As a general rule, a man's ability to entertain is vastly improved by the ability to mix a good cocktail. Knowing how to make all the cocktails available at a bar would take years and a massive collection of alcohol, but knowing just a few classic drinks can make you a gracious host and an impressive entertainer.

Use this list of cocktails to take your bartending skills beyond merely cracking open a beer or just adding soda to your liquor of choice (say, tequila, bourbon or scotch). The beauty of mastering classic cocktails is that you don't have to be an expert mixologist to get a few impressive drinks right. The real fun part is testing them all out.


It's the drink that helped make James Bond a permanent sex symbol, and if it works for him, it can work for you. Learn the classic and then make the martini yours. Choose gin or vodka -- we're not getting into the whole "Is a vodka martini really a martini?" debate -- then make it dry or dirty, shake it or stir it, then add onions or olives. There's no “right” way.

You'll need:

  • 4 oz gin (or vodka)
  • 1 oz dry vermouth
  • lemon peel
  • your garnish of choice

Mix it: Pour gin/vodka and vermouth into a mixing glass or over ice. Stir. Strain into chilled martini glass. Squeeze lemon peel over drink, but don't garnish with it. Do garnish with one green olive or cocktail onion.

Bloody Mary

A good Bloody Mary is the casual drink that makes you a thoughtful and attentive host. Sure, for a casual get-together you can pull out the bottle opener and show thoughtfulness by asking which kind of beer your guests prefer, but a good Bloody Mary is tasty, fun and a delightful surprise even just for watching the game.

You'll need:

  • 1 oz vodka
  • 3 oz tomato juice
  • Tabasco / red hot sauce
  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
  • pinch of salt, pinch of pepper
  • 1 celery stalk, lemon wedge, asparagus stalk or pickle spear

Mix it: Pour vodka into a glass and add the tomato juice. Drop in four shakes of Tabasco / hot sauce (or heat it to taste, even adding horseradish). Then add a few drops of Worcestershire sauce and pinches of salt and pepper. Put some ice in a shaker and shake moderately. Strain into chilled glass and add garnish of choice.


We chose the Manhattan instead of the old-fashioned (which is also delicious) because the process is simpler and Ryan Gosling kind of ruined the old-fashioned in 'Crazy, Stupid, Love.' (Turning good bartending into a “move” to get women into bed rather than the act of a gracious host -- we do not abide this.) Making a good Manhattan will show you're a guy who appreciates the classics and cares enough to put a little effort into entertaining. (A Rob Roy is another great whiskey drink to add to your repertoire).

You'll need:

  • 1.5 oz whiskey (rye or bourbon)
  • 1.5 oz vermouth
  • sugar syrup
  • orange bitters
  • squeeze of lemon peel

Mix it: Pour whiskey and vermouth into a prep glass. Add one or two dashes of orange bitters and one or two dashes of sugar syrup*. Stir the blend well and strain into a cocktail glass. Squeeze a piece of lemon peel on top. You can also use just a dash of juice from a jar of cocktail cherries instead of syrup and then garnish with a cherry.

*Make your own sugar syrup by boiling a cup of sugar and 17 oz of water, then simmering for about five minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Keep it in the fridge for a month in a glass jar with a tight lid.


If you're meeting at your place before heading to dinner, the negroni is the best way to start the evening. It's one of the few drinks that could actually get a non-gin drinker into gin. It's good enough for after dinner, as well.

You'll need:

  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz gin
  • an orange slice

Mix it: Simply fill a glass with ice and pour in the Campari, vermouth and gin. Garnish with the orange. (Use a match to flame the peel for a fun show and delicious drink.)

Tom Collins

Classic and refreshing, a Tom Collins is a perfect summer drink for a long evening on the patio waiting for the sun to set. Skip the vodka lemonade or sangria and give your guest a real treat with a Tom Collins. Long winter? Whip up one of these and imagine summer is right around the corner.

You'll need:

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 4 tsp sugar syrup
  • sparkling water
  • ice
  • lemon

Mix it: Pour gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup into a shaker with ice. Shake well. Strain into a glass of ice. Top the cocktail with sparkling water and garnish with a lemon slice.

Black Russian

While a tasty cocktail, a White Russian might make you a bit too Lebowski, and besides, what guy keeps milk in the house? Sure, it's a good way to drink your protein, but you don't need it. Impress your guest instead with a Black Russian. You'll love the taste and won't have to spend any time wondering if the milk has gone bad.

You'll need:

  • 1 oz Russian vodka
  • 1 oz coffee liqueur (like Kahlua)
  • twist of lemon

Mix it: Pour the vodka and Kahlua into a shaker of ice. Shake well for about 15 seconds. Pour the cocktail into a glass of ice and squeeze in the lemon.

Irish Coffee

Ending the evening with an Irish coffee is as classic, warm and romantic as turn-down service at a five-star hotel. It's the gentlemanly way to talk your date into heading up to your apartment after a great night out.

You'll need:

  • 1 oz Irish whiskey
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 5 oz hot coffee
  • 1.75 oz whipped cream
  • 3 coffee beans

Mix it: Pour whiskey, sugar and coffee in that order into a glass. Stir. Top with whipped cream and garnish with coffee beans.

More in our Well-Stocked Bar series:

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