If you've ever wondered what 'building a cocktail' involves, then let us enlighten you.

Building a cocktail is a bar skill that's not as difficult as it sounds, and only involves 4 easy steps (plus 2 or 3 ingredients). Which makes preparing classic cocktails a cinch.

In fact, you’ll probably find yourself building more drinks in your bartending career than all the drinks you’ll ever stir or shake, combined!

How to build a cocktail

gin and tonic

Building drinks is the most common method used for preparing cocktails behind the bar. It's also a simple, fast way to craft some easy-yet-popular cocktails.

This technique allows us to combine spirits with mixers over ice and serve it straight away.

There is no need for any advanced tools when building a drink, and all you’re going to need are the bartender basics; the right types of cocktail glass, some ice cubes and your ingredients.

No need for shaking here...

But, just because building a cocktail is straightforward, it doesn't mean that there's no method to it. Below are the four easy steps for building a drink:

  1. Fill your serving glass with ice

  2. Pour the guest's chosen spirit into the glass

  3. Fill the glass with the chosen mixer(s)

  4. Garnish, if applicable, and serve

Often bartenders will combine steps 2 and 3 pouring both the spirit and mixer into the glass in order to ensure that they are properly incorporated with each other, whilst also saving time on the cocktail making process.

Most built cocktails and built drinks require just two ingredients to be poured, however there are some which call for more than one mixer. Without exception all are great tasting cocktails...

Popular 'built' drinks


It’s no surprise that some of the most popular drinks out there are built. They are quick and easy cocktails that are bound to tickle to your tastebuds, and are some of the best cocktails to make at home:

Gin and Tonic

The easiest cocktail recipe of all, the perfect G&T is built by pouring gin over ice cubes and filling up with crisp tonic water. A slice of lime completes the holy trinity.

Cuba Libre

A drink to be enjoyed on a beach in the Caribbean, you'll need a highball glass, dark or light rum and Coca Cola. Fill the glass with ice, add your ingredients and that all-important squeeze of lime juice. Then drink!

Sea Breeze

This cocktail is the perfect drink for summer and quite delicious. Take vodka, cranberry juice and grapefruit juice and build according to the steps above.


Assemble a rocks glass, 40ml of gin (or vodka) and fresh grapefruit juice. Don't forget the lime wheel garnish. That's it.


This built drink has only two ingredients; vodka and orange juice. No, there's not even a garnish here! Simply add ice cubes, your spirit and fruit juices, then serve.

Moscow Mule

A crisp, refreshing cocktail, the Moscow Mule recipe is a classic. Combine vodka and ginger beer into a highball glass and fill it with ice, then add a squeeze of lime juice. Stir gently and garnish.

Last word on building a cocktail...

You may notice that many of these drinks are just spirit and mixer beverages. Some, like the Moscow Mule, require three ingredients to be poured, but they are all still cocktails built in the glass and require no other bartending techniques.

Just add ice if it's on the rocks, or simply serve straight up - and you are good to go.

And there you have it, a fool proof way to make easy cocktails.


Learn more about the art of cocktail making on our International Bartender Course.