Modern classic cocktail - espresso martini

List of Modern Classic Cocktails and Contemporary Drinks in 2024

Get to know modern classic cocktails that use contemporary touches in our simple recipes. Making these drinks is easy, and they offer a taste that’s both traditional and fresh.

Modern classic cocktails are newer drink creations from the late 20th century to now. These contemporary cocktails have gained widespread popularity and recognition in the cocktail world. Unlike their classic counterparts, these drinks often incorporate innovative techniques, ingredients, and flavor profiles. They reflect the evolution and innovation in the cocktail industry. 

The origins of these drinks are usually well-documented, with many of the bartenders who created them still active in the industry. The well-known Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails publication by Phil Ward and the recent book Modern Classic Cocktails: 60+ Stories and Recipes from the New Golden Age in Drink by Robert Simonson are examples. But our research didn’t stop at books. Our skilled bartenders pitched in with their knowledge and tips. Additionally, we also consulted the IBA list of contemporary classics as a primary source. Thanks to these combined efforts, our list truly captures the essence of what modern classic cocktails are all about.

40 Best Modern Classic Cocktails and Recipes List

These modern alcoholic drinks set new standards and trends, inspiring other bartenders to create their own variations. We’ve gathered following list:

Penicillin

A side shot of a Penicillin cocktail in a rocks glass on a wooden tray surrounded by three lemons, a jigger, a shaker, and a bowl with ginger and lemon.

Sam Ross, a bartender from New York City’s famous Milk & Honey bar, made the Penicillin cocktail in the mid-2000s. He mixed Scotch whisky, honey, fresh lemon juice, and ginger to create a sweet, sour, and smoky drink.

Paper Plane

A side shot of a Paper Plane cocktail in a cocktail glass on a wooden coaster placed on a blue table with a white cloth, a jigger, and two lemons

A few years later, in 2007, Sam was at The Violet Hour in Chicago when he came up with another hit: the Paper Plane. This bright orange drink has bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, and fresh lemon juice. People now enjoy these drinks, showing just how talented Sam Ross is at making great cocktails.

Left Hand

The Left-Hand cocktail mixes bourbon, sweet vermouth, Campari, and chocolate bitters, giving it a bittersweet taste. It feels like a Negroni but has a deep bourbon flavor and a unique chocolate hint. Sam Ross, a bartender at Milk & Honey in New York City, created the Left Hand in the mid-2000s.

Eastside Cocktail

A side shot of an Eastside cocktail in a cocktail glass on a wooden tray on a wooden table surrounded bya bowl with limes and a shaker

The Eastside cocktail combines gin, lime juice, simple syrup, cucumber, and mint. It’s a fresh and cool drink, with the gin’s botanicals matching perfectly with the mint and cucumber. This drink came from the craft cocktail movement in the early 2000s. It was invented in New York City by George Delgado originally as a long drink, the name hints at the classic Southside cocktail but with cucumber added. Today, many cocktail bars love serving the Eastside.

Final Ward Cocktail

A side shot of a Final Ward cocktail in a cocktail glass on a coaster placed on a white table with a green cloth and a bowl with lemon wedges around.

The Final Ward cocktail combines rye whiskey, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and lemon juice, offering a unique and balanced taste. Phil Ward from New York City’s Death & Co. bar crafted this drink. He tweaked the classic Last Word cocktail recipe by swapping gin with rye whiskey, giving us the “Final Ward.”

Gold Rush

A side shot of a Gold Rush cocktail in an old fashioned glass on a wooden board surrounded by a strainer, two lemon pieces, a shaker, and a white striped cloth

The Gold Rush mixes bourbon, lemon juice, and honey syrup, creating a sweet and tangy flavor. T.J. Siegal introduced this cocktail at the famous Milk & Honey bar in New York City in the early 2000s. It’s like a whiskey sour but sweetened with honey, making it stand out.

Oaxaca Old Fashioned

A side shot of an Oaxacan Old Fashioned cocktail in an old fashioned glass on a white coaster placed on a red surface surrounded bya bar spoon, and a jigger

The Oaxaca Old Fashioned merges tequila, mezcal, agave nectar, and Angostura bitters, giving it a smoky and sweet profile. Phil Ward, while at Death & Co. in New York City, created this twist on the classic Old Fashioned by using tequila and mezcal for a distinct Mexican touch.

Mezcal Negroni

A side shot of a Mezcal Negroni cocktail in an old fashioned glass on a wooden coaster placed on a wooden tray surrounded by a white cloth a jigger and a plate with orange wedges

The Mezcal Negroni mixes mezcal, Campari, and sweet vermouth, delivering a smoky twist on the classic Negroni. Bartenders worldwide started using mezcal to give a fresh spin to traditional cocktails, and this drink is a result of that creativity.

Espresso Martini

The Espresso Martini combines vodka, coffee liqueur, and fresh espresso, offering a rich coffee kick with a smooth finish. A London bartender, Dick Bradsell, invented this drink in the 1980s when a model asked him for something to “wake her up and keep her going”.

A side shot of a Espresso Martini cocktail in a martini glass on a dark wooden table surrounded by coffee beans.

Revolver

A side shot of a Revolver cocktail in a coupe glass on a coaster placed on a wooden table with a red cloth and a jigger.

The Revolver blends bourbon, coffee liqueur, and orange bitters, creating a cocktail with deep flavors and a hint of citrus. Jon Santer, a bartender from San Francisco, introduced this drink in the early 2000s, naming it after the revolver gun because of its punchy impact.

The Division Bell

A side shot of a Division Bell cocktail in a cocktail glass on a wooden tray placed on a light green table surrounded by a lime and a salmon cloth, in front of a black background.

The Division Bell mixes mezcal, Aperol, Maraschino liqueur, and fresh lime juice, resulting in a smoky and refreshing drink. Working at Mayahuel in New York City, Phil Ward created this cocktail, giving a nod to the Pink Floyd album of the same name.

Bramble

A side shot of a Bramble cocktail in rocks glass on a white table surrounded by a bar spoon, a jigger, a salmon cloth, and some cherries on a plate

The Bramble is a refreshing cocktail that combines gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and blackberry liqueur. This delightful drink is a burst of citrus paired with the deep, fruity undertones of blackberries, making it both tangy and sweet. Dick Bradsell, a legendary bartender known for shaping London’s cocktail scene, concocted the Bramble in the 1980s. Inspired by his childhood memories of picking fresh blackberries in the Isle of Wight, Bradsell transformed these memories into a drink that quickly became a modern classic.

Tommy’s Margarita

A side shot of a Tommy's Margarita cocktail in an old fashioned glass on a white coaster placed on a green cloth on a white table with a jigger and a shaker around and blurred background.

Tommy’s Margarita is a twist on the traditional Margarita, blending tequila with fresh lime juice and agave nectar instead of the usual triple sec. The result is a pure, smooth drink emphasizing the tequila’s natural flavors while perfectly balancing sweetness and acidity. Julio Bermejo gets the credit for this delightful mix. While working at his family’s restaurant, Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco, during the 1990s, he decided to ditch the triple sec in favor of agave’s sweet, rich flavor, and this iconic variation was born.

The Gin Basil Smash

The Gin Basil Smash pairs gin with fresh basil leaves, lemon juice, and simple syrup. This vibrant cocktail offers a zesty citrus punch, complemented by the aromatic and peppery notes of basil. Jörg Meyer, from the Le Lion Bar in Hamburg, Germany, introduced this refreshing drink to the world in 2008. Drawing inspiration from classic smash cocktails, Meyer decided to spotlight basil, turning it into a modern favorite with gin enthusiasts and bartenders raving across the globe.

Siesta

The Siesta combines tequila, fresh grapefruit, lime juices, and a touch of Campari for an exciting, zesty taste with a bitter edge. This drink offers a refreshing burst of citrus, balanced by the Campari’s unique bitterness. Katie Stipe from New York City created the Siesta in the mid-2000s. Wanting to give a fresh spin to classic tequila drinks, she hit the mark with this mix, and it quickly gained fans everywhere.

Sea Breeze

You can think of the Sea Breeze as a beach day in a glass. It mixes vodka with tangy cranberry and grapefruit juices, creating a vibrant and refreshing drink. People started enjoying this fruity cocktail in the late 1920s, and its popularity soared in the 1970s and 80s. Its origins trace back to the United States, and its simple yet delightful flavor profile remains a favorite.

A Sea Breeze cocktail, shot from above, in a highbal glass on a white marmol table with three ice cubes on the side

Singapore Sling

The Singapore Sling is a delightful concoction of gin, cherry liqueur, Cointreau, Benedictine, grenadine, pineapple, and freshly squeezed lime juice. Topped with a dash of bitters, it’s a tropical medley of flavors. Ngiam Tong Boon, a bartender at the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore, crafted this cocktail around 1915. He wanted to create a drink that would impress the hotel’s guests, so he succeeded with this vibrant and fruity mix that remains iconic worldwide.

A side shot of a Singapore Sling cocktail on a brown wood plate placed on a beige table with a shaker, a bar spoon and some pineapple slices on the background

Cosmopolitan

The Cosmopolitan packs a punch with its blend of vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, and fresh lime juice. Its bright pink hue and tangy taste have made it a hit among cocktail enthusiasts. Toby Cecchini, a bartender in New York City, is often credited with popularizing this vibrant drink in the 1980s. Inspired by a lesser-known cocktail from the 1970s, Cecchini added his twist, and the modern Cosmopolitan was born, eventually becoming a symbol of chic urban nightlife.

A side shot of a Cosmopolitan cocktail in a martini glass on a silver coaster placed on a white marmol table with two orange slices on the side.

Red Hook

A side shot of a Red Hook cocktail in a coupe glass on a white coaster placed on a green cloth on a grey table surrounded by three plants, a jigger, a bar spoon, and a plate full with Maraschino cherries.

The Red Hook is a spin on the classic Manhattan, with a flavorful mix of rye whiskey, Punt e Mes (a type of vermouth), and maraschino liqueur. This cocktail shines with its deep, bittersweet character, highlighted by the cherry notes of the liqueur. Enzo Errico, a bartender at Milk & Honey in New York City, crafted the Red Hook in the early 2000s. Named after a neighborhood in Brooklyn, the drink celebrates the city’s vibrant cocktail culture and quickly earned a spot on many bartenders’ lists.

White Negroni

The White Negroni offers a twist on the classic Negroni by swapping out Campari and sweet vermouth for Suze and Lillet Blanc, respectively. This cocktail presents a delightful blend of gin, the bitter tones of Suze, and the fruity, floral notes of Lillet. A talented bartender, Wayne Collins introduced the White Negroni to the world during a cocktail competition in the early 2000s. Its pale hue and nuanced flavors give cocktail enthusiasts a fresh perspective on a beloved classic. 

Porn Star Martini

A side shot of a Pornstar Martini cocktail in a martini glass on a black stone coaster with a Prosecco shot, limes and passionfruit, placed on a white marmol table, in front of a blue wall.

The Porn Star Martini combines vanilla-infused vodka, passion fruit puree, passion fruit liqueur, and lime juice for a vibrant and exotic taste. Often served with a shot of champagne on the side, this drink is both playful and luxurious. Douglas Ankrah, a renowned bartender from London, created this drink in the early 2000s at his bar, Townhouse. Despite its provocative name, the cocktail embodies the essence of fun and sophistication, making it a hit in bars worldwide.

The Naked and Famous

A side shot of a Naked and Famous cocktail in a coupe glass on a striped white cloth on a wooden board with three limes, a jigger, a shaker, and a green cloth around, on top of a blue table and in front of a turquoise wall.

The Naked and Famous cocktail is a fascinating blend of mezcal, Aperol, yellow Chartreuse, and lime juice. This mix offers a smoky touch from the mezcal, balanced with Aperol’s bittersweet flavors and Chartreuse’s herbal hints. Joaquín Simó, a talented bartender at New York’s Death & Co., created this drink in the 2010s. Drawing inspiration from other popular cocktails, Simó masterfully combined these ingredients to create a drink that stands out in name and taste.

The Old Cuban

A side shot of an Old Cuban cocktail in a champagne glass on a coaster placed on a yellow table surrounded by a knife, two limes, green cloth, and a jigger in front of a blue wall.

The Old Cuban is a Mojito with a twist! It blends aged rum, mint, bitters, simple syrup, and sparkling wine. You get the refreshing minty notes of a Mojito but with the added sparkle of champagne. Audrey Saunders, a famous bartender from New York’s Pegu Club, came up with this drink in the early 2000s. People love it because it feels like a party in a glass!

The Kingston Negroni

The Kingston Negroni puts a Jamaican spin on the classic Negroni. Instead of gin, you get the deep flavors of Jamaican rum mixed with Campari and sweet vermouth. This drink stands out with its tropical warmth and the familiar bittersweet kick of a Negroni. Joaquín Simó, a bartender from New York, introduced this drink, combining the vibes of Jamaica with the heart of Italy.

The Gin-Gin Mule

The Gin Gin Mule is like a Moscow Mule met a Mojito at a party! It mixes gin, ginger beer, lime juice, and mint. You get the kick of ginger beer, the freshness of mint, and the crispness of gin all in one. Audrey Saunders created this drink, too, quickly becoming a favorite for those who wanted something refreshing with a little zing.

The Piña Verde

The Piña Verde is a green twist on the classic Piña Colada. Green Chartreuse Avocado is the star, blending with rum, lime, pineapple, and a touch of cream for a smooth, tropical treat.  Featured by Erick Castro this cocktail tastes like a vacation and stands out with its unique creamy texture and vibrant green color.

The Enzoni

A side shot of an Enzoni cocktail in an old fashioned glass on a white coaster placed on a light blue table surrounded by a plate with grapes, a shaker and a white cloth

The Enzoni tastes like a gin sour went on a holiday to Italy and came back with some grapes and Campari! This drink blends gin, lemon, Campari, simple syrup, and fresh white grapes. It’s both sweet and a tad bitter. Vincenzo Errico, a bartender at New York’s Milk & Honey, created this refreshing creation, giving classic gin cocktails an inventive twist.

The Maximilian Affair

The Maximilian Affair is a bold cocktail that feels like a journey to Mexico with a stopover in France. Mezcal gives it smokiness, while St. Germain, a French elderflower liqueur, adds sweetness. With a splash of Punt e Mes and lemon juice, this cocktail, created by Misty Kalkofen, is a balanced mix of smoky, sweet, and tart.

The French Pearl

The French Pearl is a refreshing mix where gin meets mint and a hint of anise from Pastis. Lime juice and simple syrup complete this refreshing cocktail, making it a favorite for those who like a mix of herbal and citrus flavors. This cocktail originates from Audrey Saunders, the genius behind many innovative drinks, who introduced the French Pearl to the cocktail-loving world.

Jasmine

Jasmine looks like grapefruit juice but offers a surprising blend of flavors. It combines gin, Campari, Cointreau, and lemon juice. With its balance of bitter, sour, and a hint of sweetness, it’s a real palate-pleaser. Paul Harrington, a notable bartender, created the Jasmine in the 1990s, offering a pink-hued drink with a flavorful punch.

Chartreuse Swizzle

Imagine a drink that combines the herbal kick of Chartreuse with tropical vibes! The Chartreuse Swizzle does just that. With green Chartreuse, lime juice, pineapple juice, and a touch of Falernum, it blends herbal notes and tropical sweetness. Marcovaldo Dionysos, a San Francisco-based bartender, created this cocktail, combining French liqueur with tropical ingredients for a unique and refreshing taste.

Cable Car

A side shot of a Cable Car cocktail in a cocktail glass on a yellow tray placed on a beige table surrounded by a green cloth and a bowl with lemon pieces

The Cable Car is a treat for rum and citrus lovers. With spiced rum as its base, this drink gets a sweet touch from orange curaçao and a tart edge from fresh lemon juice. It finishes with a rim of cinnamon sugar for an added kick. Tony Abou-Ganim, a renowned mixologist, whipped up this cocktail in the 1990s, taking inspiration from the classic Sidecar but giving it a spiced twist with rum.

Gin Blossom Cocktail

The Gin Blossom is like a floral bouquet in a glass. Mixing gin, apricot liqueur, dry vermouth, and orange bitters, it’s both aromatic and well-balanced. The elderflower cordial adds a sweet and fragrant touch, making it a favorite for those who love floral drinks. This cocktail is a modern creation, capturing the essence of spring in a glass with its delicate flavors.

Earl Grey Marteani

For tea lovers, the Earl Grey Marteani is a dream come true. It brings together the robust flavors of Earl Grey tea with gin, giving a nod to British tea traditions. Lemon juice and simple syrup balance out the tannins, making it both tangy and smooth. Audrey Saunders, the innovative bartender from New York, crafted this drink, merging the world of tea and cocktails into one delightful sip.

Trinidad Sour

A side shot of a Trinidad Sour cocktail in a coupe glass on a green cloth placed on a blue table with two lemons on a side.

When you sip the Trinidad Sour, you taste a bold mix of Angostura bitters, orgeat syrup, lemon juice, and rye whiskey. Giuseppe Gonzalez invented this drink in New York, and he turned heads by making bitters the star of the show.

Añogo

In 2019, H. Joseph Ehrmann at Elixer in San Francisco came up with a cool recipe. He used an eggnog base by mixing egg yolks, sugar, milk, cream, and nutmeg. He let this mix sit for three months and then used it in his Añogo. If you don’t have eggnog, you can also use advocaat.

Dark Side

The Dark Side will take your taste buds on a journey with its blend of bourbon, dark cherry liqueur, and lemon juice. Bartenders from the late 20th century likely crafted this for those who wanted a twist on classic bourbon drinks.

Dukes Martini

A trip to London’s Dukes Hotel will introduce you to the Dukes Martini. Salvatore Calabrese made this drink famous there. It’s a simple mix, but the method is the magic. The Gin used is stored in the freezer and it is used directly only when the cocktail needs to be served.

Greenhorn

Bobby Huegel made the Greenhorn cocktail and showed his creative side at Refugee in Houston, Texas. This cool drink mixes Midori and tequila. What makes Bobby’s story cool? He didn’t learn to make drinks in fancy places or from famous teachers. Actually, he didn’t go to many cocktail bars at all until he opened his own Anvil Bar and Refuge in Houston.

More Cocktail Recipes

Outside of these modern classic cocktails, there are is whole list of cocktails! Here are some of our best cocktail collections:

Classic Cocktails

Cocktails for Beginners

Vodka Cocktails

 

Easy Modern Classic Cocktails: Paper Plane Recipe (And 39 More!)

Experience the best with this Paper Plane recipe! Mix bourbon, Aperol, Amaro, and lemon juice for a standout cocktail.

Paper Plane Cocktail Drink

Paper Plane Recipe

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Experience the crispness in this straightforward Paper Plane recipe! Crafted with Bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Aperol, and lemon juice, this cocktail is fresh air.
Prep time: 1 minute
Mixing time: 1 minute
Servings: 1
Calories: 276

Ingredients
 

  • 1 oz Bourbon
  • 1 oz Amaro Nonino - or your favorite Amaro
  • 1 oz Aperol
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • Ice cubes
  • Lemon twist - for garnish, optional

Equipment

  • Cocktail Shaker
  • Measuring Jigger
  • Cocktail Strainer and Fine-strainer
  • Cocktail Glass

Instructions

  • Prep Glass: Stir some ice cubes into your cocktail glass to chill it.
  • Add Lemon Juice: Squeeze into the shaker 1 oz fresh lemon juice.
  • Add Aperol: Add 1 oz Aperol to the shaker.
  • Add Amaro Nonino: Measure and pour 1 oz Amaro Nonino.
  • Add Bourbon: Pour 1 oz Bourbon into the shaker.
  • Prep Shaker: Fill your cocktail shaker three-quarters full with ice cubes.
  • Shake: Cap your shaker and shake vigorously until well-chilled.
  • Strain: Fine Strain the mixture into the chilled cocktail glass.
  • Garnish: Twist a lemon peel over the drink for aromatics (optional) and garnish with a paper plane on the rim of the glass.

Notes

Substitutes:

Making the perfect Paper Plane can sometimes require a little improvisation. If Bourbon's not your thing, an aged rum or rye whiskey works wonders. They're both robust and full-bodied, which complements the bitter-sweet synergy of Amaro and Aperol. Speaking of Amaro, if Nonino's hard to come by, try Amaro Montenegro. It's a tad sweeter but maintains that herbal complexity we're after. Aperol's unique, but in a pinch, Campari steps in nicely—brace yourself for an extra kick of bitterness!

Making a Pitcher of Paper Plane:

  • Scale: Ready for a gathering? Multiply all the ingredients by 8 for a crowd-pleaser. You'll need 8 oz of Bourbon, 8 oz of Amaro Nonino, 8 oz of Aperol, and 8 oz of fresh lemon juice.
  • Mix: Combine all these in a large pitcher over a generous amount of ice, then stir briskly.
  • Serve: Strain the mix into chilled cocktail glasses, garnish with a lemon twist, and watch them disappear!

Making it Non-Alcoholic:

  • Bourbon Substitute: Swap out the Bourbon for a non-alcoholic whiskey alternative or use a strong black tea for body and a touch of bitterness—it's unconventional, but trust me, it works!
  • Amaro/Aperol Substitute: For Amaro and Aperol, a mix of non-alcoholic herbal aperitif and a splash of fruit-infused vinegar (like raspberry) mimics the sweet, sour, and bitter profile.
  • Proceed As Usual: Use these non-alcoholic substitutes and follow the original steps for a mocktail version of the Paper Plane that keeps the spirit—sans spirits!

Making it Vegan:

Good news! The classic Paper Plane recipe is inherently vegan. However, be mindful of the Bourbon and Amaro you're using. Some brands use animal products in processing (like honey or milk derivatives) or barrel-cleaning agents. Opt for brands known for their vegan processes to keep your cocktail cruelty-free. And, of course, ensure your garnishes are vegan-friendly too.

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