Any Liquor Pantry Cocktail

This recipe is really just a 3-2-1 ratio with almost endless adaptations. Start with a base liquor of your choice. Add something sour -- citrus or another unsweetened, tart juice. You can even add a splash of brine from pickled vegetables or a little vinegar to take the cocktail in the direction of a shrub, which has popped up on drink menus all over because it's so refreshing. Finally, add something sweet -- basic simple syrup or just about any other liquid sweetener you have on hand. Once you are ready to shake it with ice, you can personalize it further by throwing a few herb sprigs or pieces of fruit in the shaker. Finish with a topper of seltzer, prosecco or another fizzy beverage, if you like. The proverbial cherry on top can be any garnish you have on hand -- fruit, pickles, candy, herbs, you name it. Begin with simple combinations -- see our suggestions below -- and then experiment to find the ones you like the most.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 5 min
  • Active: 5 min
  • Yield: 1 cocktail
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2 ounces liquor, such as vodka, gin, rum, bourbon, whiskey or tequila

1 1/2 ounces sour, such as lemon juice, lime juice, grapefruit juice, unsweetened pomegranate juice, unsweetened cranberry juice, pickle brine (from sour pickles, pickled jalapenos, giardiniera, etc.) or vinegar

1 ounce sweet, such as simple syrup, agave, maple syrup, honey, orange juice, pineapple juice, maraschino cherry juice from the jar or Triple Sec  

Flavor enhancer, such as herb sprigs or fruit pieces, optional 

2 ounces fizzy topper, such as plain seltzer, flavored seltzer, prosecco or other sparkling wine, ginger ale or sparkling Italian soda like San Pellegrino, optional  

Garnish, such as fresh fruit, pickles, olives, herb sprigs, maraschino cherries or other fruit in syrup, candy or crunchy raw vegetables


  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the liquor, sour and sweet and flavor enhancers if using and shake well. Strain and pour into a glass over ice. Add a fizzy topper if using. Garnish as desired.

Suggested Combinations:

  1. Whiskey + Pomegranate juice + Honey (no fizzy topper)
  2. Gin + Lime juice + Orange juice + Seltzer topper
  3. Vodka + Lemon juice + Maraschino cherry juice from the jar + Sliced strawberries + Prosecco topper + Maraschino cherry garnish
  4. Tequila + Lime juice and a splash of pickled jalapeno brine + Triple Sec + Lime and jalapeno garnish (no fizzy topper)
  5. Bourbon + Lemon juice + Maple syrup + Lemon wedge garnish (no fizzy topper)
  6. Rum + Unsweetened pomegranate juice + Simple syrup + Flavored seltzer topper + Fresh fruit garnish
  7. Rum + Lime juice and a splash of white wine vinegar + Simple syrup + Blackberries + Prosecco topper + Gummy candy garnish