There’s something special about a well-made cocktail. Sipping a sidecar might fill you with the nostalgia of a roaring ‘20s blues joint, while enjoying a frozen daiquiri can transport your mind to a lounge chair on a sunny beach. While you might think you need a restaurant bar to deliver this type of experience, we’ve found that many of our favorite fancy cocktails are surprisingly easy to make at home.
Mastering the art of mixology is as simple as identifying your go-to drinks and finding a recipe for each. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about purchasing all of the individual ingredients, a single drink box subscription could be a fantastic place to get started. Once you feel comfortable stocking up on a few staple bottles (like vodka, rum, bourbon, and tequila), pick up seasonal ingredients as needed.
Of course, the very first step is identifying the best fancy drinks to make at home. Don’t worry—we have you covered. These are our favorite cocktails designed to impress your friends and family at dinner parties or holiday events. Some are traditional favorites, like pre-Prohibition cocktails, while others are a fun riff off an original that will dazzle the taste buds.
Everyone knows the frozen daiquiri and how perfect it is on a hot beach day, and you may even know that a classic daiquiri isn’t frozen, but instead shaken and served chilled without ice. But a lesser-known riff on this iconic drink is the Hemingway daiquiri. Ernest Hemingway fell in love with this rum drink after a visit to Cuba, and the bartender named it after the famous writer. It’s a delightful sweet-tart combination of white rum, maraschino liqueur, lime juice, and grapefruit juice. If you like your drinks on the sweeter side, feel free to add a little simple syrup to the mix, too!
How To Make: Hemingway Daiquiri
When it comes to fancying up a party’s vibe, there’s no better way to do it than with an El Presidente. It’s been called the Cuban alternative to a Manhattan, and we love the way the white rum, dry vermouth, orange curaçao, and grenadine come together. It’s sweet but balanced—bold but delicate—and it has a golden-orange hue that looks fantastic whether it’s served in a coupe or a martini glass.
How To Make: El Presidente
James Bond famously orders his martini “shaken, not stirred,” but that’s not what actually makes this cocktail so fancy. It’s the combination of gin and vodka that really elevates this elegant drink. Most martinis are made by mixing gin_ or _vodka with dry vermouth and an olive. The vesper martini, on the other hand, combines the two base alcohols together. The vodka tames the gin’s strong botanical flavor while the Lillet Blanc (an aromatized white wine) adds a lightly bitter note. If you can’t get your hands on Lillet, dry vermouth will work in a pinch.
How To Make: Vesper Martini
Corpse Reviver No. 2
This fancy cocktail is the perfect option to use up the leftover Lillet Blanc you purchased for a vesper martini. It hails from pre-Prohibition times, when it was used to “raise the dead” or, more accurately, revive someone from a bad hangover. An absinthe rinse gives the drink an anise-forward flavor, while the gin, Lillet Blanc, orange liqueur, and lemon juice come together to create a delicate flavor that’s easy to sip and extremely refreshing on a hot day.
How To Make: Corpse Reviver No. 2
Ramos Gin Fizz
There are a ton of fancy gin cocktails out there, but this one is arguably our favorite. A fizz is a riff off a sour, which is usually made by shaking egg whites into foamy perfection. The “fizz” part comes from the addition of soda water at the end. A regular gin fizz is made with gin, lemon and lime juice, simple syrup, and an egg white, whereas the Ramos variation adds heavy cream and rose water or orange blossom water. Top it off with soda water, and you have a rich, creamy cocktail with a floral finish that’s hard to beat.
How To Make: Ramos Gin Fizz
It doesn’t get fancier than a French 75! It’s a boozier, classier version of a mimosa, swapping in gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup for the orange juice. It’s finished with chilled Champagne, making it perfect for brunch with the ladies, but it’s classy enough to enjoy as a dinner cocktail. The original versions of this cocktail were made with Cognac, so feel free to swap in brandy for gin if it better meets your preferences.
How to Make: French 75
Anyone looking to impress their friends with a pre-Prohibition drink should know about this cocktail. It’s simultaneously sharp, sweet, acidic and it’s a perfect way to use up the jar of brandied cherries you have in the fridge. The drink is made by combining equal parts gin, maraschino liqueur, lime juice, and Chartreuse—a bright-green French herbal liqueur that’s herbaceous and deceptively complex.
How To Make: Last Word
If you love a Negroni but aren’t into gin, turn to the Boulevardier instead. This whisky-based cocktail has it all: the combination of bourbon, Campari, and sweet vermouth comes together to create a drink that’s sweet, sour, bitter, and a little peppery from all the booze. If you like a spicier cocktail, feel free to swap rye for bourbon. It’s a perfect happy hour cocktail and pairs exceptionally well with salty meats like prosciutto or ham if you’re serving appetizers.
Hot To Make: Boulevardier
Many say that the paper plane is a modern riff on the last word, but we find the two to be quite distinct. For starters, the paper plane is made with completely different ingredients—equal parts bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Aperol, and lemon juice (instead of gin, Chartreuse, maraschino, and lime). But the paper plane does have the same light finish, with herbaceous notes and a slightly sweet aftertaste.
How To Make: Paper Plane
Since you’ve already purchased Aperol for the paper plane, you may as well make an Aperol spritz. This light and breezy cocktail combines the Italian bitter aperitif (Aperol) with prosecco and club soda. If you don’t have prosecco, any sparkling white wine will do the trick. It’s simple and approachable while still being stylish and sophisticated. In other words, the Aperol spritz is perfect for any cocktail hour when the goal is to impress without expending too much effort.
How To Make: Aperol Spritz
Everyone knows about a margarita, but the paloma is perfect when you want to serve a twist on a classic cocktail. Instead of using a cloyingly sweet-sour mix, this drink uses a straightforward mixture of tequila, grapefruit soda, and lime juice. You might not think that’s fancy enough, but you’ll be surprised how refreshing the drink is alongside your favorite Mexican snacks! You can dial the complexity up and down depending on the tequila you use: blanco will be the simplest, whereas reposado and anejo tequilas will add depth to the drink.
How To Make: Paloma
Oaxaca Old Fashioned
Most of us know about the whisky old fashioned, but we love this fun riff on the classic. The Oaxaca old fashioned is still made with a few dashes of Angostura bitters, but it’s combined with reposado tequila and mezcal—tequila’s smoky cousin—instead of whisky, rye, or bourbon. If you’ve never had mezcal, it’s made with roasted agave fruits, giving it a savory flavor and fire-roasted aroma that’s somewhat reminiscent of whisky’s bold characteristics.
How To Make: Oaxaca Old Fashioned
This cocktail launched to fame when House of the Dragon actor Emma D’Arcy named it her favorite drink in a viral TikTok video, but it’s been around for ages. The word “sbagliato” means “wrong” or “mistaken,” which is basically a way of saying that this is a Negroni made incorrectly. Instead of mixing together gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari, this drink skips the gin and replaces it with prosecco. The result is a bitter-sweet, bubbly cocktail that pairs well with almost anything you’re serving for dinner.
How To Make: Negroni Sbagliato
We would be remiss if we didn’t include a riff on Sex and the City’s drink-of-choice! While the cosmopolitan is a luscious combination of vodka, Cointreau, lime juice, and cranberry juice, a white cosmopolitan swaps in St-Germain for Cointreau. You’ll need to seek out white cranberry juice to truly turn the cocktail white, but it tastes great regardless of the color. The St-Germain removes the citrus flavor from the cocktail while adding a delightfully floral touch that’s equally delicious and elegant.
How To Make: White Cosmopolitan
Last but certainly not least, this twist on a whiskey sour uses a delicious but unusual liquor: Pisco. It’s a type of unaged brandy distilled from grapes, but it tastes nothing like any brandy you’ve ever had. Some say it tastes like a musty wine, while others compare its bitter herbaceousness to tequila. Either way, this drink becomes smooth and silky with a thick body, thanks to shaking the Pisco with lime juice, simple syrup, and an egg white.
How To Make: Pisco Sour
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