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What makes a perfect serve, why is it important and how do you make a perfect classic cocktail? Steve Timpson from the Diageo Bar Academy training team explains more and offers his perfect serve recipes for some popular classic cocktails.

The importance of getting a serve right is paramount to maximising sales, generating profit and customer satisfaction. A perfect serve is a key indicator as to whether you are getting the basics right. It builds trust with the consumer and can encourage repeat business. Quality of serves is the second most important reason for visiting an outlet (the first is location!) and nine in ten customers would buy a drink again if it was served correctly. Therefore, it is very important to ensure you deliver great looking and tasting drinks consistently every time! Another key reason to promote a perfect serve in your outlet is that we should be looking to produce drinks that many would struggle to create at home.

What is the perfect serve?

Here are 5 areas to consider every time you make a serve:

The Glass

Make sure you use the right glass for your drink. The glass should always be able to hold the right amount of spirit, mixer, ice and garnish and should be held at the bottom. The most important thing is that the glass is cool, clean, dry and damage free.



Your ice should always be fresh (not wet), preferably cubes and you should always be looking to fill the glass with ice. Always remember the colder your ice the less dilution that will take place ensuring your customer’s first sip is the same as their last.



Pouring accurately ensures you do not waste stock and your customers always get a consistent drink. Always look to upsell to a premium spirit when making a sale and offer both single and double measures to ensure your customer gets exactly what they are looking for.



Another opportunity to go premium and help create a new customer experience. Ensure you leave a little room to ensure spillages are kept to a minimum.



Garnish enhances the flavour of the drink and makes the drink great. Position the garnish neatly at the top to ensure it is fresh.


Perfectly Served Drinks

Perfect serve: The classics

Now we have the basics right let’s take a look at some cocktails. One way to start practising your perfect serve is with popular classic cocktails. Your customers will know what to expect with these cocktails and with their recent revival in popularity, it is especially important to be able to create the perfect serve.

Classic cocktails are steeped in history and mystery. Origins are always contested and it is often impossible to decipher the truth. I have a tendency to lean on stories that are whimsical, romantic or outrageous so please allow for a little poetic licence here!

For the recipes below I have tried to keep everything really simple and made all the serves to the 2:1:1 formula. This means that where the recipe is concerned we should try to make sure we have 2 parts of our strong ingredient (spirit), 1 part of our sour ingredient and 1 part of our sweet ingredient. This simple formula will ensure that all of your cocktails are balanced in flavour and ensures all of the team can deliver consistently on serve.

Tom Collins

Originally a John Collins (a bartender credited with its creation), the current name is widely thought to be born out of the famous Tom Collins Hoax of 1874. Whereby a prankster would ask a friend if they had "seen Tom Collins?" and explain that they'd heard him talking about you! Continuing the "joke" they would say that Tom Collins was round the corner. However, another theory is that it changed when using Old Tom Gin. You can decide. As with many of the classics it comes in a glass of the same name.


Into a highball glass, add the lemon juice, syrup and gin.
Fill it up three-quarters of the way with ice.
Top up soda and lightly stir.
Garnish with a wedge of lemon and a cherry or maybe a sail!

(2.2 standard drinks*- 1.6 units per serve)


Variants of this mixture have been around for decades, though the modern day Cosmo (still disputed). Whatever the origins this citrus sharp concoction is a must for most bars nowadays.


Add all ingredients into shaker with ice. Shake vigorously. Double strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a flamed orange peel.

(3 standard drinks*- 2.4 units per serve)


Contentious is not the word when it comes to the naming of the Margarita. With many rewritten versions of history for this old classic. My favourite is that Carlos Herrara created it in 1938 for Marjorie King the Ziegfeld showgirl.


Moisten the rim of Margarita coupe or cocktail glass.
Dip the rim into a plate of salt and shake off excess.
Shake all ingredients and serve straight or over ice.
Garnish with lime wedge and serve.

(2.9 standard drinks*- 2.4 units per serve)


Crude forms of Mojito were said to have been made as early as 1586 after Francis Drakes ships sailed to Havana. Though the mixture used Aguardiente de cana, this was a crude rum. The Mojito is now a firm favourite and delicious when executed correctly.


Muddle the mint lightly to release the scent.
Half fill a highball glass with crushed ice and add the rum, lime juice and sugar syrup and stir. Fill with more crushed ice, stir and top with soda. Garnish with a mint sprig and lime wedge.

(2 standard drinks*- 1.6 units per serve)

*One standard drink contains 8g of alcohol

Looking for more recipes? Take a look at our recipe database.

Join in the conversation tweet us at @diageobarac, share your serves on Instagram @diageobarac or like us on Facebook – we’d love to see all your creations! Sign up and become a member of Diageo Bar Academy today and unlock the latest industry news, trends and tips to keep your bar knowledge up to speed!