17 Easy Cocktails You Can Make with Three Ingredients or Less

glass of caipirinha next to limes and a plate
Photo: Bryan Gardner

Just add ice—and maybe a twist—and you'll be ready to enjoy your libation.

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Bryan Gardner

The art of the classic cocktail is as fresh as it ever was. For the time-pressed, intimidated, or minimalist drinkers out there, we bring you inspiration and reassurance, and some very good libations. Have you noticed that the most storied mixed drinks, like the martini pictured here, feature the alchemy of just two-to-three ingredients (we're not counting garnishes)? You don't have to have an arsenal on your liquor tray (or in the kitchen cupboard) to mix them. Unless you'd like to try them all in turn, of course.

Some rely on fizz: Think of the irreproachable summer sundowner that is the gin and tonic. The wayward Pimm's Cup, companion to poolside parties, and the Moscow Mule, gingery and cold in a copper cup. Or the elegant Kir Royale, a ruby-hued flute of Champagne (or simply dry sparkling wine) with crème de cassis.

Then there is the luminous citrus flock: the lusciously citric Sidecar. The outgoing Margarita (using real lemon or lime juice with Cointreau and decent tequila will reveal this much-abused drink in an altogether different light). The lime-centric and sexy Caipirinha. The grapefruit-bitter Salty Dog.

And the pedigreed vintage cocktails that take themselves seriously and somehow embody the dignity of drinking alone at a polished zinc bar in a summer city that everyone seems to have left: The austere Martini. The cynical Negroni. The introspective Manhattan. The self-conscious Vodka Gimlet.

Different in character, but suitable for all occasions and personalities, these drinks have in common the signature of good mixology: a combination of restraint and inspired pairing. That and the fact that they can be made using three ingredients or less.

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caipirinha cocktail limes
Bryan Gardner

Brazilian cachaça is a sugarcane liquor like white rum's smoldering cousin. All it needs is sugar and lime to bring it to life.

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Pimm's Cup

cocktail pimms cup cucumber mint
Bryan Gardner

Skip the fruit and vegetable garnishes to keep this lovely long drink minimal and more grown up.

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Moscow Mule

Emily Kate Roemer

There is a secret to this easy-going and gingery vodka drink: ice. Lots of finely crushed ice.

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manhattan cocktails
Bryan Gardner

Sometimes the cherry is not on the top. If the reward in a velvety Manhattan is the cherry at the bottom, make it good. Skip the neon fakes. Luxardo's are the cherries you need—they're dark with hints of marzipan.

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negroni cocktail
Spencer Staats

Vividly bitter Campari is tamed by sweet vermouth, and the drink is braced by the juniper of gin. Don't skip the oil of the orange peel. It's (literally) the genius twist.

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Elegant and easy, all you need is vermouth (okay, two vermouths—both red and white), ice, and that all-important curl of lemon (trust us): Cin-cin!

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Vodka Gimlet

vodka gimlet in glass
Bryan Gardner

Fresh lime juice is essential for a proper Vodka Gimlet (not to be confused with the oniony Gibson!).

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Like a relaxed version of the compact Negroni, the Americano is a tall thirst-quencher that balances sweet vermouth and bitter Campari with soda water and lots of ice.

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If you've only tasted a hackneyed, sour-mix iteration of a Margarita, you're about to awaken from a very troubled sleep. This is a Margarita done right, and it's so easy to master: All you need is tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice. Once you've made one, you will never look back.

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Kir Royale


Crème de cassis is an under-appreciated and versatile French liqueur. At its fanciest, it makes Champagne even more festive, but this black currant liqueur works just as deftly in dry white wine (that's a Kir), with sparkling water (Cassis Spritz), or shaken into a Mississippi Mule.

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Vermouth Cassis


Elegance on a summer evening. Dry vermouth and crème de cassis. See, we told you those black currants have hidden depths.

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Dark and Stormy


Drinking one of these is like sitting on a beach and watching a cumulus-heavy front moving over the horizon. If you can't travel, you can sip. Dark rum, spicy ginger, ice are all you need to bring this vacation-worthy sip to life. Cheers!

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Brandy (or cognac) and the smooth citrus Cointreau are a luxurious partnership. Add fresh lemon juice for a lick of essential acidity.

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Sherry Sangria Cocktails

Johnny Miller

Mixing good dry sherry with Cointreau and seasonal stone fruit (and plenty of ice) creates a gorgeous jug of summery refreshment.

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Bourbon and Ginger


Bourbon switches moods and seasons seamlessly when paired smartly. In summer it is best friends with ginger ale and fresh lime slices.

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Salty Dog


The salted rim brings out the bittersweet complexity of fresh grapefruit juice blended with vodka and simple syrup in this summery sipper.

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