Classic cocktails are classic for a reason. They’re familiar and reliable, plus they’re easy to prepare and you likely already have the standard ingredients on hand. But really, what fun is all that? Challenge your taste buds and your bartending skills with these variations on old-school cocktails that are intoxicatingly unique (pun 100% intended).

If You Love a Manhattan…. Try a Civil War

An authentic Manhattan features rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters and a dueling garnish of a maraschino cherry and an orange twist. It’s deceptively simple yet remarkably complex as long as the balance is there. Mike Robertson, bartender at The Driftwood Room in Portland, Oregon, reinvented the drink by adding Cynar, an artichoke-flavored liqueur, plus an Italian vermouth called Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, and Burnside bourbon. The Civil War is a bit more vegetal and super perfumed, but that core sweetness and lush mouthfeel of a Manhattan is still there.

If You Love a Moscow Mule… Try a Manzanita Mule

A Moscow Mule is one of the simplest drinks there is: vodka, ginger beer, lime juice, and you’re done and dusted. Sure, you need a copper mug to make things perfect, but even that’s up for negotiation (it really does taste better in copper though, what can we say?). For a slightly tarter and fruitier take, check out the Manzanita Mule. Instead of vodka, the recipe uses tequila, adding lemon juice, green apple juice, and apple bitters plus ginger syrup to emulate the missing spicy soda. It’s crisp, refreshing, and full of tequila — win/win/win.

If You Love a Margarita… Try One with Cucumber and Jalapeño

The best margaritas, in our humble opinion, are made miles away from a blender and use fresh lime juice, good quality tequila, and a quarter rim of salt — but our idea of perfection is challenged significantly by this recipe. Spicy, hydrating, and the right kind of addicting, the Cucumber-Jalapeño Margarita combines lightly vegetal Persian cukes with bold peppers, sweet Cointreau, and smoky ancho chili powder for a deeply layered drink that lures you in and keeps you hooked.

If You Love a Gin and Tonic… Try One with Grapefruit and Tarragon

Part of the appeal of a gin and tonic is that it tastes delicious despite being stupid easy to make, and any update on the original needs to be just as straightforward. After all, if you can’t whip one up and be back to your lawn chair in 30 seconds or less, what is life, really? The Grapefruit Tarragon Gin and Tonic takes a teeny-tiny bit more time, but that’s only because you’ll need to stir in some ruby red grapefruit juice (we won’t tell if you buy it pre-squeezed) and muddle some tarragon and sugar at the bottom of the glass, but the results are well worth the elbow grease and extra 30 seconds of effort.

Comments