The 40 Absolute Best Cocktails That Feature Only 2 Ingredients

How often do you have guests in your house, a couple of liquor bottles, a simple mixer or two, and no idea what to make for the group? It turns out you don't need a lot of complicated ingredients to create a delicious drink. You can make a staggering amount of cocktails (over 40, in fact) featuring just two ingredients, by yourself, at home. 

Whether you enjoy some classics or prefer lesser-known drinks, learning how to whip up a two-part cocktail is valuable knowledge. That way, you can not only impress your guests with tasty homemade drinks but also enjoy a nightcap or bubbly brunch accompaniment without any fuss or a trip to the liquor store. 

From classic gin and tonics to Jean Harlows and Garibaldis, it may take a lot less to become an expert bartender than you expected ... at least when it comes to these simple but tasty, two-ingredient cocktails. No matter what liquor you prefer, or even if you don't prefer hard liquor at all but would rather stick to beer and wine, you will find at least one cocktail recipe that works for you.

Gin and tonic

The gin and tonic is a classic, partly because it isn't a hard drink to figure out; after all, the two main ingredients are right there in the name. Most bartenders combine a classic London dry gin and around three ounces of tonic water in a highball glass. But if you want to create your own unique twist (or only have another gin type in the house), you can try a floral or citrus-flavored variety instead. Additionally, you can spruce up your gin and tonic with mint and lime if you have them available.

Greyhound

Though originally made exclusively with gin, today, Greyhound cocktails can be had with either gin or vodka, plus grapefruit juice. As with most cocktails, this drink will taste better if you happen to have fresh grapefruit juice (or whole grapefruits you can juice yourself) in the house, but canned juice will also do in a pinch. Make a Greyhound by putting ice in a rocks glass, adding your liquor of choice, topping it with grapefruit juice, and then stirring the mix. This cocktail is a refreshing option for summer or daytime drinks.

Martini

James Bond may be very particular about his martinis, but you can make this classy cocktail in whatever way you please. Pour either gin or vodka and vermouth into a cocktail glass. An olive garnish is optional. The key to making a perfect martini is using double the amount of liquor as vermouth; even better if you use equal parts dry and sweet vermouth while making the drink. As for shaken or stirred, the choice is yours, but it's believed that stirred is the way to go to avoid ice chips forming.

Black Russian

Way before the espresso martini was popular with cocktail and caffeine lovers, the Black Russian was the beverage that gave an extra coffee-flavored kick. To get the perfect mix for this drink, just use one part Kahlua to two parts vodka. Pour both over ice in a small tumbler, sometimes called an Old Fashioned glass, and gently stir them together. Some people like to serve Black Russians as an after-dinner cocktail in place of coffee, as your guests will have that smooth vodka flavor cleanse their palate and get a small caffeine boost.

Vodka soda

Usually ordered by clubgoers who want a light, refreshing drink to sip on while dancing the night away, a vodka soda is easy on both flavor and calories. Drinkers who want a less filling option also usually end up picking this mixed beverage. To make it, put ice in a Collins glass, then add two ounces of vodka and top it with club soda. You can garnish it with a lemon wedge if you want, but the most important part of the drink is using quality vodka, which will make all the difference in taste.

Vodka tonic

The slightly stronger-flavored but also higher-calorie alternative to a vodka soda is a vodka tonic. Though both are pretty similar, vodka tonic consists of vodka mixed with tonic water instead of club soda. The difference is that tonic water has a little bit of added sweetener as well as quinine, which introduces a bittersweet note into the mix. This makes the classic vodka tonic a nice palate cleanser and creates a more nuanced, complex flavor profile than a vodka soda contains.

Cuba Libre

When drinking a Cuba Libre, you might wonder how anyone thought to mix two ingredients like rum and Coca-Cola in the first place. Well, the clue is in the name; it got popular in Cuba after the Spanish-American war during times of rationing. Then, it became similarly popular in the United States during World War II when sugar was rationed, but Coke was widely available. To make the classic Cuba Libre, mix two ounces of dark rum and six ounces of Coca-Cola in a highball or Collins glass with ice. 

Mimosa

For many cocktail lovers, Sunday brunch isn't complete without a mimosa. Since this drink combines Champagne and orange juice, a classic breakfast beverage, it lends itself to daytime drinking. The best thing about mimosas is that you can easily make a big batch to serve to guests. To make a mimosa, mix equal parts orange juice and Champagne or orange juice and any other sparkling wine you happen to have on hand. Make a glass for yourself or a pitcher for a gathering, and simply serve it in Champagne flutes.

Bellini

To make an authentic Italian Bellini, like the one first made in Harry's Bar in Venice, combine one part fresh peach puree with two parts Prosecco. Afterward, pour it into a pre-chilled Champagne flute. Champagne can also be substituted for Prosecco. The name of the drink comes from its strong orange hue, which the owner of Harry's Bar, Giuseppe Cipriani, likened to a sunset painted by Giovanni Bellini in the 15th century. Much like mimosas, Bellinis are a great brunch or lunch cocktail.

Kir

If you have a bottle of white wine, preferably dry, and crème de cassis (blackcurrant liquor) on hand, try crafting a classic Kir cocktail. First, pour ¼ ounce of crème de cassis into a wine glass, then pour five ounces of your favorite dry white wine on top of it. You can adjust the amount of blackcurrant liquor depending on how sweet you want the drink to be. Since Kir is mixed with wine, this cocktail has a pretty low alcohol content and makes for a very fun dinner or house party drink.

Kir Royale

For an even more upscale take on the Kir cocktail, try making a Kir Royale, another delicious aperitif from France. Pour ¼ ounce of crème de cassis into a Champagne flute, and instead of dry white wine, follow it up with five ounces of Champagne (or whatever fills up the glass). You will get a stronger and bubblier drink that looks like pink or dark pink-hued Champagne. Today, the Kir Royale has become so popular that it is much more famous than the original Kir cocktail.

Wine spritzer

White and red wine spritzers make ideal drinking choices for a warm summer day, as they are both refreshing and low in alcohol content. Add a glass of white or red wine with chilled club soda and ice in a tall wine glass. When we say chilled, we mean as cold as possible. One tip is to put your club soda in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes. If you're not sure what wine to use, red wine spritzers like the sangiovese, grenache, and others tend to work quite well for this cocktail.

Rusty Nail

Once a popular drink during the heyday of the Rat Pack, the Rusty Nail,has become less common in bar menus over time. However, it is still an excellent (and simple) two-ingredient cocktail to serve as a nightcap, consisting of Scotch and Drambuie. The latter is a golden liqueur made with Scotch whiskey, honey, herbs, and spices. Mix nearly an ounce of Drambuie and 1½ ounces of Scotch in a mixing glass with ice. Keep stirring until the liquors have chilled. Then, strain the mix into a rocks glass over a single large ice cube, and enjoy.

Godfather

Classy yet simple, the Godfather cocktail is one of the rare sophisticated drinks that takes almost no time or special effort to make. Combine three parts Scotch whiskey and one part amaretto liqueur in a rocks glass, preferably over a large ice cube. Stir them together, and you're ready to go, and by go, we mean drink. In case you're wondering, yes, the cocktail does get its name from the Academy-Award-winning 1972 film of the same name, which featured Scotch on the rocks in multiple pivotal scenes.

Scotch and soda

Did you know the classic Scotch and soda is also known as a stengah in some parts of the world? The name is an abbreviation for setengah, the Malaysian word for "half," as this original version of the drink was made with one part Scotch whiskey and one part soda water served over ice. Today, however, you can make Scotch and sodas with the amount of club soda that works for you, anywhere between one to six ounces, according to taste and preference. This drink is usually served in a highball glass.

Cape Cod

The Cape Codder, or Cape Cod cocktail, is also simply referred to as a vodka cranberry. To make it, fill a highball glass with ice, then pour 1½ ounces of vodka and five ounces of cranberry juice into the glass. Stir the two ingredients together with the ice to mix them well and create a refreshing, somewhat sweet drink. If you can, garnish it with a lime wedge. The good news is you don't need to take out your best vodka, as the relatively strong flavor of the cranberry juice will influence most of the drink's flavor. 

Traditional gimlet

The gimlet dates back to the 19th century, and though today it is frequently made with three ingredients, the traditional gimlet is a two-ingredient cocktail. Legend has it that it was originally given to sailors to treat scurvy, as lime juice helped prevent the disease. However, drinking lime juice on its own was, quite literally, hard to swallow, hence the gin. Put a couple of ounces of gin and around one ounce of lime juice into a cocktail shaker with ice and cover it. Shake the mixture until the drink is chilled, strain it into a cocktail glass, and serve it.

Screwdriver

Another great cocktail for group get-togethers, the Screwdriver is delicious and easy to make in bulk. Best of all, it goes down well at any time of day, from brunch hours to late-night gatherings. Though you can adjust the drink's proportions to your liking, most recipes feature two parts vodka to three parts orange juice. The secret to making a good Screwdriver is to use fresh orange juice and keep all the ingredients, as well as the final mixture, as cold as possible.

Shandy

If you're looking for something that won't give you a hangover and would prefer to avoid hard liquor altogether, grab a shandy. This European beer cocktail is popular in places like the U.K. and Germany, especially in the summer. It combines beer and lemon or lemon-lime soda to create a refreshing summer drink. Pale ales or lagers are usually recommended for a shandy. Simply pour two to three ounces of your preferred mixer into a beer glass, and top it off by pouring out your beer bottle on top of it. 

Vodka Red Bull

If you feel your energy flagging during a night out and want to keep the party going, you might reach for a vodka and Red Bull. The Red Bull gives you a caffeine boost, and the flavor is so strong that you will barely taste the underlying vodka. Pour two ounces of vodka over ice into a highball glass, then top it up with a can of Red Bull (or as much as you can fit). The key to preserving a decent flavor is to keep the cocktail as cold as possible. 

Peppermint hot chocolate

Put a boozy twist on a classic winter treat by introducing some alcohol into your hot chocolate. Mix a peppermint vodka like Smirnoff Peppermint Twist with your favorite hot chocolate to create a festive and warm cocktail. If you want, you can use a candy cane as a garnish or just throw in some extra peppermint extract to boost the flavor. Don't be fooled by the cozy, delicious nature of the drink; peppermint vodka is pretty strong, so drink responsibly.

Malibu and pineapple

Malibu rum is used in a whole lot of fruity drinks. However, the original and simplest two-ingredient Malibu cocktail combines Malibu rum and pineapple juice and remains one of the best drinks to make with this spirit. The recipe is simple: pour one part Malibu rum with two parts pineapple juice into a highball glass over ice. Mix well. This refreshing, tropical cocktail is best enjoyed in the summer months. If you have other types of fruit juice, you can add them in and expand the drink into a three or four-ingredient cocktail as well. 

Brave Bull

A tequila version of the classic Black Russian cocktail, the Brave Bull combines tequila and Kahlua for a unique drinking experience. Just like the Black Russian, it is also incredibly simple to make; even the worst bartender in the world can't get this wrong. Pour two ounces of tequila blanco into an old-fashioned glass over ice, then pour one ounce of Kahlua over the tequila. Gently swirl the glass a few times to mix the ingredients, and you will end up with a dessert-like tequila drink with a kick.

Paloma

The Paloma has rapidly become an extremely popular drink throughout the world, thanks to its light, refreshing taste that still leaves you with a buzz. Though there are variations on this cocktail, our favorite is the classic two-ingredient Mexican Paloma version that combines tequila and grapefruit soda. To make it, simply mix one part tequila blanco with two or three parts grapefruit soda, depending on how strong you want to make them. If you have other ingredients on hand, you can add an optional lime wedge garnish and salt or Tajín on the rim. 

Fireball and apple cider

The Fireball apple cider is a variation on the classic hot toddy that will warm you up in the winter, or soothe you if you're feeling under the weather. To make it, pour two ounces of Fireball whiskey into a warm cup of apple cider. Stir it with a small spoon or straw, or if you have it on hand, a cinnamon stick for an extra burst of flavor. Here's a tip to make it taste extra delicious: try to get the apple cider from a local orchard.

Gibson

The Gibson cocktail's two ingredients may sound similar to a martini; after all, it's a combination of dry vermouth and gin. In fact, many bartenders would argue that the Gibson is probably the best version of the many martini variations and one of the easiest to make. So how is it different than a regular dry martini? Well, the Gibson cocktail is garnished with a cocktail onion rather than an olive, which gives it a different flavor profile, tilted more towards an earthy rather than a briny taste.

Jack and Coke

Some people want whiskey in their drink but can't handle the intense flavor and alcohol content of this liquor. If that's you, learn how to make a great yet simple Jack and Coke. As the name implies, this slightly bubbly drink is a combination of Jack Daniels whiskey and Coca-Cola. Combine two ounces of Jack Daniels and 10 ounces of Coca-Cola in a rocks glass with ice, and you're ready to go. If you would love to have this cocktail at a park barbecue or camping trip, you can even pack some canned Jack and Cokes.

Ginger ale highball

First crafted at least as far back as the 1890s, the ginger ale highball is another great drink for people who like to taste whiskey, but not have the flavor overpower them. The word highball itself comes from a combination of the old Irish/English use of "ball" to denote a glass of whiskey, combined with "high" because of the tall glass used to serve it. Top off about one-and-a-half ounces of rye whiskey with ginger ale to make this slightly fizzy drink. Some people substitute bourbon for rye whiskey. 

Jean Harlow

To make a Jean Harlow, combine equal parts light rum and sweet vermouth. Like the actress that gave it her name, this cocktail is a vintage drink, popular since the 1930s when it first appeared in a book called "Hollywood Cocktails." It was supposedly legendary actress and screen siren Ms. Jean Harlow's favorite, hence the name. Remember to drink responsibly, as the cocktail's smooth taste might overshadow just how strong it is — equivalent to one-and-a-half standard drinks.

Kalimotxo

Though the name may be a mouthful, the two-ingredient Spanish kalimotxo cocktail is really simple to make, combining red wine and Coca-Cola in equal parts. It's a great way to put any cheap wine you have laying around to good use. Legend says it was created in the Basque country of Spain when Coca-Cola was added in to disguise the taste of a batch of red wine that had gone sour. Regardless of the origin, it continues to be incredibly popular in Spain to this day.

Snakebite

Another British beer concoction has made this list: the Snakebite. To make the classic Snakebite cocktail, or "beertail," combine equal parts apple cider and lager in a chilled beer glass. U.S. bars that serve this particular cocktail tend to put their own twist on it, usually using a darker beer in place of a lager. The British version is definitely a little more crisp and refreshing to taste, but the U.S. stout version has a fuller flavor.

Garibaldi

A vintage cocktail brought back to life by New York's incredible Dante bar, the Garibaldi is currently experiencing a resurgence. The drink's two ingredients are Campari and orange juice, but they symbolize so much more than you would think. The cocktail was named after the unifier of Italy, Giuseppe Garibaldi. Campari represents the north, and orange juice references the orange groves of southern Italy. The drink is a summer favorite, as it has a sweet, refreshing taste and is quite easy to drink for those with a lower tolerance. Use fresh-squeezed juice for an even sweeter, fruitier taste.

Seven and Seven

Stir 7UP and Seagram's 7-Crown blended whiskey together in a highball glass along with ice, and you have a Seven and Seven cocktail. That's all you need. This cocktail dates back to the Prohibition era but continued to rise in popularity all through the 1970s and 80s. It's one of the major reasons the Canadian brand Seagram's 7 became a popular brand in the U.S. Classic and nostalgic, this cocktail is sure to take you back to a different time.

St-Germain Champagne cocktail

To make this simple mix, use half an ounce of St-Germain elderflower liqueur with 3½ ounces of Champagne. You can also use sparkling wine if you don't have any Champagne on hand; the drier, the better, in order to balance out the sweetness of the elderflower liqueur. The floral notes of the St-Germain Champagne cocktail make it a perfect daytime beverage and a wonderful drink to serve at your next brunch or lunch gathering. Think of it as a French-style, slightly more sophisticated mimosa.

Tequila soda

Like vodka soda, tequila soda is another great option for those who want a low-calorie cocktail. You can use club soda or sparkling water in this recipe. Since these mixers are very light in terms of taste, the tequila you use has to have a great flavor and quality in order to make a tequila soda smooth and palatable. Choose a tequila silver or blanco, as opposed to the more pungent reposado or añejo, and make sure it's top-shelf liquor. Rail tequila will absolutely ruin this drink.

Vermouth and soda

Some people drink vermouth straight, but if you're drinking during the day or at mealtime, try this fabulous yet simple vermouth and soda combination. Vermouth has a spicy, woodsy, slightly bitter taste, thanks to the wormwood used to make it (vermouth comes from wermuth, German for "wormwood"). For an extra dimension of flavor, you may want to add an orange peel garnish. This cocktail is especially popular in Spain, so give yourself a taste of the Mediterranean at home by making a vermouth and soda cocktail, or rather, vermut con sifón.

B&B

Not to be confused with a bed and breakfast, the B&B cocktail stands for brandy and Benedictine liqueur, both of which are used in this sweet and spicy cocktail. The cocktail has a sweet and spicy taste, thanks to the herbal notes of the Benedictine liqueur. One trick you can use to give the cocktail an extra oomph is to pour the liqueur in first, then pour in the brandy but try to float it with a bar spoon. Floating the brandy means pouring it over the back of a spoon on top of the liqueur.

Sloe Royale

This twist on the popular Kir Royale uses sloe gin instead of crème de cassis. What is sloe gin, you may wonder? Well, it's not that well-known, but that's a shame because it's actually uniquely flavorful. The sloe plant has quite sour, dark berries that cannot easily be eaten. However, someone stumbled onto the idea of using sugar and gin to smooth out the taste, and from there, sloe gin was born. A Sloe Royale combines sloe gin and sparkling wine in a champagne flute. 

Black Velvet

You may not picture Guinness and fine Champagne even being served in the same establishment, but what if we told you there was a two-ingredient cocktail out there that combined both? That drink is the Black Velvet, which dates back to the 19th century. To make a Black Velvet, chill equal parts Guinness beer and Champagne and combine them. You need to make sure the ingredients are already very cold before pouring them into the flute, as you won't be adding ice. The resulting drink should have a very dark, almost black color.

Chelada

Unlike the British "beertails" on this list, this classic beer cocktail hails from Mexico. The Chelada mixes Mexican lager, like Modelo or Corona, and lime juice together to create a cool, citrusy drink. If you want an extra tangy taste to the drink, add a salt rim to the glass. Cheladas are great for outdoor gatherings, as well as for accompanying food. Better yet, they can easily be batched to make quick and easy servings for big groups.