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The global cocktail community is booming with more consumers favouring 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 recongnise the correct occasion to serve them.

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

From A to Zombies

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 by significantly by offering cocktails as spirit sales simply jump.

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

Cocktail Styles

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

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

A classic example of nailing these flavour 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.

The Occasions

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. Spirit based drinks can be perceived as too strong for mid-week or after work drinks so consumers tend to make choices that reinforce the shared experience. Bartenders can maximise 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 Pimms 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 symbolising the success. An excellent way for bartenders to capitalise 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!

Gender also plays a role in who chooses what cocktails. Males and females demonstrate some differences in taste and these are important to note:

Top 5 cocktails for Men

  1. Mojito
  2. Long Island Iced tea
  3. Old Fashioned
  4. Zombie
  5. Caipirinha

Top 5 cocktails for Women

  1. Mojito
  2. Daiquiri
  3. Long Island Iced Tea
  4. White Russian
  5. Margarita

Once you have mastered these top serves, expand your knowledge with these seves your guests are sure to love.

Moscow Mule

Enjoy the refreshing taste of SMIRNOFF™ Red No.21 Vodka with ginger beer and a dash of Angostura bitters.


50ml SMIRNOFF™ Red No.21

2 Dashes of bitters

100ml Ginger beer

Method: Fill a highball glass with cubed ice and add Smirnoff Red No.21. Add 2 dashes of bitters. Top with ginger beer. Stir to combine and garnish with a lime wedge.

Perfect for: Male l All Seasons l Party nights l Date nights l Sports night l Causal drinks l

Gin Bramble

Fresh and fruity - GORDON'S™ Gin served with fresh lemon over ice and laced with blackberry liqueur.


45ml GORDON'S™ Gin

10ml Blackberry liqueur

10ml Simple sugar syrup

20ml Freshly squeezed lemon juice

Lemon Wheel


Method: Add Gordon's Gin, sugar syrup and lemon juice to an old fashioned glass. Fill glass three-quarters of the way with crushed ice and churn well. Cap with crushed ice and drizzle with blackberry liqueur. Garnish with lemon wheel and a blackberry.

Perfect for: Female l Summer Drinks l Party nights l Date nights l Girls night l Causal drinks l

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 here.

The GORDONS and SMIRNOFF words and associated logos are trade marks (C) Diageo 2015.

All statistics are sourced from the CGA Strategy Mixed Drinks Report, 2013.