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10 Classic American Cocktails

If you live in the United States, it might surprise you to know that most of the cocktails we love so much – daiquiris, margaritas, bellinis, mojitos, etc. – aren’t American cocktails

Lots of our favorite drinks come from Mexico, Cuba, Italy, Brazil, Ireland, and France.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some excellent American cocktails to choose from, though. 

Old-Fashioned Wisconsin Brandy with Cherry and Orange
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For this list, I’ve pulled together 10 of the most famous American cocktails for you to enjoy. 

Plus, just for fun, in addition to telling you why you’ll love them, I’ll also give you a little snippet about their history. 

So get ready to get educated (and a little tipsy) with these ten American cocktails. 

1. Mint Julep

If you head to the Kentucky Derby to bet on some horses, you’re bound to see a few mint juleps in the crowd, as it’s the Derby’s official drink.

It first appeared in Virginia, though. 

It’s a lightly sweet drink with lots of minty freshness and rich, smoky notes of bourbon underneath.

It has a lovely peachy-orange color and tastes best with lots and lots of ice.

If you’re looking for a fresh, crisp drink to enjoy on a hot summer day, the mint julep is always an excellent choice. 

2. Sazerac

Since many people claim the Sazerac is the United States’ oldest cocktail, it’s probably no surprise that it originated in New Orleans.

It’s a potent, booze-forward drink that features a rye whiskey base, bitters, simple syrup, ice, lemon peel, and an absinthe- (or Herbsaint-) coated glass.

If you enjoy the taste of whiskey, you’ll love the Sazerac; it’s strong and earthy, but it’s a definite classic. 

3. Wisconsin Brandy Old-Fashioned

It’s probably pretty obvious where the Wisconsin brandy old-fashioned originated, but in case it isn’t, I’ll tell you: Wisconsin. 

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It takes the traditional old-fashioned recipe and substitutes brandy for whiskey.

You can make your old-fashioned sweet or sour, depending on your tastes. 

The recipe is the same either way until you get to the wash.

For a sweet old-fashioned, add a lemon-lime soda wash. (Sprite works well.) For a sour version, use grapefruit soda, like Fresca.

Then, simply pick whatever garnishes best suit the tone and taste of your drink. 

4. Tom and Jerry Cocktail

The Tom and Jerry cocktail is a fantastic option if you’re looking for something sweet, spiced, and holiday-friendly. 

To make it, you’ll need eggs, vanilla bean paste, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, cream of tartar, powdered sugar, spiced rum, and boiling water. 

It’s a lot like spiked eggnog, but you’ll use even more spices. 

The history behind this one is a bit more muddled. Most people attribute it to an English author, but it’s an American Christmas tradition, which is why it made the list. 

Additionally, instead of making the cocktail step-by-step as the recipe suggests, you can buy pre-made Tom and Jerry batter from companies based in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North and South Dakota.

So, it may not be an American cocktail strictly speaking, but we’ve definitely made it our own. 

5. Gin Rickey

The Gin Rickey is an American cocktail named after Joe Rickey of Washington D.C., a fan of lobbying for the Democratic party and drinking no-sugar drinks.  

For this simple drink, all you’ll need is gin, lime juice, and club soda to top it all off. Add some lime wheels as garnishes, and you’re good to go. 

It’s a zesty, heavily lime- and gin-flavored drink with lots of bubbles, few calories, and not enough sugar to count.

If you’re on a low-carb or keto diet, this is the cocktail for you. 

6. Classic Manhattan Cocktail

Much like the Wisconsin brandy old-fashioned, the birthplace of the Manhattan is right there in the name. It’s one of New York City’s signature cocktails. 

It’s an elegant, sophisticated drink that you can whip up in just 5 minutes with only three ingredients: bourbon (or rye), sweet red vermouth, and orange bitters. 

The drink’s intricate, unique flavor, which contains notes of caramel, herbs, vanilla, and oak, contributes to its popularity.

It’s a bittersweet drink with a hint of spice in it, as well. 

It’s been around since the late-1800s, and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

7. Hurricane Cocktail Recipe

The Hurricane is another New Orleans favorite, especially for those of us who enjoy sweet, tropical drinks that give us a sugar rush along with our buzz. 

Rumored to have been created as a way of selling off cheap, less tasty rum, the hurricane gets its flavor from passion fruit juice, orange juice, grenadine, simple syrup, and lime juice. 

There’s both dark and white rum in it, so it’s pretty strong, and you’ll add orange slices and maraschino cherries to make it look nice, too. 

It’s a classic party drink if there ever was one, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t enjoy one now and then. 

8. Dirty Martini

The dirty martini is a New York staple, and most people can instantly recognize its light golden color and olive garnishes without any trouble. 

The drink combines two simple ingredients: vodka and olive juice. As a result, it’s a salty, somewhat bitter drink that’s nonetheless delicious. 

It’s a fantastic before- or after-dinner drink, and it pairs well with shrimp, deviled eggs, and other earthy, umami-packed appetizers. 

9. Lynchburg Lemonade

If there are three things the south always gets right, they are sweet tea, fried chicken, and lemonade, so it makes sense that Lynchburg Lemonade comes from Huntsville, Alabama.

You’ll make it with one part each of Jack Daniels, sweet and sour mix, and triple sec.

Then, you’ll add four parts Sprite, and a jar of maraschino cherries and a lemon for the garnish. 

It’s tart, tangy, and supremely refreshing, and if you’re spending your summers in the Alabama heat, you just can’t beat this delicious drink. 

10. Long Island Iced Tea

This last drink is one of the most well-known but underrated drinks in America.

The Long Island iced tea was born in Long Island, New York, and it’s one decadent and dangerous drink. 

It’s so much stronger than people imagine it to be simply because of the sheer amount of liquor you’ll add to it. 

This drink combines tequila, vodka, white rum, triple sec, gin, simple syrup, lemon juice, and Coke.

If you follow the recipe and add only a half-ounce of each, it isn’t too strong. 

Some people, though, add an ounce (or more) of each liquor, and that drink can knock you on your butt pretty quickly. 

And in case you’ve never had one, yes, you read the ingredients correctly.

There’s no actual tea in Long Island Iced Tea, but it takes its name from the color, which looks a lot like tea.

10 Classic American Cocktails

These classic American cocktails never go out of style! From mint juleps to old-fashioneds to Manhattans, show your pride for the US with these yummy drinks.


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American Cocktails

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author avatar
NaTaya Hastings
NaTaya Hastings is a food and recipe writer for Insanely Good Recipes. She’s an educator, boy mom, dog mom, and whatever-stray-enters-the-yard mom. As a result, she's constantly cooking for both humans and animals.

Luckily, she enjoys it!

Though born, raised, and still living in Alabama, her specialty is NOT down-home Southern cooking. Instead, she loves to experiment with Asian, Mexican, Italian, and other ethnic cuisines. She has two mottos when it comes to cooking. “The more spice, the better!” and “There’s no such thing as too much garlic!”

She’s also pretty good with desserts. Especially the easy, no-bake ones.

Her favorite things are cuddling with her four giant dogs, traveling, reading, writing, and hanging out in nature. She’s also pretty excellent at Dominoes.

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