From A Genius Mixologist: The Only Ratio You Need For Perfect Cocktails
Drink tips from expert mixologist Gabriella Mlynarczyk.
“There’s definitely a formula,” she says. “My basic ratio for any drink is usually 1.5 to 2 ounces of alcohol, to one ounce of tart, to one ounce of sweet.”
“Most perfumes started with a solid base note. So I start tasting different spirits, trying to figure out which one I want to start with as my base mix for the drink. Because at the end of the day, when you take a sip of the cocktail, what you’re going to be left with is that base flavor.”
“I have a cocktail I played with for a while that had a lot of popcorn in it. I wanted to prolong that flavor of popcorn, so I used an unaged white corn whiskey,” she explains. “During the first sip you take, usually you taste the whiskey. Then it progresses in this long-lasting buttered popcorn flavor. Without the two [corn flavors], I don’t think you’d get that.”
With your 2:1:1 core cocktail complete, the next step is that of adding aromatics. And the easiest way to do that is to add a few drops of bitters—a scant amount of liquid that won’t throw your ratio out of whack.
“Technically, in the classic cocktail world, a cocktail is not a cocktail unless it contains bitters,” she explains, referencing the fact that the original formula for a cocktail was just alcohol, sugar, and bitters. “If you don’t add bitters, you can taste something missing. They add this final kind of balance that brings everything together—like the glue.”
Whatever you have at this point should taste pretty good, but what if it’s just too boozy? What if it’s simply not very satisfying? Or what if it would just look more beautiful in a taller glass? These are issues you can tweak at the end of your cocktail design process, by altering the potency and mouthfeel.
“I’m not crazy about just adding water to a cocktail, but it is more interesting to have bubbles,” Mlynarczyk says. “So I tend to add beer to a lot of my highball drinks because I love beer. It adds a yeasty or floral quality.” She also prefers to dilute a drink with champagne or soda water that’s been enhanced with some citric acid and simple syrup (again, playing on that idea of tart and sweet).
“I think the perception that a shaken drink will get colder than a stirred one is actually incorrect,” Mlynarczyk explains. “If you crack your ice, then you stir it, you get far more chill on the drink than you would shaking it. But some people, you can’t change their mind. They want shards of ice in their drink.”
For any drink on the rocks, ice should be thick and dense—those solid cubes that look straight out of Antarctica’s freezer, so favored by mixologists, have nothing to do with saving money; they actually melt more slowly, watering down your drink less as you enjoy it.