How to Make 3 Classic (Not-Too-Sweet) Cocktails

Try these three easy recipes that include non-fruity cocktails for men.

Even when applied to the seemingly straightforward world of cocktails, gender stereotypes can get you in trouble. For instance, you might want to think twice before assuming the woman in the lounge chair is drinking an appletini.

That being said, if you were to show me the average bridal party and bet me $1,000 to guess what’s stocked up in their bar, I’d say bubbly, vodka, and (these days, anyway) White Claw. And I’d be $1,000 richer.

Plenty of women prefer beer, or after a “hell of a day,” a Grey Goose martini. And there are plenty of dudes who prefer their drinks on the traditionally feminine side of the spectrum — sweet, fruity, colorful, miniature umbrellas, the whole shebang. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

In fact, check out the cocktail list at a chain restaurant like Applebee’s (if they have one) and it’s going to be dominated by sweet and fruity drinks. Thanks to the craft cocktail boom we’re enjoying in cities big and small across the country, however, these sweet concoctions are being balanced by more simple and subtle, more spirit-forward, and more balanced tipples.

To any cocktail novice, though, all these concepts might as well be written in Klingon. Never fear: I’m here to help demystify this strange new world of craft cocktails. So if you’re a man looking for a go-to, masculine drink; if you’re tasked with stocking a bar for a guys’ night or a bachelor party; or if you’re just curious about what else is out there beyond the cosmopolitans, blended margaritas, and pina coladas of the world, you’ve come to the right place.

Old Fashioned

2.5 oz bourbon
.25 oz heavy simple syrup
2-3 dashes bitters

Garnish: cherry, orange rip
Equipment: glass, stir spoon, julep (or hawthorn) strainer
Glassware: lowball

The Old Fashioned is the OG of cocktails. Comprised of just one spirit, the Old Fashioned is typically served with whiskey, but any hard liquor can be substituted for the bourbon. (My favorite variations include rum and mezcal, although because you can’t hide the base spirit, these drinks are highly variable depending on brands and styles).

The idea is simple: mix a base spirit on ice with syrup and bitters. The combination of dilution and sweetness softens the spirit ever so slightly. The result is a simple, spirit-forward (i.e. it tastes boozy), slightly sweet sipper. So simple, yet so good — and as far as cocktails go, it doesn’t get any manlier.


Combine bourbon (I recommend Knob Creek), simple syrup (which is just sugar dissolved into water at a 1:1 ratio, though I prefer 2:1), and bitters (Angostura is the classic) in a glass and then fill with ice. Stir for 30-60 seconds (or longer) to taste. Strain into a lowball glass, then top with ice and insert a strip of orange peel plus a cocktail cherry.


2 oz gin
1 oz dry vermouth
2 dashes bitters

Garnish: strip of lemon peel
Equipment: glass, stir spoon, strainer, mesh strainer
Glassware: martini glass

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that James Bond is something of an archetype of modern masculinity. And anybody who’s seen a James Bond movie (or read the books!) knows that 007’s drink of choice is a dry martini, “shaken, not stirred.”

Just as Bond is worth emulating in some ways but not all, any self-respecting man should definitely know how to make a classic dry martini. But go ahead and skip the “shaken, not stirred” nonsense. That line makes for great literary imagery, and also lousy drinks. Use this general rule of thumb when mixing cocktails: don’t shake it unless you have to. And the martini mixes just fine by stirring.

The key to a good martini is good ingredients because both spirits are subtle enough that you’re going to get a healthy dose of flavor from both. I prefer Tanqueray and Dolin vermouth, and orange bitters offer just enough without dominating either. Oh, and for goodness sakes, refrigerate your vermouth, as it will otherwise sour after a week of use.


Combine gin, vermouth, and bitters in a glass and then fill with ice. Stir to taste. Double-strain into a martini glass, and insert a strip of lemon peel, yellow-side up.


2 oz cognac
.75 oz dry curacao
.75 oz lemon juice
.25 oz heavy simple syrup

Garnish: orange rip
Equipment: Shaker, strainer, mesh strainer
Glassware: Nick and Nora

And now to the dirty little secret of manly cocktails: there’s no drink that’s actually off-limits or taboo. Just like clothes for men are often made with the exact same fabrics as those for women — even down to the pattern — often the only discernible difference from a drink commonly understood as girly is the presentation (i.e., the glassware, garnish, etc.). Even the martini glass itself has a properly feminine character to it, and as a result, some men who drink martinis or their variations (Manhattan, negroni, et al.) will opt for a lowball glass instead, simply for optics.

Take the margarita and the gimlet, for instance. The margarita is one of the girlier drinks around while the gimlet is typically a safer bet on the manlier side of things. Ingredients-wise, however, they’re fairly identical — with the classic gimlet (gin, lime juice, simple syrup) perhaps being even sweeter than the classic margarita (tequila, lime juice, triple sec, simple syrup).

Which brings us to another classic daisy-style (margarita is literally “daisy” in Spanish) drink, the sidecar. Thanks to the cognac, the sidecar can play in the colder months when typically drinks take on heavier, richer characteristics. Visually, it won’t be quite as bright as a lime-green margarita, but without losing the bright, fresh flavor of citrus.

And yes, if a stemmed glass offends your masculine sensitivities, swap out a lowball glass instead.


Combine cognac (Courvoisier works just fine), dry curacao (Pierre Ferrand), lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker and then fill with ice. Shake vigorously. Double-strain into a glass, and insert a strip of orange peel, orange side up.


Grotto quote graphic about cocktails for men: "Old fashioned: 2.5 oz bourbon, 0.25 oz heavy simple syrup, 2-3 dashes bitters, ice; martini: 2 oz. gin, 1 oz dry vermouth, 2 dashes bitters, ice; sidebar: 2 oz. cognac, 0.75 oz dry curacao, 0.75 oz lemon juice, 0.25 oz heavy simply syrup."

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