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The global cocktail community is booming with more consumers favoring a delicious mixed beverage when ordering a drink at the bar. With so many types of cocktails to choose from it is important that bartenders know their short drinks from their stirred and recognize the correct occasion to serve them.

The DBA team has put together the ultimate guide to cocktails detailing the most popular types of cocktail styles, why to serve them and when to serve them.


Getting up to speed with cocktail styles is vital for the modern bartender. Not only will it grow your confidence and provide knowledge and information about your drinks, but it will also improve customer experience with 9 out of 10 customers agreeing they would buy a drink again if it was served correctly.

An increased focus on cocktail service in the bar is likely to drive footfall as it gives customers more reason to visit; remember offering customers something they can’t sample at home encourages more visits to your bar! Offering a cocktail menu also helps differentiate your bar from competitors, helping you stand out from the crowd. And bar owners, offering cocktails can help your back pocket too. Research suggests you can increase your margin significantly by offering spirits cocktails.

At the heart of making great tasting cocktails is mastering the basic principles of taste and flavor and this will help your customers coming back for more. Let’s get you up to speed…


Grasping how your taste buds work will help you understand what will work to make great tasting cocktails. The main tastes we recognize are:

Sweet – Sugar syrups, fruit juice, cordials

Sour – Citrus fruits like lemon and limes

Bitter – Bitters, vermouth, tea, espresso coffee and some aged spirits

Managing flavor profiles and using the right proportions for your drinks will create perfect balance.

A classic example of nailing these flavor characteristics is to think of making cocktails using the following formula:


By applying this formula you will create perfectly balanced cocktails. Take the ingredients that make up a classic Mojito. The sugar syrup is sweet, the lime juice is sour, ice and soda water are the weak component and the rum is the strong component - combined these ingredients make the perfect balanced mojito drink in a nutshell, keep it simple!

Different styles will appeal to different people and occasions, the next step in the journey for mastering cocktail service.


Different occasions determine different drinking habits and it is important as bartenders to identify the different occasions to provide customers with the best service.

A casual get together with friends will involve a relaxed, informal approach when customers are most concerned about spending time with friends rather than the drinks they consume. In such occasions customers are more inclined to select drinks they know and feel comfortable with tending to pick lager and wine. In casual drinking occasions people do not want to stand out from the crowd and instead make group default choices that are acceptable for everyone. Bartenders can maximize opportunities around casual drinking occasions by ensuring that drinks are an integral part of the evening by offering a selection of group serves. In summer month’s a Pimm’s No.1® jug makes a perfect group serve and for winter month’s Captain Morgan® Black Toddy is a perfect way to warm up!

Having a quiet drink is a popular way consumers try to unwind and relax, with males predominantly choosing a standard lager and women a glass of wine. Spirits appear more complicated in such occasions and therefore consumers choose drinks they feel better acquainted with. Bars should reflect this desire for more casual, less complicated drinks by offering a few cocktails, brilliantly served and with high visibility. This makes selecting a mixed drink a straightforward choice for customers. Over complicated, long menus can be off putting for informal situations. Why not try a Captain Morgan® Cuba Libre as a simple, uncomplicated cocktail serve to tempt your customers? Ensure high visibility to attract you guests.

Many consumers choose a bar setting to celebrate special occasions, with consumption of champagne and local spirits the norm. Premium spirits may not be considered value for money in such occasions although consumers still want to have something symbolizing their success. An excellent way for bartenders to capitalize on special, celebratory occasions are by improving serves with unique, visible exclusive branded serves and glassware, giving consumers a feeling of something extra special! A Johnnie Walker® Red Mojito is a perfect celebratory drink as it’s a twist on a classic mojito recipe served in beautiful Johnnie Walker branded glassware – why not give it a go!


Enjoy the refreshing taste of SMIRNOFF® NO. 21 Vodka and ginger beer.


- 1.5 oz SMIRNOFF® NO. 21 Vodka

- 3 oz ginger beer

- 0.25 oz lime juice

- 1 tsp simple syrup

- 1 sprig Mint

- 1 slice lime

In a glass with ice, add SMIRNOFF® NO. 21 Vodka, sugar syrup, and lime juice. Top with ginger beer and stir. Garnish with mint sprig and lime slice.


Fresh and fruity – TANQUERAY® Gin and served with fresh lemon over ice and laced with creme de cassis liqueur.


- 1 oz TANQUERAY® London Dry Gin

- 0.5 oz creme de cassis liqueur

- 0.75 oz fresh lemon juice

- 0.5 oz simple syrup

- 5 blackberries

In a shaker combine the first 4 ingredients with ice. Shake well. Strain into an ice filled rocks glass. Pour the creme de cassis liqueur over the top. Garnish with a lime wheel and/or blackberries.

All drink recipes within this site contain no more than 0.6 fl. oz. (14 grams) of alcohol per serving, equivalent to one standard U.S. drink.

Want to further your bar knowledge and how you can help you and your team raise the bar? Register to become a member of Diageo Bar Academy for free.