How To Be an Adult: Know Your Alcohol

By Alexa Harrington

Illustrations by Charlotte Friend


If bars served the kind of “drinks” that college kids drink, they would have names like "The Frat Daddy" or "The Red Solo."

“What’s in a Frat Daddy?” you ask the bartender.

“Oh that’s one of our classiest drinks,” he replies. “It’s three-fourths Everclear, one-fourth Hawaiian Punch, too much sugar and the arm sweat of an overweight frat guy named Brett. We only serve one per customer.”

You look at the bartender’s name tag. It says Brett. His arms are abnormally sweaty.

“Oh okay. How about The Red Solo?” you ask. “What’s in that?”

“Oh that’s just a red Solo cup with some warm Keystone in it. If you like I’ll throw in a dirty Ping Pong ball. It really adds that special flavor. You’ll need about eight of these to feel anything. What will it be tonight?

“You know what? I’ll just take 3 shots of warm vodka. Make it the cheapest stuff you’ve got.”

You decide to play it safe.

Fortunately, these are not the kinds of drinks you will find in a bar. Unfortunately, these are the kinds of “drinks” found at college parties. As you transition into adulthood, you will want to be able to identify alcoholic beverages outside Smirnoff shots and Keystone.


The Classics 

Drinks that are so utterly adult they’ll knock your socks off




           -Sweet vermouth (fortified wine flavored with various botanicals — roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs, and spices with sweetener)

           -Bitters (alcoholic preparation containing aromatic herbs, bark, roots, and/or fruit characterized by a bitter or bittersweet flavor)


Taste: Rich, spicy, and sweet. This drink is pretty good at masking the taste of alcohol compared to the other classics.

Notes: The Manhattan is known for being a sophisticated drink, a.k.a., it’s great for pretending like you’re an adult.

Old Fashioned


           -Bourbon whiskey


           -Sugar cube

           -*Orange slice and cherry

Taste:  Strong. Yucky at first.

Notes: Yes, this is the drink Don Draper always orders. Prepare to hear a lot of lame dudes trying to talk to you about Mad Men.



                 -Dry vermouth (fortified wine flavored with various botanicals (roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs, spices)


Taste: Strong. Pretty damn yucky since it’s mostly just gin. Some people think it tastes like gasoline.  

Notes: You’re probably not ready for a classic Martini. Maybe throw some apple in it.

Bloody Mary



           -Tomato juice

           -*Spices/flavorings (Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, piri piri sauce, horseradish, celery, olives, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and celery salt)

Taste: That acidic taste after you burp/throw up a little in your mouth.

Notes: The Bloody Mary is coined “the world’s most complex cocktail,” and appropriately so  it’s made with everything but the damn kitchen sink! Luckily, Bloody Mary mixes can be found at pretty much every grocery store.

Tom Collins



           -Lemon juice

           -Simple syrup

           -Club soda

           -*Lemon slice and cherry

Taste: Lemonade for grown-ups but not as lemon-y as something like a Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

Notes: This drink is great because you still look like you know what you’re doing without sacrificing yummies. Yay.





Fruity Drinks 

For boys and girls and everyone in between. Don’t be embarrassed to drink something that tastes good. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone.




           -Lime juice


Taste: Very refreshing and tastes best when it’s very, very cold.

Notes: This drink is often served way too sweet, but a good daiquiri is meant to be only slightly sweet and mostly thirst quenching. It seems that the consensus is that daiquiris taste better when they aren’t frozen and instead just come with ice.

Piña Colada



           -Cream of coconut

           -Pineapple juice

           -Pineapple wedge and cherry

Taste: If you like pineapple, you will love a Piña Colada. Refreshing and tropical.

Notes: It’s the national drink of Puerto Rico so that’s cool, but what’s not cool is that there is 100% chance someone will sing that Piña Colada song at you. In fact, you should probably save this drink for the cruise or the beach, just because it will be much more bearable to hear that song while you’re relaxing on the beach.  




           -Triple Sec

           -Cranberry juice

           -Lime juice

Taste: Like a vodka cranberry, but with stronger citrus flavor, depending on the amount of lime juice you use.

Notes: This is the best way to feel like you’re in "Sex and the City."



Sweet Drinks

They taste like dessert

Irish Coffee



           -Brown sugar

           -Irish whiskey

           -Heavy cream

Taste: Rich coffee with sweet cream on top.

Notes: The darker the coffee, the more the flavor of whiskey is masked. Don’t stir your drink. The hot whiskey/coffee will come through the cold cream on top, making a delicious sip.

White Russian



            -Coffee liqueur (e.g., Kahlúa or Tia Maria)


Taste: Like those cold Starbucks drinks they sell in vending machines: sweet, milky, delicious.

Notes: If the Irish Coffee wasn’t as sweet as you would like, this is the drink for you. White Russians are so good that you will be way too drunk, way too fast, if you’re not careful.



Sour Drinks 

They’re sour! Woo!




            -Triple sec (such as Cointreau)

            -Lime/lemon juice

            -*Salted rim

Taste: Like a party, like summer, like paradise. Margaritas are sublime, refreshing and delicious.

Notes: You can find some great margaritas in Texas, some even come in glasses as big as fish bowls. And you know what they say, everything’s better when it’s served in a fish bowl (they say that, right?).

Whiskey Sour



           -Lemon juice

           -Simple syrup

Taste: It’s pretty sour but also pretty strong, thanks to the whiskey. This is the kind of drink you take sips from and drink very slowly, and that’s why grandpas love a good whiskey sour.

Notes: You might get a bad hangover from this because brown liquor plus a sweet and sour mix is usually a bad combination.



Forgot everything I just taught you?

Order one of these easy-to-remember drinks (hint: the ingredients are in the name):

           -Gin and Tonic

           -Rum and Coke

           -Vodka Sprite

Good luck. You are now officially ready to graduate from red Solo cups. Pat yourself on the back, you alcohol connoisseur.