Mix It Up

7 Three Ingredient Cocktails

Sometimes simple, classic cocktails are the only way forward.

By: Tiff Christie|March 29,2020

When you are out at a bar, there is nothing more fun than watching a professional construct a drink with a million little different ingredients. Obscure syrups, hard to make tinctures and bizarre bitters are all part of the show. And it can be a very cool show to watch …

When your at home though, it’s a completely different story. At home simplicity is and should always be the key. And that simplicity, bound up in flavour, is what Three Ingredient cocktails are all about. 


Mimie Taylor

Black Rock Chiller

Tom Collins

Fair Harvard

Whiskey Sour

Red Hook.

Remember The Alimony

Sure you can try to recreate some complicated, labour intensive, bar-worthy cocktail, but seriously, with everything else that is going on right now, who really wants the hassle. And with all the ingredients and homemade syrups you need, if you are not careful, you can find yourself spending more time on prep than you actually do drinking what you make. 

Cocktails shouldn’t be about fussing – they should be about having a flavoursome drink in hand, while you spend time on your couch face-timing with friends. They are the accessory that accompanies experiences and stories, both good and bad, no matter how isolated, that make up our lives. 

And the joy of the Three Ingredient Cocktails is that it provides you with the time to do that. They are not only easy and super quick to make, but they also ensure that you don’t need a bottle-shops worth of product to get the job done. 

In other words, you only need a few ingredients to make an amazing drink. Yet with only a few ingredients, the importance of each is heightened. They need to be ingredients that will not only play off each other but also create a balance (or a triangle of flavour, if you will). 

And that’s the thing with a three ingredient cocktail, there is no where to hide. Unlike more complicated drinks, there are no spare ingredients to cover up a mistake or fix what is lacking. Instead, each ingredient does its part and they all work as a team. 

And it is for this reason that most three ingredient cocktails have truly stood the test of time. Would the Negroni have survived to tempt your taste buds if it had more ingredients and was much more complicated? Probably not. Would it have been a better cocktail? Probably not. 

Three ingredient cocktails have survived because they work. And more to the point they are easy to remember. When you get home, tired and stressed, what is simpler than that magic combination of Gin, Campari, Vermouth? 

Creating endless cocktail variations

Having so few ingredients also makes them easy to play with. Run out of Campari? It’s easy to try another Italian bitter like Cynar in its stead. Haven’t got the Lemon Juice that goes with the Bourbon and Honey Syrup to make a Gold Rush Cocktail? Why not try a little Grapefruit Juice and make a Brown Derby instead. 

And the list goes on … you could play with the type of Bitters in a Rob Roy, or add a herbal element to the Scotch and Vermouth by replacing the Bitters with Benedictine for a Bobby Burns. 

Realistically, more is not always more. Even with so few ingredient, an unexpected complexity can often be achieved by messing around with established templates. Templates can be a great springboards and endless sources of inspiration. Play around with Martini riffs or even the spirit, sweetener & citrus combination of a Sour. 

It’s too easy these days to believe that a cocktail isn’t a proper cocktail unless you have followed a particular recipe to the letter. But cocktails are not about recipes but more about combining flavour that will work together to create something bigger than its parts. 

Three Ingredients Cocktails are all about creating an easy, flavoursome and amazing drink with the ingredients that you have on hand. 

As Robert Simonson comments in his book, 3-Ingredient Cocktails, “Triumphant triptych cocktails don’t provoke arguments about whether they’re good or not; they start arguments about the way to make them well,” concluding, “it’s taken as an article of faith that they’re good.”

If you make time to experiment than three can be, as De La Soul once said, the magic number. And you can create a memorable night as easy as one-two-three.

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