9 Recommended ‘First Craft Cocktails’ When You Turn 21

Turning 21 is a momentous birthday worthy of celebration for Americans as it means we can legally buy and consume alcohol. However, it also means you have a big decision ahead of you. There is an entire world of beer, wine, and liquor to choose from. As a beginner drinker, choosing can feel overwhelming, as you don’t yet know what you like and don’t like. This is the ultimate guide of nine craft cocktails that are perfect for beginners. Many are beginner-friendly because they are not overwhelmingly harsh with liquor flavor while also featuring familiar flavors. You can make these cocktail recipes yourself or order them from a local establishment. 

1. Vodka Red Bull 

If you are ready to go out and celebrate until the sun rises, a vodka Red Bull cocktail is perfect to get the night started. Just don’t drink too many. Energy drinks, like alcohol, should be consumed in moderation. What’s nice about this cocktail is that you can’t taste the vodka when it is made well. First-time drinkers will appreciate this. 

  • 1.5 ounces vodka
  • Ice
  • Red Bull top off
  • Orange wedge for garnish

2. Rum and Cola

This easy go-to classic is a much-loved cocktail by beginner and experienced drinkers alike. The flavors are a bit sweet and savory, with a subtle warming feeling as you drink. You can also tailor your rum and cola cocktail recipe to your tastes by trying different types of rum. You could ask for a spiced rum or something more mellow. A popular choice is a vanilla rum that compliments the cola flavor beautifully.  

  • 1.5 ounces silver rum
  • Ice
  • Cola
  • Lime wedge for garnish, optional

3. Margarita 

Whether frozen or on the rocks, this cocktail will quickly become a go-to favorite for new drinkers. The slightly sweet and sour flavors combine with the salty rim to create a cocktail that is a flavor explosion in your mouth. Because the margarita is so well known, it is not an intimidating drink to order. 

  • Lime wedge and salt for the rim
  • 1.5 ounces tequila
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • .75 ounce orange liqueur
  • .5 ounce agave syrup
  • Ice
  • Lime wheel for garnish

4. Long Island Iced Tea

This cocktail is not for the faint of heart. It has a significant amount of alcohol in it. However, you would never know because it tastes like tea. It will go down easy and pack a serious punch. This isn’t the cocktail to order if you plan to have more than one round. However, this classic Long Island iced tea cocktail recipe is perfect for someone wanting a singular celebratory drink. 

  • .5 ounce gin
  • .5 ounce silver tequila
  • .5 ounce vodka
  • .5 ounce white rum
  • .5 ounce orange liqueur
  • .5 ounce simple syrup
  • .75 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Ice
  • Cola to top off
  • Lemon wedge for garnish

5. Screwdriver 

This beginner-friendly drink is great because of its simplicity. It features a familiar and loved base: orange juice. It’s also a simple drink to experiment with. Instead of plain vodka, you can try flavored or whipped vodkas. This adds a more complex flavor profile as your inexperienced palette learns to distinguish cocktail flavor profiles. This is also an appropriate cocktail to drink in the morning for those starting their celebrations early. 

  • 1.5 ounces vodka, plain or flavored
  • Ice
  • Orange juice to top off
  • Orange wedge for garnish

6. Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Shot

For those looking to celebrate with a shot, this drink is delicious. No scrunched-up faces, gasping for breath, or reaching for a chaser. This pineapple upside-down cake cocktail recipe actually tastes exactly like the cake. What’s more fitting than a cake-themed concoction for your birthday? 

  • .75 ounce vanilla vodka
  • .75 ounce pineapple juice
  • .25 ounce grenadine

7. Chocolate Cake Shot

Another cake-themed drink, the chocolate cake shot, is like dessert in a glass. It combines warm vanilla and rich hazelnut. Then, with a bit of lime, the ingredients come together for the surprising flavor of chocolate in your mouth. 

  • Sugar for rim
  • .75 ounce hazelnut liqueur
  • .75 ounce vanilla vodka
  • Lemon slice for garnish

8. Amaretto Sour 

This sweet-and-sour cocktail is one of the most popular beginner craft cocktails because it’s deliciously sweet and low in alcohol content. The fresh citrus juice is refreshing. At the same time, the amaretto brings notes of vanilla and almond. As a first-timer, you can sip this cocktail and feel sophisticated despite being inexperienced. 

  • 2 ounces amaretto
  • 1 ounce  lemon juice
  • .75 ounce lime juice
  • .5 ounce simple syrup
  • Ice
  • Cherry and orange slice for garnish

9. Mojito 

This bubbly and refreshing drink is a perfect first cocktail if you’re celebrating during the warm summer months. The sugar balances the tart lime flavor. You don’t taste the rum in a well-made mojito, making it easy to sip down. 

  • 1.5 teaspoons sugar, to taste
  • 4 leafy sprigs of fresh mint
  • 2 ounces white rum
  • .75 ounce lime juice 
  • Ice
  • Club soda or sparkling water
  • 1 lime round for garnish

FAQ About Craft Cocktails and Turning 21

1. Can you drink right after turning 21?

United States federal law dictates that you can drink alcohol at age 21. Technically, as soon as you reach this age, you can legally buy and consume alcohol. However, some establishments may not allow you to buy alcohol right at midnight. If you plan to purchase your first cocktail at midnight, you will want to check with the establishment in advance. 

2. How do I prepare for my 21st birthday drinking?

Plan ahead by drinking plenty of water to go into your birthday celebration well-hydrated. Invite friends or family so that you won’t drink alone. Plan to have a designated driver who will stay sober. Plan to have a hearty meal before you go out so that you aren’t drinking on an empty stomach. 

3. How do you drink responsibly at 21?

Do not drink alone. Have a planned sober ride home. Count your drinks so that you know how much you’ve had. Slow down so that you average about one drink per hour. Drink water while you are sipping craft cocktails. Finally, never leave your drink unattended. 

Check out Distillery Nearby and find the perfect spot to celebrate your 21st birthday. 

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