Due to popular demand, here is a list of basics to have in your house and simple recipes for cocktails anytime. The only thing you can’t just stock and forget is lemons and limes, but even those have emergency back-ups to keep in the pantry.

Stock your bar

This list is meant not to break the bank or be too hard to stock, but to be of high enough quality to make your drinks better not worse….


I recommend stocking your bar in this order…(click through for sample recipes.)

Plymouth or Sacred Gin
Tito’s Vodka
Eagle Rare Bourbon
Don Julio Silver Tequila
Mount Gay Eclipse Gold Rum
Myers’s Dark Rum
Bacardi Light Rum
Xicaru Silver Mezcal
Lot 40 Rye


These liqueurs can be used in many classic cocktail recipes. You can quickly go tier 2, 3, 4, etc, in stocking liqueurs but start here….(click through for sample recipes.)

Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
Dolin’s Dry Vermouth


The cupboard is not a problem but the fridge is often bare of lemons and limes in my house – they just don’t last long enough…might as well get a few of each every time you’re at the store just in case.

granulated and/or raw sugar
limes and/or lemons
Angostura Aromatic Bitters
lemon juice in a bottle*
Rose’s Lime Juice*

*These are to be used in absolute dire emergencies only. Dire emergencies only! (With the Rose’s, don’t use any sugar if you’re using this as a substitute. In a pinch, you can make a gimlet with gin and Rose’s in place of lime and sugar.)
**Boston sours call for an egg white and a dry shake…this is totally optional. Basically anything that calls for an egg white is drinkable without one, in my opinion. See below for the “dry shake.”


Boston shaker
Hawthorne strainer
Ice cube maker/trays
Large ice cube trays
2 glasses such as coupe, Nick & Nora or martini glasses
2 old fashioned glasses
2 highball or collins glasses
Shot measurer
Juicer such as a lemon/lime hand press
Kitchen scale*

*Optional. You can just use a long spoon or butter knife to stir. I like to use the kitchen scale but the shot measurer is fine.

How to use the Boston Shaker

Fill the short side with ingredients and ice. Put the big side over the top and tap until sealed. Turn over and shake. Put the Hawthorne strainer over the top of the side with the shaken drink in it and strain into glass.

When to Shake and when to Stir

Anytime you have juice, you shake. Anytime you have booze-only cocktails, stir. Bond was wrong.

What is a Dry Shake and when do you use it?

A dry shake is shaking a drink before ice is added to the shaker. This is used to make an egg white creamy for use in a Boston sour. (See instructions below under “Basic Recipes.”)

How to Use Ice

Regular ice cubes are fine to shake or stir the drink. Most of my drinks are served up. After shaking the ingredients in a shaker with regular ice, I just strain the cold drink into the cold glass. ALWAYS PUT YOUR GLASS IN THE FREEZER BEFORE YOU START MAKING THE DRINK. It will be cold by the time you’re ready to use it.

Crushed ice is used for some of the more exotic tiki-style drinks. Prep the drink with the ice and pour the whole thing into the glass. Apparently this much ice gets so cold it doesn’t actually melt and dilute the drink. Fact is, this kind of drink goes down so fast, the ice would be lucky to have time to melt!

For a collins or other highball, fill the glass with regular ice. Shake the base of the drink over ice and strain it over the ice in the glass. Top the drink with the bubbly mixer–but be sure to keep that in the fridge–warm bubbly stuff not only makes ice melt but it goes flat when it hits the ice!

For a booze-only or other old fashioned-style drink served over ice, stir the drink in ice first and strain it into the old fashioned glass over one giant ice cube. That’s the best way to maintain temp and limit dilution.

Basic Recipe(s)


The basic formula for two simple sours you can make with most liquors is as follows:

5 ounces liquor + 2.5 ounces citrus (lemon or lime)** + 1.5 ounce simple syrup*

*Half water-half white or raw sugar, microwaved or simmered, stirring occasionally, until clear. Let cool. Store leftover in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

**As a rule of thumb, I generally use lemon for brown booze like Bourbon or Rye and lime for white stuff like gin, tequila, etc.  You’d be surprised, however, at how nice an unexpected combo can be, so don’t hesitate to use whatever liquor with whatever citrus you have on hand. Examples of sours I love that go against the grain are the Rum Sour, the Lion’s Tail, and the Meyer Lemon Tequila Sour

Standard 5-2.5-1.5 cocktail recipe: Put two cocktail glasses in the freezer. Combine ingredients above in a shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly. Strain into glasses.

A great example of a classic sour is a fresh Gimlet. (A gin sour proper, however, is gin, lemon juice and simple syrup. Use Old Tom Gin to make it a Tom & Jerry. Add soda and it’s a Tom Collins!)

For a Boston-style sour, put all the ingredients plus an egg white in the shaker without ice. Shake thoroughly–about 10 or 15 times (it will want to explode so open carefully!) Then add ice and shake again as usual, straining into chilled glasses to serve. See the White Lady for a classic example.

Rickey or Collins

These days, the only difference between a Rickey and a Collins (as far as I can tell) is that a Rickey uses lime and a Collins uses lemon. In any case, you can turn any standard sour into a Rickey or a Collins by straining it into a highball glass full of ice and topping it off with some high quality, cold mineral water or seltzer such as Topo Chico.

Recipes Using Liqueurs

Many drinks are simply one kind of sour or another with a dash of a flavorful liqueur (like the White Lady – a Boston-style gin sour with a dash of Cointreau). Liqueurs used in this way and many other ways, especially equal parts drinks, are essential to any classic cocktail catalogue. My favorite drinks using liqueurs or wine mixers are Martini, Manhattan, Negroni, and Brooklyn; for liqueurs used with juices, my favorites are Margarita, Hemingway and Mai Tai.