Ask a Bartender: What's One Drink We Should Be Making at Home?

Ask a Bartender

You ask, they answer.

Jonathan Harris of Firefly in DC.

On an average night, most of us don't have time for complicated syrups or infusions. But what simple cocktails should we be trying out? We asked our gang of bartenders what straightforward drinks they recommend. Here's what they had to say.

Lauren Lathrop Williams of Jsix in San Diego

"Honestly, I think everyone at home should be making a damn fine Tom Collins (no mix, people!). Lemons, sugar, soda, and a really banging gin." — Lauren Lathrop Williams (Jsix Restaurant)

"Champagne cocktail: Best thing for a Sunday. Champagne, a sugar cube doused with bitters and a lemon peel. For a cheaper American alternative for the Champagne, check out Trump Winery from Virginia. It has great Champagne-style wines if you don't mind lining The Donald's pockets." — Jonathan Harris (Firefly)

"All you need is fresh watermelon, lemon juice, pineapple. and vodka. It's especially refreshing during the summer heat." — Miri Kolici (Upstairs at the Kimberly Hotel)

House Spirits Westward Whiskey

Brian Means of Fifth Floor in San Francisco

"A Japanese cocktail! Really simple: 2 ounces of brandy (I prefer Germain-Robin), half an ounce Small Hands Orgeat and 3 to 4 dashes Angostura bitters. Stir with ice and strain into the glass of your choosing. Garnish with a lemon peel and you're good to go!" — Brian Means (Fifth Floor)

"I'm really digging a Vieux Carre at the moment—easy to make, easy to batch and easy to keep a bottle in your fridge at all times without it going off." — Kevin Peters (Bathtub Gin)

"A Martinez: 2 ounces gin, 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth. 1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur, 1 dash Angostura bitters, a lemon twist for garnish. Classic and delicious." — Adam Karpf (Oak)

"I am currently in love with mezcal Negronis. If you go to any nice liquor store and even quite a few corner stores which sell alcohol, you should be able to find a decent mezcal and can surely find a bottle of sweet vermouth and Campari. If you can find Gran Classico (the original Italian bitter), even better. Having a Mezcal in your home can also be great for spicing up a simple margarita. The mezcal will lend an amazing smoky and earthy note to these otherwise light cocktails." — Roger Bailey (Filini Bar and Restaurant)


Dean Feddaoui of Jackson 20 in Alexandria.

"Vermouth-based punches! They're very light and easy to make, and they have a great fruity and citrus nose. I would use a bottle of Nouilly Prat original dry, 1/2 bottle of peach liqueur, and the juice of eight lemons. Just add all the ingredients into a punch bowl, add 2 scoops of ice, stir well, top with sparkling water, and serve over ice with a lemon slice." — Dean Feddaoui (Jackson 20)

"If you are at home right now, make yourself a Mule of some sort, it's refreshing, easy to make, and you don't have to go out and buy anything crazy to make it. Lime, sugar, booze (your call, go crazy), and ginger beer. A darned fine libation." — Elizabeth Powell (Liberty Bar)

"Since I have a soft spot in my heart for classic cocktails, I'm going to have to suggest an Aviation (made with gin, Maraschino liqueur, lemon juice, and sometimes Crème de Violette), but made specifically with American Dry Gin from Greenhook Ginsmiths, a fantastic little operation located in Brooklyn. The hint of orange peel from the gin lends a little more depth and contrast to the herbal underpinnings of the drink." — James Tai (pinch)

"A mezcal lemonade. This is such a simple cocktail to make. With summer winding down and autumn right around the corner, the smokiness of the mezcal balanced with the bright citrus of the lemonade makes for a bangin' cocktail. Fresh lemonade is key for this." — Peter Abbruscato (Pork Slope)

Kat Dunn of Fish & Game in Hudson, NY

"An Old Fashioned. It's elegant and simple and needs very little to make: only rye, bitters, sugar, and an orange peel. I would have one every day." — Kat Dunn (Fish & Game)

"My favorite drink to make at home is an Old Fashioned. I love whiskey so this is an easy decision for me. It is also very easy to make. All you need is a good bourbon or rye, simple or Demerara sugar syrup, and bitters. Throw in a good cherry and an orange peel for an exquisite drink." — Griffin Elliott (Sepia)

"Everyone should be able to make a proper mojito. The ingredients are easy to come by but it really is a perfect cocktail when made correctly. You're able to add your own twist by using different fruits or sodas. People who can make a great mojito do so with pride." — Armand Rodriguez (Juvia)

"A hand shaken daiquiri. They are quite possibly the easiest, freshest and cheapest drink for anyone to make at home. 3 ingredients, rum (I prefer an aged rum), sugar (go for some more depth by using demerara or a light brown sugar) and fresh lime juice." — Pamela Wiznitzer (Dead Rabbit)

"Manhattan, Manhattan, Manhattan. Every dedicated drinker should know how to make this cocktail. It's very easy to make it at home." — Sarah Mengoni (South Water Kitchen)

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