Of course there are many, many more simple cocktails in the world, but these are 17 of our favorite 4-ingredient drinks, including a few classics and a few variations on historical drinks, plus fun recipes from bars and restaurants we love.
We've seen a lot of Negroni variations over the years, but Gramercy Tavern's Apropos is an especially delicious one, made with fruity Aperol, a little herbal Yellow Chartreuse, and lime to dry it out a bit.
Maple syrup (the deeply flavored Grade B stuff) sweetens this apple brandy drink made with fresh orange and lemon juice.
Bonnie Prince Charlie
Drambuie, orange bitters, and a quarter ounce of elderflower liqueur add complexity to sparkling wine in this cocktail from Mary Queen of Scots in NYC.
Meyer Lemon Tom Collins
This recipe from Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Alabama uses delicately sweet and floral Meyer lemons to jazz up a classic gin highball.
You'll need Old Tom gin for this historical cocktail—it's a slightly malty, slightly sweet gin that was popular in the 18th century and has re-emerged in recent years. But once you have the Old Tom—plus maraschino and some high quality sweet vermouth, such as Carpano Antica—this predecessor to the martini is not at all hard to mix up.
The Modern's Kina Cocktail
This elegant aperitif cocktail from The Modern in NYC is made with gin, Dolin Blanc vermouth, Cocchi Americano, and a dash of fino sherry. Serve it with gougeres or seafood appetizers.
If you're a Campari fan, you should try it in this tasty rum drink made with fresh lime and pink grapefruit soda.
Admiral Schley Punch
This classic drink appeared in The Gentleman's Companion. It brings together bourbon and rum in a surprisingly drinkable concoction made with plenty of lime juice.
Fresh Cantaloupe Margaritas
Fruity margaritas can be terrible if they're made from a mix, but these fresh ones, made with ripe cantaloupe, lime, Cointreau, and quality blanco tequila, are perfect for a party.
For this easy whiskey sour, you'll shake bourbon with lime, Grand Marnier, and sweet vermouth—use the good stuff, it makes a difference. Our Cocktail 101 columnist Michael Dietsch calls this one of his top five essential bourbon drinks.
A stirred bourbon drink sweetened with a touch of maraschino liqueur, spiced with Angostura and orange bitters.
This boozy apple brandy sour is sweetened with Benedictine and kept fresh with lemon juice.
El Floridita Daiquiri
A touch of maraschino liqueur makes a classic, simple daiquiri even more delicious. The drink is named for a Havana bar that served as a haven for thirsty Americans during Prohibition.
Kentucky Corpse Reviver
A bourbon-based variation on the Corpse Reviver #2 from Peels restaurant in NYC. Fresh lemon keeps it bright.
Dubonnet Rouge, an herbal fortified wine, is the core of this before-dinner drink from The Modern in NYC. It's mixed with dry vermouth, Cointreau, and orange bitters for a low-alcohol sip that's a few big steps up from a wine spritzer.
Between the Sheets
This Sidecar variations calls for a bit of rum in the mix. If there was ever a time to bring out that Ron de Jeremy, this is it.
The Mickey Rourke
Made with tequila in honor of Mickey Rourke's beloved Chihuahua-terrier mix dog, this cocktail gets tart with a mixture of bright blood orange and lime juice. A little Angostura adds complexity.