The Basic Cocktail Formula

Those of you who’ve done some reading on the rudiments and mechanics of mixology know about the classic proportions, those ratios of spirit to modifier to citrus, etc., that a great deal of the time seem to work very well. David Embury, in his classic tome The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks espoused the 8:2:1 proportion, which these days is more often seen with the base spirit brought down a bit to 4:2:1 (usually expressed in the amounts of 2 ounces spirit to 1 ounce liqueur to 1/2 ounce citrus, for instance).

Other classic proportions you see are 3:2:1 (works great for Margaritas and Sidecars) or 2:1:1. If you look at the excellent charts in Gary Regan’s The Joy of Mixology, you’ll see his excellent charts that make ratios and the other drinks you can make by swapping out a base spirit that’ll make your head go “DING!” if you hadn’t noticed or thought of it before (e.g., swap out the brandy in a Sidecar for blanco tequila and the lemon for lime, and you have a Margarita).

In his latest article in the April issue of Esquire, David Wondrich proposes another set of basic proportions that in his opinion almost always seem to work in terms of balance, and one that I can’t wait to start playing with:

The Basic Cocktail
(Created by David Wondrich and your imagination)

2 ounces base spirit.
1 ounce aromatized or fortified wine.
1 teaspoon of liqueur.
A dash or two of bitters.

Combine in a mixing glass with ice. Stir, strain and garnish.

For your aromatized wine try any kind of vermouth, quinquina, sherry, port, Madeira or Marsala, whatever you’ve got. (I’m itching to try this with Pineau des Charentes.) With a zillion liqueurs and more kinds of bitters coming out all the time, the sky’s the limit. I’ll be posting some happy results in a few days, I think. In the meantime, crack open your bar and have some fun.