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How to Mix a Cocktail

Introduction to the origin of cocktails and several classic cocktail recipes.

Types of Base Spirits

The base spirit plays a dominant role in cocktail mixing. There are generally six types of base spirits: Vodka, Whiskey, Rum, Gin, Brandy, and Tequila.


Vodka is made by distilling and purifying ethanol with water. It is usually distilled three times to achieve a purer taste. During the distillation process, potatoes, syrup, rye, or wheat may be added, along with a moderate amount of flavorings. The alcohol content of vodka is typically between 35% and 50%, with 40% being the standard for traditional vodka. Vodka is known for its versatility and can be paired with various ingredients to create different flavors.


Whiskey is considered a type of spirits (as mentioned in the lyrics of "Hotel California" - "We haven't had that spirit here since 1969"). Whiskey produced in Scotland and Canada is spelled as "Whisky," while whiskey produced in the United States and Ireland is spelled as "Whiskey." It can be divided into several types:

  • Scotch Whisky: Produced in Scotland, traditional methods involve adding coal ash during the production process.
  • Bourbon Whiskey: Made using corn syrup (slightly sweet), its production method is similar to making sourdough bread, with some de-alcoholized beer added during fermentation.
  • Irish Whiskey: Produced in Ireland, the birthplace of whiskey, it is said to have been originally made using distillation techniques passed down from monasteries to the general public.


Rum is made by fermenting and distilling by-products of sugarcane, such as sugarcane juice or molasses. The distillate is a clear liquid, and traditional methods involve aging it in oak barrels. Rum originated from the ancient process of refining sugarcane, where sugarcane juice was heated to evaporate the water and crystallize the sugar, leaving behind a residue that could not be further heated (carbonized) and was made into caramel. However, the New England colonists discovered that it could be used for brewing, giving birth to rum. Modern rum production has added a maturation period to cater to modern tastes, resulting in a smoother and more caramel-flavored rum.

An interesting fact is that rum has deep connections with the British Royal Navy and pirates during the Age of Exploration. It was even used as a form of currency during the Triangular Trade.


Gin, also known as juniper-flavored spirit, is primarily flavored with juniper berries. It originated in the Netherlands and was initially used as medicine rather than a casual beverage. It is a neutral spirit made from grains and infused with various botanicals and spices, with juniper berries being the main ingredient.


Brandy, commonly known as "洋酒" in Chinese, is distilled wine. One liter of brandy usually requires the concentration of eight liters of wine. Common classifications include VS (aged for at least three years), VSOP (aged for at least four years), Napoleon (aged for at least six years), XO (aged for at least ten years), and Extra (aged for at least fifteen years). Of course, good brandy is best enjoyed on its own, and using it in cocktails would be a waste.


Tequila is known as the "soul of Mexico" and is a strong liquor made from the agave plant. It originated from the indigenous civilizations in Central America, who fermented the sweet and juicy agave to make alcohol. Later, Spanish colonizers improved the alcohol content through distillation, gradually replacing the fermentation method.

Cocktail Mixing Terminology

  • Build/Pour: Pour directly into the glass.
  • Straight-up: Drink it neat.
  • On the rocks: Serve over ice.
  • Blend: Mix using a blender.
  • Shake: Shake with ice in a cocktail shaker.
  • Stir: Stir the clear and colorless base spirit with ice in a mixing glass to chill.
  • Muddling: Extract juice from solid ingredients (can be done by pressing with a muddler).
  • Layer: Create distinct layers.
  • Float: Create a cascading effect by pouring a top layer of liquid.

Classic Cocktail Recipes


Martini, also known as the "king of cocktails," is a classic cocktail.


  • 60 ml gin
  • 10 ml dry vermouth

Preparation: Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice cubes, stir well, and strain into a martini glass.

Garnish: Optionally, add a squeeze of lemon peel or a green olive.

Cuba Libre

Cuba Libre originated in Cuba, which gained independence in the early 20th century, during the Spanish-American War. It became popular due to its simple recipe and affordable ingredients.


  • 50 ml rum (Bacardi white rum)
  • 120 ml cola
  • 10 ml fresh lime juice or lemon juice

Preparation: Pour all ingredients into a highball glass filled with ice cubes.

Long Island Iced Tea

The main ingredients in Long Island Iced Tea are vodka, tequila, and gin, with an alcohol content of approximately 30%. Due to its high sugar content and sweet taste, it masks the strong alcoholic flavor and can easily lead to unintentional excessive consumption and intoxication.


  • 15 ml vodka
  • 15 ml tequila
  • 15 ml white rum
  • 15 ml gin
  • 15 ml Cointreau
  • 30 ml lemon juice
  • 20 ml simple syrup (or 1 teaspoon of sugar)
  • Fill with cola

Preparation: Pour all ingredients into a highball glass filled with ice cubes, then gently stir.

Garnish: Optionally, garnish with a lemon slice.



  • 50 ml tequila (100% agave)
  • 20 ml Cointreau or Triple Sec
  • 15 ml freshly squeezed lime juice (or 30 ml lime juice from a bottle)

Preparation: Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice cubes, shake well, and strain into a chilled margarita glass.

Garnish: Optionally, rim the glass with salt.



  • 45 ml white rum
  • 20 ml fresh lime juice
  • 6 mint leaves
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • Soda water

Preparation: Mix the mint leaves, sugar, and lime juice, add a splash of soda water, and fill the glass with ice cubes. Pour in the rum, then add more soda water. Gently stir to mix all the ingredients.

Garnish: Mint leaves and a lemon slice.

Tequila Sunrise


  • 45 ml tequila
  • 90 ml fresh orange juice
  • 15 ml grenadine syrup (Grenadine)

Preparation: Pour tequila and orange juice directly into a highball glass filled with ice cubes, add grenadine syrup to create a color effect (sunrise), do not stir.

Garnish: Decorate with half an orange slice or orange peel.

Whisky Sour


  • 45 ml bourbon whiskey
  • 25 ml fresh lemon juice
  • 20 ml simple syrup (or 1 teaspoon of sugar)
  • 20 ml egg white (optional)

Preparation: Pour all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice cubes, shake well, and strain into a glass filled with ice balls.

Garnish: Decorate with half an orange slice and a cherry, or optionally use orange peel.

References and Acknowledgments

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