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A Spontaneous Libation for your Consideration

From the Knowledge Vault

Craft Cocktail Making: Theory and Structure of Sugar

Our first installment discussed acidity, one of the primary building blocks of modern cocktails. Acidity can come from many different sources: citrus fruit, milk, wine, and vinegar. All have significant acidity, which helps balance out sweetness in a drink. One of the challenges of working with acidity is that often times the quantity of acidity in a drink is right, but the flavor profile is wrong. A drink that is perfect with ½ ounce of lemon juice will be significantly different with ½ ounce of lime juice, even though their pH are similar. Lime juice has a strong, grassy aroma and flavor that lemon juice lacks.

Luckily, the range of flavors inherent to sugar are much smaller than those associated with acidity. Sugar is a much older addition to alcohol than acidity, as it helps mask the unpleasant flavors of distillation impurities and the burn of alcohol. Sugar was in the first “cock-tail”, along with a spirit, water, and bitters.

The delicate, snowy white crystals of refined sugar at the grocery store have very little to do with sugar in ancient times. In fact, sugar is a relatively modern invention, gaining popularity in the 5th century in India as crystallization technology allowed sugarcane juice to be transported cheaply and efficiently. From India, sugar refining spread to China and eventually into the Middle East, where the refining process was industrialized. From there, it spread into Europe, probably in the 8th century.

Christopher Columbus brought sugarcane to the Caribbean from the Canary Islands. Huge plantations were developed, significantly decreasing the price of sugar in Europe and opening it up to wider use. In the 18th century, price increases led the British to create sugar plantations in India, bringing sugar full-circle back to its origin.

Recent Additions

  • Malort in Paradise — Herbal liqueur, Jamaican rum, Grapefruit soda, Pineapple juice, Passion fruit syrup, Lime, Pineapple, Grapefruit peel
  • Jamaican Beer — Dark rum, Rhum Agricole, Whipped cream, Allspice
  • The Ficus — Bermuda rum, Orange juice, Lime juice, Demerara syrup, Fig preserves, Balsamic Vinegar, Orange peel
  • Green Mountain — Cognac, Herbal liqueur, Lemon juice, Simple syrup, Mint
  • Veneto Negroni — Gin, Sweet vermouth, Amaro, Aperol, Grapefruit peel

Recent Discussion

  • Re Rudy Ray, 23 hours 36 minutes ago noksagt commented:

    Your one posted drink does not use Pasubio, but I'd be open to recommendations you have. This is the only Pasubio+lemon cocktail in kindred at the moment & other tasty Pasubio cocktails in general would be great. I also like the Rhapsody in Blue. Surprised there are only two cocktails on here that use this great ingredient.

  • Re Black Betty, 1 day ago Shawn C commented:

    Okay, but less than the sum of the parts. Even at 1/8 oz, the Pastis dominates, and much moreso than with a rinse for a Sazerac which I enjoy. As a result, the Braulio and Cynar are muted.

  • Re Rudy Ray, 1 day ago Shawn C commented:

    Good, balanced (sweet/sour) and probably a go-to if one is looking for a citrus modified Pasubio drink, but I have half a dozen Pasubio cocktails I prefer to this one, including at least one of my own. The lemon juice somewhat subdues the character of the Pasubio.

  • Re Pins & Needles, 1 day ago Shawn C commented:

    An alpine flavored Tiki drink that surprisingly works. A solid 3.5, but I can't quite go 4 so I am rating it a 3. To be fair, I used 1/2 oz of pineapple juice and 1/2 oz of simple syrup (should have used my gomme syrup instead) to simulate the "pineapple gum syrup" flavors while balancing sugar vs. the lime from my tree, so mouthfeel could be a little off. The pine and alpine herbal notes provide playful contrast to the pineapple/citrus. If you have Braulio and Zirbenz, try it.

  • Re The Shah Sleeps, 2 days ago drinkingandthinking commented:

    nice and smooth with a full body if just a bit sweet. I swapped Calvados/Montenegro proportions and liked it more.