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When and Why Would You "Build" a Cocktail?

When and Why Would You "Build" a Cocktail?


Our team at Urban Bar thought we’d put together some guides unravelling the lingo and shedding light on mixology terms, starting with when and why you would “build” a cocktail.


In mixology, there are a number of different terms used to describe how the bartender creates the drink. Shaken, stirred, thrown, and built - and that’s just some of the jargon you’ll come across. To the uninitiated, these terms can be hard to differentiate. So our team at UrbanBar thought we’d put together some guides unravelling the lingo and shedding light on mixology terms, starting with when and why you would “build” a cocktail.

What Does Building a Cocktail Mean?

If a bartender says they are going to build a cocktail, they’re basically saying they’re going to make the cocktail directly in the glass, over ice. It’s one of the most common ways of fixing a drink and the easiest for mixology beginners. There are no special tools needed: just a glass and your spirits!

How Do You Build a Cocktail

Building a cocktail is all about layering your ingredients, one after the other until you have a complete drink. Most commonly, a built cocktail follows these steps:

- Prepare your glassware
- Add ice
- Add your alcohol
- Top with the chosen mixer
- Garnish if necessary

Simple! There’s no fuss or frills here, just straightforward cocktail creation. Sometimes, the bartender will pour both the spirit and mixer at the same time to ensure a proper mix, but that’s about as complicated as it gets. 

When and Why Would You Build a Cocktail?

Built drinks are more simple, with no reason for shaking, stirring, or throwing. Usually, a drink is built because it works better with the recipe or because that was how it originally was mixed. This is usually a method for chilled drinks as they’re often served over ice and will have only a few ingredients. A simple Gin and Tonic, for example, is always built because there’s no need for anything else!

Drinks are also built for aesthetic purposes, such as the Tequila Sunrise. This is done to separate the layers, creating a gorgeous blend of colours that adds to the cocktails appeal. Only once the drink has been handed over will it be stirred by the recipient.

Tips for Building a Cocktail

If you’re building a cocktail for the first time, here are a few tips to ensure it goes smoothly:

- Add a rim or paint your glass before you begin pouring
- Always add the ice before pouring for accurate liquid measurements
- Add spirits first and top up with mixers after
- Always add a straw in a hospitality setting

Start Crafting Cocktails at Home

Perfect cocktails aren’t reserved for the bar. With premium spirits, high-quality barware, and the right skills, you can master mixology in your own home and impress guests with perfectly blended cocktails. To get started, take a look at our online Educational Spirit Courses, where you can learn to master the art of mixology.

Image: Jacob Lund /

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