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8 Essential Cocktail Ingredients (commonly found in your kitchen)

cocktail ingredient garnishes with citrus

It’s a common misconception that you have to have an entire cabinet full of cocktail ingredients in order to create a decent drink. In actuality, you often only need three.

Starting with simple ingredients commonly found in the average household, you can subsequently choose to add a huge variety of additional elements to create more complex and advanced cocktails.

In today’s blog, we’ve put together a list of some of the most common cocktail ingredients, shared our secret simple formula for many of the world’s most popular classic cocktails, and persuaded Carl (CROSSIP’s founder and world-renowned mixologist) to tell us about his favourite ingredients that you can buy to make awesome alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails at home.

It’s cocktail o’clock!

Cocktail Ingredients

1. Spirits & Non-Alcoholic Alternatives

The most obvious ingredient, alcohol (or an alcohol-free spirit substitute) forms the foundation of all cocktails. We’ve considered some of the world’s best selling cocktails and noted down the most common alcoholic ingredients below, along with some non-alcoholic alternatives:


Cocktails that use gin as an ingredient include Gin Martini, Gin & Tonic, Negroni, Singapore Sling, Bramble, Tom Collins and Gin Fizz.


Cocktails that use whiskey as an ingredient include Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Whiskey & Coke, Whiskey Sour, Irish Coffee, Highball, Whiskey Cobbler and Sazerac.

Dark Rum

Cocktails that use dark rum as an ingredient include Rum & Coke, Mai Tai, Rum Punch, Dark & Stormy, Zombie and Jungle Bird.


Cocktails that use vodka as an ingredient include Bloody Mary, Vodka Martini, Screwdriver, Moscow Mule, White Russian, Cosmopolitan, Long Island Iced Tea and Sex on the Beach.


Cocktails that use tequila as an ingredient include Margarita, Tequila Sunrise, Paloma, Long Island Iced Tea, Tequila Sangria, Tequila Sour and Mexican Mule.

0% Spirits

Whilst it’s difficult to replicate the exact taste of spirits, such as attempting to imitate whiskey, our alcohol alternatives do wonders when emulating your favourite cocktails! We take inspiration from alcoholic spirits and create flavours that evoke the same sensory experience as some of our favourite cocktails, without the negative effects of alcohol.

Check out our SERVE suggestions to see how you can use our collection of 0% spirits as ingredients for some of your favourite cocktails.

2. Mixers

From juices to syrups, carbonated mixers, hot sauce, and even magic bean juice (aquafaba), you can just about add anything to a cocktail...within reason. Some of the most common cocktail mixer ingredients that you probably already have at home include:

  • Fruit juice (orange, pineapple, cranberry, tomato, etc.)
  • Soda water (club soda) or tonic water
  • Cola

Want to make a foamy cocktail? Carl loves Ms Better’s Bitters Miraculous Foamer, which acts like egg whites but is 100% vegan!

3. Sours

Sour ingredients are used in cocktails to balance out the sweetness and/or the taste of alcohol. Citrus juice is the most common - we’re sure you’ve got some lemons and limes lurking at the back of your fridge!

lemon and mint cocktail ingredient garnish

Use your leftover oranges in this delicious non alcoholic Negroni.

4. Fruits, Flowers & Herbs

Another great way to add more depth and complexity to your cocktail is to incorporate fresh fruit and/or herbs. These are often crushed or squeezed to release more flavour. Here are some examples:

  • Berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, etc.)
  • Citrus (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, etc.)
  • Mint
  • Cucumbers
  • Roses
  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Apples
  • Watermelon

5. Bitters

According to Mark Bitterman, author of Bitterman’s Field Guide to Bitters and Amari and owner of The Meadow:

“Bitters are to cocktails as salt is to food. They improve and align flavors just like salt does; they help to accentuate flavor and they bring their own flavors."

Bitters are made from the infusion of ingredients such as bark, flowers, berries, and roots in alcohol. Carl recommends The Bitter Truth’s award-winning Cocktail Bitters for some seriously amazing flavours! Alternatively, make your own homemade bitters using common pantry ingredients.

6. Sugar & Syrups

A staple cocktail sweetener, sugar is an essential ingredient to balance out many popular drinks and to add structure and mouthfeel. For example, the classic Mojito cocktail frequently incorporates sugar crushed with mint, whereas simple sugar syrup (sugar dissolved in water) can be added to enhance Martinis.

syrup as a cocktail ingredient

7. Ice

Ice is an essential ingredient for any good cocktail. In addition to chilling your drink, ice also provides the perfect level of dilution to the alcohol or non-alcoholic alternative. Adding the right shape and size of ice to your cocktail will ensure all of the other ingredients blend together to create one luscious and homogenous nectar! Check out this informative article to learn more about the different types of ice to use in cocktails.

8. Garnish

To give your cocktail that perfect finish, why not add a garnish? The sky’s the limit here; you can use whatever you find in your kitchen cupboards or go all out and try one of these inventive garnish ideas.

cocktail ingredient garnishes

Common Cocktail Formula

The simplest of cocktails often use the 2:1:1 ratio.

2 parts base-spirit : 1 part sweet ingredient : 1 part sour ingredient

Using this formula as a rule of thumb, you can recreate plenty of incredible cocktail recipes! Of course, if you’re looking to create some more advanced cocktails, then you’ll likely have to change the ratio and add further ingredients. Nevertheless, it’s a good place to start.

Happy cocktail making!

Essential Cocktail Equipment

So, you're fully stocked on cocktail ingredients, what about cocktail equipment? Read our blog on the most essential cocktail equipment here.

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