Cocktail recipes: 7 classics to get the party started

Looking for cocktail recipes? Have these classics in your arsenal and you will never fail to get the party started

Cocktail recipes: Lovelace Bar Cart Gold from John lewis & Partners
Serve your cocktails in splendour from a bar cart like the Lovelace bar cart by John Lewis & Partners + Swoon
(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

If you're throwing a party this festive season, you need cocktail recipes. After all, who doesn't love a classic cocktail? You can keep your dragonfruit daiquiri and your frozen lychee margarita – sometimes you just can't beat the old reliables. And, when you do master these, by all means, add a pomegranate syrup or a sprig of thyme, but remember – a fancy cocktail lives or dies by the bartender getting the basic mix right.

So, if you are planning to host a Christmas party this year, why not wow guests with an array of iconic cocktails? Perfect for brushing up on your mixology, these classic recipes are guaranteed to get people in the festive spirit.

Before you get started, check out the best cocktail shakers as a bartender is only as good as their tools.

1. Cosmopolitan

Cosmopolitan classic cocktail

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Made famous by Sex and the City, the Cosmopolitan was Carrie Bradshaw’s drink of choice. While most people think it’s a modern creation, there’s evidence that a similar recipe was used as early as the 1930s. Flavoured vodka can be used, but many bars use plain. Serve in a martini glass.

Ingredients:

  • 50ml orange or lemon vodka 
  • 20ml orange liqueur 
  • 25ml cranberry juice
  • 1 tbsp lime juice

Method:

  1. Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and fill with ice
  2. Shake for 20 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  3. Gently warm a piece of orange peel with a flame, then curve the peel to release the oils
  4. Drop the peel into the glass and serve

2. Daiquiri

Daiquiri cocktail

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Though there are countless varieties of Daiquiri, nothing can beat the original. The cocktail was supposedly created in 1898 by Jennings Cox, an American mining engineer, who named it after the iron mine in Cuba where he was working during the Spanish-American war. Nail this recipe and you can go mad with additions – strawberry, mango, and raspberry purées work well with the tangy lime.

Ingredients:

  •  50ml light rum 
  • 1½ tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tsp sugar

Method:

  1. Pour the lime and sugar into a cocktail shaker and stir until the sugar dissolves
  2. Add the rum and ice, shaking until combined
  3. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass

3. Mojito

Mojito classic cocktail

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It is likely this classic rum cocktail originated in a restaurant in Havana. However some sources suggest it was first used by Sir Francis Drakes’ crew as a medicinal drink known as El Draque, and developed into the Mojito in the 1900s.

  • 50ml light rum 
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges 
  • 2 tsp caster sugar 
  • soda water, to taste 
  • handful of mint leaves, plus extra to serve

Method:

  1. Put the lime wedges, sugar and mint into a tall glass and muddle together using a muddler or the end of a rolling pin 
  2. Fill half the glass with crushed ice followed by the light rum
  3. Stir together until the sugar dissolves
  4. Top the glass up with crushed ice and soda, then serve with a sprig of mint

4. Margarita

Margarita cocktail

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Hailing from Mexico, albeit with contentious origins, the first known publication of a Margarita recipe was in the December 1953 issue of Esquire – the perfect Christmas drink. Sometimes overlooked, the salt rim is vital for bringing out the sweet and sour flavours.

  • 50ml tequila
  • 20ml orange liqueur 
  • 1½ tbsp lime juice
  • salt and a slice of lime to serve

Method:

  1. Wipe the rim of a margarita glass with lime juice, then dip the rim into a saucer of salt to coat, and chill
  2. Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and fill with ice
  3. Shake for 20 seconds, then strain into the chilled glass
  4. Garnish with a slice of lime

5. Tequila sunrise

Juicy Orange and Red Tequila Sunrise with a Cherry

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The original Tequila Sunrise cocktail was served up at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in the mid-20th century. It contained crème de cassis, lime juice and soda water, as well as the signature tequila. This modern recipe, with orange juice and grenadine, was created in the 1970s – perfect for those who prefer a sweeter cocktail.

  • 50ml tequila
  • 100ml orange juice 
  • 2 tbsp grenadine
  • glacé cherry, to serve

Method:

  1. Fill a tall serving glass with ice cubes
  2. Pour the tequila and orange juice into a cocktail shaker and fill with ice
  3. Shake for 20 seconds, then strain the mixture into the serving glass
  4. Pour over the grenadine to create the orange and red layers
  5. Garnish with a cherry and serve

6. Manhattan 

Manhattan cocktail

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One for whiskey lovers, legend has it that the Manhattan was concocted for a party held at The Manhattan Club in New York’s Broadway district by Churchill’s mother, Lady Randolph Churchill. Purists insist it is made with American rye whiskey.

  • 60ml rye whiskey or bourbon 
  • 30ml sweet red vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2–3 Maraschino cocktail cherries 
  • a few drops of syrup from the cherries

Method:

  1. Pour the whiskey, vermouth, bitters and cherry syrup into a cocktail shaker and
    fill with ice
  2. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass
  3. Garnish with cocktail cherries and serve

7. Aperol Spritz

Aperol Spritz

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Head to the towns of north-east Italy and you will see people sipping this popular aperitif from late afternoon. Aperol Spritz has recently become the drink of summer in the UK, but although served with chilled Prosecco and on the rocks, the cool tipple is consumed any time of year in its home country (and by the Realhomes.com team *hic*). The Aperol has a bitter taste from the roots and herbs used in its production, so paired with sweet Prosecco it is the perfect mix. 

Ingredients:

  • 50ml Aperol
  • 75ml Prosecco (although some prefer just 50ml to do 50/50 with the Aperol)
  • dash of soda water
  • orange slices to serve

Method:

1. Fill a gin balloon or large wine glass with ice
2. Add the Aperol and then carefully pour the Prosecco on top
3. Top up with a dash of soda water, to taste
4. Finish with a couple of slices of orange

Need somewhere to serve and store all of your cocktails and cocktail making paraphernalia? Check out our pick of the best bar carts. Then get it well stocked with wines and spirits from Amazon.

More festive ideas with Christmas Living

For more festive inspiration including delicious party food recipes, gift ideas, stunning decorations and more, don't miss Christmas Living magazine which contains all you need for a magical celebration. 

Available to buy now in stores and online, the 100-page magazine also comes with an array of fabulous gifts:

  • Cookie cutter set perfect for xmas treats and cake decorating
  • Christmas Craft Handbook for making your own gifts and decorations
  • 2020 calendar featuring English country gardens through the seasons 
  • 9 classic cocktail recipe cards to get the party started

Christmas Living cover

(Image credit: Future)