If you’ve paid attention to the mixology world in the past decade, you’ve likely seen that there are two sides to the bartending coin. On one side are the overly intricate, ingredient-filled, multi-dimensional cocktails featuring tinctures, shrubs, flavored simple syrups, bitters, and complimenting spirits. The other side is a return to classic, simple, clean mixed drinks. While there’s a place for the complex cocktails, spirit-forward, traditional, uncomplicated flavors will always be in fashion. Plus, they’re a lot easier to prepare from the comfort of your own home. Who has time to make an elaborate chili pepper-infused simple syrup anyway?
When it comes to simple, classic cocktails, we’re talking about three ingredients. If your home bar already contains a bottle of gin, rum, tequila, vodka, or your go-to whisk(e)y, you’re already a third of the way there. That’s right, all you need to make a satisfying, full-flavored mixed drink is a spirit base and two other ingredients. Below, you’ll find ten of our favorite three-ingredient cocktails.
In the hierarchy of easy cocktails, it’s hard to beat the Manhattan. This rye-based (or bourbon) cocktail also features sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters. Simply pour the ingredients into an ice-filled glass, stir until combined, and pour into a rocks glass. You can add a maraschino cherry, but you don’t have to.
Ask any bartender and they’ll tell you not to follow James Bond’s directions and stir this drink instead of shaking it. Shaking it makes it cloudy and dilutes the flavors. Made with gin (or vodka), olive brine, and dry vermouth, this classic drink is simple enough to whip up even if you’re constantly on the go like the world’s greatest secret agent.
Named for a French magazine of the same name, this elegant, surprisingly complex cocktail consists of 3 simple parts. One part rye whiskey, one part sweet vermouth, and one part Campari (a bitter, herbal, Italian liqueur). To prepare it, all ingredients are stirred in an ice-filled glass before being poured into a rocks glass.
Commonly served in a copper mug (due to the metal’s ability to make the drink colder), this vodka-filled drink (hence the name) also contains lime juice and an added, spicy kick of ginger beer. To make it, simply combine the vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer in an ice-filled copper mug. Stir it before taking a sip or you might end up with an unexpected mouthful of vodka.
When it comes to spring and summer cocktails, it’s really tough to beat the Aperol Spritz. Sure the name isn’t as rugged as some of the others on this list, but the flavors are bold and refreshing. This traditional Italian aperitif is made with Aperol (an herbal, Italian bitter liqueur), soda water, and effervescent Prosecco.
If your only experience with a margarita is a frozen, salt-rimmed version from your local Tex-Mex restaurant, it’s time to try a simpler, cleaner, much fresher version. The three ingredients you need to make a classic margarita are a tequila, lime juice, and triple sec (orange liqueur). To build the drink, shake all of the ingredients with ice before pouring it into a traditional margarita glass. You can salt the rim if that’s what you’re into, but it’s not necessary.
Gin & Tonic
Technically, if you wanted to make a gin and tonic, you could simply mix gin and tonic in an ice-filled glass. While this is acceptable in a pinch, the drink is simply not complete without the addition of a squeeze of lime (and the lime wedge dropped into the drink as a garnish). The added citrus element rounds out the bitter quinine and floral gin flavors perfectly.
It should come as no surprise that many novice drinkers have trouble telling the difference between an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan. This is because the recipes are very similar. While the aforementioned Manhattan is made with whiskey, vermouth, and bitters, the always reliable, potent Old Fashioned is made with bourbon (or rye whiskey), a sugar cube (or simple syrup), and Angostura bitters. If you prepare it with the sugar cube, it’s muddled with a few dashes of bitters before adding ice and bourbon.
One of the best mixed drinks for spring and summer sipping, the Negroni is a classic, Italian aperitif (just like the Aperol Spritz). It’s made with bitter, Italian liqueur Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth. To prepare it, stir the ingredients over ice. You’ll know it’s all combined properly when the subtly bitter, sweet, aromatic drink takes on its well-known crimson hue.
Like the margarita, the daiquiri has suffered from frozen, overly-sweet varieties offered at chain restaurants. The traditional daiquiri, thought to have originally been created in Cuba in the 1800s, is made using only three ingredients: white rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. Made by shaking all the ingredients in an ice-filled shaker before straining into a coupe glass, it’s zesty, tangy, and extremely refreshing.
Disclosure: Clicking on these links and making a purchase may earn us a small referral fee, at no extra cost to you. Learn more here.