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About Cocktail Buff Recipes

This scan from my original 1982 bartender training notebook shows the importance of having standard union recipes, for consistent quality and portion control across multiple venues. (© 2020 Michael W. Campbell)

A sample of my actual union bartender / mixology training notes from 1982.

Are these the best drink recipes? These are standard recipes for union bartenders. The “best cocktail recipes” are made your way, with your favorite ingredients, in custom proportions, which you’ll discover over time. Consider these recipes a foundation for building and refining your own taste.

These Recipes Feature

  • Simple, easy to find ingredients
  • Tight portion and cost control
  • Easy scalability for gatherings
  • Repeatable, consistent quality

Why These Recipes Work

The internet is great. Information is just one tap away. But, the information isn’t always accurate. Search engines don’t test or taste recipes.

Be wary of websites using terms like; curated, gathered, acquired, harvested, compiled, etc, because these recipes could have been copied from unproven sources and may be untested. If you get recipes from those types of websites, you don’t know what you’re getting.

On other websites, the author might be using expensive, hard to find, or custom made ingredients. They might be favoring a sponsor’s products due to contractual obligations. Or the recipes might be heavily customized to the author’s personal tastes. All of that is ok, but they’re not standard recipes.

Most of the recipes on Cocktail Buff have been used by union bartenders for over 40 years, using real liquor, in hundreds of venues like hotels, lounges, night clubs, and restaurants. Countless guests have enjoyed their taste. They use easy to find ingredients, that guarantee a familiar, pleasant experience for the guest, while maintaining a good profit margin, portion control, and enjoyable quality.

Easy to Scale Proportions

Professional bartenders need recipes that are scalable. They can go from a single serving made at home, to mixing four at a time in a nightclub. That’s because they are given in proportions, not exact measurements like ounces and centilitres. It’s simply 1 part this, 1/2 part that, 1/3 part this, for great tasting cocktails every time, no matter what size of measuring device gets used.

By giving proportions instead of absolute amounts, the recipes also translate into different markets. For example, in most of Canada, the 1 oz and 30 cl, jiggers are standard. In the USA a 1.5 oz jigger is standard. In Europe it’s the 30 cl jigger. When using proportions, you don’t need to memorize a whole new set of recipes, just use their jigger and the recipes stay the same.

It’s the same deal if you worked at a place that used 4 oz Martini glass and now you have to fill 6–8 oz glasses at the new job. Keep the recipes, but use a bigger jigger, or double the amounts.

House, Premium, & Deluxe Liquor

In these recipes the word “house” as in “house gin” refers to whatever gin a liquor serving establishment uses as its “stock” gin when mixing cocktails. It’s the booze that’s found in the speed rail, right in front of the bartender, not the deluxe or premium brand names, kept on the back shelves.

For making cocktails at home, if you prefer to use premium, or deluxe brand name products, please do so. After all, you’re not worried about profit margins and paying the lease. So always stock your favorite spirits for maximum enjoyment.

The Simple Syrup Ratio

The recipes on this website use a 1–1 simple syrup. That means 1 part water to 1 part sugar.

Simple Syrup Recipe

1 cup (8 oz by weight) sugar

1 cup (8 oz by volume) hot water

Use a dry measuring cup for the sugar and liquid measuring cup for the water.

Many professionals prefer berry sugar over table sugar. (It’s also known as caster, or super fine sugar, depending on where you live.) It’s chemically identical to plain old sucrose, or table sugar, but a finer grind. A liquid measuring cup of it weighs exactly 8 ounces (227 g). That means you can use the same liquid measuring cup to measure both the sugar and water. Berry sugar is also preferred for rimming glassware, because it sticks to the glass better.

If you want to try recipes from other sources, look for the author’s simple syrup density. Most old school bartenders and recipe books use a 2–1 sugar to water ratio. Most newer books use a 1–1 ratio. Now the trend is reversing back to the 2-1, so as to not dilute the drink unnecessarily.

The bottomline is, if the simple syrup ratio is out, the drinks end up too sweet, or not sweet enough. You’ll find recipes for simple syrup, grenadine and berry syrups in the Ingredients Section. The full article on How to Make Simple Syrup is here.

Fresh Ingredients

A lot of recipes take short cuts. They tell you to buy powdered juice, sweet and sour mix, simple syrup mix, canned and frozen products. You won’t find any of that here. There’s no cheating with chemical laden store bought mixes.

These recipes use all fresh ingredients where possible. The cocktails are made to order, not mixed in advance. This ensures the highest possible quality, so happy guests come back for more.


A common type of drinking glass is suggested for each recipe. However, the guest might request a drink that’s normally shaken, to be stirred. In that case, you’ll need to make a judgement call, as to which serving glass to use.

All stir and strain, or shake and strain drinks, may be made on the rocks in a rock glass. For stir drinks, simply build them on the rocks. For shake drinks, do not shake and strain, shake and then pour. If there is a surplus of ice for the rock glass, strain the drink off the excess ice. If requested, the Martini may also be built on the rocks without stirring and served in an old fashioned glass.


The recipes in this book use standard bartending terminology. They include terms that describe techniques like; build, stir, shake, strain, pour, etc. You’ll also find standard glassware names, base spirits, liqueurs and various garnishes. All of these terms are covered in detail in the Bartending Techniques section. The recipe section contains the Master Drink Themes, the Top 50 Most Popular Cocktails and the A-Z List of Mixed Drinks.

Cocktail Trends

Our Top 50 Cocktails List provides the definitive answer to the question, “What are the most popular cocktails in the world?” Unlike most lists, which are based on customer surveys and bartender opinions, ours is based on factual data from internet search engines.

Think you know the #1 drink in the world? Go ahead and take a guess. Then go look at our Top 50 Most Popular Cocktails in the World list. The answer will surprise you.

Master Themes

A lot of websites and books feature a different recipe for each type of fizz or flip, when in reality, only the base spirit changes. With Master Drink Themes, when you learn one, like Whiskey Sour, you can make any type of sour. Same deal goes with Fizzes, Collins, Flips, etc.

To find recipes on this website, tap the Cocktail Recipes tab in the navigation bar at the top. The A-Z List of Cocktails acts as a Table of Contents. Each entry has a link to the recipe page. 

You’ll find bartending techniques under the Bartending navigation tab. Articles about cocktail spirits and ingredients are under the Ingredients tab. The downloadable Conversion Tables and Tasting Notes are coming soon.


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