There is a time and a place for a Golden 2:1:1 Ratio, then there is what David Embury defined as the perfect cocktail ratio… the 8:2:1. This drink ratio is quite different than the standard 2:1:1 concept, or even that of a “less sugar” variation of 2:3/4:3/4 or even 2:1:3/4 for a bit of sour.
What does 8:2:1 Mean?
The concept is fairly straight forward: you want 8 parts of spirit with 2 parts of sour and 1 part of sweet. The fun comes in when you reduce that down to a single serving (since most folks don’t want 8 oz of spirit in their drink).
A typical drink would end up being about a quarter of the 8:2:1 ratio, so divide the entire thing by 4 and you get a 2:1/2:1/4 (or two, one half, one quarter) ratio. Take a typical 2:1:1 daiquiri which is usually a perfect balance of 1 ounce of sour against 1 ounce of sweet and create something slightly more spirit-foward:
David Embury Daiquiri
2 oz light rum
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/4 oz simple syrup
In this breakdown, you’re going to get a light sugar, almost not even noticeable against a moderate sour with a lot of rum coming through. You’ll really want to love your rum selection because this cocktail design is nearly all rum. You may equate this daiquiri to a rum martini just without any vermouth (thankfully).
What does David Embury Matter?
If you’re this far through our course of content you’ve probably got an interest in cocktail design. That interest can easily fall to the history of cocktail creation and David Embury makes a difference — he helped define the “modern” cocktail (of that era). Today, drinks are not exactly the same, and we go through waves of patterns and trends; today’s trends are closer to Embury’s concepts than back in the 1980’s when sugar was the primary driving factor of a cocktail.
Does this mean you need to stick to Embury’s ideals? No, not at all. However, you may find 2:1:1 cocktails a bit too sweet, and you may find an 8:2:1 cocktail a bit too potent. That means you’re personal golden ratio falls somewhere in between and experimentation is the next element to success.
Are Ratios That Important?
Ratios are what allow bartenders, at home and at work, to crank out a large array of tasty cocktails without having to constantly memorize the nuance of a drink. They fit the base of many of our favorite tastes and give us somewhere to go with our creation.
If a customer is looking for a strong drink, 8:2:1 may be a good place to start. And, if they’re looking for a well balanced sour, a 2:1:1 is probably a nice place to start. But that’s just the “start” of the adventure. Next, a bartender may play down the sugar and use a liqueur like Luxardo to add a nuanced sweetness, or an orange liqueur for a zesty orange finish. However, the base cocktail does not need to change and every single drink can be unique with slightly different ingredients, syrups, and bitters, all while dancing around that basic ratio.
So yes, ratios are important. But, all rules are meant to be broken. What rule are you willing to break to make the next most awesome cocktail? Get it done!