A barman pouring some mixed drinks

Mixed Drinks vs. Cocktails: Understanding The Difference

While both mixed drinks and cocktails combine alcohol with other ingredients, they differ in complexity and preparation. A mixed drink is a broad term for any beverage that combines a spirit with at least one other ingredient, often in simple and flexible combinations like rum and coke or gin and tonic. These drinks are known for their straightforwardness and ease of preparation.

A cocktail, on the other hand, is a more specific and refined type of mixed drink, characterized by a blend of specific ingredients prepared in a particular way. Cocktails, such as the Martini or Old Fashioned, are often more complex, involving a balance of flavors and sometimes intricate techniques in their creation. This distinction highlights the simple, casual nature of mixed drinks against the crafted, sophisticated essence of cocktails.

To help you understand the difference between mixed drinks and cocktails, here are some key examples of each.

Mixed Drink Examples

  • Rum and Coke – Rum mixed with cola.
  • Gin and Tonic – Gin combined with tonic water.
  • Vodka Soda – Vodka served with soda water.
  • Whiskey Ginger – Whiskey mixed with ginger ale.
  • Scotch and Soda – Scotch whisky with soda water.
  • Bourbon and Cola – Bourbon whiskey with cola.
  • Vodka and Orange Juice (also known as a Screwdriver) – Vodka mixed with orange juice.
  • Tequila and Soda – Tequila with soda water.
  • Rum and Pineapple Juice – Rum combined with pineapple juice.
  • Vodka and Cranberry Juice – Vodka mixed with cranberry juice.

Cocktail Examples

  • Martini – Gin or vodka with dry vermouth and garnished with an olive or lemon twist.
  • Old Fashioned – Bourbon or rye whiskey, sugar, bitters, and a twist of citrus rind.
  • Margarita – Tequila, lime juice, and orange liqueur, often served with salt on the rim.
  • Manhattan – Whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters, usually garnished with a cherry.
  • Daiquiri – Rum, lime juice, and sugar.
  • Mojito – White rum, sugar, lime juice, soda water, and mint.
  • Cosmopolitan – Vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, and freshly squeezed or sweetened lime juice.
  • Negroni – Gin, vermouth rosso, and Campari, garnished with an orange peel.
  • Pina Colada – Rum, coconut cream or coconut milk, and pineapple juice.
  • Mint Julep – Bourbon, sugar, water, crushed or shaved ice, and fresh mint.