All-American Cocktail Recipes to Make on the 4th of July

Hot dogs and hamburgers may be America’s classic cook-out foods, and apple pie may be the go-to dessert, but if you really want to celebrate our country’s birthday in style, we suggest mixing up a classic cocktail. The cocktail as we know it was born in the U.S., after all, and these potent alcoholic concoctions will help spice up your Fourth of July celebration. Below are recipes for five classic cocktails invented in America.

1. Sazerac

sazerac cocktail

Cocktail |

The Sazerac may well be the world’s first cocktail, at least according to some (others disagree). The origins of this classic drink go back to 1838, when Antoine Amédée Peychaud, a New Orleans apothecary, combined cognac with his own brand of bitters. Today, a Sazerac is usually made with whiskey, but Peychaud’s bitters remain a key ingredient. This recipe from Louisiana bartender Chris McMillian via Epicurious calls for Herbsaint, an anise-flavored liqueur originally developed as a substitute for absinthe.


  • 1 cube or ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 4 dashes Peychaud Bitters
  • Splash water (about ½ teaspoon)
  • 2 ounces rye whiskey
  • Splash Herbsaint (or Pernod), about ½ teaspoon
  • Lemon peel
  • Ice

Directions: In an old-fashioned glass, add ice and set aside. In another, combine sugar, bitters, and water. Muddle until sugar is completely dissolved. Add rye whiskey, fill with ice, and stir well, about 15 seconds. From first glass, discard ice, then add Herbsaint. Holding glass horizontally, turn it so that Herbsaint completely coats the interior. Discard any excess. Strain contents of second glass into chilled glass. Twist lemon peel directly over drink to release essential oils, and serve.

2. Manhattan

Manhattan, whiskey

Manhattan |

As the name suggests, the Manhattan takes its name from the island where it was invented. Legend has it that it was created to celebrate Samuel J. Tilden’s victory in the state’s gubernatorial contest, according to Mental Floss. You’ll need rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, and maraschino cherries to turn out a perfect version of this drink, featured on


  • 2 ounces rye whiskey
  • ½ ounce sweet vermouth
  • Dash Angostura bitters
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 1 maraschino cherry

Directions: Combine whiskey, vermouth, and bitters in a cocktail mixing class. Add ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

3. Mint Julep

mint julep

Mint julep |

The Mint Julep may be traditionally associated with the Kentucky Derby (it’s been the official drink of the famous horse race since 1938), but this classic Southern cocktail has been around in one form or another since the early 1800s. To keep things authentic, you’ll want to serve yours in silver julep cups, according to the authors of this recipe from Southern Living.


  • 3 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon mint simple syrup (to make syrup, see directions below)
  • Crushed ice
  • 1½ to 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) bourbon
  • 1 (4-inch) cocktail straw or coffee stirrer
  • 1 fresh mint sprig
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

Mint Simple Syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 10 to 12 fresh mint sprigs

Directions: To make mint simple syrup: Bring sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Boil, stirring often, 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; add mint, and let cool completely. Pour into a glass jar; cover and chill 24 hours. Remove and discard mint.

To mix cocktail: Place mint leaves and mint simple syrup in a chilled julep cup. Gently press leaves against cup with back of spoon to release flavors. Pack cup tightly with crushed ice; pour bourbon over ice. Insert straw, place mint sprig directly next to straw, and serve immediately. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

4. Mai Tai

mai tai

Mai tai |

Given its tropical flavors, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the Mai Tai had its origins somewhere in the South Pacific. But this fruity, Tiki-style concoction is uniquely American, having been invented in 1944 by Victor Bergeron (aka Trader Vic) in Oakland, Calif. We think it’s the perfect drink if you’re planning to spend the Fourth of July holiday lounging by the pool or at the beach. While there are many variations of the Mai Tai, this recipe from Post Prohibition closely follows the Trader Vic’s original.


  • 1 ounce amber Martinique rum
  • 1 ounce dark Jamaican rum
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • ½ ounce orgeat syrup
  • ½ ounce of Cointreau
  • Mint and lime for garnish

Directions: Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker, except the garnish. Shake and strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with fresh mint and a lime. Float some dark rum on top of the cocktail if desired.

5. Long Island Iced Tea

long island iced tea

Long Island iced tea |

A perennial favorite of college kids who are more focused on a drink’s potency than its quality, the Long Island Iced Tea is one of America’s more notorious (if somewhat shameful) contributions to the cocktail family. A bad Long Island Iced tea is a hangover-inducing mix of bottom-shelf liquor topped off with an obligatory splash of Coke. This classed-up recipe from Esquire helps redeem the drink.


  • ½ ounce vodka
  • ½ ounce gin
  • ½ ounce white rum
  • ½ ounce Cointreau
  • ¾ ounce lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons simple syrup
  • Mexican Coke
  • Lemon

Directions: Combine all ingredients except for Coke and lemon. Shake, strain into Collins glass over crushed ice, top with ¾ ounce of Coke. Garnish with lemon twist.

Follow Megan on Twitter @MeganE_CS

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