7 Cocktails You Should Be Ordering On The Rocks

No matter what type of ice you use in your cocktail — whether it's regular ice, crushed ice, one large cube, or even infused ice cubes — it doesn't get much better than a cocktail on the rocks. It turns out that ice can serve multiple purposes when it comes to cocktails, from adding a refreshing quality to keeping your drink cool. Ice can also help to dilute the cocktail, which isn't as bad as it sounds — in fact, it can even be crucial when it comes to your drink's flavor profile, as it prevents the spirit or any given flavor from becoming too strong.

While plenty of renowned cocktails are automatically served on the rocks, there is a fair amount that can be served multiple ways, whether it's frozen, hot, or even up. With some cocktails, the addition of ice amplifies its complexity, while with others, it adds a necessary lightness or creates a smoother sipping experience. As someone who worked as a server for many years at cocktail bars, nightclubs, and several other types of restaurants, I know the importance of understanding the effect ice can have on a given cocktail. That's why we're here to take the guesswork out of your drink orders and tell you when on the rocks is the way to go.


One of the most divisive drinks on this list when it comes to the iced-or-not debate is the classic margarita, which was likely created in the late 1930s. This drink is revered for its simplicity — all it takes is tequila, an orange liqueur such as Cointreau, Grand Marnier, lime, and an optional sweetener like agave or simple syrup to concoct this refreshing, summery beverage. It's also a highly versatile cocktail; while it's delicious in its simplest, classic form, it can easily be dressed up with any number of sweet, fruity, or even spicy flavor combinations as well.

While we're not completely knocking its frozen version, the margarita is best enjoyed in its original iteration: on the rocks. You can craft the perfect margarita by using your favorite tequila and fresh ingredients, ensuring that you'll have a flavorful, balanced, and more sophisticated cocktail that doesn't need its elements masked by a slushie form.

Piña colada

There are few things that pair better with a tropical beach vacation than a cool and refreshing piña colada. Since its creation by bartender Ramón "Monchito" Marrero in Puerto Rico in 1954, not only has this drink been declared the official drink of Puerto Rico, but it has also become an iconic beverage worldwide. You may instantly picture the frozen version — whipped cream, cherry, and all — but opting for it on the rocks allows the tropical flavors to shine without risking brain freeze.

Rather than the overwhelming iciness of the blended piña colada, serving this cocktail on the rocks offers a smooth, creamy texture that is even more delicious and enjoyable to drink. All you need is pineapple juice, coconut milk or cream (or cream of coconut for a sweeter drink), rum, lime, and maraschino cherries to garnish. You'll be left with a velvety, tropical oasis in a glass — no cumbersome blender needed.

Mango Tango

The history of the Mango Tango cocktail isn't perfectly clear, but it likely originated in Cuba as a mango version of the daiquiri. In the 1940s, it took the tiki bar scene by storm, and for good reason. Although recipes for this tropical cocktail diverge, the most classic includes just a few simple ingredients while still packing a flavorful punch. Mango nectar, orange juice (preferably freshly squeezed), lime juice, triple sec, and coconut rum come together for this absurdly easy but delicious summer cocktail. This cocktail has sweetness, a bit of tartness, and all the tropical ambiance.

Unsurprisingly, this is a drink that is often served frozen — some versions even combine a frozen strawberry daiquiri with a frozen mango daiquiri for a vibrantly layered cocktail. However, to really allow the mango flavors to shine in a fruity but not overly sweet form, serve this cocktail on the rocks instead. For an even deeper twist, consider freezing blocks of mango or lime juice and using these as the ice cubes. Then, rather than melting water, you'll add a bit more juice as the drink comes to temperature.

Strawberry daiquiri

The daiquiri is another classic cocktail that has been entirely co-opted by the frozen beverage craze and has nearly lost sight of its original iteration. Traditional daiquiris, first created in Cuba at the turn of the 20th century, are deceptively simple and just incorporate rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. The original cocktail is spirit-forward and balanced, with just a hint of sweetness. Unlike the frozen daiquiri, which was popularized during the tropical drink boom of the 1940s and '50s, the classic cocktail is distinctly served up, meaning it is served chilled but with no ice.

These two versions couldn't be more different, but why not combine the best of both? By taking the popular strawberry flavor and serving it on the rocks rather than frozen, you'll be left with all the fruitiness and sweetness of the modern version. Serving this cocktail on the rocks will provide a more elegant, smoother sipping experience inspired by the original. The best rum for a daiquiri is one that can add a bit of its own character, whether that's a cleanly filtered spirit or something with funky, sugar-fermented notes derived from the terroir. Opting for this cocktail on the rocks instead of blended will allow you to get a feel for individual components of the drink, especially the nuances within the type of rum that's been used. 


This next one may be blasphemous for the cocktail purists out there, but hear us out. Although the Manhattan is, yes, traditionally served chilled and up, ordering this cocktail over ice became popularized in the '50s and '60s, and as it turns out, there are a number of reasons you may want to order your next Manhattan on the rocks.

Made with only whiskey, sweet vermouth, bitters, and a maraschino cherry garnish, you may find that the addition of ice eases up a bit of the drink's boldness; it's perfect if you're trying to pace yourself a bit. It can also help with the flavor. Naturally, ice is going to melt. Adding a splash of water to whiskey or bourbon can do wonders for the spirit, opening up the aroma and nose and softening the palate. Plus, melting ice keeps your cocktail cool in the summer, which is always an added bonus. Apart from that, it becomes easier than ever to whip up your favorite cocktail. By serving it on the rocks, all this rendition requires are your ingredients and a rocks glass; no extra supplies, like a shaker or strainer, are needed.


Okay, we know what you're thinking — isn't this drink always on the rocks? Sure, if you're sticking to the classic Negroni cocktail, then yes, it is served with ice (or one large ice cube, to be exact). And it should stay this way. Recently, it's become increasingly popular to order this drink chilled but without ice in the final product. Then, there is also the increasingly popular Negroni sbagliato, which is the classic cocktail served sans-gin, with sparkling wine, and with no ice. In some cases, trends are veering even farther from tradition, seeing Negronis made frozen.

While we're never opposed to trying new varieties of classics, there's no doubt that a Negroni is best served the way it was created. The ice cube adds balance to a bitter and spirit-forward cocktail, which gets its bold character from the inclusion of Campari, an Italian aperitif. The rocks also keep your cocktail chilled over time. This is especially important considering that this drink is meant to be sipped slowly in order to really appreciate its complexity, which can be imposing when chilled and served up or gets lost if frozen.


Created in the 1970s in the British Virgin Islands, the painkiller is rich and refreshing. A twist on the classic piña colada, the tropical painkiller cocktail swaps light rum for dark rum, resulting in more depth of flavor and a hint of spice. The dark rum in this cocktail is particularly important; traditionally, it uses Pusser's rum, which actually owns the trademark for this drink. While you can certainly swap for any other dark rum you have on hand, Pusser's has notes of nutmeg, cloves, tobacco, caramel, and leather, which balance the sweet elements of this cocktail

Combined with pineapple juice, orange juice, cream of coconut, and nutmeg (which plays off the rum's flavors), you'll be mentally transported to the beach in no time. Like the other tropical cocktails on this list, the painkiller can certainly be made frozen, but we would advise against it. When served over ice, this cocktail is perfectly creamy, sweet, slightly tangy, and bold. And you don't want to mess with perfection.