There is a time and place for every drink, be it a complex creation featuring a laundry list of rare ingredients, or simple, two-bottle affair. For moments when only the latter will do, we’ve got you covered.
We compiled 20 of the best two-ingredient cocktails. Gin, tequila, vodka, whiskey, bourbon, Scotch, and rum are all included, as are sparkling wine, amaro, and that liqueur bottle gathering dust in the back of your cabinet. All that’s left to do is pour, stir, and sip.
Here is a helpful chart. Keep scrolling down for recipes and other intel.
The classic cocktail has Indo-Anglo origins and remarkable versatility. Gin and Tonics are equally at home at summer picnics, après ski lodges, boozy brunches, or al fresco happy hours.
For those committed to clean palates and trim waistlines (a typical vodka soda clocks in at 100 calories or less), topping vodka with soda water is a reliable standby.
Combine three parts gold rum to two parts Coca-Cola, and you’ll see that Rum and Coke by any other name does indeed taste as sweet. Feeling revolutionary? It was Cuba’s victory drink commemorating sovereignty after the Cuban War of Independence and Spanish-American War.
Ocean Spray created this cocktail, formerly known as the Red Devil, in 1945, in an attempt to convince a hard-drinking public of the alcoholic possibilities of cranberry juice. Whether you currently feel the New England surf in your hair or just wish you did, combining vodka and cranberry juice feels breezy and beachy.
Bourbon and Lemonade
No porch swing? No problem. Adding two fingers of bourbon to a cold glass of lemonade instantly approximates the sensation.
An excellent use for that extra OJ or spare orange in your fridge, Screwdrivers are bright and bracing. Origin stories abound, and possible inventors include WWII-era U.S. Marines, Turkish intelligence agents, and mid-century Middle Eastern oil workers.
Gosling’s Black Seal Dark Rum, which launched in Bermuda in 1806, owns a trademark on this long drink. It packs a lot of flavor into its straightforward rubric: Fill a glass with ice, pour in ginger beer, and float dark rum on top.
Tequila and Grapefruit Soda
A low-fi take on the Paloma, bittersweet grapefruit fizz highlights the vegetal notes in blanco tequila. Jarritos, a popular Mexican soda brand, offers a grapefruit flavor and has widespread distribution in the U.S. Can’t find it? Try a grapefruit Spindrift.
Whiskey and Ginger Ale
Also called a Ginger Ale Highball, this gently sweet long drink is easy to make and drink. It’s especially satisfying with rye, as ginger brings out the spirit’s spicy notes.
Pimm’s No. 1 is a gin-based British liqueur infused with herbs, botanicals, and juices. Serve it over ice, topped with ginger ale and garnished with whatever is in your crisper drawer — cucumber slices, lime wheels, a sprig of mint, orange wedge, or thinly sliced apple.
A traditional Martini features 2 ¾ ounces gin plus ¾ ounce dry vermouth, though custom creations abound. Some drinkers prefer a 50-50 gin and vermouth split, while others swap vermouth for olive juice, or even (gasp) vodka for gin. Granted, classicists wouldn’t consider those variations technically Martinis, but it’s your glass, after all.
Pour a dash of amaretto (approximately ¼ ounce should do the trick) over two fingers of Scotch on the rocks for this easy cocktail that is somewhat reminiscent of an Old Fashioned.
Two parts vodka to one part Kahlua, Black Russians are traditionally served over ice in rocks glasses. Unlike White Russians, these are dairy-free concoctions — making it easier to have a second.
Campari’s bittersweet flavor is surprisingly suited to the breakfast table. Top 1 ½ ounces of the amaro with orange juice, serve over ice, and brace yourself: It’s going to be a good day.
Whiskey and Orange Bitters
Admittedly, this is less a cocktail than a manner of presentation. Simply pour medium-bodied Tennessee or Irish whiskey over ice (preferably one large cube), add three or four dashes of orange bitters, stir, and set sail.
Dry white wine and blackcurrant liqueur come together in an easy-drinking aperitif named for a French priest and decorated WWII resistance fighter, Felix Kir. Its festive cousin, the Kir Royale, swaps white wine for Champagne.
Made with equal parts Aperol and sparkling wine, such as Prosecco, this aperitif was created in Padua, Italy, in 1919, and originally marketed to women and sporty types. Since Gruppo Campari purchased Aperol in 2003, the drink has become a global phenomenon, served in oversized goblets at pool and garden parties worldwide.
Campari and Soda
This low-proof sipper ditches the vermouth in the Americano cocktail for an easy-drinking aperitif that is more bitter than sweet.
A VinePair staff favorite, this dead-simple aperitif features sparkling water with white or rosé Lillet, the fortified wine from Bordeaux. Garnish it according to the season: mint in spring, berries in summertime, a few fresh cranberries in the fall, and sprigs of thyme come winter.