Cocktail classics Cocktail classics

Replenish your at-home bar and elevate your cocktail game with these classic beverages ahead of the festive season.

Christmas and New Year preparations often call for a liquor cabinet restock. This seemingly straightforward task can quickly become daunting when faced with the dizzying array of spirits and wine available. There are so many varieties and flavours to choose from. However, there are a few bar-cart mainstays that are both versatile and delicious.

Jacob Ransom, bartender at Sydney’s NOLA Smokehouse and Bar, and Bartender magazine’s Australian Bar Awards Rookie of the Year 2021 finalist, shares his tips for choosing quality spirits you’ll be sure to get plenty of use out of this summer.

Fruity vodka cocktails
Whisky old fashioned with oranges
Vanilla pods


Vodka’s neutrality makes it the perfect cocktail base as it allows other flavours to shine. “Vodka is a tricky spirit to praise for most bartenders as it’s often not very complex, despite what some vodka connoisseurs might say,” Jacob says.

As a result, differences between brands lie in quality. “This is mostly because the ‘premium’ brands simply re-distil their spirit more times to filter the flavour of the vodka down to nothing, meaning they taste ‘smoother’ as they have less detectable flavours,” he adds.



With a huge range of whiskies from multiple countries, flavour profiles vary widely. However, American whisky gets the vote for cocktails. “The most common styles of American whisky and bourbon are often characterised as having strong notes of vanilla or caramel along with strong oak flavours,” Jacob explains.

Tequila shots with salt and lime
Gin and tonics with fruit garnishes
Cocktail with pomegranate, orange, rosemary
Gin and tonic with lemon and rosemary


Made from the blue agave plant, tequila has three main varieties. “The simplest understanding of the difference here is the ageing (time spent in barrels), with blanco being aged for less than two or three months, reposado being roughly three to 12 months and añejo one to three years,” Jacob says.

Each process results in a different flavour profile. “Blanco tequila allows you to appreciate the purest flavours of the agave without the influence of oak and is definitely my personal preference for any tequila cocktail,” he adds.



A summer staple, this refreshing spirit is a must-have for any bar cart. “While a classic London dry style of gin is reliable and delicious, I personally love to keep trying brands I’ve never tried before,” Jacob says.

Although there are so many options available, Niall Maurici, Venue Manager at Tasmanian distillery Forty Spotted, suggests that this makes it exciting. “The botanical combinations seem endless and keep gin relevant no matter how many new brands flood the market,” he says.


Sparkling wine

Although “champagne is one of the elegant extras in life”, according to literary great Charles Dickens, you can achieve a sophisticated cocktail without breaking the budget.

Sparkling wine is impressive on its own but really packs a punch as a cocktail base. “Champagne cocktails make for some of the most refreshing drinks and are perfect for a sunny day,” Jacob says. “What matters more than the quality of the sparkling wine is the style, such as dry or sweet, as that is what impacts the taste more than anything.”


Quick cocktails

These simple cocktail recipes are classic for a reason—you can even make party prep easy by mixing in batches.

Cocktail shaker with lemon and lime


Create the perfect Moscow mule by pouring 2 parts vodka and 1 part lime juice over ice. Top with ginger beer to complete for a refreshing drink.


For a whisky sour, shake together ice, 2 parts whisky, 1 part lemon juice, ½ part each sugar syrup and egg white.



Make a Tommy’s margarita by shaking together ice, 2 parts tequila, 1 part lime juice and ½ part agave syrup.


A classic gin and tonic is always a cocktail winner. Pour 1 to 2 parts gin over ice then top with tonic water.

Sparkling wine

Simple and sweet, combine champagne and orange juice to make a mimosa.


Originally published in The Costco Connection, Nov/Dec 2021. Pick up the latest copy at your local warehouse or read it online.