Cocktails are a fantastic way to enjoy alcohol, giving you the chance to enjoy the way that different flavors interact with one another. The problem is that cocktails can be complicated, sometimes requiring multiple types of alcohol and various other ingredients. Thankfully for those who don’t have well-stocked alcohol cabinets, there are a variety of two-ingredient cocktails that you can try as well.
Now, for any given spirit, there are many different mixers that you can rely on, such as ones for whiskey, gin, vodka, or even tequila. There is plenty of overlap too, as ingredients like ginger beer or orange juice can combine with many different spirits. But, that’s not our focus in this list.
Instead, we’re talking about named cocktails that only use two ingredients – like the mimosa. These cocktails are often classics that people come back to time and time again.
Many of them can also be tweaked to make them more interesting. We’re highlighting the base recipe in this post and, where relevant, we’re also providing information about how you can liven up the cocktail.
A greyhound cocktail simply uses grapefruit juice and vodka. Gin is occasionally used instead of vodka, but the end result is similar either way.
The cocktail works well because it has a pleasantly bitter flavor that is surprisingly rare in cocktails. After all, many cocktails are sweet instead, while others get most of their flavor from the alcohol. Having an entirely different flavor profile is an appealing option.
Of course, this bitterness isn’t always popular, which has led to the salty dog variation. With a salty dog cocktail, you’re just including a salt rim on the finished drink.
Doing so might sound odd, but the rim decreases the perceived saltiness of the drink, making it more appealing to many. For that matter, you can add a salt rim to any cocktail that relies on grapefruit.
Gin And Tonic
Despite its simplicity, gin and tonic is still one of the most popular gin-based cocktails. Perhaps this isn’t so surprising. The quinine flavor in tonic helps to make the drink interesting and refreshing, without drowning out the unique botanicals of gin.
There’s also the added advantage that tonic water is easy to find. You can pick up a bottle at most grocery stores without paying much at all.
Plus, there are countless ways to make your gin and tonic more interesting. A simple approach is to add aromatics into the glass with the cocktail, such as herbs, sliced cucumber, or pieces of fresh fruit.
Another option is to include a dash of fruit syrup or some bitters. Both additions change the flavor profile somewhat and create a more complex drink.
Gimlet is another classic gin cocktail, although you can make it with vodka too. This time, you’re combining the spirit with lime cordial. You could make your own lime cordial if this isn’t easy to buy in your local area.
An alternative, if lime cordial is too strong, is to use homemade lime simple syrup instead. This combination provides the same combination of flavors, but the lime ends up being less intense, as you’re largely infusing the simple syrup with lime.
The rusty nail cocktail is an easy way to slightly mellow out the flavors of scotch whiskey. It just relies on the scotch and a honey-infused liqueur called Drambuie. Drambuie is a whiskey liqueur, so it perfectly complements the flavor of the whiskey.
The reliance on liqueur and whiskey also means that this cocktail is stronger than many of the others on this list. This could be perfect if you want to fully enjoy the taste of whiskey, rather than burying it with a mixer.
When made classically, the black Russian just involves vodka and coffee liqueur. Kahlua is the most popular liqueur for the cocktail, although you can use others.
A good starting ratio is to use one part liqueur to two parts vodka. This creates a strong drink with a perfect balance of flavors.
There are two common variations to the cocktail. One is to top it up with cola, which helps to mellow out some of the flavors. The other is to add milk in, which creates a white Russian.
Dark And Stormy
At its simplest, a dark and stormy just involves dark rum and ginger beer. Any brands will do, but intense dark rums often taste best. You can also rely on spicy ginger beer, if available, which works well with the flavors in dark rum.
You’ll often see a dark and stormy made with lime juice as well. While this takes the ingredient count up to three, adding lime provides an interesting layer of citrus flavor, while also mellowing out the drink a little.
This cocktail is a refreshing summer choice. It relies on Aperol and sparkling white wine, generally in equal proportions. Prosecco is a popular choice for the white wine portion of the cocktail, but other sparkling whites can work just as well.
A screwdriver just relies on vodka and orange juice, which means that it largely tastes like orange juice. Freshly squeezed juice is the best, but a screwdriver with orange juice from a grocery store still tastes pretty good too.
Perhaps surprisingly, the vodka that you choose can impact the final drink. Low-quality vodka tends to have impurities and lacks the clean finish that you find with higher quality products.
A Pimm’s cup uses Pimm’s No. 1 liqueur and ginger ale. It is often served with ice and various types of garnish such as sliced cucumbers, slices of orange, and berries.
This cocktail has a more complex flavor profile than many of the others on this list, simply because Pimm’s No. 1 liqueur is also more complex. The cocktail happens to be lower in alcohol content too, as Pimm’s No. 1 has 25% ABV, which is less than most spirits.
You can get around the low alcohol content by spiking the cocktail. Gin is a popular choice for doing so, as Pimm’s No. 1 is gin-based anyway. Other spirits, like whiskey, add an extra element to the flavor profile.
Here’s another orange juice classic. A mimosa relies on champagne and orange juice, although you can use any other sparkling white wine if you would prefer.
As with many of these cocktails, the ratio of the two ingredients is entirely up to you. Some people make strong mimosas, such as those that contain equal parts of orange juice to champagne. In other cases, you might have much more orange juice than champagne.
If you want something strong, a Gibson could be perfect. The cocktail relies on dry vermouth, along with gin or vodka.
You might think that this sounds a lot like a dry martini and you’d be right. The main difference between a dry martini and a Gibson is the garnish. A Gibson tends to be garnished with a pickled onion, while a martini tends to use an olive instead.
While we’re on the topic, a martini is another obvious two-ingredient cocktail, one that can be made with gin or vodka. Using dry vermouth will give you a dry martini, but sweet vermouth is the more typical choice.
The ratio of gin or vodka to vermouth can vary dramatically. One style to consider is the 50/50 martini which, as the name suggests, uses equal parts vermouth to gin or vodka.
Cape Codder is another name for vodka and cranberry juice. You might also hear this combination called a red devil from time-to-time.
Either way, vodka and cranberry juice work well together. The cranberry juice has distinctive tartness, so you’re not left with an overwhelmingly sweet cocktail.
Ginger Ale Highball
This simple long drink combines ginger ale with whiskey. It works particularly well with rye whiskey, as the ginger ale helps to highlight the spicy notes in the whiskey.
While the cocktail is often called a ginger ale highball, you’ll often see it simply called a highball as well or perhaps a whiskey highball. The difference in names is partly because the term highball also refers to a mixed alcoholic drink where there is more mixer than spirit.
The naming patterns mean that it’s best to be specific if you’re ordering this cocktail at a bar. Otherwise, you might end up with something unexpected.
If served in a short glass, you’ll sometimes find the drink called a whiskey ginger or even Horse’s Neck, just to further complicated matters.
You don’t even need a measure to make this simple cocktail. You just need to combine a little amaretto with two fingers of Scotch. Serve the cocktail over the rocks and that’s it. The flavor combination is particularly good if you rely on smoky whiskey.
Scotch And Soda
A scotch and soda is as simple as the name implies. The cocktail combines Scotch whisky with club soda to create a slightly sweet drink that is generally served over ice.
While the cocktail tastes best when made with blended Scotch whisky, you can experiment with other types of Scotch whisky or even with a different type of whiskey entirely.
The Jean Harlow cocktail was named after the actress, who was popular in Hollywood in the 1930s. The cocktail is basically a rum-based martini, made using sweet vermouth and light rum.
Making the cocktail is simplicity itself, as you’re using equal measures of the two ingredients. The cocktail is normally garnished with the classic twist of lemon peel.
A Bellini is a refreshing drink in the style of a mimosa, except that you’re using prosecco instead of champagne and white peach puree instead of orange juice.
There aren’t many good options for purchasing peach puree, so you’ll generally need to make the puree yourself. Thankfully, doing so isn’t difficult, you simply need to peel and de-seed the peaches and then blend them.
The cocktail ends up having more body than most other cocktails. It’s also a refreshing drink that doesn’t have the overwhelming sweetness that comes with some other fruit-based cocktails.
However, the peaches that you use will strongly impact your final drink. Poor-quality or old peaches will leave you with a drink that simply doesn’t taste so good. Focus on high-quality fresh peaches if you can. If not, consider frozen peaches, as fruit tends to be frozen when it is at the height of freshness.
Here’s a very unusual cocktail indeed. The kalimotxo is a little like a wine spritzer, except that you’re combining red wine with cola.
It’s incredibly rare to see cola and wine combined in this way, but surprisingly the cocktail does work well. This cocktail could be a particularly good choice if you have some red wine that isn’t all that great.
A snakebite is traditionally a British drink, which combines equal parts apple cider and lager. The drink is normally served in a pint glass. When made in the United States, a snakebite tends to rely on a darker beer or stout instead of a larger.
There is some controversy around the cocktail, as it was strongly linked to students and underage drinking. Indeed, the cocktail was most popular as a way to get drunk quickly without spending too much money.
Even so, making a snakebite at home can be appealing. You may find a combination of cider and beer that works particularly well for your flavor preferences.
The Garibaldi cocktail is sometimes considered a symbol of Italy, especially as it is named after an Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi. The cocktail simply contains 1.5 ounces of Campari and 4 ounces of orange juice.
As with all such cocktails, the drink is infinitely better if you make it using freshly squeezed orange juice rather than anything from a grocery store. And, of course, you can change the balance of ingredients as you wish. Including more Campari would make the cocktail stronger and less sweet, while more orange juice would mask the flavor of the Campari.
Rum And Coke
Rum and coke is one of the most popular two-ingredient cocktails out there. A squeeze of lime juice adds a little depth to the cocktail, but this isn’t necessary at all.
The main trick to the drink, if there is one, is to find a good ratio of rum to coke. It’s easy to use too much coke and drown out the flavors from the rum. A good starting point is two parts rum to five parts cola. You’ll need to play around with the balance, as everyone has their own preferences about how the cocktail should taste.
This is another cocktail that combines a spirit with a type of soda. This time, the drink uses vodka and soda water.
The idea is slightly odd, as neither ingredient has much flavor. Still, the cocktail remains popular, especially for people who are watching their weight, as the calorie content is very low.
A kir is made using dry white wine and blackcurrant liqueur. The blackcurrant provides a little sweetness, making the wine easy to drink.
One variation of the cocktail is a kir royale, which relies on champagne or another sparkling white wine instead of the dry white. The kir royale is especially appealing for celebrations and makes a nice change from the more common mimosa.
Seven And Seven
This cocktail gets its name from its ingredients, which are 7-Up and Seagram’s 7 whiskey. It is generally made by adding one or two shots of the whiskey into a tall glass with ice, then topping up with 7-Up.
Purists suggest that other combinations of ingredients simply will not work, as Seagram’s 7 whiskey has its own distinct flavor. However, you can swap out for another smooth Canadian whiskey or perhaps a different lemon-lime soda.
The end result will be different depending on the soda and the whiskey that you use, but this isn’t a bad thing
Campari And IPA Beer
As the name suggests, this cocktail is simply a glass of hoppy IPA, with one, or perhaps two, shots of Campari mixed in. The Campari adds extra flavor, creating a refreshing drink.
This cocktail is a fantastic choice for summer, as it is lighter than many of the others on this list. Plus, you can use whichever brand of IPA you prefer.
A shandy is another beer-based cocktail, but this one is much more flexible. The basic version just involves mixing beer with another drink – generally soda. Beer and lemonade is a popular combination.
Feel free to experiment with this one until you find a balance of flavors that you love.
This cocktail is also called St. Germain and Champagne. As that name suggests, champagne makes up the base of the drink, while some St. Germain elderflower liqueur is added as well. This combination is delicious and refreshing.
Of course, you don’t need to stick to champagne. Any sparkling white wine will be just as delicious in this cocktail.
Despite the name, a B&B isn’t really a breakfast cocktail. Instead, the name stands for brandy and Benedictine.
The cocktail uses equal parts of the two ingredients and is often served over rocks. Some people skip the ice and even warm up the cocktail slightly before serving it.
Gin isn’t the only spirit that shines with tonic water. A vodka tonic works just as well, especially if you’re using craft tonic water.
This cocktail works particularly well for artisan vodka that has a nuanced flavor. There are plenty of products like this out on the market. Combining an artisan vodka with tonic water allows you to enjoy the vodka fully without burying the subtilities of the spirit.
The brave bull cocktail takes the unusual approach of combining tequila with coffee liqueur, typically in a 1:2 ratio. Kahlua is the most common coffee liqueur choice, while you can freely choose your favorite tequila.
Blanco tequila is generally used here and it’s best to avoid any bottom of the shelf option. In a cocktail with just two ingredients, poor quality choices show up plainly.