With the craft cocktail boom in full swing, bartenders are getting increasingly outlandish with their concoctions—some are using wild stuff like liquid nitrogen, gold flakes, and even orchid ice cubes—so it might seem impossible to even attempt a DIY drink that can measure up.
The truth is, you don’t need all those bells and whistles to craft a killer signature cocktail. In fact, you barely need any of it—you just need a working knowledge of what types of ingredients work well together, and what garnishes you’ll need to make them that much more special than a plain old vodka soda.
That’s why we’ve come up with 20 fabulous summer cocktails that each require three ingredients or less. An added bonus of a drink with less elements? Less calories, of course. Win, win!
1 1⁄2 oz vodka
Unfiltered apple juice
Pour vodka into highball glass over ice. Add apple juice to taste.
1 1⁄2 oz Campari
1 1⁄2 oz sweet vermouth
Soda water to top
Orange for garnish
Fill a highball glass with ice. Add Campari and vermouth, and top generously with soda, taking care not to exceed a 1:1:2 ratio. Garnish with an orange slice or twist.
Blood Orange Rickey Ingredients 2 blood oranges, one cut into quarters and the other into thin slices for garnish 8 oz gin 1 liter sparkling water or seltzer Directions In four highball glasses, squeeze a quarter of blood orange into each glass. Pour 2 ounces of gin over the blood orange juice in each glass and top with chilled seltzer. Garnish with a thin slice of blood orange.
Aperol Spritz Ingredients 3 oz prosecco 1 1⁄2 oz bitter aperitif liqueur, such as Aperol or Campari 1 1⁄2 oz soda water Orange slice, to garnish Directions Combine prosecco, liqueur and soda water in a tall glass filled with ice. Garnish with orange slice.
2 oz gin
2 oz Manzanilla Sherry
Dashes orange bitters
Green olive, for garnish
Combine gin, Manzanilla, and bitters over ice in a cocktail shaker, and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass, garnishing with an olive.
1 oz vodka
1 oz apricot brandy or liqueur
1 oz freshly squeezed orange juice
In a cocktail shaker, stir together the vodka, apricot brandy, and orange juice. Add ice, cover, and shake vigorously until well chilled, 10-15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and serve.
Arak and Grapefruit
4 oz chilled fresh grapefruit juice
2 oz arak
1 Basil leaf, to garnish
Combine grapefruit juice and arak in a chilled cocktail glass. Fill with ice and garnish with basil leaf to serve.
Ingredients (makes 4 drinks)
8 large basil leaves, plus 4 sprigs for garnish
2 oz simple syrup
6 oz Irish whiskey
In a cocktail shaker, muddle together the basil leaves and simple syrup. Pour in the Irish whiskey, and stir briskly one or two times. Fill four glasses with crushed ice; pour equal portions of the drink over the ice, straining out the basil. Garnish with basil sprigs.
Blood Orange Rosemary Screwdriver
4 oz chilled vodka
12 oz blood orange juice
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Fill two glasses with ice cubes. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice add the vodka and the blood orange juice and one sprig of rosemary. Shake the cocktail vigorously and strain into the ice filled glasses. Garnish with a fresh orange wedge and a sprig of fresh rosemary.
1 tbsp cognac
3/4 cup chilled sparkling apple cider
A few dashes bitters
Pour the cognac into a chilled Champagne flute. Top with chilled sparkling apple cider, and finish with a few dashes bitters; stir and serve.
Dry Martini Ingredients 1 1⁄2 oz London dry or Plymouth gin 1 1⁄2 oz French white dry vermouth 2 dashes orange bitters (preferably Regan's Orange Bitters No. 6) Strip of orange peel Directions In a large glass, combine gin, vermouth, bitters, and 2 cups ice. Stir for 15 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist a strip of orange peel over the top and drop it in.
5 large ruby red grapefruits
2 bottles of beer (lager or wheat beer)
Juice your grapefruits, pour in the simple syrup, and chill for one hour in the fridge. After the grapefruit mixture has chilled, divide between four glasses, top with cold beer, and garnish with a slice of grapefruit.
Grapefruit Champagne Cocktail
1 1/2 oz grapefruit juice
1 oz St-Germain elderflower liqueur
Rosé Brut Champagne or sparkling wine
1 grapefruit twist
Pour grapefruit juice and elderflower liqueur in a Champagne flute. Top with Rosé Brut Champagne. Garnish with grapefruit twist.
1 14.5-ounce can of Guinness
1 pint vanilla ice cream
Scoop 1 cup vanilla ice cream into 2 pint glasses, topping off with stout. Makes 2 adult milkshakes.
2 ounces brut Champagne or dry sparkling wine
1 1/2 ounces St-Germain
2 ounces club soda
Lemon twist, for garnish
Stir sparkling wine, St-Germain, and club soda together in a tall ice-filled Collins glass, mixing completely. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Gin and It
4-1/2 oz Italian (sweet) vermouth
9 oz gin
Gently pour the vermouth and gin into a glass pitcher or receptacle. Stir but do no shake. Do not add any ice. Pour into cocktail glasses and serve at room temperature. If desired, before pouring the liquor into a glass a piece of lemon peel may be rubbed around the edges.
Meyer Lemon Drop Shooters
4 oz vodka, chilled
4 tsbp lemon juice
4 tsbp simple syrup
In a cocktail shaker, add the vodka, lemon juice, and simple syrup with some ice and shake hard, then divide between 4 glasses.
2 oz rye whiskey
1 oz vermouth
2 dashes Bitters
Stir the rye, vermouth, and bitters, well with cracked ice. Strain into in a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with twist or, of course, maraschino cherry.
1⁄3 cup lemon sorbet
3 oz prosecco
1 oz vodka
In a stainless steel bowl or cocktail shaker, whisk together the sorbet and a splash of the prosecco until fully incorporated. While whisking, slowly pour in the vodka and then the remainder of the prosecco. Serve in a martini glass or coupe.
Sparkling Lillet Grapefruit Cocktail
2 oz Lillet Rosé
4 dashes grapefruit bitters
4 oz brut Champagne or sparkling wine
Add the Lillet and grapefruit bitters to a Champagne flute or coupe. Top off with Champagne or sparkling wine, and garnish with an orange twist.