Here’s one thing that cannot be denied: sometimes, the old ways are the best. This is true when it comes to fashion (a sharp suit and tie kicks any trend or whim of style out of the park every single time), when it comes to music, art and film (sure, there are some exceptions… but we all know this to be a fact), and it’s also equally the case when it comes to drinks.

The drinking culture in the world’s more stylish cities is demonstrating a considerable swing to the past. While the previous decade revelled in its youthfulness, bringing the luridly-coloured cocktail pitcher and drinks menus made up of punny, lewd (but not actually funny) names, more recent years have seen cocktail bars grow up a bit – and thank goodness for that.

Every man refined should be comfortable in their drinking choices. The question ‘what’s your poison?’ has to be answered confidently, and with style and poise – no gentleman ever impressed their company by ordering Sex on the Beach. The simple fact is, there are plenty of classic cocktails out there which every good mixologist should be able to put together with aplomb and flair, and – just like with almost everything else – it’s the classics that make the best impression and provide the most pleasure.

But which classic cocktails are the sophisticated choices to opt for? Which belong in every gentleman’s repertoire, and provide a sense of old-time bliss and depth of flavour which is hard to beat? As ever, A Man Refined is here to guide you through the best of the best.

For the Summer Evenings: Tom Collins

Classic cocktails Tom Collins

The Tom Collins is a genuine classic long drink, ideal for those hot summer evenings. Served in a tall glass over lots of ice, it’s a stylish beverage which will keep you cool while keeping you looking cool, too. Since gin has become such an ‘in’ drink over the past three or four years, we’re seeing plenty of exciting new variations on this timeless cocktail, making the most of the botanical aspects of the spirits involved.

Essentially, a Tom Collins is comprised of a few basic ingredients. These are:

  • 1.5 oz of gin (we like Sipsmith Gin, but London gins such as Bombay Sapphire will absolutely suffice)
  • 0.5 oz simple sugar syrup
  • The juice of ½ lemon
  • A dash of soda water

Shaken and poured over ice, this cocktail is as refreshing as it is elegant. Traditionally, the Tom Collins would be served with a slice of orange, but nowadays, it seems anything goes – slivers of cucumber, rhubarb stalks… it’s a brave new world of garnishes out there!

For the Internationalist: The Sidecar

Classic cocktails - The Sidecar

The Sidecar is a classic cocktail which was popularised in France and remains popular in the bars and bistros of Paris to this day. Why? Because it celebrates the fine traditions of Gallic distilling and puts not one, but two beautiful French spirits front and centre on the palate. This cocktail is, as such, the perfect choice for the modern gentleman wishing to show off his international connections and well-travelled heels.

The Sidecar is comprised of:

  • 0.75 oz Cointreau
  • 0.75 oz lemon juice
  • 1.5 oz Cognac

Simply shaken and poured into a Martini glass, with a lightly sugared rim, this cocktail is the essence of simplicity, sophistication, and faith in the depth and complexity of its own flavours. Garnish with a lemon twist – nothing else!

For The Traditionalist: The Martini

Classic cocktails - The Martini

There are plenty of people out there who claim that the classic Martini cocktail is the only cocktail suitable for a gentleman and that no others should ever be considered. While we don’t completely agree with this sentiment, it’s easy to see why some would come to this conclusion; it’s a remarkably sophisticated, simple and direct cocktail, perfectly suited for the modern gentleman who knows what he likes and isn’t interested in messing around with the classics. It’s a sexy drink, too – clear as water, fresh on the palate, and associated with countless smooth-talkers of the silver screen. If it’s good enough for Cary Grant, James Bond and Humphrey Bogart… it’s good enough for any of you.

What makes a Martini? Well, it’s a surprisingly complex question. There are countless variations on the original – even James Bond prefers his with vodka to gin – and modern times have brought in the idea of everything from ‘dirty’ Martinis made with all sorts of added ingredients, to the frankly vile fruit-based and coffee-based numbers you see today.

If in doubt, stick to the tried and tested classic.

  • 4 parts Gin
  • 1 part dry Vermouth
  • Olive or orange twist garnish.

Served ice cold (and I mean ice cold… a room temperature Martini isn’t easy to drink at all), it’s the ultimate cocktail for any night out.

For the City Slicker: The Manhattan

Classic cocktails - The Manhattan

Few cocktails are as evocative as The Manhattan. It brings us immediately to thoughts of smoky New York speakeasy bars, jazz dives and the kinds of places where deals were made, new dances were dreamed up, and where men were men and women were women. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

If you’re the kind of man who is happiest chilling in a bar listening to Miles Davis, and watching the world go by, then this cocktail is sure to hit all the right notes. It’s the taste of another (and considerably more stylish) time.

The Manhattan follows a similar balance to the Martini:

  • 3 parts Rye Whiskey (NEVER Bourbon or Scotch)
  • 1 part sweet red Vermouth
  • A dash of bitters

Shaken with lots of ice (which slightly dilutes the whiskey and brings out the subtleties of its flavours), it slips down like a John Coltrane sax solo on the palate. Nice!

For the Connoisseur: The Old Fashioned

Classic cocktails - The Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned is a classic whiskey-based cocktail which acts as a sort of benchmark for the skills of a mixologist: if you can put together a perfect Old Fashioned, with the right balance and best selection of whiskey, you can do pretty much anything.

It’s traditionally a Bourbon cocktail, but recent years have seen whiskey fans take a greater interest in other old-time American whiskey styles, with Rye becoming increasingly fashionable. That’s no bad thing for Old Fashioned fans, as one made with Canadian or American Rye Whiskey is possibly even better than the original. This spirit has a slightly spicier edge that adds a delicious layer of complexity.

To make an Old Fashioned:

  • Place a sugar cube in a glass
  • Add three dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Add a splash of soda
  • Muddle the sugar and water together until dissolved
  • Fill glass with ice cubes
  • Top up with quality Bourbon or Rye Whiskey
  • Stir, and garnish with a maraschino cherry and slice of orange

So, there you have it: 5 classic cocktails no gentleman should be without. Cheers!

Benjamin Norris

Benjamin Mitrofan-Norris is an author and journalist from Bristol, England, specialises in luxury lifestyle writing and wine reviews. He is a lover of life's finer things and has a particular fondness for Alsatian and Eastern European wines, which he fell in love with during his three years working in Budapest.
Benjamin Norris

Latest posts by Benjamin Norris (see all)