6 riffs on classic cocktails you have to try

Sure, you’ve seen memes of the Negroni Sbagliato all over social media, but do you know how to make it? We’ll tell you how here, plus share some other excellent twists on the classics.

By Leah van Deventer
Cocktail ©Unsplash
Cocktail ©Unsplash

Negroni Sbagliato 

This simple drink is the perfect summer quencher, being a less boozy take on the Negroni. It was invented through sheer dumb luck in the 1970s, when sparkling wine was accidentally used instead of gin at Bar Basso in Milan. 

You don’t need any fancy bar tools to make it either, just add the ingredients to a glass and voilà (or “eccolo”, as the Italians would say!)


  • 25ml sweet red vermouth
  • 25ml Campari
  • 25ml brut sparkling wine
  • ice
  • Garnish: orange slice

Pour ingredients into ice-filled glass, gently stir, and garnish with an orange slice.


Another riff on the Negroni, this beauty of a drink was the signature tipple of Erskine Gwynne, who launched a monthly magazine going by the same name in Paris in 1927. While it merely replaces the gin with Bourbon or Rye whiskey, the flavour profile changes quite radically, being much richer and sweeter.


  • 45 ml Bourbon or Rye whiskey
  • 30 ml Campari
  • 30 ml sweet red vermouth
  • Garnish: orange zest (or lemon zest)

Stir ingredients in mixing glass with ice cubes, then strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish.

White Lady

This pretty drink is a twist on the classic Sidecar, replacing brandy with gin. There’s some dispute around who invented it, but it was first published in The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock in 1930.


  • 40 ml gin
  • 30 ml triple sec
  • 20 ml fresh lemon juice

Shake ingredients with ice then strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Tommy’s Margarita

Tommy’s, a once unassuming restaurant in San Francisco, gained international acclaim in 1990 when Julio Bermejo, the owner’s son, came up with this take on the Margarita. Here, agave syrup replaces the standard triple sec, enhancing the agave flavours of the Tequila.


  • 60 ml Tequila Agave 100% Reposado
  • 30 ml fresh lime juice 
  • 30 ml agave syrup
  • Garnish: lime slice

Shake ingredients with ice then strain into rocks glass filled with ice and garnish.

Bloody Margaret 

Also known as a Red Snapper, the Bloody Margaret is said to have been fashioned by bartender Fernand “Pete” Petiot, who’s also credited with creating its predecessor, the Bloody Mary. 

The story goes that when he moved from Paris to post-Prohibition New York in the 1930s, there wasn’t much vodka around, so Petiot swapped it out for gin.


  • 45 ml gin
  • 90 ml tomato juice
  • 15 ml fresh lemon juice
  • 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • Tabasco, celery salt, pepper (to taste)

GARNISH: celery stick and lemon wedge 

Gently stir ingredients in mixing glass with ice, then pour into highball glass with ice and garnish. Serve with straw.

Vesper Martini

This wonderful drink comes with all the glitz and excitement of a Bond adventure because, well, it was invented by Ian Fleming himself.

Named for the double agent Vesper Lynd, it is in fact the first cocktail 007 ever orders – in the 1953 book Casino Royale – when he quite precisely says:

“Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel.”

Quite devastatingly, Kina Lillet is no longer available, but you can reproduce the famed libation by subbing it out for Cocchi Americano, or use Lillet Blanc and add some bitters. 

Get what you need, and then line up the 2006 movie version of the original story.

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