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Cocktail Ingredients List: 10 Must-Have Lists for Bartenders

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What are cocktails? What do I need to use to make one?

When you think of a cocktail ingredients list, you may think of:

  • A list of types of alcohol to have for mixing drinks-the best ones to include in a liquor bottle display
  • The garnishes you use for cocktails
  • The bitters and other flavor ingredients that make the drinks stand out

If any of these are on your mind, you’re on the right track. A list of cocktail drink ingredients includes all of these options.

Even basic cocktail recipes generally include at least one garnish and a few flavors. The top cocktail ingredients that go into the best drinks are usually pulled from the lists in this article, often including ingredient variants. Any typical bartender job description includes some knowledge of everything on these lists. In fact, any bartender worth their bartender cover letter will feel quite comfortable with the ingredients on this list. In fact, anyone looking to learn how to get a liquor license should be learning these lists as well.

Now, this may seem a little daunting. From common cocktail ingredients to the priciest bitters, there’s a lot to learn. This breakdown of the different cocktail ingredients, from alcohols to garnishes, will make you a cocktail expert in no time. 

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List of Cocktail Drinks Ingredients

To keep the following lists organized, we’ll start off with just the liquids that go into cocktails. This includes liquors and other alcoholic beverages, bitters, and flavorful additions. If you own a bar, these must-have liquors will all have a different place in your recipe costing range.

We’ll begin with a list of the basic liquors you should have on hand for mixing cocktails. They are:

  • Brandy: Brandy has been a favorite for mixologists for ages. From the Sidecar to the Sazerac, brandy is featured in a lot of drinks. While brandy on its own is a deep, sweet liquor, it takes on the flavor of pretty much anything you mix it with. This adaptability makes it a great cocktail mixer. There is also a wide range of brandy benefits that many consumer care about, too.
  • Rum: When thinking of rum cocktails, it’s hard not to think of the rum and coke right away. Of course, there are so many others. From the rum runner drink named after the infamous pirates to the Piña Colada, rum has a place in every second of cocktail history.
  • Vodka: From vodka martinis to the Moscow mule, vodka shows up in unexpected places, which happen to be some of the best vodka cocktails. Vodka has a unique taste that can overpower a drink, but in the right mixes–of which there are many–vodka can be a key component of some of the best cocktails. 
  • Whiskey: Like rum and brandy, whiskey has a unique way of lending itself to many drinks. From the mint julep to the old fashioned, the right whiskey can blend with any flavor, and make any drink even better. Of course, that doesn’t discount the fact that it’s great in a straight shot. 
  • Tequila: Tequila is a liquor with a distinct taste that brings flavor to all the cocktails it’s featured in. One of the most widely loved is the margarita, but tequila shows up in many drinks. It’s even a great shot for people who want something with a slight burn and no bad aftertaste. 
  • Gin: While there is a large variety of gin, it can generally be expected to add a light, floral flavor to any cocktail it mixes with. You can’t beat a gin and tonic, but gin is a liquor that can mix well with a slew of other flavors, not just tonic water. It also works differently depending on the gin brands and the gin spices that are being used.

Within that basic liquor list, there are some fantastic brand options. The shelves of a liquor store can be an intimidating place. We’ll share some of our favorite brands to make the liquor selection process a smoother experience. You'll recognize these as some common bar terms you've heard.

Brandy Liquor List

For brandy, we recommend:

  • Rémy Martin XO
  • Asbach 8 Year
  • Hennessy XO
  • Bertoux
  • Courvoisier XO
  • Germain Robin XO
  • Torres Gran Reserva
  • E&J VSOP
  • E&J VS
  • Philbert

Brandy is one type of liquor that takes time to become familiar with. If you’re having a hard time deciding, a good place to start is looking up which brandy goes best with popular cocktails. Looking into call drinks will give you a taste of the most popular brandy options.

Rum Liquor List

For types of rum, the options may be more familiar (depending on your drink of choice):

  • Denizen
  • Captain Morgan
  • Bacardi Rum
  • Mount Gay
  • Appleton
  • Havana Club
  • Rhum Barbancourt
  • Koloa Rum
  • Ron Barcelo
  • Cotton & Reed
  • Smith & Cross

The main thing to look out for when choosing how to make a cocktail with rum is whether it’s dark or light rum. Dark and light rum have some key differences within the process of distillation, with changes in aging and composition. Those differences have a direct effect on the flavor of the rum. That will make all the difference when it comes time to mix up some drinks.

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Vodka Liquor List

For vodka, you’ll find that a lot of the options have similar tastes. Any of these will make a great Moscow mule. Because of this, the choice is more about personal preference:

  • Grey Goose
  • Absolut
  • Stolichnaya
  • Svedka
  • Ketel One
  • Belvedere
  • Stillhouse Classic Vodka
  • Beluga
  • Hangar 1
  • Pinnacle

Whiskey Liquor List

For whiskey brands, there are no bad choices. Whiskey is one of those classic liquors that works with so many cocktails. Heck, you can even make a variant of a dessert cocktail with whiskey cake.

The variety of whiskey available means there is guaranteed to be one for you. Whether you’re looking for a cocktail ingredient, or you want to know the answer to “Does whiskey help a cold?” there’s a whiskey for you. The list includes:

  • Canadian Club
  • Buchanan’s
  • Knob Creek
  • Four Roses
  • The Glenlivet
  • Southern Comfort
  • Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey
  • Black Velvet
  • Seagram’s 7
  • Woodford Reserve
  • Johnnie Walker
  • Bulleit
  • Wild Turkey
  • Maker’s Mark
  • Jameson
  • Jim Beam
  • Jack Daniel’s
  • Crown Royal

This list includes favorite whiskey brands and new up-and-comers. To make a whiskey drink, a brand from this list will do the trick.

Tequila Liquor List

Tequila is another liquor made by a lot of well-known brands (some of the best tequila brands are highly recognizable). There are types of tequila for everyone and every drink, from well drink options to key brand names (some of which are the best tequila for margaritas). Some of the best for both straight shots (like the best sipping tequila) and cocktails include:

  • Roca Patrón
  • Casamigos
  • Santo
  • Fortaleza
  • Casa Noble
  • Código 1530
  • Chamucos Blanco
  • Cenote
  • Teremana Small Batch Tequila
  • Dano’s Dangerous Tequila
  • Sauza
  • el Jimador
  • Olmeca Altos
  • 818
  • 1800
  • Espolòn
  • Patrón

Gin Liquor List

For gin, the list is just as delightful. Gin is a liquor with a lot of flavor options. This list covers a lot of them, to work for easy spring cocktails and everything else:

  • Tanqueray
  • Beefeater
  • Plymouth
  • Bombay Sapphire
  • Gordon’s
  • Hendrick’s 
  • Scapegrace Black
  • Ginarte
  • Fundy Gin
  • TUCK Gin
  • Sông Cái Việt Nam Dry Gin
  • Sipsmith
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Cocktail Ingredients List: Other Alcohols

Beyond liquors, cocktails also often include other alcohols. These multi-alcohol mixes range from margaritas with beer in them to the New York Sour, which is a whiskey sour with red wine.

If you want to mix up cocktails with other alcohols, the options are endless. You can look in the best bartending books and the best cocktail recipe books to find some recipes. You can also check out the best wine list options and other alcohol charts. That said, you can start off stocking a bar with these common beverages:

  • Red wine types: For a good mix of red wines, we’d recommend Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Malbec, a few red blends, Shiraz, and some sparkling varieties. The cocktails you choose to make may call for others, but starting with those will give you a good mix to begin. 
  • Types of white wine: White wines are less commonly mixed in cocktails, but it’s not completely unheard of. White wine mixes particularly well with lighter liquors and summer cocktails. Some of the best white wines for cocktails are Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Moscato. 
  • Rosé wine: Rosé lends itself to so many flavors. Most cocktails that feature Rosé are summer cocktails, as the wine itself is a light, fruity, warm-weather drink. While a lot of Rosé falls under the same label, if you want to mix it up, a Rosé de Pinot Noir is a good choice. 
  • Beer: A good variety of beer, like IPA beer and different beer brands, will come in handy. From domestic to imported, to cans and bottles, there are so many options. If you’re struggling to choose a few, make a plan for the cocktails you want to mix, and choose beers with flavors that will complement those drinks. 
  • Champagne (or other sparkling wines): Champagne is a base to many cocktails, and a light addition to many others. To have a good mix on hand, you can pick a mix of traditional champagne, prosecco, and sparkling wines. You don’t need anything too pricey, as cheap champagne makes a great mimosa as much as a $150 bottle. 

What Are Bitters?

For bitters, there are plenty of options. If you’re familiar with bitters, you’ve probably heard of Angostura bitters or orange bitters, but there are so many more. Bitters can bring out certain flavors in a cocktail, or they can change up the flavor profile entirely. It all depends on the bitters recipe. There’s something on this list for any type of cocktail: 

  • Hella Cocktail Co. Aromatic Bitters. These bitters are hella good! Their flavor profile includes cinnamon, clove, Jamaican allspice, black peppercorns, caraway, wormwood, and Gentian root. All of that comes together for a strong, spicy flavor that compliments a bloody mary or a whiskey drink. If you want a bitter with some kick, it’s got to be Hella’s.
  • Angostura Aromatic Bitters. A classic bitter choice, Angostura Aromatic Bitters are at home in any kitchen, bar, restaurant, or any place where drinks are being mixed up. With notes of herbs, fruit, and spices, Angostura bitters work with drinks from the old fashioned to a Manhattan. 
  • Copper & Kings Old Fashioned Bitters. These shining examples of bitters come in several flavors. With the original aromatic and zest option, the barrel-aged dark treat, and the gin libations, the range of Copper & Kings bitters will cover all your cocktail needs. The old fashioned, classic packaging will make these stand out in any bar. 
  • Peychaud's Aromatic Cocktail Bitters. These aromatic bitters are just as exceptional as Angostura bitters in their own way. With a zesty, unique flavor, Peychaud’s bitters are a part of every Sazerac cocktail. Steeped in history, a bottle of Peychaud’s belongs on every bartender’s shelf. 
  • Regan's Orange Bitters No. 6. These fruity bitters were created by Gary Regan, the author of Joy of Mixology and all-around cocktail genius. You can guess one part of the flavor profile: oranges. With herbs, caramel, and bitter orange extract, these are an exceptionally unique addition to this list. 
  • Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Cocktail Bitters. Who doesn’t love a bit of chocolate in their cocktails? Mixed up of cacao beans, peppers, and spices, these Aztec Chocolate bitters can be mixed with rum, or even with martinis. You could even mix up a boozy hot chocolate or a twist on a hot toddy. 
  • 18.21 Barrel Aged Havana & Hide Bitters. 18.21 Bitters are named for the 18th Amendment of Prohibition and the 21st Amendment appealing Prohibition, so it’s no wonder these Barrel Aged Havana & Hide Bitters are such a staple of the world of alcohol. With a flavor profiling ranging from rosemary sage syrup to apply cardamom shrub to seasonal pumpkin spice shrub, these unique bitters complement many a cocktail drink.
  • Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Bitters. If you’re looking to hop up a drink to the next level these Hopped Grapefruit Bitters will do the trick. The flavor is a tantalizing mix of hops and grapefruit. Those may seem like a funky mix, but they mix well with anything from gin to tequila.
  • Scrappy’s Celery Bitters. There’s nothing scrappy about these celery bitters. I know what you’re thinking, “Celery? Really?” These bitters are a combination of celery seed a hint of citrus, and trust us, you never knew celery could be this great for a cocktail.  
  • The Bitter Truth Bogart's Bitters. As long as you don’t bogart the bottle, these Bitter Truth bitters, with a mix of dark spice, chocolatey coffee, and European herbs will be a hit at any bar, any party, or any quiet night in. 
  • Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Dandelion and Burdock Bitters. When you think of dandelion, you probably don’t think of a great taste. These dandelion and burdock bitters will change your perception. Based on a British drink from the 1300s, these bitters are a mix of earthy and herbal, and are among the most unique on this list.

For anyone with a deeper curiosity about bitters, learning how to make bitters is a good way to dive in. 

Cocktail Ingredients: Other Liquid Mixers

The flavor in many cocktails also comes from mixers that aren’t alcoholic or bitter in nature. Cocktails like the Screwdriver or the Cosmopolitan use fruit juices to add a unique taste to the flavor profile. The world of cocktail possibilities will open to you once you stock up on a few key juices:

  • Cranberry juice
  • Orange juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Blood orange juice
  • Blueberry juice
  • Apple juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Grape juice
  • Lemon juice
  • Lime juice
  • Cherry juice
  • Pomegranate juice

Cocktail Ingredients: Garnishes

The list of garnishes for cocktails includes general categories. According to Moody Mixologist, garnish categories can be described as “twists, fruit, leaves, flowers, food, and objects.”

Based solely on reading that list, it’s clear that some garnishes are meant to be snacked on, while others are not meant for eating. Flowers, leaves, and objects are (for the most part) used as garnishes to accent the visual appeal of a cocktail. In a way, twists are also about the visual appeal, but they add to the flavor too. 

For the edible garnishes, we’ll get a bit more in depth. When it comes to fruit and food, options to have include:

  • Citrus wedges, slices, and wheels
  • Cocktail or maraschino cherries
  • Pineapple chunks and wedges
  • Melon balls and wedges
  • Passion fruit halves
  • Cucumber ribbons
  • Coconut meat
  • Apple, peach, and pear fans
  • Berries 
  • Pickled vegetables (asparagus is a good choice)
  • Dark chocolate (or any chocolate)
  • Olives stuffed with blue cheese
  • Feta and olives on a skewer
  • Grated nutmeg or cinnamon
  • Cocktail onions

Of course, garnishes are an aspect of cocktail-making where you can really branch out. If something else sounds tasty or interesting, don't be afraid to experiment.

Basic Cocktail Ingredients

Now you know about a lot of cocktail ingredients for every mixed drink you might want to make. But what are those drinks? It’s good to have an idea of what you want to start with. These basic cocktail ingredients can all be used to make–you guessed it–some easy cocktails for beginners. 

Old Fashioned 

The old fashioned is quite the classic. This whiskey drink combines:

  • Bourbon or rye whiskey
  • Angostura bitters
  • A sugar cube
  • An orange twist as a garnish

This is also a cocktail that's easily customizable. Personally, I favor an old fashioned made with Scotch. 


The cosmopolitan has been made famous by the casino and hotel of the same name in Las Vegas, as well as the popular TV show Sex and the City. The cosmo is a mix of:

  • Vodka (a citrus choice is great)
  • Cointreau
  • Lime juice
  • Cranberry juice

The classic cosmo is delicious, but once you’ve mastered it, the vodka easily takes on a lot of different flavors. 


The James Bond classic never goes out of style. To make a simple martini, you need:

  • Gin or vodka
  • Dry vermouth
  • A lemon peel, an olive, or an onion

Shaken or stirred, learning how to make a martini will give you a great bartender card for any party.


For a minty treat, a mojito should be on everyone’s cocktail list. This uniquely sweet cocktail brings together:

  • Mint leaves
  • White rum
  • Lime juice
  • Simple syrup

If you want to get fancy with it, you can even make your own mint simple syrup.

Whiskey Sour

Last but certainly not least, the whiskey sour is a classic, delicious alcoholic drink. This longtime favorite combines:

  • Whiskey
  • Lemon juice
  • Sugar
  • An egg white (optional)

And yes, we know what you’re thinking: “Egg whites and whiskey, what the heck?!” This drink might be best tried for the first time in a bar, but once you taste it, you’ll never go back.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Cocktail Ingredients List Info

We know that was a lot of information, but there's always more you can know about cocktails. Some other common questions include:

Is There A Most Common Ingredient In Cocktails?

This is a hard one to narrow down. Across the long list of cocktails you can make, the most common ingredient shakes out to be lemon or lime juice.

What Are Mocktails Made of?

You can make a mocktail version of basically any cocktail. For a teetotaler, mocktails are great way to enjoy cocktail flavors. That said, sans alcohol, your favorite cocktails might taste a little different. Mocktails often incorporate different sodas (with soda water brands as options), teas, or mixes to get some of that flavor back.

What Is The Best Cocktail Drink?

Whew, another hard one. This is really a matter of opinion, as everyone’s taste preferences are different. That said, to choose just one, the best cocktail drink would have to be one that most everyone enjoys. That's a good old rum and coke.

Which Cocktail is Best For Beginners?

The best cocktail for beginners has to be the rum and coke. A rum and coke can be plain or it can be an experimentation of flavors. Yes, we just mentioned it in the question of the best cocktail; that’s because it really is an all-time great. For beginners, a classic rum and coke is a good way to learn how to mix flavors, and anyone can experiment and improve this simple mix.

What Is Pimm’s?

Pimm’s is a delicious British concoction of gin and several other fruity flavors. Pimm’s is known for being in some of the best British drinks. It can be hard to find in some places in the states, but if you’re a fan of gin and all things British, finding a Pimm’s cocktail is a must.

Can I Substitute Ingredients in a Cocktail Recipe?

Substitutions can be made based on personal preferences or ingredient availability. However, it's essential to consider flavor profiles when substituting to maintain the intended taste of the cocktail.

Are There Non-Alcoholic Alternatives for Cocktail Ingredients?

Yes! There are non-alcoholic alternatives for many cocktail ingredients. Non-alcoholic spirits, flavored syrups, and alcohol-free bitters can be used to create mocktails or virgin versions of cocktails.

What Are Some Unusual Cocktail Ingredients?

Unusual ingredients can include unique fruits, herbs, spices, and specialty syrups. Examples include lychee, cardamom, lavender, or infusions with uncommon botanicals. With all of these cocktail ingredients, you can create drinks that will stand out from the rest.

Shake It Up: Cocktail Ingredients List

With all that cocktail knowledge, you're ready to head off to the liquor store, then whip up some of your own cocktails. If you're looking for more cocktail options, check out our winter cocktails, fall cocktails, or summer cocktails ideas. If you want to learn more about cocktails in general, look into the cocktail definition to fully immerse yourself in these carefully crafted drinks.

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