Common Cocktail Ingredients

Karen Frazier
Friends making cocktails

One of the easiest ways to build cocktails at home is creating drinks by ingredients you already have available. Starting with the base ingredients, you can add simple mixers or spirits to create a wide variety of mixed drinks.

Club Soda

One of the easiest mixers to make any drink is to mix it with club soda. The soda dilutes the flavor of the spirit so you aren't drinking it straight, but still allows you to enjoy its unique flavors and aromas.

Vodka-soda-lime cocktail

How to Make a Drink With Club Soda

  1. Add 1½ ounces of spirit to a rocks or collins glass.
  2. Fill the glass with ice.
  3. Add 3 to 4 ounces of club soda and stir.
  4. Add a garnish of a citrus wedge, such as lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit

Spirits to Mix With Club Soda

Virtually every spirit mixes well with club soda. Some to try:

  • Various whiskies (scotch, bourbon, whisky, rye)
  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Rum (light, spiced, or dark)
  • Tequila
  • Coffee-flavored liqueur such as Kahlúa
  • Amaretto
  • Chambord
  • Cognac

Cola

Cola, whether diet or regular, mixes with spirits in the same way as club soda.

Mixed drink with cola

How to Make a Cola Mixed Drink

  1. Add 1½ ounces of spirit to a rocks or collins glass.
  2. Fill the glass with ice.
  3. Add 3 to 4 ounces of cola and stir.
  4. Add a garnish of an orange wheel, lemon wheel, lime wheel, or cherry

Spirits to Mix With Cola

  • Rum (light, dark, or spiced)
  • Amaretto
  • Whiskey
  • Tequila
  • Vodka (unflavored, or flavored vodkas such as cherry, vanilla, or ginger)

Ginger Ale or Ginger Beer

Ginger ale and ginger beer impart spicy flavors to cocktails.

Ginger beer cocktails

How to Make a Ginger Ale or Ginger Beer Cocktail

  1. Add 1½ ounces of spirit to a rocks or collins glass.
  2. Fill the glass with ice.
  3. Add 3 to 4 ounces of ginger ale or ginger beer and stir.
  4. Add a garnish of an orange, lemon, or lime twist or peel.

Spirits to Mix With Ginger Ale or Ginger Beer

  • Rum (particularly dark rum)
  • Vodka
  • Amaretto
  • Chambord
  • Whiskey (particularly Canadian whisky)
  • Grand Marnier
  • Coffee liqueur
  • Malibu rum
  • Tequila

Tonic Water

Tonic water has a classic bitter flavor that mixes well with spirits.

Tonic water cocktail

How to Make a Tonic Water Mixed Drink

  1. Add 3 ounces of spirit to a rocks or collins glass.
  2. Fill the glass with ice.
  3. Add 4 ounces of tonic water and stir.
  4. Garnish with a wedge of lemon, lime, or orange, squeezing the juice into the drink before garnishing.

Spirits to Mix With Tonic

  • Gin
  • Blanco tequila
  • Cognac or Armagnac
  • Rum (dark or spiced)
  • Vodka

Lemons and/or Limes and Sugar (Sours)

If you have fresh lemons and limes, you can make your own sour mix by combining their juice with an equal amount of simple syrup.

Sour cocktail

Ingredients to Make a Sour

  • ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice, lime juice, or a combination of the two
  • ¾ ounce simple syrup or another sweet element such as grenadine or a sweet liqueur
  • 1½ ounces spirit
  • ½ egg white (optional)
  • Ice
  • Cherry and orange slice for garnish

Instructions to Make a Sour

  1. In a cocktail shaker, combine the citrus juice, syrup or sweet element, the spirit, and the optional egg white.
  2. If using an egg white, shake without ice. If not, go to step three.
  3. Fill the shaker with ice and shake.
  4. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice.
  5. Garnish with the cherry or orange slice.

Spirits to Try for a Sour

  • Whiskey
  • Tequila
  • Rum (all types)
  • Cognac
  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Amaretto
  • Pisco

Lemons/Limes, Sugar, and Soda or Ginger Beer (Fizzes)

If you have lemons and/or limes, sugar, and soda or ginger beer, you can make an array of fizzes by simply adding soda to your basic sour cocktail.

Fizz cocktail

How to Make a Fizz Cocktail

  1. Make the sour as outlined above without the egg white.
  2. Strain into a collins glass with ice.
  3. Add 3 to 4 ounces of soda and stir.

Spirit, Sour, and Soda Combinations to Try

  • Gin, lemon sour, and club soda or lemon-lime soda
  • Rum, lime sour, and club soda, lemon-lime soda, ginger ale, or ginger beer
  • Vodka, lemon and/or lime sour, and cola, club soda, lemon-lime soda, ginger ale, or ginger beer
  • Amaretto, lemon sour, and lemon-lime soda or ginger ale
  • Tequila, lime sour, and club soda or ginger ale
  • Whiskey, lemon sour, and cola, lemon-lime soda, club soda, ginger ale, or ginger beer

Lemons/Limes, Sugar, Soda, and Herbs or Berries (Smashes)

You can also make smashes by taking the above combination and adding muddled herbs, fruit, or berries.

Smash cocktail

How to Make a Smash Cocktail

  1. In a cocktail shaker, muddle herb leaves, berries, or a wedge of fruit with ¾ ounce of simple syrup.
  2. Add ¾ ounce of the lemon or lime juice and 1½ ounces of spirit.
  3. Add ice and shake.
  4. Strain into a collins glass filled with ice.
  5. Top with 3 to 4 ounces of soda and stir.

Combinations to Try

  • Mint, lime sour, rum, club soda (mojito)
  • Blackberries, lime sour, vodka, ginger beer (blackberry Moscow mule)
  • Mint, lime sour, bourbon, soda (mint julep)
  • Orange wedge, lemon-lime sour, Canadian whisky, ginger ale

Dry Vermouth

If you have dry vermouth, mix it with gin or vodka to make a classic martini or a vodka martini.

Martini

Cocktail Bitters and Sugar

You can use cocktail bitters and a sugar cube (or 1 teaspoon of sugar) to create old fashioned cocktails.

Old fashioned cocktail

How to Make an Old Fashioned Cocktail

  1. In a rocks glass, add 2 dashes of bitters onto a sugar cube.
  2. Add a splash of water and muddle to mix and dissolve the sugar.
  3. Add 3 ounces of a brown spirit and an ice cube or two. Stir.
  4. Garnish with a citrus peel.

Spirits to Use in Old Fashioned Cocktails

  • Whiskey or whisky
  • Scotch
  • Rye
  • Bourbon
  • Cognac
  • Armagnac
  • Dark rum

Fruit Juice

Fruit juice mixes straight with virtually any spirit. When mixing fruit juice with spirits, you'll need to use a cocktail shaker to get the alcohol and the juice to combine.

Cocktail made with fruit juice

How to Make a Fruit Juice Mixed Drink

  1. In a cocktail shaker, combine 1½ ounces of spirit and 3 ounces of juice.
  2. Add ice and shake.
  3. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice.

Combinations to Try

  • Orange juice and vodka
  • Pineapple juice and rum
  • Lemonade and whiskey or gin
  • Cranberry juice and vodka or rum

Make Mixed Drinks From Ingredients You Have

You don't need to be a mixologist to make delicious cocktails. Understanding how to mix drinks and knowing which flavors blend well can help you make delicious mixed drinks at home from ingredients you already have in your cabinets and fridge.

Common Cocktail Ingredients