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A Spontaneous Libation for your Consideration

From the Knowledge Vault

Craft Cocktail Making: Theory and Structure of Bitterness

So far we’ve investigated the role that acidity and sugar play in the creation of craft cocktails. While sugar predates acidity in cocktail history, these building blocks can be thought of as a pair – acidity and sugar directly oppose each other. When sugar overpowers acidity, drinks become cloying and heavy. With the reverse, drinks are tart, thin, and unpleasant. It is only when sweetness and acidity balance each other that a cocktail takes on a savory deliciousness that I call tension.

The sweet-sour balance is not the only way to create a craft cocktail. Before the invention of the sour family, cocktails were merely spirit, sugar, water and bitters. This category of drinks, now best exemplified by the Old Fashioned derives their deliciousness through the mitigating effects of sugar on the bitterness of wood-aged spirits and bitters.

The previous articles have stayed clear of any serious chemistry. Unfortunately, bitter and alcohol have a lot going on that needs some explanations, and chemistry provides the language. [editor: Nerd warning. Suck it up.]

Recent Additions

  • Nuclear Club Cocktail — Jamaican rum, Bianco Vermouth, Falernum, Herbal liqueur, Orange bitters, Lime peel
  • As I Lay Dying — Cognac, Apple brandy, Braulio, Apricot liqueur, Peychaud's Bitters
  • Entrelacement — Bourbon, Amaro Sibilla, Absinthe, Cherry syrup
  • Fleet Following — Calvados, Chinato, Grapefruit juice, Ginger syrup
  • Willie Lee — Rye, Mezcal, Aquavit, Maraschino Liqueur, Bitters, Absinthe, Demerara syrup

Recent Discussion

  • Re Tarzan Boy, 2 hours ago Shawn C commented:

    I used JM Rhum Agricole Blanc (110 proof), Dolin Dry & Blanc Vermouths, Campari, and Small Hand Passion Fruit Syrup. It can be weird/undpredictable how disparate flavors and fruits can combine to make something unlike any of them. The "chocolate" notes that appear in the Tin Can Telephone are a more tasty example (for that I was using Cinzano sweet vermouth as a first pass, rather than something like Cocchi di Torino which is known for providing a mild chocolate note.)

  • Re Tarzan Boy, 8 hours ago yarm commented:

    I've gotten that rubber/plastic note from some rhum agricoles and not others. And citrus can soften that note, but straight spirits drinks don't hide it well. So I can see that. Which one did you use BTW?

  • Re Oaxacanite, 10 hours ago EtherPole commented:

    I made it with 1:1 Teqila:Mezcal, with 4 dashes of Angostura, regal shake. It's fantastic

  • Re Tarzan Boy, 16 hours 41 minutes ago Shawn C commented:

    Somehow the grassiness of the agricole, the grapefruit zest-like bitter flavor of the Campari, the passion fruit, and the vermouth combine to create an intense neoprene flavor for me. I have sampled some un-aged Hmong rice whiskey distillate with the very same flavor note (although the latter is minus the other fruit and sweet characteristics.) That isn't all bad, as there are some interesting things happening that some will appreciate. However, this isn't what I was expecting or looking for.

  • Re The Brotherhood, 2 days ago Mixin In Ansley commented:

    Like a gold cup at Mory’s in New Haven. Used Green Spot and Grand Marnier