Learn the Foundational Cocktail Recipes - Trident Cocktail

I think there is probably nothing more important for making truly great cocktails than understanding the “Foundational” cocktail recipes. By taking the time to master those cocktails which represent the basic and classical foundations, you will not only better understand all of the other cocktails which are based on them, but you will be better prepared to experiment with creating your own recipes.

In any culinary school, one of the first things that will be drummed into the students are the classic recipes. In French cooking school specifically, students are carefully taught the foundational sauces. Once you understand these sauces, you can then add additional herbs, spices and other appropriate flavorings to tailor the sauce to the specific needs of the moment.

The cocktail world is no different. The classic cocktails can often be thought of in the same light as the foundational sauces of French cuisine. The recipes I will typically encourage people to master are Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Manhattan, Martini, Whiskey Sour, Sidecar, Margarita, Daiquiri, Negroni, Bloody Mary, and Mai Tai. Even in this list, we have drinks which are based upon one another. The Whiskey Sour, Sidecar, Margarita, and Daiquiri are all very close variations of one another, with the Mai Tai being closely related. So even here, understanding how one of these cocktails is just a slightly different expression of another, and how the flavor profile changes due to those differences, goes a long way in better understanding that style of cocktail in general.

- Robert Hess


1 oz Aquavit

1 oz Cynar

1 oz Dry Sherry

2 dashes peach bitters

2 dashes house orange bitters


Stir with ice.

Strain into a cocktail glass.

Garnish with a lemon twist.


Martinobal 26 Feb 2015
10:55 am

Hi, Robert. That Trident sounds good!

I find this concept of understanding the foundations very intriguing, but I wonder how to go about it. I mean, many cocktail books give you a list of the classics, but I still wouldn’t know what makes them work, what variations on them would make sense and which ones would spoil the mix. I guess there’s no real substitute for experience, but are there some general guidelines about what kinds of beverages combine well with what others, which combinations should be avoided, how to decide the correct proportions and so on?

Could you please recommend a book, a website or any other resource to that effect (besides your great videos, which I do watch, of course)?

Robert Hess 26 Feb 2015
1:43 pm


The best way to understand what makes a cocktail work (foundational or not) is through personal experimentation. One of the first cocktails I played around with, was the sidecar, trying all of the variations of the recipes I could find, and trying to figure out what was the underlying flavor character that “made” it a sidecar, and which of the various recipes I felt best represented that. For me, the sidecar isn’t a “tart” drink like a Daiquiri, but it is smoother and more refined, with just enough tartness to balance out the sweetness. It is however within the same basic family as the Daiquiri, Margarita, Lemon Drop, Cosmopolitan, and other “Sour” style drinks. So understanding the overall foundations of the sour style, but at the same time being able to key in on the specific drink, is part of what makes it so exciting.

For books, my own “The Essential Bartenders Guide” (www.CocktailKingdom.com, hardbound is now out of print, but the “Pocket” edition - if you have a big pocket - is still available) has a solid section on the classic/foundational cocktails. But I also highly recommend “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” by David Embury (also on CocktailKingdom.com)

Martinobal 26 Feb 2015
2:58 pm

OK, thanks for the tips!

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