National Cocktail Day: A History, When It Is, & Cocktail Ideas to Celebrate With

Are you looking forward to National Cocktail Day? Perhaps you’re planning a get-together with friends or family to celebrate a shared love for cocktails! In this post, we’ll take a look at some cocktail recipes and answer a few common questions: “what is National Cocktail Day,” “when is National Cocktail Day,” and “what’s the history of the cocktail?” Let’s jump right in – don’t hesitate to mix yourself up a gin and tonic or a margarita to kick it up a notch!

What Is a Cocktail?

A cocktail is a mixed drink that is made with alcoholic spirits or other alcoholic beverages. Cocktails are usually made with spirits, but other things like wine, beer, and hard seltzer may also be used in a cocktail. There’s no limit to the number of cocktails you could make – your imagination is the only limitation, and perhaps your tastebuds, too!

What Is National Cocktail Day?

National Cocktail Day is a day set aside to celebrate the incredible diversity that cocktails have brought to the drinking scene. There are more than 600 separate cocktails, and the list doesn’t even have to stop there. More cocktails are being created every year – all you need is a little bit of creativity and understanding about how different flavors go together.

When is National Cocktail Day?

National Cocktail Day is March 24th, every year. This holiday isn’t tied to another moving holiday, so it’s the same every year. National Cocktail Day 2023 will be Friday, March 24th – the perfect day for a cocktail (or several!).

National Cocktail Day 2024 will be Sunday March 24th, and in 2025, it will be on a Monday. In 2026, National Cocktail Day will be on a Tuesday.

What’s the History of National Cocktail Day?

National Cocktail Day became an official holiday when Jace Shoemaker-Galloway decided that we needed a day to celebrate mixed drinks. And boy was she right. National Cocktail Day is an exciting day where we can celebrate mixed drinks, learn a little bit more about their history, and – our personal favorite part – drink them, too! 

What’s the History of the Cocktail?

“It is believed that an 1803 newspaper used the word [cocktail] first…” – Virginia Tech Research Guides

Since most cocktails need ice, we know that cold cocktails weren’t around before the 1800s. There may have been simple cocktails that used whiskey, rum, and other spirits, but they would have been room temperature. 

Prior to the 1800s, and in parts of the world that didn’t have ice yet, “punch” was a popular way to make a flavorful mixed drink that everyone could share. Punches usually contained a local spirit (rum, vodka, whiskey, etc.), some type of citrus, water, sugar, and a spice of some kind. This beverage tended to be popular in the East Indies, West Indies, and Caribbean. Punch, as a concept, made its way to Europe and America via sailors.

Most mixologist-savvy historians believe that “punch” was the springboard from which cocktails, as we know them today, arose from.

What Different Kinds of Cocktails Are There?

There are so many different kinds of cocktails, it’s impossible to list them all here. However, you’ll find many different ones sprinkled across blogs here at Distillery Nearby – and, in this post, we’ll give you some good examples from different categories that you can make right at home. But, what are the different “types” of cocktails?


This is actually the most common type of cocktail, and you’ll find that these cocktails are made with a distilled spirit and a “mixer.” This drink often has at least one garnish, and a “mixer” can refer to anything from soda, juice, milk, or syrups.

Duos & Trios

A duo, on the other hand, is a mixed drink with just a distilled spirit and a liqueur. A trio then adds a mixer for a three-part drink.


A sour cocktail will include something like citrus juice – think lemon, lime, or orange. You’ll recognize a margarita as a classic “sour.”

Some Other Cocktail Terms


You’re probably already familiar with this and the last term from seeing TV shows and movies. “Neat” refers to serving the drink unshaken and unstirred with ice – simply poured straight from the bottle into a glass.

Straight Up

This term refers to a drink that was either shaken in a cocktail shaker with ice or stirred in a glass with ice, but was then strained into a glass to serve it without ice.

On the Rocks

This term refers to serving a beverage on ice – whether a little or a lot, it doesn’t matter.

What Do I Need to Make a Cocktail?

Every cocktail is a little bit different, but if you want to have all of the tools and alcohol available to make whatever cocktail you’d like, you’re going to be looking at a massive monetary investment. 

Cocktail Making Tools

Keep in mind that you don’t need special shaking and measurement tools to get the job done. These tools can help make your job easier:

  • A cocktail shaker or two
  • An ice maker (many drinks require ice, and you’ll go through a lot of it)
  • Glass measuring cups with printed lines
  • “Jiggers” – a measuring device that looks like two little conical hats stuck together
  • A fine grater for grating things like cloves or cinnamon
  • A sharp knife or peeler for cutting and peeling citrus
  • A small blender for some mixed drinks
  • A long bar spoon for stirring some mixed drinks
  • A wide variety of mugs and glasses, depending on what drinks you’ll be making regularly
  • Toothpicks for garnishes
  • A melon baller for some garnishes
  • A citrus juicer
  • Maybe even a mortar and pestle for some muddled drinks

Common Cocktail Alcohols

As far as alcohol is concerned, there’s a huge variety that you could definitely acquire over time. However, when you’re starting your at-home bar, you should really just think about what drinks you, friends, and family members like. If you’re never going to make an old fashioned, it doesn’t make sense to keep old fashioned syrup on hand, for example. Here are some staples that we feel you could start your bar with:

  • A good, neutral bourbon or scotch
  • A spicy, nice rye whiskey
  • A cheap, flavor-free vodka
  • A basic dry gin
  • A light rum and an aged rum
  • A clear tequila that is mild and mellow
  • A bottle of sweet vermouth (and maybe even a dry vermouth, too)
  • A bottle of orange liqueur

Other Ingredients You’ll Need

You’ll find, though, that your bar can’t make everything with just those ingredients. You may need some more specialty alcohols like irish cream liqueur or coffee liqueur, and the list doesn’t stop there. Also keep in mind that each cocktail will probably have some non-alcoholic liquid component, like tonic, club soda, seltzer, fruit juice, syrups, and so much more. Here’s a basic buy list that we recommend so that you have most of what you’ll need on hand:

  • Club soda
  • Tonic water
  • Seltzer
  • Simple syrup
  • Mixes like bloody mary mix, margarita mix, and whatever else looks good to you
  • Lemons, limes, and oranges
  • Cranberry juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, lemonade, and other fruit mix-ins; you can get single-servings to prevent things going bad
  • A variety of “bitters”
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Milk, cream, whipped cream, and sometimes even egg whites

Cocktail Recipes for Everyone at Your Gathering

Now, obviously, there are far too many cocktails for us to list every single one here for you, but we’ve listed three cocktails for each of the main spirit types to get you started. Here at Distillery Nearby, we highly recommend that you use local, craft spirits in your mixed drinks. Not only will you be supporting local businesses and the craft distilling scene, but you’ll also be getting top-quality beverages out of the mix!

Gin Cocktail Recipes

The Gin & Tonic

This beverage is pretty self-explanatory! Each gin and tonic uses 2 oz of your favorite gin and 4 oz of either original or flavored tonic water. Gently stir the ingredients in a glass with ice, and garnish with a lemon, lime, or orange wedge. Some people like to add citrus juice to their gin and tonic.

The Classic Gin Martini

Few drinks are as classy or posh as the gin martini – it just screams sophistication. Plus, they’re super simple to make. Simple shake 2 ¾ oz gin and ¾ oz dry vermouth in a shaker with ice for about 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled glass, then garnish with citrus peel twists or olives. If you want to make it “dirty,” add a splash of bitters or olive juice.

The Last Word

This is a fun cocktail from the Prohibition era, making it a great talking piece for a cocktail party. To make The Last Word, shake ¾ oz gin, ¾ oz Chartreuse, ¾ oz Maraschino liqueur, and 3.4 oz lime juice in a shaker filled with ice for about 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled glass and serve.

The Gin Fizz

This fun drink is a nice twist on that category of cocktails we saw: the sours. The Gin Fizz is made with 1 ¾ oz gin, 1 oz lemon juice, ¾ oz simple syrup and club soda. You’ll first shake the first three ingredients in a shaker with ice, then pour it into a glass over ice. Finally, top the drink with club soda and garnish with a lemon wedge. Some drink recipes will add egg whites to the shaking step to add a foam on top.

The Vesper

Straight out of Ian Fleming’s “Casino Royale” from 1953, this cocktail is named after a literary love interest. And, who doesn’t love drinking like Bond, James Bond? To make this cocktail, stir 2 oz gin, 1 oz vodka, and a ½ oz of Lillet with ice, then garnish with thin slices of lemon and orange.

Vodka Cocktail Recipes

The Vodka Martini

Much like the gin martini, the vodka martini is classy, simple, and delicious – especially as you let the bitters marry. This drink is also known as a “kangaroo cocktail” in some parts of the world. To make the vodka martini, shake 2 ¾ oz vodka and ¾ oz dry vermouth in a shaker with ice, then strain out into a chilled glass. Garnish with a citrus peel twist or olives. Don’t forget that you can make it “dirty,” too.

The Bloody Mary

This fun drink certainly has plenty of character for your cocktail party. It’s not the easiest drink to make, but it’ll certainly steal the show. To get the recipe for a classic “Bloody Mary,” check out this post.

The Screwdriver

This is a delicious cocktail that many people might have during a brunch – it’s very similar to the mimosa in that way. A screwdriver is super simple to make, too. Simply stir 2 oz of vodka into a small glass of orange juice, add ice, and garnish with a slice of orange. For best results, use high-quality orange juice and at least a 1 to 4 ratio.

The Moscow Mule

This popular, sour beverage is usually served in a copper mug, giving it a unique flavor and mouthfeel. To make a moscow mule, you’ll need to stir 2 oz vodka, 3 oz ginger beer, and the juice of half a lime in a glass or copper mug with some ice. Some people like to garnish with a lime wedge.

The White Russian

If you love coffee and coffee liqueur, this drink is definitely for you. Cousin of the mudslide, the White Russian is lighter and creamier. To make this drink, pour 1 ¼ oz vodka, 1 ¼ oz half and half, and 1 ¼ oz coffee liqueur into a shaker with ice. Shake until frosty, then strain into a glass with fresh ice.

Tequila Cocktail Recipes

The Tequila Sunrise

This beautiful drink has an “ombre” effect that makes it especially unique. This effect can be difficult to recreate, but you can do it with a little bit of practice. To make a Tequila Sunrise, start by stirring 2 oz tequila and a good amount of orange juice. Again, we recommend using a good orange juice since it’s the majority of this drink. Add ice to the drink, then sink ½ oz Grenadine to the bottom of the glass with a spoon. There are videos online that can help you perfect your technique.

The Classic Margarita

Most everyone knows how to make a margarita, and they’re incredibly popular! This sour cocktail only has a few ingredients and it can be spruced up any way you like. To make a basic margarita, check out our previous margarita post.

The Ranch Water

This interesting cocktail is a sour that uses delicious Topo Chico (a mineral water) to make an easy cocktail. Simply take a 12-oz bottle of Topo Chico, pour off or drink 2 oz of it, then add 1 ½ oz blanco tequila and ½ fresh lime juice. 

Oaxaca Old Fashioned

A tequila take on the Old Fashioned, this drink uses mezcal to bring a whole new, smoky flavor profile to the classic we know and love. To make this drink, combine 1 ½ oz tequila, ½ mezcal, ¼ oz agave nectar, and 2 dashes of angostura bitters in a glass with ice. Stir, then garnish with a twist of orange peel.

Tequila Soda

Like the gin and tonic, a tequila soda has a good amount of bubbly, citrus-y goodness that’s sure to leave you with a smile. Simply combine 2 oz blanco or reposado tequila with ½ oz lime juice and 3 or 4 oz club soda. Stir gently, then garnish with a lime wedge.

Absinthe Cocktail Recipes

Here at Distillery Nearby, we encourage you to be cautious with absinthe, not because it has actual psychedelic properties (because that’s a myth), but because it’s an alcohol that’s very strong and its effects tend to come on suddenly. We covered absinthe in-depth in this post, and encourage you to check it out if you are interested in absinthe cocktail recipes!

Whiskey Cocktail Recipes

The Sazerac

You might recognize this cocktail from our Mardi Gras / Fat Tuesday post, but it deserves a mention here, too. The Sazerac cocktail is simple and easy to make, only using rye whiskey, Demerara syrup or sugar cubes, Peychaud’s bitters, and a lemon twist. Some recipes recommend rinsing a glass with absinthe before making this drink – it’s up to you.

The Whiskey Sour

As the name implies, this is a sour cocktail that will be fresh and zippy on the palette. Some recipes will have you use an egg white to make the drink creamy and frothy, but its addition is optional. You’ll need to shake 2 oz whiskey or bourbon, 1 oz lemon juice, and ¾ oz simple syrup in a shaker with ice until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass and garnish with cherries, bitters, or a simple lemon peel.

The Manhattan

Beloved by many, the Manhattan cocktail is also highly-sophisticated and classy. To make a Manhattan, you’ll need 2 ½ oz rye whiskey, 1 oz sweet vermouth, and 2 dashes of Angostura bitters. Simply combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry or any other bitter peel and enjoy!

The Old Fashioned

It doesn’t get much more old-fashioned than the Old Fashioned! This sweet concoction is one of the oldest cocktails you’ll find in history, and it was originally made and drunk at room temperature. You can certainly use ice if you’d like, nowadays! Combine 2 ½ bourbon or rye whiskey, ½ oz simple syrup, and 3 dashes of Angostura bitters in a glass, stir, then garnish with both a lemon and orange twist.

The Mint Julep

This is another early cocktail, suggested to have been concocted in the late 1700s to assist with digestion. We’re not sure how well it works for that issue, so don’t take our word for it! To make a Mint Julep, simply combine 2 ½ oz bourbon, ¾ oz simple syrup, and some muddled mint into a glass. Top with ice and garnish with mint!

Rum Cocktail Recipes

The Daiquiris

Ah, the delicious Daiquiris! This is one of the top-selling rum cocktails in the world, and it’s pretty obvious why. This is a sour cocktail, and it’s incredibly refreshing. To make a Daiquiris, shake 2 oz white rum, ¾ oz lime juice, and ¾ simple syrup with ice till the tin is frosty. Strain into a chilled glass, and garnish with a lime wedge.

The Piña Colada

If you like pineapple, coconut, and rum, you’re in good hands with the Piña Colada. And, it’s ranked as one of the world’s 50 most favorite beverages. To make yourself one, shake 2 oz white rum, 2 oz coconut cream, and 2 oz pineapple juice in a shaker until frosty. Strain into a glass with ice, and garnish with pineapple chunks!

The Mojito

Another delicious drink from the top favorites list, the Mojito is a staple that you have to try. This is a drink that uses lots of fresh mint, so have that handy as you make your drink. You can make your own Mojito by muddling about 10 mint leaves in a glass, then adding 2 oz white rum, 1 oz lime juice, and ¾ oz simple syrup. Stir everything together, then add ice, garnish with mint, and enjoy!

Rum n’ Nog

A holiday favorite, don’t be afraid to pull this one out of your back pocket for National Cocktail Day. Simply mix a couple of ounces of spiced rum in with your glass of eggnog, garnish with some grated nutmeg, and enjoy!

The Rum Sour

If you’re looking for a fun, mouth-puckering cousin to the Whiskey Sour, the Rum Sour is probably for you. To make this delicious drink, shake 2 oz golden rum, 1 oz fresh lemon juice, and ¾ oz simple syrup in a shaker until cold. Some recipes call for an egg white, just like the Whiskey Sour – you can use this if you like. Strain into a glass with fresh ice, garnish with a lemon twist or cherry, then enjoy!

And So Many More

This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as cocktails are concerned! There are too many to mention, but that also means that there’s something for everyone! Whether you’re hosting a party or simply sipping something at home, cocktails are a great way to express yourself and get a buzz at the same time. From all of us here at Distillery Nearby, drink responsibly and drink local!

To find distilleries near you where you can buy local, craft-distilled spirits, check out our “by-state” page and look for your location.

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