30 Drinks Every Bartender Should Know

by Columbine Quillen on July 13, 2010

So I have a new hire who is about to bartend her first bartending shift and I was about to e-mail her 30 drinks every bartender should know and looking for a list (so I wouldn’t have to make it) and almost every list I found was absolutely ridiculous. For example, one site listed the Bocci Ball (don’t know what it is, probably never will as in 12 years no one has ever ONCE asked me for one). Or the Freddy Fudpacker (aka The Cactus Banger) – once again NEVER HEARD anyone order either of these ever ONCE.

I’m not naming any drinks on this list where the ingredients are the name i.e. vodka tonic, amaretto sour, or gin and juice.

1. Apple Martini
2. AMF (Adios Mother Fucker)
3. B-52
4. Black/White Russian
5. Bloody Mary
6. Buttery Nipple
7. Cosmopolitan
8. Gimlet
9. Greyhound
10. Daiquiri
11. Jager Bomb
12. Kamikaze
13. Irish Car Bomb
14. Irish Coffee
15. Lemon Drop
16. Long Island Ice Tea
17. Manhattan
18. Margarita
19. Martini
20. Mojito
21. Old Fashion
22. Rusty Nail
23. Salty Dog
24. Screwdriver
25. Sex on the Beach
26. Sidecar
27. Spanish Coffee
28. Surfer on Acid
29. Tequila Sunrise
30. Redheaded Slut

How To Make the Top Cocktails Every Bartender Should Know

Apple Martini
I hate to even put this on the list, but it is a cocktail that I get an order for at least once a weekend. What I hate to admit more is that I recently re-tasted Dekuyper Apple Pucker for the first time in many years and I actually liked it as it tasted just like Sour Patch candy, which I love.

3 oz Apple Pucker, 2 oz Vodka, (can add 1 oz fresh lime sour if you happen to have something like that in your bar) shake and serve up with a bright red maraschino cherry

AMF (Adios Mother Fucker)
My close friend Erica has determined that this drink order is always proceeded by the contraction Ka’ Getta.
This is basically a Long Island Ice Tea without the coke and some blue curacao instead. I have to admit, I make Long Islands with vodka and triple sec, and I’ve found them to be undeniably more palatable.
2 oz. vodka (or more depending at the type of bar you work at), 1 oz triple sec, 1 oz blue curacao, 2 oz. Lime sour (or margarita mix or sweet and sour). Serve in a pint glass.

You should always ask if the guest wants it as a coffee drink, on the rocks or as a shot.
Equal parts Baileys, Kahlua, and Grand Marnier

Black/White Russian
The Black Russian is equal parts vodka and Kahlua (or a coffee-flavored liqueur). A White Russian is the same, except you add a little cream.

Bloody Mary
It took me years to perfect my Bloody Mary recipe and I’m not about to divulge it here on this blog. But I recommend spending some time in the kitchen with the following ingredients and seeing what you come up with – tomato juice (consider fresh squeezing – you’ve be amazed), celery salt, lemon juice, Worchester Sauce, brine, olive juice, bullion, dill, black pepper, a spicy sauce, and anything else of interest in your spice cabinet.

Buttery Nipple
A shot that is half Bailey’s and half butterscotch schnapps.

What has become the great American female cocktail of this century is a cocktail that I really believe every bartender should have a little bit of their own flair on. This drink really depends on if your bar carries fresh lime or Rose’s lime and although I don’t personally carry Rose’s lime I’ve had a mighty tasty Cosmo made with Rose’s Lime so I don’t want to knock it.
Ingredient list: cranberry juice, vodka, orange liqueur, and Rose’s lime (or fresh lime and simple)

The guest should always be asked if they want a vodka or gin gimlet and if they want it up or on the rocks. This drink is just booze and limejuice, either fresh or Rose’s. I typically ask the guest how sweet they want it, as many people like the syrupy taste of Rose’s (which can be mimicked with a lot of simple syrup and fresh-squeezed lime juice) but others just want a couple squeezes of fresh lime.

A daiquiri is really just a gimlet made with rum.

Vodka and grapefruit

Jager Bomb
One shot of Jägermeister dropped into half a pint glass of Red Bull.

You should ask the guest if they want this drink as a shot, up, or on the rocks. Typically, they want it as a shot – but it never hurts to ask.
Equal parts lime juice, simple, vodka, and triple sec

Irish Car Bomb
A shot which is composed of half Jameson and half Baileys dropped into half of a pint glass of Guinness Irish Stout.

Irish Coffee
Unfortunately, many guests don’t know what an Irish Coffee is and I often times have a guest order Irish Coffee thinking that they are going to get Bailey’s and coffee. I would recommend always clarifying with the guest if they meant Jameson or Bailey’s in their coffee.
An Irish Coffee should be a shot of Irish Whiskey and coffee (some people add a hint of sugar).  I also like to add a hint of Angostura bitters.  I once worked at a restaurant that poured a little splash of green crème de menthe over the top of the whipped cream, but I’ve heard conflicted viewpoints concerning this garnish.

Lemon Drop
You should ask the guest if they want it as a shot or a cocktail (or it might just be apparently obvious as to what time of the night it is or the atmosphere where you work.)
Equal parts Vodka (can use a flavor or citrus to change the flavor), fresh squeezed lemon, and simple syrup. The rim is typically sugared on this cocktail.

Long Island Ice Tea
As I earlier said, I like to make my Long Islands using only vodka and triple sec, I’ve found them to be undeniably more palatable.
2 oz. vodka (or more depending at the type of bar you work at), 1 oz triple sec, 2 oz. Lime sour (or margarita mix or sweet and sour) and a splash of Coke for color. Serve in a pint glass with a lemon wedge.

I don’t personally like a lot of sweet vermouth in my Manhattan, so I make them one part sweet vermouth and five parts bourbon with a couple of splashes of Angostura bitters. Make sure to ask up or on the rocks and it is traditionally served with a maraschino cherry. I although I get more and more people who say they don’t want the cherry.

I would recommend either making a good lime sour or buying a good fresh pack margarita mix. Then it is just two parts tequila, one part orange liqueur, and three parts lime sour or mix. Serve on the rocks or blended with the guest’s preference of salt.

Although traditionally gin – one should now ask if the guest prefers vodka or gin. Probably 70% of the time the guest wants vodka with olives, but the garnish should also be discussed. Extra Dry means no vermouth. Dry means almost no vermouth. Wet means vermouth.  Served up or on the rocks – this drink is all gin or vodka with perhaps a tiny splash of vermouth.

The mojito has taken the U.S. by storm in the last ten years. Start with some fresh mint leaves, muddle them. Add 2 ounces of rum, two teaspoons sugar, and 1 ounce of lime. Shake, serve over ice with soda water.

Old Fashion
This is the cocktail that turned me into a whiskey drinker, which is still my spirit of choice, so there is a very special place in my heart for this cocktail. Muddle a piece of orange and a maraschino cherry with Angostura bitters and a sugar cube. Add two ounces of whiskey and ice. Top with your choice of soda or water.

Rusty Nail

Equal parts Drambuie and Scotch. (If you are wondering what Drambuie is, it is a liqueur made from Scotch whiskey and heather honey which contains a secret blend of herbs and botanicals – a couple of good guesses are saffron, anise, and nutmeg.)

Salty Dog
This is just a greyhound (vodka and grapefruit) with a salted rim.

Vodka and orange juice. (Screw in the title of a drink typically denotes that there will be oj in it.)

Sex on the Beach
I think many believe that this drink went out in the mid 80s, but I still get quite a few orders for it.  It is vodka, peach schnapps, and oj.

The Sidecar can be thought of as a margarita made with brandy instead of tequila. It is typically served up with a sugar rim.

Spanish Coffee
Every bartender has their own little flair on the Spanish coffee – but the gist of it is a sugar rim that is caramelized by lighting Bicardi 151 and allowing the flame to flicker on the rim of the glass. While the fire is still lit, add cinnamon and nutmeg which will spark and add a bit of show to the presentation. Tia Maria (or another coffee liqueur) and brandy finish the drink off. Should ask if the guest wants whipped cream.

Surfer on Acid
I never can remember what this is and I although I don’t get a lot of orders for it, I do think it is something that every bartender should know. It is one of the most cliché shots and it is probably just a sign of my snobbery that I refuse to remember its simple ingredients. Equal parts Jägermeister, Malibu (coconut) rum, and pineapple juice.

Tequila Sunrise
Tequila, orange juice, served on the rocks with a small drizzle of grenadine to make it look like a sunrise.

Redheaded Slut
Another shot (although I have a fair amount of people order this like a cocktail) that I often times have to look up – but once again I think you should probably know what is in it. Equal parts Jägermeister, peach schnapps, and cranberry juice.

What do you think is missing from the list?

*******Bonus material for the aspiring bartender to know*******

Rocks – you only say rocks for a spirit that will be served with no mixer. Vodka tonic always gets rocks – but if you someone orders a whiskey, you should find out if the guest wants it rocks or neat.

Press - half soda water and half seven-up. (I recently heard the term sonic for half soda water and half tonic)

Up – to be served shaken and strained into a cocktail glass.

Neat - no ice. Typically in reference to whiskey.

Perfect – a splash of sweet vermouth and dry vermouth.

Dry – very little or no vermouth

With a Twist – using a channeler to remove part of the skin from a lemon so that the oils spray into the drink. The twist is then used to rim the outside of the glass.

Dirty – with olive juice

Back - a small drink to go behind a neat pour or a shot. I.e. a beer back would be a little beer or a coke back with be a small glass of Coke. Typically, the guest doesn’t pay for the back, it’s a little bonus tagged onto their drink.

- Columbine Quillen
I am a mixologist bartender and this is my blog.

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{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

Gary August 28, 2012 at 11:13 am

If you’re choosing to make “your” LIT with just vodka, that’s fine, but you’re posting a list of drinks for people to know, you should mention how to correctly make it, and not just your version of it.

Andy September 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm

How about a paralyzer? 1 oz vodka, 2 oz kahlua, coke and milk. Maybe that’s just a canadian thing though.

Michael September 12, 2012 at 6:52 pm

A Sidecar is NOT a margarita with brandy instead of tequila. That would imply it contains lime juice, which it doesn’t. It contains lemon juice, and generally a sidecar is all top shelf ingredients. That means cointreau and cognac, not christian brothers and hiram walker triple sec…

If I find a bartender who makes a sidecar with lime its a sign I need to find a new bar.

Are You people Serious? September 17, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Listen I’m pretty new behind a bar and I agree some mistakes on this list are egregious (LIT & B52 mostly) but to those of you rambling on about small preferences, do realize different drinks are served differently in every bar. One guy mentioned he pours jagerbombs as a double shot, i’ve never even heard of that. However thats because bars in Boston want your $ so they run up the price to account for the extra redbull a a justifications. Other places might not be so douchey. To the guy asking, HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW WHAT A BOCCIE BALL IS?!?!? go fuck yourself. I’ve been serving/bartending/Drinking for 6 years and have never heard of it. Get over yourselves you sound like 10 year olds who have no place in my bar.

Raj October 17, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Hi Columbine,

Don’t worry about the negative comments. I think your guide/site is very useful for me. I just started working in a bar that’s only about 5% actual alcoholic drinks and the rest being ice cream drinks, mini-bottled wine, beer, etc. It’s an excellent post. I’m just surprised many others don’t appreciate it, but good job regardless.

angela schoenthal November 12, 2012 at 4:08 pm

You forgot to mention the baybreeze and seabreeze..also the hotty toddy

Dez munoz January 25, 2013 at 6:32 am

I own several bars through out the United States and every bartender makes drinks differently. Drinks are made differently depending on what state or part of town your working in. This is not a bad start up guide for people learning drinks. Instead of being negative leave a comment to help others.

Light January 29, 2013 at 6:18 pm

People are crazy, stop crusading; this is for someone’s first steps in a bar. Throughout my years bartending, every single bar has different recipies for drinks, it defines the bar. All these recipies define this bar. Not the ones you drink at, probably.

However to anyone reading this as a supplement to their bartending, read up on variations of drinks; i.e. the long island…
This isn’t wrong, it just may not be the way you will be making the drinks.

King February 3, 2013 at 11:57 am

This is the correct way of mixed drinks cause we are making money here, need to conserve liquor and just add a cheap vodka.

Allara Glaize February 16, 2013 at 5:33 am

I think this website was very helpful! There were a few differences that threw me off, but i just gotta say kudos for telling those negative comments whats good! haha don’t like the way you tend, they can stay outta your bar.

Mike February 18, 2013 at 3:49 am

Long Island: 1/2oz vodka, 1/2oz rum, 1/2 gin, 1/2 triple sec
(Fill glass to the top with sprite/7up/sweet&sour)
(Splash of Coke/Pepsi (just for color))
(Garnish with a lime wedge)

San Diego, California.

nat February 25, 2013 at 10:34 am

this list is pretty ok. however it depends on where you bartend. regardless youre going to find people order different things at the type of bar you go to. there are pretty basic drinks you are going to get all the time. not many people order a “manhattan” unless youre going to a more upscale place as opposed to people ordering a long island at a more sports bar type of place. you’ll learn as you go. but having the basic drinks down packed comes in handy. i believe you should know all the drinks on that list. however i need to make a correction on one because being that a “MOJITO” is my favorite drink. the way she described it isnt going to taste very well. believe me. someone that knows a mojito will be upset.


muddle mint leaves, 2 pieces of lime and a splash of sour mix

add 4oz rum

2-3 tbs of sugar

splash some club soda and shake

pour into glass and splash more club soda on top to fil glass ( shouldnt take more that a few splashes to fill the glass)

garnish with a lime on the rim and if you have, a piece of sugar cane.

Ashley February 25, 2013 at 11:54 pm

A long island has equal parts vodka, gin, tequilla, and rum. A splash of triple sec, sour mix and topped with coke, garnished with a lemon. Source, a bartender with 10 years experience working in a new york city exclusive lounge. This is a good list, but I feel like you should go more in depth with how to make the cocktails. You also should include the bay & sea breeze. You will always have different vareations of some drinks, but there are many that will never change. A manhattan is a manhattan. Same as a LIT or Cosmo. Know how to make these things and you’ll be a decent bartender and learn from there.

darleasia February 26, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Wet pussy- Hennessey, kahlua, and milk. Incredible hulk- Hennessey and Hipnotic

tricia May 28, 2013 at 8:52 pm

well thank you so much i read everyones comments and im trying to get into to the buiz and i need to know these things so i will be looking up alot of links but it helps so to everyone gracias. lol happy drinking …

alex May 31, 2013 at 8:26 pm

I’ve heard the AMF called more as the BMF (Blue Mother Fucker)

kyle bauer July 13, 2013 at 5:52 am

The sidecar is made with lemon juice not lime and its one of the tastiest cocktails. I dont think it should be though of as a margarita. But this is a great list.

social marketing tutorial July 16, 2013 at 5:21 am

Much thanks! It is definitely an very good web page!

Jennifer October 22, 2013 at 5:00 pm

I’m brushing up on cocktails after a break to attend school (Funny that I go right back to bartending…) and think this list is pretty good for those just starting out, or as a refresher. I had completely forgotten about the gimlet. No one orders it where I live anyway.

I know people are nitpicking the shit outta this list, but besides the LIT made with vodka only (no matter that it IS better without the gin and tequila, rum adds to the profile and shouldn’t be left out), the one that got me was the Sex on the Beach. I’ve never heard of it without cranberry.

Paul November 30, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Good list you have here. There are more I would add though, like the zombie, pina colada, sea breeze/bay breeze, rob roy, alabama slammer, mai tai, bartenders root beer, mud slide, tom/john collins, bombay/shanghai/singapore sling, harvey wallbanger, fuzzy navel. Also, I learned that press meant half water, half mix. And back means that customer wants the booze in one glass and any mix the drink comes with in a separate glass

NYC Craft Cocktail Bartender December 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm

This list is junk.
You don’t even Have a Sazerac…
And your old Fashion is an abomination…
should be only a sugar cube soaked in ango, stirred on the rocks with Rye or Bourbon, Orange and lemon Twist…NO MUDDLED FRUIT
all you have is amateur vodka based crap or shots..whaich are all out…
folks this is NOT bartending!

marilinda January 11, 2014 at 10:13 am

Thanks for making the list and taking the time. Refreshing my mind. You did a good job, making the list, people always talk shit, lol, google the drink if you want more explanations, but every bartender has there tricks. ;-)

reaper of souls guide April 23, 2014 at 8:29 am

I was recommended this blog by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this
post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my difficulty.

You’re amazing! Thanks!

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