Home Food & Drink 7 Classic British Cocktails + Recipes

7 Classic British Cocktails + Recipes

by Chloe Gunning
Published: Last Updated on

Some posts on this site contain affiliate links. If you book or buy something through these links, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Take a look at our privacy policy for more information.

From Pimm’s and Gimlets, to the classic Buck’s Fizz, these classic British cocktails are perfect for a fun night in.

British cocktails
There are plenty of delicious British cocktails to enjoy

One of my favourite parts of travelling around Great Britain is sampling the amazing food and drink we have here. British cuisine is steeped in tradition. Recipes have been passed down through the generations. In fact, some of the most popular British dishes would also have been seen on Henry VIII’s banquet tables!

British cocktails
There are so many classic British cocktails to try

The same goes for drinks. While beer is popular, in Britain we absolutely adore cocktails. Whether that’s a refreshing Pimm’s at a garden party in the summer, or a boozy Vesper Martini at a chic London bar, there are lots of fabulous British cocktails to try. Many of them have interesting origins or were inspired by key moments in history.

So, it’s time for a Great British cocktail party! Coming up, a few of our favourite traditional cocktails, plus the all-important recipes so you can recreate them at home. It’s time to raid your alcohol cupboard! Ready?

British cocktails
You don’t have to travel far to create these classic British cocktails

Pimm’s No. 1 Cup

Fruity, light and sweet, a Pimm’s No. 1 Cup is like summer in a glass.

This classic British cocktail is best served mixed with sparkling lemonade, assorted fruits, cucumber, mint and lots of ice.

Drink it at a garden party or, even better, while watching Wimbledon on TV!

Pimm’s No. 1 Cup
A Pimm’s No. 1 Cup is the taste of traditional British summers!

The story behind this British cocktail

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding the ingredients in a bottle of Pimm’s. It’s a cocktail with a long history too. It was created sometime between 1823-1840 by Mr James Pimm who owned an oyster bar in London. This is a British cocktail with gin at its core, plus a mix of bitter herbs and spiced botanicals.

During the 1800s ‘health tonics’ were popular, and Pimm’s was reckoned to be a good option for your body, as well as aiding digestion.

James Pimm named it the ‘house cup’ to start with but gradually other spirit-based versions appeared (rum, scotch, brandy etc) so then the original was renamed as the No. 1 Cup and others were No. 2, No. 3 and so on.

Pimm’s No. 1 Cup
What goes into a bottle of Pimm’s? Who knows! The recipe is a closely guarded secret

Sadly, Mr Pimm sold his recipe (and his name!) in 1859 and then the drink began to be sold commercially around the world.

It’s a drink us Brits love to drink in the summer months, especially at BBQs, garden parties and picnics. It’s also the official drink of Wimbledon. In fact, the first Pimm’s bar opened at Wimbledon in 1971, and around 320,000 glasses of Pimm’s are drunk there each year.

Pimm’s No. 1 Cup
Pimm’s No. 1 Cup

Recipe for Pimm’s No. 1 Cup

  • 1 part Pimm’s No. 1
  • 2 parts lemonade
  • Orange slice
  • Strawberries
  • Cucumber slice
  • Mint leaves
  • Ice
Fruit for the Pimm’s No. 1 Cup
Fruit for the Pimm’s No. 1 Cup

Pimm’s is best served in a big jug. Pour one part Pimm’s No. 1 and two parts lemonade over lots of ice.

Add your extras – orange slices, strawberry slices, cucumber slithers and mint leaves.

Stir and serve, making sure each glass gets a variety of the good bits!

Gimlet

Citrusy, fresh and wonderfully boozy. A gimlet is a zingy British cocktail perfect for warmer days.

Gimlet cocktail
Looking for British cocktails with gin? The Gimlet is a great choice!

The story behind this British cocktail

There are a few stories that go with this cocktail but it’s heavily linked to the sailing world.

It has connections to sailors back in the late 18th century when it was believed that citrus juices helped ward off scurvy. These days we know that vitamin C deficiency is the cause of scurvy, so they were definitely onto something!

There’s even an 1867 shipping act which made it mandatory for all British ships to carry rations of lime juice. One shipyard preserved the lime by adding sugar, which then led to the creation of Rose’s Lime Cordial.

Gimlet cocktail
Gimlet cocktail

It’s thought that lower ranks mixed their lime juice with cheap rum, while those at the top had theirs with gin. Hence, the gimlet was created – a mix of lime and gin.

As for the name? It shares that with the T-shaped tool used to tap the barrels of spirits on the ships.

Recipe for a Gimlet

  • 1 part gin
  • 1 part lime cordial. Ideally Rose’s if you want to be authentic, or you can make your own with lime and sugar. You may wish to use half the amount of lime depending on your taste.
  • Ice
  • Slice of lime
Pouring a Gimlet cocktail
Pouring a Gimlet cocktail

Combine the gin, lime cordial and ice in a glass or cocktail shaker.

Mix well then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish with a slice of lime.

We recommend checking out our post all about gimlet cocktail recipes, which includes some fun variations on the classic.

Bramble

This sweet and sour blackberry cocktail continues the Brits’ love of gin!

Bramble cocktail
The Bramble is one of the most popular cocktails in the UK

The story behind this British cocktail

The bramble is one of the most recent British cocktail creations. It dates back to the 1980s when a legendary London bar manager Dick Bradsell was working at Fred’s Club in Soho. This was one of those super trendy clubs frequented by 80s icons.

He’s attributed its success to how simple it is, describing it as a basic gin sour with blackberry. He created it after a delivery of crème de mure (blackberry liqueur) from a French producer. The liqueur had great flavour, and took him straight back to his childhood when he used to spend his days picking blackberries on the Isle of Wight.

Bramble cocktail
The Bramble cocktail was invented in London

He said it was important to use crushed ice to lengthen the drink – an ingredient they had easy access to as the bar was next door to an oyster bar!

As for the name? While he had fond memories of blackberry picking, he also associated it with being pricked by the brambles!

Recipe for a Bramble

  • 2 parts gin
  • 1 part crème de mure
  • 1 ½ parts fresh lemon juice
  • ½ part sugar syrup
  • Blackberry
  • Slice of lemon
  • Crushed ice
Pouring the creme de mure on a Bramble
Pouring the creme de mure on a Bramble

Fill an old-fashioned glass with crushed ice.

Add the gin, lemon and sugar syrup, then stir.

Top with crushed ice and drizzle the crème de mure slowly over the ice.

Garnish with a slice of lemon and a fresh blackberry.  

John Collins

Another tasty gin cocktail with a zing to it, a John Collins bears a striking resemblance to the popular Tom Collins.

John Collins cocktail
John Collins cocktail

The story behind this British cocktail

Becoming popular in the 1860s, this cocktail is believed to have been created by the head waiter at top London hotel Limmer’s Old House in Mayfair. Yep, his name was John Collins. There’s a lot of speculation about whether this cocktail is the same as a Tom Collins, which is often said to have originated in the US.

The traditional John Collins was thought to be made with London Dry Gin, while the Tom Collins was made with Old Tom Gin, which is a little sweeter.

John Collins cocktail
The John Collins is a classic British cocktail with a long history

Recipe for a John Collins

  • 3 parts gin (ideally London Dry Gin)
  • 2 parts freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 part sugar syrup
  • 4 parts fizzy water
  • Lemon Slice
  • Maraschino cherry

Pop some ice into a highball glass.

Add all the ingredients and stir gently.

Garnish with a lemon slice and a maraschino cherry.

Espresso Martini

This alcoholic pick me up is guaranteed to keep the party going into the early hours!

Espresso Martini
The Espresso Martini is one of the most popular cocktails in the UK

The story behind this British cocktail

Back to more recent times again, and say hello again to legendary London bar manager Dick Bradsel (yep, he of Bramble fame!) According to the tale, a young model walked into his bar in the late 1980s and asked for something to “wake me up”.

He mixed up a drink with vodka, sugar syrup, two types of coffee liqueur and a freshly made espresso. At first, he called it a Vodka Espresso, before changing the name to Pharmaceutical Stimulant. Over time, it has changed to the simpler name of Espresso Martini.

Topping an Espresso Martini with coffee beans
Topping an Espresso Martini with coffee beans

Recipe for an Espresso Martini

  • 2 parts vodka
  • 1 part espresso
  • 1 part coffee liqueur (e.g. Kahlua)
  • Ice
  • Coffee beans
Pouring an Espresso Martini
This recipe for an Espresso Martini will definitely wake you up!

Put the vodka, espresso and coffee liqueur in a cocktail shaker with ice.

Shake until chilled and a little frothy.

Strain into a chilled martini glass.

Garnish with coffee beans.  

Vesper Martini

If you like your cocktails shaken not stirred, then this 007 inspired martini is for you.

Vesper Martini
Did you know the Vesper Martini is connected to James Bond?

The story behind this British cocktail

Did you know Ian Fleming invented a cocktail? The Vesper Martini features in the author’s 1953 novel, and first book about James Bond, Casino Royale.  

In the book there are clear instructions to make a “A dry martini… One. In a deep champagne goblet… 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.”

In the next chapter he meets beautiful double-agent Vesper Lynd, and names the drink after her.

It’s thought Ian Fleming was inspired by his drinking sessions at Dukes in London, where martinis were very popular.

Vesper Martini
Beware – this classic British cocktail is strong!

Recipe for a Vesper Martini

  • 3 parts Gordon’s gin
  • 1 part vodka
  • 1/2 part Lillet Blanc or another dry vermouth
  • Lemon peel

Combine the gin, vodka and vermouth in a shaker with ice.

Shake until cold.

Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a piece of lemon peel.

Buck’s Fizz

Whether you’re brunching or looking for a less-boozy drink for a celebration, nothing beats a classic Buck’s Fizz.

Buck's Fizz
A classic British Buck’s Fizz is a mix of cha

The story behind this British cocktail

It’s thought the Buck’s Fizz was invented in 1921 at the Buck’s Club in London, and created as an excuse for drinking early.  

It was the predecessor of the Mimosa – a similar drink invented a few years later in Paris, which contains a 50:50 split of champagne and orange juice.

Buck's Fizz
Buck’s Fizz

Recipe for a Buck’s Fizz

  • 2 parts champagne
  • 1 part freshly squeezed orange juice
Champagne
Champagne

Make sure both ingredients have been chilled.

Pour half the champagne into a flute, then add all of the orange juice.

Then top up with the rest of the champagne.


I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about these great British cocktails. We’re looking forward to shaking up a few this weekend!

Enjoyed this post? Pin it for later…

Best British Cocktails

You may also like

Leave a Comment