Freshly squeezed lime juice is one of the absolutely essential cocktail ingredients. But when you're just starting your (home) bartender career, perhaps you wonder whether you really have to squeeze limes for every cocktail. 

Perhaps, you can cut a corner, make your life easier, and just go and buy your lime juice pre-bottled in the supermarket?

Ultimately, of course, that's up to you. But to help you make up your mind, I will explain everything you need to know about lime juice in cocktails and how to use it.

Why use lime juice in cocktails?

Making cocktails is all about the balance of flavors and tastes. To make a great cocktail, you need to get the combination of all different flavors right.

It's much like cooking, where you have to get the right balance of the five primary tastes: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and umami.

The juice of fresh lime juice brings sourness to your drink. When you taste it pure, you immediately notice the intense sour taste created by the citric acid of limes. 

Lime juice cocktail

Sourness gets balanced by sweetness, so every cocktail that wants lime juice also has a sweet ingredient. Usually, that's syrup, but a sweet liqueur is an option, too.

So let's assume you have the lime juice and syrup balanced. Add white Rum to this mix, and you have a Daiquiri cocktail. The combination of sweet and sour covers the harsh alcohol notes of the white Rum and makes a delicious and refreshing drink.

Now you have an idea why you need lime juice -or, alternatively, lemon juice- in your drinks. 

But does it have to be freshly pressed lime juice, or can you buy those bottled versions from the supermarket? Let's check out the different options you have.

Bottled lime juice

Bottled lime juice

Bottled lime juice is on offer in almost every supermarket, making it a very convenient option. And that's why this stuff gets bought way too often if you ask me.

Added preservatives and sugar make the lime juice less acidic and turn it into an artificial, sometimes almost flavorless version. I do not say bottled lime juice is low quality per se, but you can taste that it's not fresh.

So it's not in the same league as freshly squeezed lime juice, but it's an option.

Lime Cordial

Rose's lime cordial

Lime cordial has similar disadvantages as bottled lime juice and then some. Because with lime cordial, the amount of sugar is way higher.

The added preservatives and sometimes even artificial coloring makes it my least favorite option.

However, some cocktail recipes still ask for lime cordial. If you want to create a quick and dirty version of a Gimlet, for example, you just use a bit of lime cordial and Gin and have a cocktail.

But trust me, whatever you create with cordial or bottled juice won't be as good as it could be.

Freshly squeezed lime juice

Almost every recipe that contains lime specifically asks for fresh lime juice. And making it is super easy. Get fresh limes, cut them in half, and squeeze.

The freshness and acidic bite of fresh lime juice make it the best choice when you want to shake up a summer cocktail - or any cocktail, actually. Plus, in contrast to cordial, you can balance it out with syrup to get the perfect ratio for your taste buds.

If squeezing by hand is too laborious for you - or you just can't be bothered- order a lime squeezer. This tool will save you a ton of time and hassle.

lime juice with juicer

Freshly pressed lime juice is a real treat. It's tangy, acidic, and simply super fresh. One lime will get you around 30ml (1oz) of pressed juice.

That means half a lime will get you 15ml (0.5 oz). I want to mention this because some recipes don't give you the amount and solely ask for "juice of half a lime."

And because I love to double-check and many recipes rely on accurate ratios, I always measure it with my jigger.

Aged lime juice

reshly pressed lime juice tastes downright acidic. While this sourness is what we're looking for in a cocktail, sometimes aged lime juice will make your cocktail even better. But let me explain.

When you squeeze lime, the cellular structure of the fruit breaks. The enzymes encounter chemical compounds like Nomilin and Limonoate A-ring-lactone and turn them into a bitter-tasting substance called Limonin

Aged lime juice

Perhaps you now wonder why one would want to have a bitter-tasting compound in one's lime juice. Well, it's not bitter enough to make the lime juice unpleasant.

Therefore, your juice won't taste bitter, but the Limonin balances some of the harsh acidic notes of fresh lime juice.

As a result, aged lime juice has a way rounder flavor profile. Also, the cocktails you create with it will have a rounder, more mellow taste.

Conclusion

When a recipe asks for lime juice, you are always better off when you go with the freshly squeezed version. Either use it immediately or let it age for a couple of hours.

But don't be led to believe you can achieve the same result with bottled juice or even cordial. Honestly, these are only good when you're in a hurry and are okay with sacrificing quality.

Tanqueray and Beefeater are respected traditional Gin brands. And both of them, Beefeater and Tanqueray, are among the top-selling Gin brands in the world.

While Beefeater ranks at a respectable 4th place, Tanqueray Gin managed to secure the 3rd place. The only Gin brands ranking them out are Bombay and Gordon's.

Beefeater and Tanqueray both are popular options in mixology. Therefore, let's take a closer look at these two.

Let's find out their differences and the strengths and weaknesses of each product. And let's see which one you should choose for which purpose when stocking up your home bar.

Tanqueray vs. Beefeater - The Comparison Chart

Let's start by looking at some hard facts.

Beefeater GinTanqueray Gin
ABV40% (44% in US)43.1% (47.3% in US)
CountryEnglandScotland
Price per bottle$20 - $25 (£15 -£18) $25 - $30 (£18 - £21)
Number of Botanicals94
DistillationSingleDouble
Introduced18761830
OwnerPernod RicardDiageo
Tanqueray vs Beefeater - The differences

Having that clear, let's see where the other similarities and differences are.

London Dry Gin

As mentioned, Tanqueray and Beefeater are London Dry Gins. 

London Dry is practically the most traditional type of Gin you can get. -Btw., if you're a bit confused regarding all those terms coming up, I wrote an article explaining the different types of Gin.

But back to the London Dry: among the different types of Gin, it is the one with the strictest rules. Although contrary to what the name suggests, none of these rules is that it has to be from London.

London Dry Gins have to fulfill these regulations: 

Plus - but that's not officially required- when sipping London Dry Gins and comparing them to others, you will often notice more prominent notes of juniper.

So now that the basics are covered, let's look at the defining characteristics of Beefeater and Tanqueray.

Beefeater Gin

Beefeater Gin

Tasting Beefeater Gin, you'll be surprised by notes of candied lemon peel, berries, rosemary, cardamom, vanilla, and hints of cloves. Overall it has a fruity, almost sweet finish, which, in fact, is unusual for a London Dry Gin.

Beefeater is a Gin you can use for various purposes. You can drink it neat and it works in a classic juniper forward Gin and Tonic, but it is an even better choice for mixing cocktails.

In my opinion, the flavor of Beefeater often get a little lost when mixing it, which is fine in Gin cocktails but not ideal in a G&T.

Tasting notes

Nose: Overall, the nose is quite subtle but very fruity with notes of lemon zest, fresh apple, juniper, and hints of vanilla.

Palate: Dominated by candied lemon and sweet juniper. Subtle notes of vanilla, coriander, and hints of cloves.

Finish: Quite subtle but long and fruity finish. It is somewhat on the sweet side.

Production Process & Ingredients

Beefeater Gin uses a single distillation process.

Before that, the botanicals infuse in a 24-hour steeping process. The steeping allows extracting the maximum amount of flavor of the nine botanicals.

According to Beefeater, the following botanicals are in the Gin:

Tanqueray Gin

Tanqueray Gin bottle

Tanqueray is quite famous for its distinct taste of juniper. 

The piney juniper-forward taste is indeed the most outstanding characteristic of the Gin. There are hints of citrus as well as angelica and licorice.

It is a classic Gin that works exceptionally well in a Gin and Tonic. For me, it's one of the best choices if you're looking for an affordable Gin to create some G&Ts. 

However, the dominant and intense taste of Tanqueray can sometimes be overpowering for some cocktail recipes.

Tasting notes

Nose: Piney juniper notes, intriguing hints of lemon zest, and angelica.

Palate: Strong notes of juniper are complemented by angelica root and coriander seed.

Finish: The finish is quite long, dry, and warm.

Production Process & Ingredients

Tanqueray Gin uses a double distillation process.

The botanicals are added in the second distillation step. One of the reasons for its distinct juniper taste is that it uses only four different botanicals.

Those botanicals are: 

Conclusion

Doubtlessly, Tanqueray and Beefeater are two quality Gins. Both are versatile and have slight advantages in different fields.

If you're looking for a Gin to make some Gin and Tonic, I would recommend Tanqueray.

If you're looking for a Gin to create cocktails, Beefeater should be your first choice.

Either way, with both, you're getting a quality spirit for little money.

It's the small bottle with the bright yellow cap and the big white label that appears to be way too big for the bottle. Angostura bitters are part of so many cocktails. Predominantly to deepen the flavor profile but sometimes also as an essential ingredient. But what is it exactly? Where did these bitters come from, and why is the label too big for the bottle?

Developed as a medical tonic

The inventor of the famous Angostura Bitters is Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert from Germany. While working as surgeon general for Venezuelan military leader Simón Bolívar, Dr. Siegert created a mixture of local herbs and spices as a medical tonic for his army. It was supposed to cure the upset stomachs of the soldiers, and its original name was Dr. Siegerts Aromatic Bitters. Later it was named after the Venezuelan city of Angostura (now Ciudad Bolívar), where Siegert lived while working for Bolívar.

Fun fact: around the same time, the British started to use tonic water as prophylactic against Malaria. Today, tonic water can be found in every bar around the globe and is part of the Gin and Tonic, one of the most influential Highballs.

Yellow Cap and the big label

The look of the Angostura bitters bottle is iconic. A bright yellow bottle cap and a big white label make the signature packaging. What now feels and looks like a great marketing idea allegedly is a perfect example of miscommunication.

When Dr. Siegert's sons joined the family business, they were entering a competition. To prepare for the competition, they wanted a new packaging for the bitters. To save time, they divided the tasks to get labels and bottles between them. But, and that is a big but, they forgot to discuss the exact measurements. When they both met again and showed their results, they found out that the labels and bottles were not matching.

However, there was no time to do anything about it, and they entered the competition anyway… and lost! But how do you say: they lost the battle but not the war. They stayed with the packaging, and in the long run, it didn’t hurt the business but instead accelerated their success.

Angostura bitters and the secret recipe

The recipe for Angostura cocktail bitters is said to contain more than 40 ingredients. But it is just a guess because the formula is only known to a handful of people. To be precise, only five people in the whole world know the secrets of the Angostura bitters. And to make sure this secret survives, these five made a pact to never fly on the same flight and do not eat at the same restaurant simultaneously. So in the unlikely event, the plane crashes down, or they get into a gang shooting at dinner, the recipe will not get lost.

If this story is true, or if it's just another brilliant marketing effort, nobody knows. There is only one thing known for sure: the recipe always was and still is a big secret.

That also shines through in the way the different ingredients are gathered. Obtained in England, each component is packed secretly and send separately to Trinidad, Tobago. That still is the location of the production of the bitters, ever since Dr. Siegert's sons joined the business.

The packages repeatedly pass customs without inspection to keep the secret safe. A huge sign of trust. Probably due to the long tradition and the importance of the Angostura Bitters production for the country.

Once the ingredients arrive in Trinidad, everything is mixed together. Then the result is infused with a high proof spirit and later diluted to 44.7% alcohol. Et voila, it is ready to be shipped and used in fancy cocktail bars around the world.

How do Angostura Bitters taste?

As the name suggests, if you care to try Angostura bitters pure, it has a strong bitter taste. You will also notice herbal and spicy notes - perhaps a bit like a Christmas spice mixture. The taste gets dominated by strong notes of clove and also cinchona or angostura bark. These highly concentrated flavors and the high alcohol volume makes them somewhat of an unfortunate choice for undiluted consumption.

But when using a few drops in a cocktail, it becomes a totally different story. The high concentration of aromas will deepen the flavor of any cocktail immediately. It definitely is one of the easiest ways to add complexity to even the simplest cocktails. If you want to try an Angostura bitter forward cocktail, try a Trinidad Sour. The recipe doesn't use a few drops of Angostura bitters only, but it demands a whopping 1.5 oz.

The simple yet elegant mix of very few ingredients makes the classic Manhattan Cocktail delicious and easy to mix at home. Its base is Bourbon or Rye Whiskey and Sweet Vermouth, bound together by a few drops of cocktail bitters.

The flavor profile is appealing to novices and seasoned drinkers alike. The Vermouth adds a subtle sweetness and deep flavors, which work great with Rye and Bourbon. 

In the following, I want you more about this somewhat underrated drink, its history, and how you can create your riff on a classic Manhattan cocktail.

The Manhattan Cocktail and its unclear history

There are plenty of versions of the history of the Manhattan cocktail. What is known is that the Manhattan got first mentioned in the 1880s as one of the first cocktails ever to use Sweet Vermouth as an ingredient. 

 As for many of these old and classic cocktails, it is hard to tell who invented them. But two stories stand out:

The Manhattan Club Story

The first story claims that the Manhattan cocktail originates from the Manhattan Club in New York City. 

The club itself explains that it was a creation for a party held in 1874 by Lady Randolph Churchill. -Yes, Churchill as in Winston Churchill's mother

Manhatten cocktail

This story is quite famous, and you will read it in many newspapers, blogs, and other media. However, its foundation is weak. 

At the time the party was held, Lady Randolph was not even in the US. She was giving birth to Winston Churchill, not in America but in England.

The story of Mr. Black

The more likely version is the story of Mr. William F. Mulhall, a respected bartender at his time. 

In the 1880s, Mulhall stated that the Manhattan cocktail was invented by another bartender named Black:

"The Manhattan cocktail was invented by a man named Black, who kept a place ten doors below Houston Street on Broadway in the [eighteen-] sixties—probably the most famous drink in the world in its time." Mr. William F. Mulhall

That Mulhall made this claim almost 20 years after the event is a major reason why people doubt his story. 

However, there seems to be no motive why William F. Mulhall would have made this up. After all, he had and has no benefit by claiming this. 

As far as my knowledge goes, that is the version that most historians can agree upon as the most reasonable explanation.

How the cocktail got its name

Naturally, the Manhattan club argues that the name of the cocktail is associated with the club. 

But instead, as you might have guessed, it is named after the most famous of all New York Boroughs, Manhattan. 

If you do a little research, you will find recipes and cocktails for the other four boroughs: Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and even Staten Island. 

They're not all equally prominent and influential, but they all have their role in mixology.

An everchanging recipe

I find the Manhattan cocktail recipe certainly an extremely intriguing one. And it also was subject to constant change and updates.

Whiskey, Vermouth, and cocktail bitters are the main components. But ratios changed over time, and so did additional ingredients. 

The most popular additions were drops of gum syrup, Curacao, or even Absinthe, like in the recipe from the Flowing Bowl below.

Manhattan Recipe Flowing Bowl

And along with the different number of elements changed the ratios of Whiskey and Vermouth. The evolution of the Manhattan recipe is like a rollercoaster.

In the 1900s, the recipe changed once more. -Gum syrup and Absinthe were put aside, and Angostura bitters replaced orange bitters. 

Canadian Whiskey took over the lead in the Manhattan Cocktail as it was easier to get your hands on during prohibition. Even in the post-prohibition era, many kept using Canadian Whiskey for its smooth taste.

Over time the Whiskey choice changed to Bourbon, and then back to Rye Whiskey again. 

Manhattan Rye Whiskey Cocktail

A Bourbon's flavor profile works well with the rich and sweet taste of Vermouth. But it creates a drink that is more on the sweet side. 

That is one reason why, today, the classic Manhattan cocktail recipe uses Rye Whiskey as a base. 

Another reason is that Rye was most likely the Whiskey used originally. But then, that's just a guess based on the fact that Rye Whiskey generally was the preferred choice in New York.

The Manhattan Cocktail compared

The simplicity of the Manhattan makes it a favorite of many. It gets quite often compared with another classic Whiskey cocktail, the Old Fashioned.

Manhattan vs Old Fashioned cocktail

The main difference between the Old Fashioned and Manhattan is the selection of Whiskey and Vermouth, which is not present in an Old Fashioned. So here's the classic Manhattan cocktail recipe.

Manhattan Cocktail Variations

Although there are only three ingredients, there are many variations and riffs on this classic. 

Not as many as for an Old Fashioned, but still plenty. I can't cover them all, but there are four variations I want to explain here.

The Black Manhattan

There's a popular riff on the Manhattan cocktail called Black Manhattan. This twist swaps in Amaro Averna instead of sweet Vermouth. 

Black Manhattan cocktail with Maraschino cherry

The result is an aromatic riff on the traditional Manhattan recipe. 

If you don't have a bottle of this Amaro at home, maybe you find a great alternative to Amaro Averna here.

The Scotch Manhattan

As the name indicates, the main difference here lies in the Whiskey part. Also invented in Manhattan, in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, this Manhattan uses Scotch Whisky instead of Rye or Bourbon.

The Dry Manhattan

The Dry Manhattan is substituting another ingredient. Instead of Sweet Vermouth, it contains Dry Vermouth. That is far less sweet and puts focus on the herbal and bitter notes of the cocktail.

The Perfect Manhattan

For making a perfect Manhattan, the Vermouth part gets split. A blend of 50 percent Sweet Vermouth and 50 percent Dry Vermouth is used. The difference from the classic recipe is identifiable but is very subtle. But if you drink Manhattan cocktails regularly, you will clearly notice that the drink is less sweet than a usual Manhattan.

Manhattan Rye Whiskey Cocktail

Manhattan

Prep Time: 3 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: whiskey
Servings: 1
Calories: 198kcal
Cost: $3.30

Ingredients

  • 2 oz Rye Whiskey
  • 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash Orange bitters
  • 1 pcs Maraschino cherry

Instructions

  • Put all ingredients into a mixing glass and add ice.
    2 oz Rye Whiskey, 1 oz Sweet Vermouth, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, 1 dash Orange bitters
  • Stir well until the cocktail is chilled.
  • Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
  • Garnish your Manhattan with a Maraschino cherry.
    1 pcs Maraschino cherry

Nutrition

Serving: 3.25oz | Calories: 198kcal | Carbohydrates: 6.6g | Potassium: 1mg | Sugar: 6.6g
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

If you're a bartender working in a cocktail bar, you have the luxury of being surrounded by numerous wonderful and fancy cocktail ingredients. On the contrary, if your look at your home bar, it is probably not stocked that well. And now I tell you a secret: it doesn't need to be. You don't have to buy every product out there to serve delicious cocktails. But having some key cocktail ingredients will make your cocktail creating life a lot easier.

And I now will show you these very few elements you really should have in your home bar for you. No matter if you plan a party or just want to mix a drink if a good friend comes to visit you. Because, believe it or not, most popular cocktails consist of only three different ingredients. And many of them even are pretty standard. - You don't believe me? Check this list of the ten most popular cocktails in 2020 (list can be found here):

  1. Old Fashioned
  2. Negroni
  3. Daiquiri
  4. Dry Martini
  5. Whiskey Sour
  6. Espresso Martini
  7. Margarita
  8. Manhattan
  9. Mojito
  10. Aperol Spritz

9 out of the top 10 cocktails consist of only three ingredients. So for making them you don't need a lot of stuff. You only need the right selection. And I will show you now how to make the most out of your home bar by stocking it with essential cocktail ingredients.

Spirits

The key to a good cocktail is a quality spirit that serves as the base of the drink. There are so many distilled spirits on the market, but there are only six base spirits. Those are Whiskey, Vodka, Rum, Gin, Tequila, and Brandy. In-depth knowledge about all of them is helpful when making your selection. And if you don't have this knowledge at the beginning of your cocktail-making journey, I want to help you out. So here's some information from my side.

Whiskey

Whiskey is an essential base spirit. It's key to classics like the Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and Whiskey Sour. But there's a large variety within the term whiskey: Bourbon, Rye, and Scotch all have a very distinct taste. And cocktail recipes sometimes ask for specific types of Whiskey. If you want to buy just one, go with a Bourbon or Rye Whiskey. If you decide to stock up with two different Whiskeys, I recommend a quality Bourbon and Scotch Whisky.

Vodka

Vodka is one of the most popular spirits in the US, especially for cocktails. Its clean and transparent flavor makes it a perfect fit for many different recipes. It gets used in countless classic cocktails recipes like an Espresso Martini, Moscow Mule, or Cosmopolitan. I recommend going with a top-shelf Vodka like Absolut, but you won't go wrong with any mid-shelf type, too, if you're not that into vodka and prefer spending your money on other spirits.

Rum

Rum is another very popular liquor to have at home. In general, I advise having one light rum available and one aged, dark Rum. Light ones are perfect for Mojito's, and dark ones are the base for all beautiful tiki cocktails.

Gin

Choosing just one gin for your home bar can be tough. There are so many different types of Gin. And I have to admit I am one of those guys who have countless brands and types in their liquor cabinet. But because I want to keep it simple and versatile, I only suggest one. Go with a traditional, quality gin. One that works great in a classic Gin and Tonic and cocktails, too. My recommendation would be Tanqueray, or if you want to spend a bit more, the Tanqueray 10.

Tequila

A decent standard Tequila Blanco, or Silver Tequila, is perfect for your home bar. In my opinion, a José Cuervo or Patrón are great choices for preparing cocktails. If you're into agave-based spirits, you could also add a Mezcal to your selection. I have written an article about the differences between Tequila and Mezcal. And if you're not sure which Mezcal to pick, here's an article about 12 Mezcals to buy in 2021.

Brandy

Brandy is part of the six base Liquors but is used a lot less in cocktails. If you want to skip one, it should be brandy. But still, you can make good cocktails with a brandy base. Look for a VS Cognac if you want to add one to round up your home bar.

So much for the base spirits. Now let's continue with the other essential ingredients you need.

Liqueurs

Liqueurs play a key role in mixology. You need those sweet and tasty elements to bring flavor to your drinks. However, liqueurs are available in almost every taste, so which one do you need?
I want to draw a line between essential and non-essential liqueurs. But honestly, I'm afraid every bartender you ask will answer this question differently. I try keeping the list as short as possible, so there might be things some of you miss on this list.

That's it. That is the whole list of elementary liqueurs I recommend having in your home bar. Of course, there are many more extras: Elderflower Liqueur, Midori Melon Liqueur, Creme de Cassis, Creme de Cacao, or cream liqueurs. But you probably can't - or don't want to buy them all, and start simple. Simply add specific Liqueurs according to your personal preference over time.

Dry and Sweet Vermouth

Some may find it strange that Vermouth gets its own headline in this list. Some would consider it to be a liqueur, but actually, Vermouth is a fortified wine. Sweet vermouth helps to sweeten drinks, for instance, in a Manhattan or Negroni. In contrast, dry vermouth is famous in a Martini. And there are plenty of other classic cocktail recipes you can make with it.
If you have space and a budget, I suggest stocking up on one each. For the sweet Vermouth, I recommend Carpano Antica Formula. For the dry version a Cocchi Americano Aperitivo.

Citrus

Lime and lemon juice are indispensable for most cocktails. To balance the sweetness from syrup, liqueurs, or Vermouth, you need some tangy and sour citrus juice. I so often see people buy juice in bottles. But please, make them fresh. It's absolutely no rocket science, and it takes only a few minutes. Make an effort and squeeze those lemons and limes, and your cocktails will taste a lot better. That is such a simple way to improve the taste of your homemade cocktails by a landslide. Don't miss out on that. If you want, you can also re-use the peels as a garnish for your drinks.

Syrup

A syrup is another important cocktail ingredient you should have. Many cocktails which don't use other sweet ingredients rely on simple syrup to balance sweet and sour. Just look at all those delicious Sour cocktails like the Whiskey Sour, Rum Sour, or Gin Sour. For all of these recipes, you will need syrup to mix them at home.

If you don't want to buy it, you can easily make your syrup at home. Use a ratio of 1 part sugar to 1 part water and cook it until the sugar dissolves completely. If you want it fancier, you can also think about making your own Demerara syrup or a color-changing Butterfly Pea syrup.

Eggs or Aquafaba

Who doesn't love those huge, white foams on top of cocktails? The traditional way to create this foamy top is using raw egg whites. No need to worry about well-being issues, as long as the egg is fresh, it won't cause health problems, and it also won't smell eggy in any way. Plus, the alcohol and acid in the citrus juice will kill anything that could potentially be harmful. If you still are not convinced, there's an alternative solution. Using Aquafaba instead of egg whites is a vegan way to create a similar foam.

Cocktail bitters

For me, the most fun ingredient on this list. Cocktail bitters are infusions of all kinds of flavors. Their flavors are that pronounced that a few drops already alter the taste of your cocktail. I wrote a detailed article about cocktail bitters and how to use them. But for starting your home bar, I recommend starting with just one. By stocking up on Angostura bitters, you will have the most famous and most common cocktail bitters at home.

Ice

You question why ice is on this list? To me, and many bartenders around the globe, quality ice is vital. The bigger and clearer the ice is, the better its quality. If you wonder what the term quality means in this case, there's a simple answer. Quality ice will melt slower and, therefore, won't dilute your cocktail.

If you pull it off and have a crystal clear ice cube in your cocktail glass, you can even brand it. Using an ice stamp lets you stamp a logo or name on an ice cube in a matter of seconds.

Mixers

Mixers are something we haven't talked about yet. For Highballs, Spritzes, or an Americano cocktail, they are essential. It's always a good idea to have tonic water, soda water, ginger ale, and cola at home. For soda, a quality club soda will do, tonic water can be tricky, but I recommend choosing Fevertree Indian and/or Fevertree Mediterranean tonic water. And for the cola, well I won't take sides it's up to you to choose.

Garnish

Being the last item on this list, you can already guess it's a less crucial cocktail ingredient. I'm saying this because most cocktail garnishes improve the look of a cocktail but don't have a big impact flavor-wise. On top, most of the garnish items are fresh and therefore need to be bought on demand.

My most used items for cocktail garnish are citrus peels. Peels from lemon, lime, or oranges are a great way to garnish your drink. Plus, you might have the citrus fruits any way for making lime or lemon juice and don't need to buy them additionally. Another idea can be to use flowers as a garnish, or you try you skills with dusting your cocktail glasses.

Conclusion

So that's is my list of essential cocktail ingredients for making delicious drinks at home. It may look somewhat extensive when written down in so much detail, perhaps almost never-ending, but if you take notes of what you need, you will realize it's not too much. Depending on personal preference, you might also skip some of the items. Anyways, I hope you have fun buying your cocktail ingredients.

Let me know in the comments if there's an essential ingredient that I missed. I'd love to read your thoughts.

Only three ingredients make the Daiquiri cocktail one of the most famous drinks. The elements of a classic Daiquiri are Rum produced in Cuba, sugar, and lime juice. And nowadays, there are plenty of variations of this classic cocktail. Most of them add different types of fruits to it.
The Strawberry Daiquiri, for instance, is highly popular, even though many bartenders are not too fond of it. I have to admit, it is nothing like a classic Daiquiri to me but it's delicious and a great summer cocktail.

The birth of the Daiquiri

Although hard to prove, all across the world, people agree that Jennings Stockton Cox is the creator of the Daiquiri Cocktail recipe. Jennings was an engineer from the US, coming to the mines of Daiquiri shortly after the American-Spanish war. The Americans won over the Spanish, and Roosevelt began to exploit the iron mines in Cuba. Jennings Cox was leading one of the initial exploring parties. -The one that took over the mine in the small town of Daiquiri.

At that time, expatriate workers from the US were offered huge salaries alongside monthly rations of tobacco and local Rum. Some of the Bacardi Blanca they received was mixed with sugar cane juice or coffee by the Cuban workers. When Jennings saw this, he began to experiment himself.

The precise story of when and how the first Daiquiri got served is not documented. However, the granddaughter of Jennings Cox claims that Jennings ran out of gin when American guests came to visit him. So he mixed a drink with the ingredients he had available: Rum, lime juice, and sugar.

The original recipe is available in handwritten form (see image below), declaring to use the juice of 6 lemons, 6 cups of Bacardi Blanca, six teaspoons of sugar, two small cups of mineral water, and loads of crushed ice".

Daiquiri handwritten recipe Jennings Cox

After this event, the Daiquiri recipe stayed within Cuba for a while. For one, because the city of Daiquiri fought with the plague. But also because another cocktail was invented in Cuba almost at the same time. And it took America by storm. You might have guessed already I am talking about the famous Cuba Libre.

How it came to America

Ultimately, it took about ten years until the Daiquiri cocktail made it to America, thanks to Captain Lucius W. Johnson. With his ship USS Minnesota, he sailed to Cuba, intending to visit war sites of the American-Cuban war. During the journey, Johnson also visited the small town of Daiquiri.

Jennings Cox was still there, leading the exploitation of the iron mines. When Johnson arrived, he served his creation. Lucius Johnson loved it and brought the recipe to America, specifically to the "Army and Navy club". That was the first place where the Daiquiri got known in the US. For this reason, some sources claim that Johson invented the drink, and others even suggest that it was an invention by Navy soldiers. The latter, however, is highly unlikely as there was strictly no alcohol allowed on Navy ships.

Johnson himself allegedly also describes his first encounter with the Daiquiri remembering the ratios Jennings Cox used to make the drink. The following statement got published in the Baltimore Sun newspaper:

'He mixed in each glass a jigger of rum, the juice of half a lime, and a teaspoonful of sugar. He then filled the glass with finely shaved ice and stirred it well. In that hot, humid weather, the ice melted rapidly, and the glass quickly became frosted.'

Lucius W. Johnson

In any case, Lucius Johnson did a great job in promoting the Daiquiri cocktail in the US. He also introduced it to the Baltimore University Club, which resulted in a Daiquiri version with bitters added. Until today this is considered a valid variation on the classic Daiquiri cocktail.

Slowly more and more bars picked up the recipe and started to serve the Daiquiri cocktail. Even one of the most prestigious hotels in the world, at that time, had it on their menu in the 1910s - the Astor Hotel in New York City.

The writers that made the Daiquiri Cocktail famous

Two of the most famous writers of this era made the Daiquiri a worldwide success. The first one is rarely even mentioned when talking about the history of the Daiquiri. His name was F. Scott Fitzgerald. He was the first to mention the Daiquiri in a Novel: in This Side of Paradise, published in 1920.

The second writer makes you instantly think of countless other spirits, cocktails, and bars around the globe: Ernest Hemingway - naturally. He had an enormous impact on the success of the Daiquiri cocktail. He even created his very own variation of the drink, the so-called Papa Doble. Doble stands for double amount of Rum, and since Hemingway was diabetic, he replaced the sugar with a mix of grapefruit juice and Maraschino Liqueur. Not a bad riff on a Daiquiri, I would say. The man obviously knew what he was doing.

Hemingway created this riff while sipping drinks in El Floridita, Havana. It was one of his two favorite bars. The other was Bodeguita del Medio. There he even left a note on the wall saying: "My mojito in La Bodeguita, My Daiquiri in El Floridita.” Mr. Hemingway had a passion for drinks, for sure.

Daiquiri in cocktail books

As substantial as the impact of those writers was, the sheer amount of mentions in important cocktail books contributed still more to the success of the Daiquiri cocktail. I collected some of these references in the list below.

Daiquiri Cocktail

Classic Daiquiri

Prep Time: 3 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: cuban
Keyword: Rum Cocktail
Servings: 1
Calories: 126kcal
Cost: $1.35

Ingredients

  • 1.5 oz White Rum
  • 0.5 oz Lime juice
  • 0.25 oz Simple syrup
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake gently
  • Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Nutrition

Serving: 2.5oz | Calories: 126kcal | Carbohydrates: 23.85g | Protein: 0.2g | Fat: 0.075g | Sodium: 5.5mg | Potassium: 114.5mg | Sugar: 20.45g | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 32.5mg | Iron: 0.23mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Conclusion

The mix of fresh lime juice, White Rum, and sugar is a match made in heaven. Invented back in a time when Rum was not famous at all, and Cuba was just about to gain a bit of freedom. The Daiquiri is a perfect drink for hot summer days. Of course, it's best enjoyed in Cuba, but then again, it is delicious anywhere in the world.

The Strawberry Daiquiri made of fresh and sweet strawberries, tangy lime juice, and a good portion of Rum. However, many bartenders are not a big fan of this cocktail. That is mainly because the reputation of the drink suffered during the 80s and also 90s. Back then, Strawberry Daiquiris almost always were served with artificial flavors and coloring: bright neon red slushies that have never even seen strawberries from afar that were indeed not very enjoyable. But if properly made, the Strawberry Daiquiri is a real treat.

Frozen or muddled

In contrast to the classic Daiquiri, the Strawberry version, typically, is served frozen. For this, all ingredients get combined and blended until they have the right consistency. The result is a smooth and icy cocktail reminding of a fresh fruit smoothie. The kick from the Rum is just a bonus and makes this drink an ideal mate on poolside vacations.

And the Strawberry Daiquiri also can be made without a blender. For this, the strawberries have to be muddled together with the simple syrup. Then put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and carefully strain the drink into a cocktail glass.

Which Rum

When choosing the Rum for your Strawberry Daiquiri make sure you choose one that doesn't overpower the strawberry taste. White unaged Rum or one that's only slightly aged is ideal. But you can try many different Rums. There is no actual wrong or right.
If you want to stay classic, use a Bacardi Blanco. If you care to experiment a bit, try a Jamaican or a French-style Rum.

Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri Recipe

Let's take a look at the actual recipe. As mentioned, we need fresh strawberries and the classic Daiquiri ingredients like Rum, lime juice, and sugar (in our case simple syrup). To make the Strawberry Daiquiri frozen, we also need ice cubes. I like to substitute frozen strawberries for all or at least half of the ice cubes. This way, the strawberry taste is more pronounced, which makes the whole drink taste fresher.

Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri

Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Servings: 1
Calories: 277kcal
Cost: $3.50

Ingredients

  • 1.5 oz Rum
  • 0.75 oz Fresh lime juice
  • 0.75 oz Rich simple syrup
  • 4-5 pcs Fresh strawberries
  • 5-6 pcs Frozen strawberries alternatively you can use ice cubes

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients into a blender and blend until the mixture is smooth.
  • Pour the resulting frozen Strawberry Daiquiri into a Margarita glass.
  • Garnish the cocktail with a lime wheel or an orchid if you want to increase those tropical vibes.

Nutrition

Serving: 6oz | Calories: 277kcal | Carbohydrates: 150.2g | Protein: 7.3g | Fat: 3.15g | Sodium: 22mg | Sugar: 113.73g | Vitamin C: 612.5mg | Calcium: 257mg | Iron: 4.3mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Muddled Strawberry Daiquiri recipe

Not everyone is a big fan of frozen cocktails. Therefore, I also have a recipe for the muddled version. Make sure to double strain it to remove any strawberry bits that didn't get fully muddled.

muddled Strawberry Daiquiri

Muddled Strawberry Daiquiri

Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Servings: 1
Cost: §3

Ingredients

  • 1.5 oz Rum
  • 0.5 oz Fresh lime juice
  • 0.25 oz Rich simple syrup
  • 7 pcs Fresh strawberries

Instructions

  • Carefully muddle the strawberries with the syrup.
  • Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake it hard for 15 to 20 seconds.
  • Double strain the drink into a chilled Margarita or Martini glass.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

How to make a Virgin Strawberry Daiquiri

If you want to create a non-alcoholic version of this delicious cocktail, simply use the recipe for the frozen Strawberry Daiquiri and leave out the Rum. By using tonic water instead of Rum, the Virgin version will taste even better. I found other recipes that suggest sprite as a replacement, but, honestly, that will result in a very, very sweet drink. So if you're serving it to kids, they might prefer the sprite version. When your guests are adults-only, I highly recommend trying out tonic water as a substitute.

For the last 10 to 20 years, a cocktail bitters boom has been stirring up the mixology scene. In 2000 the only bitters you could find were Angostura bitters and Peychaud bitters. Those are still the most recognized and most sold bitters, but plenty of other cocktail bitters are now conquering the market. 

The wide array of flavors available leads to many new twists and riffs on classic cocktails. You can recreate almost all old recipes and jazz them up by using bitters creatively.

But what exactly are bitters? How are they produced, and how do you use them in cocktails? Read this guide and find out about the world of cocktail bitters.

What exactly are cocktail bitters?

By looking at a bitters bottle, you could think you have some kind of medicine in front of you -or perhaps one of those miniature spirits. The alcohol content of over 40 % vol. of alcohol and colorful prints on the bottles reinforce this impression even more. But cocktail bitters are neither of the above.

Cocktail bitters are spirits with aromatic infusions of herbs and spices. They are made from so many different ingredients and are so highly concentrated that it is impossible to distinguish individual flavors. Common bittering botanicals are gentian root or cinchona bark. But there are also other flavoring elements like citrus peels, spices, or herbs.

Bitters are usually sold in small bottles and can change the taste of your cocktail by only adding a few drops to your drink. And they have different purposes, like adding extra layers of complexity or acting as a bridge between ingredients that don't work together otherwise.

You can also add bitters to non-alcoholic beverages to create more depth of flavor. With bitters, your drink still is considered non-alcoholic because you only use a few drops. Same as with non-alcoholic beer, which also contains about 0,02% vol.

Different Types of Bitters

When you only had the choice between Angostura and Peychaud bitters, there was no need for categories. Today, that changed dramatically. 

Types of Cocktail bitters

A wide range of flavors is available, and to keep track, we need to categorize them. Yet, some flavor profiles are so unique that you can't classify them at all. However, most fall in one of the categories below.

Aromatic bitters

Aromatic bitters include classic bitters brands like Angostura and Peychaud. Traditionally they're made of botanicals like cinnamon, clove, ginger, cardamom, and more. They often are used in classic Rum and Whiskey cocktails, like an Old Fashioned. But they also work well on top of egg-white foam of sour cocktails like Whiskey Sour.

Celery bitters

Celery flavored bitters have been around since the 19th century, but with slightly different recipes. The modern take on celery bitters usually is based on celery seeds. While it may sound like a weird idea, their vegetal and earthy notes work exceptionally well when combined with citrus notes from a lemon. I prefer them in Martinis and selected Gin cocktails.

Chocolate bitters

Chocolate bitters get infused with cocoa and cacao. They work great with barrel-aged spirits, and I love to combine chocolate bitters with Rum or Rye Whiskey Old Fashioneds. The chocolatey notes also work great with vanilla and coffee aromas which, in turn, all work great with a good, aged Rum. 

Citrus bitters

Citrus bitters usually are obtained from lime, lemon, and grapefruit. You can also find some that combine two or even all three citrus fruits in a single bitters bottle. The result is a very bright and complex citrus aroma.

Floral bitters

If you don't know what to expect from floral bitters, think of chamomile, lavender, hibiscus, and jasmine. This group might be the most versatile category. Depending on the botanicals used, floral bitters can taste very different. They usually work great in Gin drinks, and you can combine them with floral cocktail garnish.

Fruity bitters

Fruit cocktail bitters are made with all sorts of fruits. Because orange and other citrus fruits have their own category, they are excluded here. The fruit bitters category is for all remaining fruits. Try, for instance, apple and cranberry in the winter or peaches in the summer.

Hot or spicy bitters

These bitters are special. I love the idea of hot and spicy bitters very much. They allow adding a very well-balanced level of spiciness to your drink without overdoing it. If you would try the same by using jalapeño or habanero chilies in your cocktail recipe, it can become quite tricky to balance the spice. 

Orange bitters

You probably wonder why we have citrus and orange bitters on this list. While oranges are citrus fruits, there are just so many different orange bitters that they got a separate category.

How are Bitters made?

Making bitters is not rocket science. Usually, bitters are high-proof alcohol infused with botanicals. The alcohol extracts the flavors and aromas during the process. And the base spirit can basically be anything. If you're making light bitters, Vodka is a great choice. But you could also use Whiskey or Rum.

The basic process is pretty straightforward:

  1. Decide what kind of bitters you want to create.
  2. Select base spirit and botanicals accordingly.
  3. Add all to a jar, close it, and let it sit for two weeks.
  4. Strain into a second jar. Cook the solids with water and put that mixture into a third jar. Let both sit for another week.
  5. Strain the third jar and mix with the spirit mixture from the second jar. Sweeten them with honey, simple syrup, or molasses. Let it sit for three days.
  6. Your bitters are ready to be bottled.

As the alcohol is high-proof, your bitters will almost live forever. So don't worry if the batch you created seems quite large. You'll have plenty of time to use them.

How to use bitters in a cocktail

Cocktail bitters can add a whole new layer of flavor. So if you want to experiment with them, be careful. A single drop of cocktail bitters can give an intense kick to your drink.The best way to learn the flavor profile is by creating cocktails with simple recipes and then replacing Angostura with bitters of your choice. 

If you haven't used bitters before, don't worry. In almost all cases, cocktail bitters will improve the experience and taste. No matter if you choose Mexican Mole bitters, black pepper bitters, olive, or strawberry bitters. Just get some and try them. You will see that the possibilities are endless.

Cocktail bitters recommendations

If you don't know which cocktail bitters to choose for your home bar, I have these recommendations for you - of course, the classics ca not be missed:

  1. Angostura bitters
  2. Peychaud's bitters
  3. Fee Brothers West Indian Orange Cocktail bitters
  4. Woodford Reserve Chocolate bitters
  5. Scrappy's Bitters - Celery
  6. Hella Citrus Bitters

Cocktails with bitters

For most cocktail recipes that require bitters, Angostura is the go-to option. Old Fashioned cocktails and Sours are among the most popular representatives of cocktails that need a few drops of bitters. And they also make a great base to experiment and try something different than Angostura.

How about an Oaxaca Old Fashioned or an Mezcal Old Fahioned? They work great with chocolate bitters. Or a Pisco Sour, a Continental Sour or a Tequila Sour. They all make a fantastic base to get creative with your bitters.

Cocktails that typically are served with a few drops of Peychaud bitters would be the Sazerac or the Vieux carre. And there's many, many more. -From Tiki Cocktails like the Zombie or the Planters Punch to Cognac drinks like the Suffering Bastard. They all rely on these small flavor bombs.

More than 1.5 million bottles of Kahlúa coffee liqueur get sold every year, and there's no end in sight. You can get it in almost every country on the planet, and it's an essential ingredient in one of the currently most trending cocktails - the Espresso Martini.

Many think that Kahlúa was invented in the 1970s because it appeared in many drinks around this time. But actually, the history of this coffee Liqueur goes back way longer. So let's check out when this stroke of genius was invented and how it still affects modern mixology.

The history of Kahlúa

In 1936 in the rural area of Veracruz, Mexico, Kahlúa coffee liqueur was born. It contains the finest arabica coffee beans harvested in Veracruz. But not only the coffee beans are Arabic, but the name "Kahlúa" allegedly also derived from ancient Arabic languages. It's said to have been a slang word for "coffee" at that time.

It only took about four years until Kahlúa got to the US. From there, the brand started its victory march. One thing that distinguishes Kahlúa from other Liqueur brands was a distinct form of advertising. It began in the 50s with quirky figurines placed in each advertisement to honor the rich Mexican heritage. Although it looked a bit strange, people loved it, and it made Kahlúa famous.

From the late 1970s to the 90s, Kahlúa seemed to be everywhere. Drinks like the Black Russian, White Russian, and Espresso Martini contributed heavily to the fame of the Coffee Liqueur. Each of these cocktails is based on Kahlúa and also was advertised that way. And again, those cocktail ads were unbelievably popular. Even today, you can understand why people loved it.

Even today, where there's more competition than ever in the market of coffee liqueur, Kahlúa defends the number one spot. And I don't think this will change anytime soon.

Kahlua Advertisement Espresso Martini

The Ingredients of Kahlúa

In case you're wondering if the coffee taste is achieved with the help of artificial flavors, it is not. As mentioned before, Kahlúa uses the finest 100% Arabica coffee beans, which bring the delicious bitter coffee taste to the Liqueur. Absolutely no artificials are involved. The main ingredients are rum and coffee beans. The guys also make their own rum to create Kahlúa. Like other rums, it is made from sugarcane.

Let's quickly take a closer look at the coffee beans: If there are real coffee beans used, there should be caffeine in it, right? But that's a big yes and no. Scientifically the answer is yes, as one liter of Kahlúa contains 101 milligrams of caffeine. But if you break this down to one shot of Kahlúa (1.5 oz), only 4.5 milligrams of caffeine are in every shot or cocktail containing Kahlúa. If you compare this to a cup of coffee (100 milligrams) or a glass of coke (34 milligrams), the caffeine in Kahlúa is almost non-existent.

The alcohol content, in turn, is pretty average for a Liqueur. At 20% vol. it is not exactly strong, but still strong enough to knock you out when you overdo it.

Production process

Altogether you need about seven years to produce a bottle of Kahlúa coffee Liqueur. The majority of this time goes into getting the coffee beans. They only grow in the shade, not in the sun. That slows the process down a lot. Therefore it can take up to 6 years until they're ready to be used.

Once the coffee cherries are ripe, it's time for harvesting. The beans are extracted from the fruit and then need to rest for about six months. As you know, good things take time - and proper resting will improve the taste immensely. Before the beans finally arrive at the distillery, they get roasted to create that intense and bitter coffee flavor.

The rum is produced by extracting the juice of sugarcane. Boiled and mixed with water, it's ready for the distillation process. It then is combined with the coffee beans and gets the finishing touches before resting for another four weeks. Then, finally, Kahlúa is ready to be bottled and shipped around the world.

Kahlúa alternatives

Besides Kahlúa, Tia Maria is another big name when it comes to Coffee Liqueurs. But there's plenty more competition for them nowadays since products containing coffee are trending for years on end.
Many of those alternatives are experimental, trying to push boundaries and creating a richer flavor profile. Each product tries to be different, either by using particular beans, roasting techniques, sweeteners, or a different brewing technique.

Here are some alternatives I recommend if you want to try something new.

CO'PS

CO'PS espresso liqueur

Probably hard to get your hands on at the moment. CO'PS actually is not a coffee Liqueur but an Espresso Liqueur. Therefore, one single shot of CO'PS contains the equivalent amount of caffeine of an Espresso. And it also does have 30% vol. of alcohol, so you know you can get a real party started with this Liqueur.

It is made from 100% coffee beans and cola nuts. The brand owners self-developed a maceration process that not only extracts aromas and caffeine extremely well it also creates a very smooth taste.

Firelit

Firelit Coffee Liqueur

Firelit uses cold-brewed coffee as the base for their Liqueur. Blended with a coffee-infused brandy and aged in steel tanks, it takes about four weeks until the flavors fully integrate and the product is finished. I prefer to drink it neat, but it also works well in coffee cocktail recipes.

Bittermens New Orleans Coffee Liqueur

Bittermens New Orleans Coffee Liqueur

If you're looking for a heavier and more pronounced coffee taste, this New Orleans-inspired recipe is for you. Using Brazilian coffee beans that get roasted to perfection, this coffee Liqueur is for hard-core coffee lovers who prefer their coffee strong and bold.

Both invented in the 1800s, the Old Fashioned and Manhattan cocktails are two of the most iconic Whiskey cocktails. 

Their names may sound very different, but the Manhattan and Old Fashioned get mixed up quite often because they have a lot in common:

Their recipes are straightforward and traditional. Both are based on Whiskey, contain bitters, and are stirred drinks. 

And those who don't confuse the two often start debating which one is better.

So let's see how the Old Fashioned and Manhattan cocktails are different and how they compare.

Which was first - Manhattan or Old Fashioned?

Although both cocktails are classics and quite old, the Old Fashioned is the clear winner on this one. 

Its origin dates back to 1806 when it got the nondescript name "cocktail". 

This "cocktail" consisted of spirit, water, cocktail bitters (find the best ones here), and sugar cube - the traditional Old Fashioned recipe.

The Manhattan cocktail presumably was invented in the mid-1800s. However, it wasn't until 1880 that it got mentioned in writing for the first time. 

A bartender named William F. Mulhall claimed that the inventor of the Manhattan was a man named Black and that the drink was "probably the most famous in its time".

Manhattan and Old Fashioned recipes

Old Fashioned

Bourbon Old Fashioned Cocktail
  • 2 oz Whiskey, Bourbon, or Rye
  • 1 pcs Sugar cube
  • three dashes of Angostura bitters
  • one splash of Soda water

Manhattan

Manhattan Rye Whiskey Cocktail
  • 2 oz Rye Whiskey
  • 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • two dashes of Angostura Bitter

Differences between the Manhatten and the Old Fashioned

Let's take a closer look at the differences between a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned, starting with their components. 

Recipe and Preparation

They both are based on Whiskey, but the classic Old Fashioned recipe asks for Bourbon (sometimes substituted with Rye), whereas a Manhattan is made with Rye Whiskey.

Both drinks include cocktail bitters, more specifically Angostura bitters. An Old Fashioned usually contains a bit more of the bitters, three instead of two dashes, but otherwise, this part is similar.

Old fashioned cocktail with garnish

The main difference in the recipes is the sweetener part. A classic Old Fashioned is muddled in an Old Fashioned glass. 

For this, a sugar cube is drenched in Angostura bitters and then muddled with the help of a splash of soda water. 

The Manhattan cocktails recipe, on the other hand, requires sweet Vermouth. It not only sweetens the drink but also adds complexity to it.

Different serving

The ingredients are not the only difference. The Old Fashioned traditionally is created in the glass, usually in an Old Fashioned glass

It's prepared, as described above, by muddling the sugar cube in the glass. Only then an ice cube and the Whiskey are added.

The Manhattan cocktail is put together in a mixing glass. 

Therefore all ingredients, also the ice cubes, are added to a mixing glass. Then the drink is stirred and strained into a cocktail glass.

The taste difference between Manhattan and Old Fashioned

When comparing the taste of an Old Fashioned and Manhattan cocktail, the Old Fashioned is much sweeter. 

Also, using raw sugar as a sweetener, balanced only by Angostura bitters, enhances the taste of the base Whiskey. Therefore it's crucial to use a quality Whiskey as the base for your drink.

Manhattan Cocktail History

When tasting the Manhattan, you get a more subtle sweetness. And the sweet Vermouth also creates some depth of flavor. 

There are notes of dark red fruit and herbs alongside the dominant Whiskey flavor. 

That, to me, has more of a cocktail feeling, while the Old Fashioned is more a way to enhance the taste of a Bourbon Whiskey.

Creating riffs or variations

There are many ways to change the original recipes of both cocktails.

 For instance, replace ingredients, use different cocktail bitters or a split-base, or alter the sweet part. 

So you won't get lost in the many options, here are the most common ways to create riffs and variations on classic Old Fashioned or Manhattan cocktails.

How to create Manhattan Riffs

The Manhattan cocktail is a cocktail with relatively few twists and riffs compared to the Old Fashioned. 

In most cases, you will find recipes that only change minor parts. So let me show you how you can tweak the recipe.

Change proportions: Without changing one single ingredient, you can create a totally different cocktail - just by changing the proportions of the ingredients. 

For example, when you double the amount of Vermouth, you get a more complex, fruity, and sweet version. Or reduce Vermouth to set more focus on your Whiskey. 

Play around, and you can create many variants with very different outcomes.

Black Manhattan cocktail with Maraschino cherry

Exchange cocktail bitters: Cocktail bitters are trending. There are more and more different bitters on the market, so why not try something new. 

Try orange or grapefruit bitters instead of Angostura. You will notice a difference for sure. 

Use a different Vermouth: Vermouth is essential in the Manhattan cocktail. By choosing your Vermouth wisely, you can change the result significantly.

Change the base: Rye Whiskey is the traditional base spirit of the Manhattan cocktail, but be brave and try something new. 

You can replace it with a good Bourbon or, if you feel experimental, use Cognac or a fine Rum.

How to create Old Fashioned Variations

The Old Fashioned is probably the cocktail with the most options for riffs. 

The fact that the simple three-ingredient cocktail primary showcases the base alcohol makes it easy to invent amazing variations. 

You could take a spirit you love and find bitters to match it. There are various delicious Old Fashioned riffs with Rum, Mezcal, or Gin as a base.

Oaxaca Old Fashioned cocktail

And other components are also interchangeable. So here's some inspiration:

Replace Sweetener: The classic muddled sugar cube often gets replaced with simple syrup. But why not take it further and use some more special syrups?

Try Pineapple syrup for a Rum Old Fashioned, agave syrup for a Mezcal Old Fashioned. Or simply use honey to sweeten the cocktail and create a richer mouthfeel.

Change the base spirit: The easiest and most common way to create an Old Fashioned variation is to change the base element. You can also create a split-based version that is not consisting of one but of two spirits. 

For example, you can use 1 part Mezcal and 1 part Tequila as your base. In the classic recipe, this converts to 1oz Tequila and 1oz Mezcal.

Change the bitters: In such a delicate cocktail, exchanging the cocktail bitters will have huge effects. Try chocolate or orange bitters for a start. 

Mezcal Old Fashioned

Of course, you can also change multiple components at the same time. 

However, if you're new to mixology, I recommend making one change at a time. 

Like that, you can identify what exactly happens if you replace an ingredient and develop a feeling for the process. It helps to figure out what works and what doesn't. 

If you change everything at once, you might not be able to comprehend the impact of each component.

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