Mix and match alcohol, juice, and garnishes for endless possibilities.

Danny Kim
| Credit: Danny Kim

The beauty of a pared-down cocktail is that it highlights the flavor of the spirit and the freshness of your ingredients, says Wilmer Nolasco, the head bartender at Ivy Lane in New York. To do it right, he says, “choose your booze, then introduce a bitter or sour element, and back it up with something sweet to provide balance.”

This straight-forward formula works with reimagined margaritas, too, especially if you experiment with a range of liquors, says Kendall Atkerson, the beverage director at Taco Dumbo in the Pennsy food hall in New York.

Here, Nolasco and Atkerson share their favorite no-fuss, three-ingredient cocktails, from margaritas to fizzes and beyond.

Three-Ingredient Cocktails

  • Grapefruit-Honey Tipple: Pour 2 ounces Ketel One Botanical Grapefruit & Rose, 3/4 ounce honey, and 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice into a shaker. Add ice, and shake vigorously for 8 seconds. Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with a dried-lemon wheel.
  • Tequila Breeze: Pour 2 ounces reposado tequila, 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice, and 1/2 ounce blue agave syrup into a shaker, and add ice. Shake vigorously for 8 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with a blistered shishito pepper (lightly seasoned with sea salt).
  • Orange Fizz: Pour 1 ounce Empress 1908 gin and 1/2 ounce St-Germain into a champagne flute. Holding the glass at an angle, carefully pour in 4 ounces sparkling wine. Garnish with an orange half-moon in the glass.

To make an experimental three-ingredient margarita you'll actually enjoy: Combine 1 1/2 ounces liquor + 2 ounces juice + 1/2 ounce Cointreau (to balance out all those flavors), shake over ice for 6 seconds, and strain into a prepped glass (dip the rim in lime juice and agave, followed by ground herbs or freeze-dried fruit). Try these three combos, or go ahead and play around with your own mash-ups. (Related: The Frozen Mango Cocktail That Could Replace Your Frosé Habit)

  • Tequila Reposado + strawberry and Fuji apple juice + crushed freeze-dried strawberries
  • Sake + cucumber and mint juice + cilantro
  • Brugal or Boukman Rum + pineapple and turmeric juice + crushed candied ginger

Build Your Own Three-Ingredient Cocktail

Play mixologist in three steps.

  1. Start with a shot of liquor: tequila, mezcal, vodka, sake, or rum
  2. Add a healthy cold-pressed juice: watermelon, cucumber, mint, apple, lemon, ginger, cayenne, pineapple, turmeric, strawberry, Fuji apple, coconut water
  3. Garnish the rim with a hint of sweet spice: herbs, sugar, salt, crushed freeze-dried fruit