The Golden Rule of Cocktails
I was asked to teach a cocktail class recently aimed at the average cocktail drinker. Something simple and easy that wouldn't be too complicated or overwhelming. I thought through all the things about cocktails that are hard: measurements, sorting recipes, finding ingredients and memorizing stuff. No wonder a lot of people would rather just grab a drink at a bar. Cocktails can be a hassle. But they don't have to be.
If you are on my website there is a chance you are a cocktail junky like me, and you spend your days trying to source unicorn tears from a certain Tibetan monk because you hear they offer the perfect salinity to a cocktail. There is also a chance you just want to learn the basics. So if you are a unicorn-tear-hunter you can look away now this blog post isn't for you. Go back to your google search for sustainably harvested chinchona bark for your handmade tonic water. This post is for the rest of you.
Making cocktails at home doesn't have to be complicated. There is a bartender's secret called the Golden Ratio which allows you to memorize one formula and use it a again and again to make dozens of different cocktails. As long as you stick to the formula you almost can't make a mistake, you can not only make standard cocktails but also create some of your own with very little risk of failure.
The Golden Ratio is just this simple recipe:
- 2 parts spirit (rum, tequila, vodka, whiskey, gin, cognac etc.)
- 1 part sweet (honey, simple syrup, agave syrup, triple sec, liqueur, fruit syrups etc.)
- 1 part tart (lemon, lime, grapefruit etc.)
If you convert it to actual measurements it could look like:
- 2 ounce (60mL) Spirit
- 1 ounce (30mL) Sweet
- 1 ounce (30mL) Tart
So to make a simply margarita by this recipe you'd use:
- 2 parts Tequila
- 1 part Agave syrup
- 1 part Lime juice
Swapping out the lime juice for grapefruit makes it a Paloma. Just like that, 2 cocktails and you have nothing else to memorize! Let's keep going....
- 2 parts rum
- 1 part simple syrup
- 1 part lime juice
This is a simple Daiquiri recipe. If I swap out the rum for Gin I now have a basic Gimlet. If I swap out the Rum for the Brazilian cane spirit Caçhaca I have the popular south American drink called a Caipirhinia. Same sweet and tart ingredients for all three. I just did a spirits swap and I made three distinctively different cocktails.
For sweet ingredients consider expanding to liqueurs like Chambord, Grand Marnier, Maraschino, Domain de Canton, sweet vermouth etc. Anything sweet will work. Just remember these have alcohol in them so you may want to make a smaller drink, or share it with a friend!
You have endless combinations at your fingertips. It's easy to make drinks for a crowd if you use the same ratio every time. You can also make large batches or smaller cocktails just by reducing or increasing the amount of the ingredients keeping the ratio the same.
Download the image at the top of this article and print it out or save it to your phone. It's 10 quick and easy drink recipes that will give you the basics to make several simple cocktails. Give it a try and comment in the notes below your favorite combinations, or entirely new ones that you have discovered.