The Bar Essentials – Part 4: Classic Cocktails

There are some drinks that everyone recognises on a bar menu, whether they’re a fresh-faced student or have been part of the nightclub lifestyle for many years, when you see these cocktails you know exactly what you’re going to get without having to read the description.

Sex on the Beach

Sex on the Beach is a fruity, vodka based drink that is a favourite of young adults the world over not only because it is delicious, but because it’s often available in 2 for 1 offers (I’m looking at you, Wetherspoons) as it’s an economical drink to make in large quantities, which you can imagine works out well for smaller pubs who really on the profit margins of these drinks. It’s also a very lightweight drink as the mixer to alcohol ratio is around 2:1 when buying them out and about, but often much weaker meaning that although the cocktails themselves are cheap, you end up buying more to compensate even when they are on offer. From a consumer’s perspective it can still end up being expensive, and you’ll find your teeth will rapidly become tacky from the fruit juice.

The use of vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice and cranberry juice is a surprisingly common combination in mixology, but the volume of each part varies wildly which is how the drinks actually manage to stay distinctive to one another. It’s astounding how much variety a few ingredients can actually give in the grand scheme of things, and you’re almost guaranteed to make something enjoyable to the masses.

Sex on the Beach: 1 1/3 oz Vodka, 1 1/3 oz Cranberry juice, 2/3 oz Peach schnapps, 1 1/3 oz Orange juice

Woo Woo

Similar to the Sex on the Beach, Woo Woo is a tropical drink that uses vodka, peach schnapps and cranberry juice. You’ll find that if you compare the ingredients and their ratios that they’re almost identical save for the volume of alcohol and the lack of orange juice. As the Woo Woo substitutes the orange juice for more cranberry juice, you end up with scarlet cocktail instead of a coral one but the taste remains similar.

If you sit down and do the maths (like I did because I’m 1) a saddo and 2) the author so I probably should do it) when you make authentic versions of both cocktails yourself, you’ll end up with drinks that have 3 parts alcohol to 4 parts non-alcoholic mixer so in reality neither is stronger than the other. It really just comes down to preference; if you like cranberry more than orange I’d recommend the Woo Woo, but if you want a more saccharine experience then I would pick Sex on the Beach.

Woo Woo: 1 ounce vodka, ½ ounce peach schnapps, 2 ounces cranberry juice


The Cosmopolitan has long been perceived as a ‘girly’ drink, but I suspect this is purely down to the pink colour – and the fact that Carrie Bradshaw drinks it with reckless abandon on Sex and the City – and not the taste. The Cosmo has a sweet element to it like the Woo Woo due to the cranberry juice, but the dominant flavour is sour thanks to the lime juice combined with the citron vodka. It’s pleasantly tart without being sickly, which is why I think it’s reputation of being a ‘girly’ drink is somewhat unjust.

Cosmopolitan: 1 ½ citron vodka, 1/2 oz Cointreau, ½ ounce lime juice, 1 ounce cranberry juice.

Long Island Ice Tea

If you were ever a student, I guarantee you’ll be pretty familiar with the Long Island Ice Tea, perhaps uncomfortably so. The reason why I single out students there is because the Long Island has a, shall we say, reputation for getting you drunk quicker and for less cash than any other drink available. Why, I hear you ask? Let’s take a look at the basic ingredients shall we:

♦  White Rum

♦  Gin

♦  Vodka

♦  Tequila

♦  Triple Sec

♦  Cola

That’s a staggering amount of alcohol for one drink. I mean seriously, do you want some cola with your booze? If I’m being completely honest, I personally don’t enjoy a Long Island Ice Tea because the tequila usually overpowers everything else, but if you experiment with the  extras you put in the drink, I don’t doubt you’ll find your own style that in all honesty will be a hell of a lot more refined that what you get in clubs. The alcoholic ingredients are equal measures, but I would recommend adding either ½ ounce of orange juice or sour mix before you top if off with cola as well as a an ounce of lemon juice to soften the aftertaste.

White Russian

A personal favourite of mine, the White Russian is a classic cocktail that summons of the image of the Dude to any self-respecting person or film fan. It’s creamy, tasty and very easygoing which makes it the perfect drink for a lazy Sunday afternoon – although with the use of double cream I wouldn’t recommend having too many if you’re keen on calorie counting. Surprisingly though, it’s not too heavy to drink even with the richness of the cream; It reminds me more of a light coffee thanks to the coffee liqueur and I think we all know how easy it is to drink a latte or two. Just think of it as a cold alcoholic version. You can serve the White Russian with the cream floating on the booze or fully mixed, the choices is yours.

White Russian: 2 ounces vodka, 1 ounce coffee liqueur, 1 ounce double cream or milk.

Vodka Martini

Ah, the Vodka Martini. Simplicity at it’s finest, it’s the classic combination of vodka and dry vermouth to make a distinctly adult drink for those who love their vodka straight but want to have an added hit of vermouth to add a slight depth of flavour. According to the official James Bond 007 website, the Official 007 Martini is a vodka martini instead of the traditional recipe which calls for gin instead of vodka. Interestingly, the well known line of ‘shaken not stirred’ is not the usual way of serving a martini as shaking the cocktail with ice causes it to melt and therefore dilute the drink whereas stirring gently cools the drink whilst preserving the ice. So in reality, James Bond was asking for a weaker martini, but in a bomb ass way – which is the only way you can roll with a vodka martini!

Vodka martini: 3 ounces good quality vodka, ½ ounce dry vermouth.


Rum, mint and lime – the quintessential flavours of any mojito. This is definitely a classic cocktail, but requires an extra step that the others on the list don’t as – for the best results – you need to muddle the mint, sugar and lime juice together first before adding the white rum and then topping with the soda water. It’s a great party drink as it’s simple to multiply the quantities of the ingredients to make large batches.

Mojito: 1 ½ ounce white rum, mint leaves, soda water, 1 ounce lime juice, 2 teaspoons sugar.


Ah, margarita. How I have desperately tried to enjoy you, but alas you have tequila and that’s a hard limit for me. Still, there’s no denying that the margarita is a classic cocktail that everyone will have absolutely heard of. Tequila, lime and Cointreau – it’s simple and elegant in its nature, but not one for the faint-hearted.

Margarita: 2 ounce Tequila, 1 ounce Lime juice, 1 ounce Cointreau, salt for the rim.

Pina Colada

If you can think of a Pina Colada, and not sing ‘that’ song, I take my hat off to you. Even whilst typing this, I’m busy humming it which is especially awkward and confusing when I have Spotify playing another song in the background.

Still, if I can’t multi-task then I’m not worth my salt as a blogger so let’s get started on the Pina Colada. Not too long ago it was seen as a dated drink and somewhat of a relic of a time gone by – now it’s being happily slurped back across the world by young women who just want to drink something tasty, and who can blame them? With Rum, Pineapple and Coconut at its heart, what’s not to love? It’s tempting, it’s delightful, and it’s extremely refreshing – it simply has to be one of the most popular cocktails with all age groups, especially now that cocktails are going through a cultural renaissance. The only possible downside is the use of coconut cream; unless you’re happy to go out of your way to buy it, it can be quite hard to find.

Pina Colada: 3 ounces pineapple juice, 1 ounce white rum, 1 ounce coconut cream.

Bloody Mary

“For I am a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Bloody Mary full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death, which I hope is soon. Amen.” – Archer

We’ve reached the last cocktail for today’s entry in The Bar Essential Guide, and there’s a very good reason I’ve put the this one last. If any of you crazy booze hounds have gone down the list trying each cocktail you might need a hangover cure right about now, and what better pick-me-up is there than the quintessential morning after drink, the Bloody Mary.

I’m not sure if its the Vitamin C of the tomato juice, the savouriness of the Worcestershire sauce, the spice of the hot sauce, or the little bit (or lot) of vodka they put in but the Bloody Mary has a way of rebalancing you after a night of heavy drinking that is unlike anything else. Unlike most vodka based drinks, the vodka has a distinctive flavour in the Bloody Mary and comes through prominently on every sip. Almost as if life is trying to say ‘Hey guys, don’t forget this IS alcoholic! Y’all need to cool down on the Bloody Mary’s at 9am!’.

Not that I’d ever judge.

The perfect Bloody Mary is a touchy subject with a lot of mixologists and the recipe can vary a lot from bar to bar, so don’t forget to experiment with the ingredients yourself and come up with your favourite combination.

Bloody Mary: 2 ounces vodka, juice of ½ lemon, 6 dashes of Worcestershire sauce, 3 dashes hot sauce, season to taste with salt and pepper, 5 ounces chilled tomato juice.

That’s all for now on The Bar Essentials – for our next outing we’ll be looking at the non-alcoholic elements of a great bar.

Thoughts, feedback or have your own recipe? Let us know here!