While most bars have created specialty cocktail menus to appeal to patrons and guests, if you want to drink off menu, it helps to have an idea of some of the best bar drinks to order. Or at least the vibe and flavors you're looking for. Regardless of what your taste buds like best, bars have a stock of cocktail supplies to whip up a soul-soothing drink.
The Best Classic Drinks to Order
There's a drink for everyone, and these will check the boxes you're looking for. If you need a quick answer, this will help you get your order in quickly. No one wants to wait for the bartender to come back. Don't worry, we'll talk in detail about all these and more.
- Tequila sunrise
- White Russian
- Whiskey sour
- Moscow mule
- Tom Collins
- Whiskey smash
- Aperol spritz
Best Brown Liquor Drinks to Order at a Bar
The internet often considers brown liqueur drinks as a manly bar drink, but don't listen too hard - they're great for anyone who likes brown liquors. Speaking of brown liquors, you might be wondering what those are, and understandably, as many a classic cocktail has a brown liquor at its core: whiskey, Scotch, bourbon, and Cognac or Armagnac.
While crafty bartenders are turning a number of liquors into old-fashioned cocktail riffs these days, the classic is a simple recipe: whiskey, bitters, sugar, and an orange twist. A classic old-fashioned is always a tasty and reliably accessible bar drink. It's a perfectly balanced blend of strong, bitter, and sweet.
For a quick and easy riff, add a little Galliano to your old-fashioned to make it extra special.
Also made with whiskey, a brown derby boasts sweet honey simple syrup and tart grapefruit juice, so it's a sweet, sour, and strong balanced drink - all served chilled. Think summer. But honestly, just as great in the winter.
The Manhattan cocktail is three ingredients: whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. The result is a slightly sweet, strong, and well-balanced cocktail for whiskey lovers. It's most often served chilled and up in a martini or coupe glass garnished with a cherry. However, it isn't totally unusual to enjoy on the rocks from time to time.
If you like your brown liquor on the sweeter, creamier side, give a Brandy Alexander a try. This is best known as a dessert drink, but it's a delicious, creamy blend of brandy, créme de cacao, cream, and a sprinkle of nutmeg. You'll enjoy this chilled, up in a cocktail glass.
The Rob Roy is similar to a Manhattan, but it's made with Scotch whiskey so it has a sweet, smoky, appealing flavor. It's made with bitters, Scotch, and sweet vermouth, served up and chilled in a cocktail glass and garnished with a cherry.
Scotch lovers will enjoy a penicillin cocktail, which is a lovely combination of blended Scotch, ginger-honey syrup, and lemon juice with a float of smoky single malt Scotch on the top. It's sweet, slightly spicy, and nicely smoky.
There are various sazerac recipes, but the basics are the same: combine absinthe, sugar, bitters, and rye whiskey for a balanced, bittersweet whiskey drink with an aromatic edge. The sazerac is served neat in a rocks glass with a twist of lemon.
The vieux carré is a classic Cognac cocktail from down in New Orleans. It's a popular Mardi Gras drink that's a blend of cognac, rye, sweet Vermouth, Bénédictine, and bitters served neat in a chilled rocks glass and garnished with a lemon peel. It's a sweetly herbal drink with a smooth alcoholic edge thanks to the rye and Cognac.
Best Fruity Cocktails to Order at a Bar
People often consider fruity drinks as girly drinks, but they can run the gamut from sweet to sour and can also include popular, and very boozy, tiki drinks. Fruity drinks often work well as non-alcoholic cocktails as well, so they're great for the designated driver. Just remember when you order to specify virgin or mocktail.
Frozen Strawberry Margarita
Whether you want a virgin frozen strawberry margarita, or you prefer yours with a bit of tequila, this is a quintessential fruity bar drink that's lusciously sweet. It's also easy to customize. Replace the strawberries with other fruit for different flavors. Replace the tequila with rum for a strawberry daiquiri.
Rum Runner Daiquiri
If you like sweet, fruity, and tropical, then chances are you'll love a rum runner daiquiri. It's made with rum, banana liqueur, blackberry brandy, lime juice, pineapple juice, sweet and sour, and grenadine and blended with ice to make a colorful, sweet, fruity, purple cocktail.
Sangria is a wine punch made with either red or white wine, brandy, fruit juice, and fruit. It's served chilled over ice in wine glasses, and it's a delicious, fruity punch that's perfect for a warm summer afternoon.
Pretty as a picture, the tequila sunrise is a tropical drink made with orange juice, grenadine, and tequila. The grenadine and orange juice layer to make the drink look like a beautiful sunrise. It's capped off with a garnish of a cherry and orange; a traditional garnish known as a flag.
Some consider the piña colada to be the ultimate tropical drink: smooth, creamy, sweet, and filled with the tropical flavors of coconut cream and pineapple juice combined with tasty rum. You can serve it on the rocks or blended. And there are mocktail versions too.
The screwdriver drink is a simple classic made with orange juice and vodka. It's citrusy and sweet with a mild alcoholic note from the vodka. Serve it on the rocks in a Collins glass.
While an appletini isn't technically a martini, it's named as such because it comes in a martini glass. A classic appletini is a crisp and tart combo of sweet and sour containing vodka, apple schnapps, lime juice, and Cointreau garnished with an apple slice or an apple peel.
The sea breeze cocktail (and its many variations) is a tart, fruity combination of vodka, lime juice, and cranberry juice. It's served in a collins glass or rocks glass over ice and garnished with a lime slice. It's the perfect bar drink for people who like fruity but not so sweet for their cocktails.
Hurricanes are sweetly tropical fruity cocktails. And boozy. Made with passionfruit juice, lime juice, pineapple juice, grenadine, simple syrup, and two types of rum, the strong hurricane cocktail is the perfect drink for people who want a sweet, tropical, fruity cocktail with an alcoholic punch. It's served over ice in a hurricane glass with a cherry-orange flag as garnish.
Sweet Mixed Drinks to Order in Bars
If you prefer your sweet without a side of fruit, then there are still plenty of drinks to order at a bar that will satisfy your sweet tooth.
The black Russian is a sweetly strong coffee-flavored cocktail made with vodka and Kahlúa. It's served over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish? Optional here.
The classic white Russian is sweet, creamy, and coffee flavored. Like the black Russian, it's made with vodka and Kahlúa, but it has heavy cream added for some richness. It's served in a rocks glass over ice.
The mudslide is dessert in a glass. This chocolate and coffee-flavored drink contains Kahlúa, Irish cream, vodka, heavy cream, and ice cream. It's typically blended like a milkshake and served garnished with whipped cream, a drizzle of chocolate syrup, and a cherry.
Most bars don't have ice cream on hand, so they'll use the above ingredients without ice cream and shake it together until it's nice and cold.
The aviation cocktail is a different kind of sweet altogether. Made with gin, maraschino liqueur, and crème de violette, this lovely lavender cocktail is floral, aromatic, and sweet. It'll soar from bar to lips in a chilled coupe.
Best Sour Cocktails to Order in Bars
Sours are typically equal parts sweet (usually simple syrup) and sour (often lemon, lime, or grapefruit juice) to two parts strong. If you like sweet and sour, there are many cocktails you can order at bars.
The whiskey sour is equal parts freshly squeezed lemon juice and simple syrup to two parts whiskey of your choice. It's shaken with ice, strained into an ice-filled rocks glass, and garnished with a cherry or a flag. Some bartenders also dry shake the cocktail with egg whites to add foam at the top. You have to try it.
A traditional daiquiri is a lime and rum sour. It's made with equal parts lime juice and simple syrup with rum and served in a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with a lime wedge.
A basic margarita is essentially a simple tequila lime sour with triple sec as the sweet element. It's served on ice in a cocktail glass rimmed with salt.
The pisco sour is a classic sour preparation made with the Peruvian spirit Pisco. It's a sweet and sour cocktail with a foam of egg white on the top, served neat in a chilled rocks glass.
The caipirinha is Brazil's national drink, made with a Brazilian cane spirit called cachaça. It's made with muddled sugar and lime, cachaça, and ice served in a rocks glass with a lime garnish.
Fizzes to Order at a Bar
Fizzes are simple! Fizzes are essentially sours with a fizzy element, such as club soda, added. The result is a sweet, sour, fizzy cocktail.
The Mexican paloma uses refreshing, tart grapefruit soda as its fizzy element. Plus some tequila, grapefruit juice, and a rim of salt if you're feeling it.
The classic gin fizz is sweet, tart, and refreshing, and it's one of those basic bartending drinks that so many people love.
The Moscow mule is a simple fizz made with lime juice, vodka, and ginger beer as the fizzy element, so it's spicy and refreshing.
The Tom Collins is a popular type of fizz that's a classic gin drink. The fizzy sour is made with lemon juice, simple syrup, and London dry gin that's topped with club soda. It's served on the rocks in a Collins glass garnished with a cherry and orange flag. It's a crisp, aromatic, refreshing fizz.
Minty Bar Drinks to Order
Herbal bar drinks use common herbs such as mint or basil. There are several minty fresh classics you can order in a bar.
The classic mint julep is strong, minty, refreshing, and icy. It's a frosty combination of muddled mint, sugar, and bourbon with lots of crushed ice. You'll find it served in a classic frosty julep cup garnished with a mint sprig.
The mojito is a refreshingly minty drink. Mojitos are made by muddling mint leaves with sugar or simple syrup and adding lime juice, club soda, and rum.
The whiskey smash is similar to the mint julep. It's a combination of muddled mint and lemon combined with simple syrup and whiskey. Quick, easy, refreshing, boozy.
Martini Cocktails to Order in Bars
If you prefer your cocktail a bit dry and aromatic, then you can't go wrong with any of the classic martinis.
- Martinis can range in dryness from almost straight gin to a 1:1 ratio of gin to dry Vermouth.
- A dirty martini adds olive brine to the mix.
- A vodka martini uses vodka in place of gin.
- The vesper martini is James Bond's favorite dry martini with Lillet Blanc, vodka, and gin.
Great Bittersweet Mixed Drinks at Bars
Some people enjoy the balance of bitter and sweet in their cocktails, and these bittersweet drinks are fairly standard in bar repertoires.
Negroni and Boulevardier
The Negroni and its sister drink, the Boulevardier, are both made with the bright sunset-colored bitter liqueur Campari. Sweet vermouth adds sweet to balance the bitter of the Campari.
The Negroni uses gin, while the Boulevardier uses whiskey. Both offer the perfect blend of bitter and sweet that allows these cocktails to serve as apéritifs.
Aperol is quite similar to Campari in both color and bitterness, but it's significantly less bitter, with aromatics of orange peel and herbs. The Aperol spritz is the perfect blend of bitter Aperol with Prosecco, orange, and club soda. It's a bittersweet, refreshing cocktail.
Bar Drinks for Every Taste
Regardless of your personal taste, there's a bar drink you're sure to love. You can even order many of the fruity bar drinks alcohol-free and still enjoy a delicious, non-alcoholic cocktail. The next time you hit the bar, give one of these drinks a try to dip your toes into the cocktail world.