Once you step into the realm of three-ingredient cocktails, you’re officially dabbling in the art of cocktail-making at home. Many of the most iconic classic cocktails comprise the perfect balance between three ingredients—complex in flavor yet simple to make. That’s why they’re often among the favorites of professional bartenders. These are classics that couldn’t be easier to shake or stir up at home.
A cult favorite among professional bartenders, this rum sour is a true classic that when perfectly crafted is hard not to love. Its true form doesn’t include strawberries but rather a balanced mix of high-quality aged white rum, fresh lime juice and a homemade simple syrup (cane syrup or demerara will also work nicely). Even those with reservations about rum will have their minds changed by this refreshing sour.
The Old Fashioned is incredibly versatile in that while it’s traditionally made with whiskey you actually can use any spirit you have at home. In fact, the Old Fashioned’s contents comprise the exact definition of the word “cocktail”—defined as “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters,” as specified by an old newspaper called The Balance and Columbian Repository in Hudson, N.Y. If you have any type of spirit, some sugar and some bitters, you have all the elements needed to craft what remains one of the most popular cocktails to this day. A word of advice: Don’t use more than 1/4 oz of sweetener; otherwise, you’ll end up with a cloying mixture that will taste too strongly of sugar.
The Negroni has become a go-to drink at bars for many cocktail enthusiasts, and it’s easy to stir up this bitter cocktail at home. Gin, Campari and sweet vermouth come together to create a drink with depth and character. Use a stronger-flavored gin to combat the aggressive Campari, and you’re in for a delightful cocktail.
This archetypal gin sour is incredibly simple to make at home. All you need is gin, some lemons and some honey (with which you’ll make honey syrup). If you’ve been wanting to get better acquainted with gin, this three-part cocktail is the gateway into the world of the juniper-based spirit. Honey syrup adds body and light floral notes that marry perfectly with the citrus and botanicals. You’ll likely have more than one once you get shaking.
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A classic through and through, the Manhattan is a home-bartending staple. The Martini of the whiskey world, this combination of sweet vermouth, whiskey (traditionally rye), Angostura bitters and a brandied cherry will make you feel elegant even while sitting on the sofa in your living room.
Whether frozen or shaken, the Margarita is always a popular choice for bargoers and home enthusiasts. There are a few different renditions of this classic; the traditional style calls for triple sec or liqueur, while many drinkers nowadays prefer the Tommy’s Margarita style that uses agave syrup (which, to get technical, makes it a sour rather than a daisy-style cocktail like the original). No matter whether you prefer the traditional classic with Cointreau or the Tommy’s style with agave, use a high-quality tequila and fresh lime juice to make this cocktail really shine.
It’s pretty, spritzy and sessionable, so no wonder the Aperol Spritz has become one of the most popular cocktails among avid brunchgoers. The mixture of Aperol (a low-ABV aperitivo), prosecco and soda water is invigorating, delicious and easily made. Put some ice in your wine glass or goblet, then pour the ingredients into the glass. It’s almost too easy.
If you’re a whiskey lover, once you have a Gold Rush, you may never go back to any other cocktail. It’s the sister drink to the Bee’s Knees but using bourbon rather than gin with the lemon juice and honey syrup. It’s easy to whip up and easier to drink.
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Aperitivo culture continues to rise in popularity, and it’s because of cocktails like the Americano. It’s a low-ABV cousin to the Negroni, with soda water instead of gin. If you have the ingredients for a Negroni but are looking to try something new, pick up a top-notch soda water and go to town.