Indulge in the best classic British cocktails, including gin-based favorites like Bramble and Pink Gin 🧐 Find the perfect UK cocktail recipe!
Classic British Cocktails You Need to Try
The United Kingdom is home to a rich cocktail culture filled with unique drinks that have fascinating stories behind them. From the gin-based concoctions born in the bars of London to cocktails inspired by British literary icons like James Bond, these classic cocktails are an integral part of British history and culture. While delicious, complex imported drinks like the Mojito or Margarita may tempt you, no list of cocktails to try would be complete without including some of Britain’s signature cocktail creations. In this article, we’ll explore 12 classic cocktails that originated in the UK and share recipes so you can mix up these iconic British drinks at home.
One of London’s most popular gin cocktails is the Bramble, a fruity, tart drink created by legendary bartender Dick Bradsell in the 1980s at Fred’s Club in Soho. Bradsell said he was inspired to create this now-classic British cocktail recipe after receiving a shipment of crème de mûre, a blackberry liqueur, which brought back childhood memories of picking blackberries on the Isle of Wight.
To make an authentic Bramble cocktail, you’ll need gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, crème de mûre, and crushed ice. Build the drink in an old-fashioned glass by pouring the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously, then strain over crushed ice in the glass. Slowly pour the crème de mûre over the ice, garnish with a lemon wedge and blackberry, and enjoy this unique gin sour.
The Collins family encompasses some of the most popular British cocktail recipes, including the Tom Collins and the John Collins. While their origins are hotly debated, John Collins is often credited to a waiter at Limmer’s Old House in London in the 1860s.
To make this classic, combine gin or bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and club soda in a tall glass filled with ice. Garnish with a cherry and lemon wedge. The Tom Collins follows the same recipe but swaps Old Tom gin for the base spirit. Whichever you choose, this fizzy, lemony drink is perfectly refreshing.
James Bond famously invented his own signature cocktail in the 1953 novel Casino Royale, dubbing it the Vesper Martini. As described in the book, this potent martini combines gin, vodka, and Lillet Blanc. After testing it to perfection, Bond insisted this cocktail must be “shaken, not stirred.”
To craft 007’s favorite martini, pour gin, vodka, and Lillet Blanc into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until chilled, then strain into a coupe. Express a lemon twist over the cocktail for an added burst of citrus. This smooth, strong drink is not for the faint of heart!
The origins of the Gimlet cocktail can be traced back to the days of British sailors preventing scurvy with lime juice rations mixed with gin or rum. This combination evolved into the Gimlet, mixed with equal parts gin and lime cordial. The name references the hand tool used by sailors, which resembled a gimlet.
For a zesty, tart gimlet, combine 2 parts gin with 1 part lime juice and 1 part simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lime wheel for a classic presentation.
For a light, bubbly gin cocktail, look no further than the Gin Fizz. To make this drink, the base spirit gin is mixed with lemon juice, sugar, and soda water for carbonation. The Gin Fizz likely evolved from older “fizz” cocktails like the original Gin Fizz dating back to the late 1800s.
To make a Gin Fizz, simply combine gin, lemon juice, and a spoonful of sugar in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously, then strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with chilled soda water and garnish with a lemon slice.
Wake up your tastebuds with an Espresso Martini, invented in London in 1988 by renowned bartender Dick Bradsell. As the story goes, a model visiting the bar requested a drink that would “wake me up, then f—k me up.” Bradsell responded by mixing vodka, coffee liqueur, espresso, and sugar for a cocktail that delivered on both fronts.
To recreate this popular British cocktail, combine vodka, coffee liqueur like Kahlua, freshly brewed espresso, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until frothy and chilled. Strain into a martini glass and sprinkle espresso powder or coffee beans on top for garnish.
Since its creation in the 1800s, Pimm’s No. 1 Cup has become Britain’s signature summer cocktail. James Pimm invented this gin-based drink in London, blending gin with secret spices and botanical ingredients to create a complex, fruity liqueur. The classic Pimm’s Cup combines Pimm’s with lemonade, cucumber, orange, strawberries, and mint.
Fill a glass with ice, add 3 parts lemonade to 1 part Pimm’s, then garnish generously with sliced cucumber, orange, strawberries, and fresh mint. For a lighter drink, add more lemonade. Sip this quintessential British cocktail at your next backyard BBQ or pub garden.
As mentioned above, the John Collins is often confused with the Tom Collins, but traditionally, the John Collins features bourbon whisky as the base spirit. Created by head waiter John Collins at Limmer’s Hotel in Mayfair, London in the 1860s, this cocktail caught on across the Atlantic as well.
The John Collins exudes summer with its refreshing flavors. Fill a highball glass with ice then add bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and club soda. Garnish with an orange slice and maraschino cherry. Sip this fizzy cocktail on a hot day.
Long before its more popular name, the Espresso Martini went by another moniker: the Vodka Espresso. Dick Bradsell first mixed up this cocktail in London in 1983 and dubbed it the Vodka Espresso, made with vodka, coffee liqueur, espresso, and sugar. Its addictive flavor quickly made it a hit at London’s bars and clubs.
As mentioned above, you can recreate Bradsell’s original recipe by combining vodka, coffee liqueur, espresso, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled and frothy, then strain into a martini glass. Sprinkle with espresso powder or coffee beans for an extra caffeinated kick.
Sloe Gin Fizz
For a British take on the classic fizz, try the Sloe Gin Fizz featuring tart, berry-flavored sloe gin. Sloe gin is made by infusing sloe berries, picked fresh off hedgerows, in gin, which takes on a ruby red hue. To make a Sloe Gin Fizz, build the drink in a highball glass filled with ice, adding sloe gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and club soda. Garnish with a lemon wheel.
This crisp, light cocktail is ideal for summertime sipping or cozy winter nights. The sweet, fruity notes of the sloe gin balance against the tart lemon and bubbly soda water. For a seasonal variation, swap in cranberry juice for added flavor.
Gin and Tonic
Of course, we can’t talk British cocktails without mentioning the traditional British gin and tonic! This highball pairs juniper-forward gin with quinine-containing tonic water, originally drunk by British colonials in India as an anti-malarial. The G&T caught on back home in Britain and beyond.
For a perfect G&T, fill a highball glass with ice then add 2 parts gin to 3 parts tonic water. Squeeze a lime wedge into the drink and drop it in. Add a dash of bitters if desired. Choosing a good quality gin and tonic water is key for balancing the flavors.
The Red Dragon
Named for the dragon on the Welsh flag, the Red Dragon cocktail combines Welsh ingredients like gin and blood orange juice with grenadine and Grand Marnier. Dick Bradsell invented this drink at Fred’s Club in honor of the Welsh patron St. David. The sweet, sour, and herbaceous flavors evoke the tastes of Wales.
To make this cocktail, combine gin, blood orange juice, lemon juice, grenadine, and Grand Marnier in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish festively with an orange twist.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this tour through Britain’s classic cocktails! With such delicious, storied drinks to choose from, just follow James Bond’s lead and “shaken, not stirred” to mix up these iconic British recipes. From timeless gin cocktails to modern coffee creations, these drinks showcase the creativity of Britain’s storied cocktail culture. Cheers!