The first legal drink as a 21-year-old is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. But when the pressure is on, how do you decide? Before you panic and order a round of shots, check out this list of 21 amazing cocktails. Order any of these for your first drink (and second and third and so on) and you’ll seem wise beyond your years. Know what you want, have an awesome time and prepare for the other tradition: the first post-21 hangover.
1. Moscow Mule
If you order a Moscow mule, make sure it comes in the traditional copper mug for a perfectly chilled cocktail. While there are many variations on the Moscow Mule, my personal favorite is the classic vodka, lime, and ginger beer.
#SpoonTip: Not a vodka fan? You can also try a Kentucky Mule (with bourbon) or a Mayan Mule (with tequila).
2. Lemon Drop
If you usually chase your vodka with lemonade, then try this sweet and tart cocktail. The drink should be shaken and served in a martini glass, adding to the class factor.
3. Harvey Wallbanger
If a screwdriver is your go-to, age it up with some Galliano, a sweet herbal Italian liqueur. Though not as popular as it once was, the Wallbanger is on an upswing with the return of Galliano’s original recipe in 2010.
While a margarita is never a bad choice, next time you’re craving a refreshing tequila cocktail, try the lesser known Paloma. The drink uses grapefruit soda, typically Squirt or Fresca in the United States. You have to cross the border to try the drink with the traditional soda, Jarritos.
5. Mexican Shandy
If you’re usually a beer drinker but want to change things up, a shandy is perfect for you. For a Mexican Shandy, I recommend a pilsner or Mexican lager. The addition of tequila and lime completes the shandy.
6. Tequila Sunrise
This cocktail is perfect for the visual-obsessed drinkers out there. The three ingredients form a beautiful gradient due to their different densities, just like oil and water (thank you, middle school science).
7. Dark and Stormy
The name “Dark ‘N Stormy” is a trademark of Bermuda’s Gosling’s Rum, but you can rock this cocktail with any dark rum. The key to the drink is balancing the proportions of rum and ginger beer.
Don’t break out the blender and ice yet. Instead, try the original, unfrozen Daiquiri. I promise it will still be just as refreshing.
10. Old Fashioned
New York has brought the world so many great things: pizza, bagels, the Spoon University headquarters, and this cocktail. Perfect for rye whiskey lovers, bitters and vermouth combine to make a swanky drink.
12. Mint Julep
If you prefer your drinks on the sweeter side but still want to go the whiskey/bourbon route, here’s the solution.
13. Rob Roy
14. The Godfather
This drink is straightforward: just equal parts Scotch and amaretto, an Italian liqueur. Reportedly a favorite drink of Marlon Brando (though this report came from Disaronno, an amaretto company), many believe the drink is named after the famous movie.
#SpoonTip: Replace the Scotch with vodka to create a Godmother.
15. Rusty Nail
This cocktail goes all the way back to the 1930s, so no wonder it’s rusty. The Rusty Nail is another simple drink, just Scotch and Drambuie liqueur. Though the exact recipe of Drambuie is secret, it contains Scottish heather honey.
This grapefruit juice drink is bright and refreshing, perfect for the summer. I recommend white grapefruit juice over pink or red.
#SpoonTip: A Greyhound can be made with either gin or vodka, so make sure you specify when ordering.
This drink is strong, so pace yourself. The recipe calls for just gin, Campari, and vermouth, but you can add tonic water or orange juice to cut the alcohol content.
18. Gin Sour
You’ve probably heard of a whiskey sour, so now it’s time to meet its little brother: the gin sour. The sour family are all very similar. Take your alcohol of choice, in this case, gin, add lots of lemon juice and even out with sugar.
19. St. Germain Cocktail
If you haven’t tried St. Germain yet, then what are you waiting for? The elder flower liqueur is a fantastic addition to champagne or even white wine. And the cocktail is as simple as anything, just champagne, St. Germain, and a little club soda.
20. French 75
Gin meets champagne in a sparkling cocktail. Named after a French canon from WWI, the drink is as powerful as its namesake. Be careful or it may go straight to your head.
21. Kir Royale
This drink is for all the fruit lovers out there. Made with a black raspberry liqueur, the Kir Royale is as tasty as it is pretty. You can even add some fresh raspberries to increase the fruity flavor.