Behind the Bar: The Golden Ratio of Sour Cocktails

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Sour Cocktails: It’s All About Balance

What sets a really wonderful cocktail apart from a really average cocktail is balance. A cocktail must be boozy, but not overpowering, sweet, but not too sickly, and savory, but not too tart. The easiest way to create a balanced cocktail at home is to follow and variate off the sour golden ratio. Sour cocktails include citrus juice and are nearly always shaken vigorously to best emulsify, chill, and aerate the ingredients.

A golden ratio sour cocktail must include 2 parts something alcoholic, 1 part something sour, and .75-1 part something sweet. 

The sweet ratio differs between .75 and 1 part in a sour cocktail based on the drinker’s taste, and the other ingredients in the drink. Bottled or Shelf Stable citrus is less flavorful, and more citric acid-forward then fresh juice. When using bottled juice generally use the 2:1:1 ratio to counter act the extra acidity presented in the citrus ingredient. Granulated sugar should not be used in sour cocktails, as the process of shaking does not dissolve sugar crystals effectively. Simple syrup made with a 1:1 ratio of white or demerara to water, or natural sugar syrups like maple, honey, or agave diluted 2:1 with water are preferred (water helps make the natural syrup thinner, thus easier to pour and emulsify). Because natural sugar syrups often carry their own stand-alone flavor, you often need less of them in a cocktail! 

Classic Sour Cocktails

Examples of classic sour cocktails are Daiquiri and Whisky Sour, with slight variations for Maple Sour, Margarita and French 75. A Daiquiri and Whisky Sour are all traditionally made with simple syrup (1:1) but their differences come in type of alcohol and citrus: Daiquiri- rum & lime, Whisky Sour- whisky & lemon. Each is based in the 2:1:1 golden ratio, and each is strained “up” into a cocktail glass. Want to serve them on the rocks? Shake less vigorously so the cocktail won’t over dilute while the rocks melt. Garnishing with a piece of citrus? Consider a thinly sliced wheel or twist over a wedge. Wedges encourage the drinker to squeeze that extra bit of citrus into their cocktail, therefore throwing off your perfectly considered golden ratio!

Maple Sour is a great example of a variation of sugar syrups. It is made with Runamok’s Sugarmaker’s Cut Maple Syrup (in a 2:1 syrup) as the sweet ingredient. Maple Syrup adds a distinct flavor as well as sweetness. An example of variating a variation would be using the Runamok Makrut Lime-Leaf, Ginger Root, Elderberry or Hibiscus Infused Maple Syrup (all 2:1) in your Maple Sour to add a little more excitement.

The Margarita’s sweet ingredient is orange liqueur. Some drinkers prefer .5 part agave syrup (2:1) to be added as well for more sweetness! A French 75 has sparkling wine on top, so the quantity of gin, lemon juice and simple syrup are slightly reduced to maintain the golden ratio, and not over booze/sweet/sour the drink. 

Mixing Sour Cocktails at Home

Sour cocktails can be some of the most exciting to variate because of the vast flavors of juices, sweeteners and spirits available. Try some classic 2:1:1 cocktails to train your palate to the pure balance of the golden ratio. Then, pick up a few favorite flavors at the market, and have fun finding your favorite variation!

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