I’ll be the first to admit that while I love a good cocktail—from a frothy pisco sour to a briny dirty martini (with gin, of course)—I rarely ever make one at home. I’m not sure if it’s the pressure of getting the proportions just right, or the fact that I’ve got a limited lineup of syrups, bitters, and spirits, but mixing drinks is usually something I like to leave to the professionals.
Unless I’m entertaining.
When I know guests are coming over, I suddenly feel the urge to shake (or stir) up at least one type of specialty cocktail for the occasion, in addition to beer and wine options. But what to make? I try to stick with recipes that look impressive but are actually pretty hard to mess up (and don’t require a laundry list of hard-to-find tinctures and garnishes).
You might think that criteria would limit you to overdone combos like gin and tonic or cranberry vodka, or exclude some of your go-to orders, but you’d be wrong. In fact, some of the prettiest (and tastiest!) cocktails you’ll find at the bar are actually the easiest to make, including all of the ones on this list.
From a smoky riff on the classic Michelada to a non-alcoholic orange and mint soda, these 14 cocktails are sure to impress your guests, whether you’re hosting a weekend brunch or special-occasion dinner.
1. Lemon Lavender Gin Rickey
With its freshly plucked lavender sprig (you could also use fresh basil or mint) and soft yellow hue, this tart spring sipper might look too beautiful to drink. Luckily, it’s quite simple to make—all you need are a few ingredients and a cocktail shaker.
2. Mezcal Michelada
I’m a sucker for a regular Michelada (essentially a Bloody Mary with beer), so you can imagine how excited I was to discover this mezcal version, which brings a spicy-smoky depth you won’t necessarily find in the original.
3. Orange Ginger Mint Sodas
This citrusy, hot-weather soda makes the perfect brunch mocktail, thanks to its punchy flavors (fresh orange, ginger, and mint) and bubbly effervescence.
4. Rick Pick’s Bloody Mary Mix
I used to think that the best Bloody Marys were the ones served in restaurants—until I made this sublimely spicy mix with Worcestershire, hot sauce, and freshly ground horseradish (plus a few extra secret ingredients) at home.
5. Cucumber-Fennel Fizz
This tangy, herbal drink looks like it belongs on the menu of a spiffy cocktail bar, but it actually comes together in 10 minutes or less and tastes best on hot summer days.
6. The Desert Bird
This sweet-yet-bitter Desert Bird cocktail was born at a bar in San Antonio, Texas, so you know it’s going to be refreshing. With mezcal (or tequila, if you like), pineapple, Campari, lime, and mint, this one-of-a-kind drink is a warm-weather winner.
7. Berry French 75
While a traditional French 75 will have gin or Cognac, other spirits work just as well, especially a berry-infused vodka for a fruity, seasonal kick.
8. Spring Sangria With Strawberries & Mint
It’s easy to tweak a white or red sangria recipe seasonally, so for a spring spin, we’ve combined a light, dry white wine with berry-flavored vodka, fresh lemon juice, sliced strawberries, and a little bit of simple syrup. It’s best made several hours in advance so that the flavors have time to hang out, get acclimated, and bring out the best in each other.
9. Tom Collins
As soon as it gets to be above 50°F outside, give me a Tom Collins and keep them coming. Think of it like boozy lemonade: It’s a super simple, four-ingredient cocktail made only with gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and club soda.
10. The Spring Bloom Cocktail
Winter is over, and we couldn’t be more excited. Let’s toast the arrival of warm weather, tulips and cherry blossoms, and seasonal produce (looking at you, ramps and rhubarb) with a batch of this delightful cocktail. And it couldn’t be easier: In a cocktail shaker, mix together Belvedere Vodka, lemon juice, honey syrup, and ice and shake vigorously; strain it into a cocktail glass, top with soda water, and garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.
11. Aperol Spritz
Okay, okay, fine—technically an Aperol spritz feels more like a summer drink. But on those extra-warm spring days when you start to think that the 45°F weather is finally behind you, break out your largest, tallest wineglass and make this vibrant-hued drink.
12. Rhubarb & Rose Ramos Gin Fizz
When you think of spring, what comes to mind? Probably rhubarb, right? Maybe paired with strawberries or, in this case, a floral element like rose water. An egg white is to thank for the frothy finish on top.
13. Sparkling Rhubarb Lemonade
Technically this is a mocktail, but I see no reason why you couldn’t spike it with the liquor of your choice for a boozy poolside beverage. It’s the most refreshing expression of spring we could imagine.
14. Rosebud (Cointreau, Vodka, Rose Water, Cucumber & Mint Cocktail)
This isn’t the simplest cocktail on our list, but it’s possibly the most delicious. A medley of seasonal ingredients including cucumbers, fresh mint, rose water, and Cointreau (orange liqueur) work in harmony to create the spring beverage of our dreams.
What’s your favorite cocktail to mix up at home? Tell us in the comments below!