When it comes to the world of alcoholic beverages, not every drink is a “cocktail.” That being said, we’re willing to admit that we use the word quite liberally. Technically speaking, however, a “cocktail” has to have three ingredients: a liquor base, a sweet, and a sour. (Read more about the origins of the word “cocktail” here.)
Get to know the main beverage families…
A cobbler contains a base spirit, gently muddled fruit, and some sort of sweetener (either a simple syrup or a sweet liqueur). Originally, cobblers used sherry or some other kind of fortified wine. Also, a cobbler must have crushed ice and must be served with a straw. This type of drink is similar to a julep. For a contemporary take on a cobbler, check out the Champagne Cobbler drink recipe that we recently shared.
A Collins is made from a base spirit (gin being the base for a Tom Collins, the drink’s original form), fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and soda water. It’s served in a tall Collins glass with ice.
A fizz is quite similar to a Collins. In fact, a Gin Fizz (the best known type of fizz) and a Tom Collins are virtually the same drink. The main difference is that a Tom Collins used “Old Tom Gin” (the grandfather of modern London Dry Gin) and a Gin Fizz originally used an unknown type of early 20th century gin. Also, fizzes are frequently modified by adding egg white and/or cream, as in the Ramos Gin Fizz.
A highball consists of a base spirit with a much larger proportion of non-alcoholic mixer. Typical highballs include these well known combos:
- Gin and tonic
- Scotch and soda
- Jack and Coke
- Pimm’s Cup
- Cuba Libre
- 7 and 7
A punch is characterized as a large-scale, mixed alcoholic beverage with fruit juices and other ingredients. A milk punch, which uses milk instead of juice, is one of the oldest known types of mixed drinks. See our Brandy Milk Punch drink recipe as an example.
A smash (or julep) is essentially a sour with muddled mint leaves. (If you prefer not to muddle, you can just use Amoretti Premium Mojito Mint Syrup.)
A sour is one of the oldest types of cocktails in the book – Jerry Thomas’s famous 1862 book, that is. It consists of a base spirit, a citrus, a sour, and sometimes an egg white. Common examples include the margarita, the Sidecar, and the Kamikaze.