While the list of cocktail concoctions is as endless as the imagination itself, all of them boil down to six types of spirits: vodka, bourbon, tequila, rum, brandy, and gin. Each is unique in flavor, and there are distinct styles within each category. Check out our rank of the best cocktail by liquor —with a few pointers on how to make them at home!
Tequila Sunrise – Tequila
You won’t find a better cocktail than a Tequila Sunrise if you want to pump feel-good endorphins around your brain and body. A sensual sunrise in a glass can be experience with this delicious drink. The rather fruity drink is both vibrant and refreshing, perfect for summer entertaining. Grab a Blanco tequila, such as Cazadores, and stir together with orange juice in a highball glass with ice. Then pour in the grenadine so it settles to the bottom.
White Russian – Vodka
Popularized by its mention in the 1990’s movie The Big Lebowski, White Russians just might be one of the greatest coffee liqueur-spiked cocktails of all time. The three-ingredient drink is incredibly simple, even the most inexperienced home bartenders can master this classic. Coffee liqueur and heavy cream give it a rich, decadent texture and flavor, while vodka provides the drink with serious backbone! And be prepared for a little more than a boozy buzz, it will wake you up too—Kahlúa, the coffee liqueur most used in White Russians, contains about 25 percent the amount of caffeine as regular coffee.
Dark and Stormy – Rum
Rum seems to blend well with most ingredients, creating a mixed drink that almost tastes alcohol-free (in most cases). One of the favorite rum classics is a Dark and Stormy, a highball cocktail made with dark rum and ginger beer served over ice and garnished with a slice of lime. Think of a brave sailor navigating the seven seas and witnessing the murky hue of impeding storm clouds; the sailor has a challenge on his hands, but he’s determined to come out on top. You’ll mix ginger beer and dark rum to create the rich, spiced alcohol flavor. Add some ice to cool it down and a lime slice for extra zest and color, and you’re all set.
Sidecar – Brandy
At the intersection of sweet and tart, with just the right edge from the boozy brandy, lies the Sidecar! A complex, layered drink, Sidecars are warm, crisp, dry, rich, and full at the same time. History fun fact: an American army captain who often rode around Paris in a motorcycle sidecar named the iconic cocktail around 1918. Since it is on the list of International Bartender Association’s official cocktails, the true definition of a Sidecar’s ingredients includes Cognac, orange liqueur, and lemon lime.
French 75 – Gin
Here’s one of the most sophisticated and refreshing cocktails around (drumroll please) …the French 75! It’s tangy, bubbly, and a bit botanical, and it makes every occasion more festive. Perfect for entertaining, this classic French-born cocktail is ideal for anything from a brunch to a dinner party with friends. To make a French 75, shake the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker, then strain into a flute and top with champagne. Many champagne cocktails are built in the glass and don’t require a cocktail shaker, but this drink is classically shaken before adding bubbles.
Boulevardier – Bourbon
The Boulevardier is a bourbon drink that’s smooth, rich, spicy, bitter, and warm all at once. Its eye-catching, red jewel tone (thanks to the sweet red vermouth) also makes it stunning to look at. Boulevardiers are essentially an improved upon version of a Negroni, swapping out gin for whiskey. Now if you’re questioning why we fixed a wheel that wasn’t broken, note that bourbon makes for a rounder, more balanced flavor compared to the Negroni’s two dimensional-ness.
Now that you know the six types of spirits, head to your favorite liquor store to stock up on your favorites!