Due to the social distancing and emergency measures intended to halt the spread of the Covid-19 Coronavirus, many people around the country (and world) are finding themselves stuck at home, while many bars and restaurants are shut down entirely. Sometimes, weathering the storm calls for a drink, but this time, you’ll have to do it from home instead of stopping into your favorite local spot.
Fortunately, there are plenty of easy cocktails to make, with just a few bottles and garnishes (and to stock up your home bar, here’s what to buy). These basic mixed drinks are easy templates that have scores of variations. Swap in spirits, liqueurs, and garnishes, and find the adaptations you like best.
In 1876, the Manhattan was invented for a dinner in honor of then-presidential candidate Samuel Tilden, held at (where else?) the Manhattan hotel. Tilden lost the election, but the drink lives on. The recipe (rye, sweet vermouth, and a dash of bitters) is simple and endlessly variable, but there are some tried-and-true best practices. Bonus: This classic cocktail can be served in a variety of glassware from coupes to Old Fashioned glasses. And yes, you can even serve your Manhattan over a large ice cube, experts say.
If you’re not planning on getting out of pajamas any time soon, you might as well go the Nick and Nora route and mix up a classic Martini. Dating to the 19th century, this may be the oldest two-ingredient cocktail out there: All you need is gin (or vodka), and dry vermouth. The proportions are up to you (here’s our recipe), but make sure it’s as cold as possible. And follow these best practices to master the cocktail. You could garnish with a twist of lemon or open up a jar of cocktail olives to garnish.
Next Steps: After mastering the Martini, swap out that olive for a cocktail onion for a Gibson. Alternately, try giving the glass a quick rinse with Scotch to add a smoky, savory note. No vermouth? No problem — take Noël Coward’s advice: Just fill your glass with gin, and “[wave] it in the general direction of Italy.”
Equally boozy, sweet, and bitter, the Negroni is the epitome of a balanced cocktail. Though its origins are debated (was it invented at the request of Pascal Olivier de Negroni, a Corsican hero of the Franco-Prussian War, or his younger relative Camillo in 1919?), the recipe is a simple template to follow: equal parts of three ingredients. Classically, that’s gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth.
Next Steps: For something even simpler, mix Campari and vermouth with a little seltzer for a refreshing Americano, the Negroni’s predecessor. For those who prefer their spirits darker, the earthy sweetness of an aged rum Negroni balances the bitter Campari. Or go for another classic, swapping out gin for bourbon or rye to make a Boulevardier.
Dating back at least to the 1860s, the Old Fashioned is one of the earliest cocktails. Fittingly, it’s a simple recipe: a dash or two of bitters, muddled with a bar spoon of sugar. Add ice and a generous pour of whiskey. Traditionally garnished with a twist of orange, you may not have access to fresh citrus while social distancing, so try some orange bitters to get a similar effect.
Next Steps: Any dark spirit can be used to make an Old Fashioned variant. (See our versions with aged rum, Calvados, or Cognac.) Another thought: Try some añejo tequila and stir with a sprig of rosemary to complement the spirit’s vegetal note.
Highballs and 2-Ingredient Cocktails
Not everyone will have a completely well-stocked home bar, or maybe you’ve reached a point where you don’t want to think hard about your drink. Luckily, there are any number of highballs and two-ingredient cocktails that can still quench the thirst in a pinch. These are the kinds of drinks that are usually named after their ingredients, so you know exactly what you’re getting: whiskey and soda, gin and tonic, rum and coke… or a 7 and 7 for a Carter administration throwback.
Next Steps: Aside from ease of mixing, the best part about these simple cocktails is the opportunity for experimentation, which often yields unexpectedly good results with bottles that maybe get a little less play than others. Cynar and soda? It’s like a savory, boozy root beer. Amaretto and Scotch? Congratulations, you’ve just made a Godfather.