A trimmed-down cocktail ingredient list will still yield some of the most classic and enjoyable drinks. I asked some food writer friends, all well-versed in cooking and the ways of the bar, about their simplest go-to cocktails — no more than three ingredients-ish (does garnish count? We remained agnostic on this point).
And guess what? There wasn't a single repeat in their answers! From the Champagne-driven (Pomegranate Bellini!) to the classic (a Negroni is always a good answer) come get a dozen great drinks to add to your repertoire.
Ready for some easy cocktail inspiration? Take it away, friends...
- The Pomegranate BelliniI usually choose wine over cocktails, but this combination of Prosecco or Champagne, pomegranate juice and pomegranate seeds falls into both categories. It is as beautiful as it is delicious, and makes a perfect start to brunch or an afternoon picnic or barbecue. I keep frozen pomegranate seeds on hand for when they are not in season.
— Marge Perry, of A Sweet and Savory Life and Newsday
Rosemary Gin— Maria Speck, author of Ancient Grains for Modern Meals
...which is best with fresh rosemary from my garden. My husband makes it for me: muddle a twig of rosemary with a wooden spoon inside a small glass. Add a shot of good-quality gin such as Plymouth, and a few cubes of ice. Presto! When the weather is really hot, I thin it with a bit of ice cold sparkling water. Both versions are divine.
The Lazy Woman's Cocktail
I love it! One part gin, 1/2 part lemon juice, a splash of club soda and ice. If I have it on hand a dash of grenadine! Mmm.... so simple and easy. Refreshing too!
— Leela Cyd Ross, food photographer extraordinaire
Gin, sweet vermouth, campari, orange garnish.
My now husband made me my first Negroni in 2010 after I told him I was searching for my "signature drink." Evening Negronis have fueled me through the finish of all my books. To me, they're season-less and the perfect bracing, slightly bitter end to the day.
— Anne Zimmerman, author of M.F.K. Fisher: Musings on Wine and Other Libations
Campari and Champagne
I'm recently in love with Campari and champagne. Pour your desired amount of Campari in a champagne flute, top with your favorite dry champagne, and garnish with a fresh orange slice juiced into the glass. I love pairing this with a heavier appetizer.
— Rachel Tayse Baillieul of Harmonious Homestead
...which sounds high-falutin' and intimidating, but ain't. Equal parts bourbon, Campari, and vermouth (I use Carpano Antica), it's the evil twin to the summery Negroni: deeper, richer, more decadent without overpowering your palate. Or as I like to say, "The Boulevardier is the Colin Firth to the Negroni’s Hugh Grant; equally charming and irresistible, but with just a bit of extra smolder."
— Casey Barber, of Good.Food.Stories and author of Classic Snacks Made from Scratch
Bourbon and Canton Ginger Liqueur
I am never so rushed or unprepared that I cannot pour a big splash of bourbon
and a little splash of Canton ginger liqueur over rocks, finished with a juicy
I combine 1/3 cup vodka, 1 tablespoon peach schnapps and 1 tablespoon peach nectar in a cocktail shaker. Then I strain it into a marini glass over ice. Actually, you don't have to wait til summer. I want one now!
— Grace Young, author of Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
If they have ginger beer I'll go for a Moscow Mule. I mean what could go wrong with vodka, ginger beer and some limes?
— Gaby Dalkin, author of Absolutely Avocados
The French 75
I often make an easy version of a favorite, the French 75, by mixing champagne, gin, and lemonade concentrate. It's easy, fizzy, fabulously cold, and somehow easier for my cocktail-challenged brain than getting just the right amount of sugar and lemon in each glass!
— Jess Thomson, author of Pike Place Market Recipes
I'm all about three ingredient cocktails—and even gathered a collection of them recently—so it's hard to pick a favorite. I'm really into amari (Italian bitter liqueurs meant to be drunk before or after dinner), so the Adriatique from Jackson Cannon of Island Creek Oyster Bar in Boston is right up my alley. It's an ounce of freshly squeezed orange juice, an ounce of Amaro Montenegro, and 1/2 ounce of Aperol. It might be interesting to try it with other amari as well!
— Maggie Hoffman, Editor of Serious Eats Drinks
I recently got into "pink gin" — gin and soda with a few dashes of bitters. Still the all-time best 3-ingredient cocktail is a dirty martini: olives, gin, and dry vermouth. Unless olive brine counts as an ingredient!
— Melia Marden, chef at The Smile, and author of Modern Mediterranean
If you've been keeping count, that's a dozen 3-ingredient cocktails already, but let me give you just one more. My staple, and the one my husband has shaken up on many summer evenings over the past several years:
This is a twist on the Negroni that we learned at the wonderful Alembic in San Francisco. It carries the proportions over of a classic Negroni, but uses aquavit instead of gin (love those caraway notes!), Gran Classico instead of Campari (mellower and very old-school), and Carpano Antica sweet vermouth. It's a little sweet, a little bitter, and very boozy.
Do you make any of these cocktails? Do you have another favorite?
More on 3-Ingredient Cocktails
(Images: Nancy Mitchell)