The basic spirits for cocktails & 23 cocktail recipes

In this lesson, we will speak about the basic spirits for cocktails.

These spirits – vodka, whisky, gin, rum and tequila, are the base ingredient for preparing the cocktail – . while wine, been, cider or brandy are listed among other spirits, which we don’t include in this course.


  • Vodka originally comes from Poland and Russia
  • vodka is a spirit of a neutral color and taste (therefore when you want to practice your food photography skills only, you can simply use water instead.)
  • it is used for all types of ways of cocktail preparation
  • vodka can be infused with herbs, spices, fruits and nuts, citrus, pepper or blackcurrant (Absolut brand)
  • the most famous vodka based cocktail is Bloody Mary with tomato juice
  • you can use any fruits in the vodka cocktails

A few recipes for vodka cocktails: (source: The Definitive Cocktail Book by Jeffrey Benson and Stuart Walton)


  • is made all over the world, and can be made from barley, rye or maize (known as corn), or a combination of grains
  • Scotch is the pre-eminent among the world’s whiskies
  • whisky in US is knows as bourbon, produced in the state of Kentucky. Bourbon is a richer, sweeter style of whiskey made from at least 51% corn, and matured in wooden barrels (Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark brands) and Tennessee whiskey (Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel brands)
  • Then, there are Canadian whisky – as a kind of compromise style between Scotch and bourbon, Irish whisky and Japanese whiskies

Recipes for whisky cocktails (source: The Definitive Cocktail Book by Jeffrey Benson and Stuart Walton)


  • is a spirit that is more aromatic than vodka or white rum, it is also the pre-eminent base ingredient for many cocktails
  • it is made from juniper berries and aromatising plants and spices
  • the origin of Gin goes to Italy in the sixteenth century, then in Holland in the seventeenth century
  • the most traditional recipe is gin mixed with tonic and added a slice of lemon

Recipes for gin cocktails (source: The Definitive Cocktail Book by Jeffrey Benson and Stuart Walton)


  • rum appears to the the last favourite spirit for preparing cocktails…
  • rum is a product of the distillation of sugar cane and is a particular speciality of the Caribbean islands and some of the nations of the South America, such as Guyana
  • there are three basic styles of commercial rum: white, dark and golden


  • it is a product made from agave plant
  • it starts as a light, fermented “beer”, it is distilled twice like Scotch and comes in three age categories. Silver tequila is the freshly made product (around 37,5%) and not given any ageing.
  • spirits named “reposed” have been given a brief period of resting in wood, while those that have been cask-aged long enough (about 1 year), have taken up the same colour from the wood – these are knows as “anejo”. They are similar to gold colour.

Recipes for tequila cocktails (source: The Definitive Cocktail Book by Jeffrey Benson and Stuart Walton)

When you create new cocktail recipes, you can combine these spirits with

  • juices (orange, ananas, line, lemon, grapefruit, cranberry, etc…) or fresh fruit for blended cocktails,
  • soda (in such case, just top up in the glass, never shake the soda)
  • liquor such as triple sec – which is an orange base modificatory of taste. (this is the cheaper version). Blu Curacao, Stock Orange, Bitter orange, Couintreau or Grand Marnier are more expensive liquors but taste and flavour is richer too
  • marmelade
  • syrups
  • tonics of different flavour

Additional notes for this lesson

Finally, a couple of things to keep in mind. Some of the recipes might contain raw egg yolks. Make sure, the eggs you use are biological, however, it is not advisable to prepare cocktails for whose with impaired immune systems, the elderly or pregnant women.

A sprinkling of nutmeg on the surface should be avoided by migraine sufferers.

As previously stated, one measure is 25ml (1fl) = 5 teaspoons

A dash is a dribble that escapes from a bottle, when it is very quickly tilted over the shaker or jug. This whole operation should take less than a second.

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