Maraschino cherries
  • Splash of soda water
  • 2 oz bourbon

In an old-fashioned glass, place the sugar cube and add the bitters.  Add one cherry and one orange slice, and a splash of water and muddle.  Remove the fruit husks, add the bourbon and ice and stir well.  Garnish with remaining cherry and orange slice.

Old Fashioned Classic Cocktail | The South

The Vesper

He looked carefully at the barman.
“A dry martini,” he said. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.”
“Oui, monsieur.”
“Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”
“Certainly, monsieur.” The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
“Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,” said Leiter.

-Ian Flemming, Casino Royale (1953)

Certainly a drink, indeed.  And with these words penned by Ian Fleming, a legend was born.  The cocktail would later be named a Vesper after the novel’s heroine, Vesper Lynd and it is actually a very solid drink.  Kina Lillet is no longer available so you will have to use Lillet Blanc (which is NOT vermouth).  The drink adds a little sophistication to the martini (who knew that was even possible) and if you order it by the ingredients, it is a conversation starter.  This beverage is great for pre dinner drinks.  As Bond says, “I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything…”


  • 3 measures of Gordon’s Gin
  • 1 measure of Vodka
  • ½ measure of Lillet Blanc
  • 1 lemon peel, for garnish

Combine the gin, vodka, and Lillet in a mixing glass with ice and shake until it is very cold.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the lemon.


The Manhattan

Expanding on the martini vibe, there is rarely a bad time to order a Manhattan.  In fact, this is my drink of choice when attending a house party where ingredients are hard to come by.  Oftentimes credited as being created by Winston Churchill’s mother (it was fix mixed up at a party hosted by her), the Manhattan only needs a few common ingredients: bourbon or rye, bitters and sweet vermouth.  I usually use Maker’s Mark Bourbon for the Manhattan, but sometimes will use whatever rye I have on hand to change things up a bit (rye also makes a less sweet Manhattan).  This cocktail is great for dates, business meetings, cocktail parties, and pretty much any event after 6 pm.


  • 2 oz Bourbon or Rye
  • 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
  • 1 Marashino cherry, for Garnish

Stir the whiskey, vermouth and bitters in a mixing glass with ice.  Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.


Have you ever had any of these classic cocktails?  Drop a line and let us know what you think!


Photo via Flickr

About the Author Talbot