The Five Drink Families
It can be mind-boggling for the bartending newbie to glance through cocktail recipes, but they really only break down into five categories—juicy, creamy, sour, hot, and carbonated. There are a few extensions from the categories, notably the tropical, highball, stick, and classic variations.
Juicy: Juicy drinks are made with any type of juice. Popular examples are Screwdriver, Cape Cod, and Bloody Mary.
Creamy: Creamy drinks use cream, half-and-half, Irish cream, and similar liquids to give them a heavier texture. Popular examples are White Russian, Mudslide, Creamsicle, Grasshopper, and Bushwhacker.
Sour: Sour drinks are made with the tang of citrus juice. Popular examples are Whiskey Sour, Amaretto Sour, Tom Collins, Margarita, Sour Appletini, and Long Island Iced Tea.
Hot: These are made with coffee, hot apple cider, tea, hot chocolate, and other similar hot beverages. Popular examples are Irish Coffee, Hot Toddy, Keoke Coffee, and Coffee Liqueur and Coffee.
Carbonated: Carbonated drinks take advantage of soda's fizzy bubbles. These are basic highballs like Vodka and Soda, Vodka and Tonic, Gin and Tonic, Rum and Coke, Bourbon and Coke, and Seven and Seven.
Originally, when a guest walked up to the bar and asked for a highball, the bartender grabbed a bottle of rye whiskey and mixed it with ginger ale. Today a highball just means a drink containing a spirit mixed with a carbonated mixer.