Understanding The 2:1:1 Cocktail Formula for Sours – Course 2 Lesson 05

Let’s break down the golden ratio of 2:1:1 and understand the formula for sours. This is one of the most popular cocktail formulas in the industry today and has been for over 120 years.

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The stupid simple cocktail formula for your traditional “sour” is 2:1:1. The 2:1:1 formula for cocktails cannot be beat and stands the test of time. You can be a newbie cocktail creator or a 20 year veteran of mixology–that 2:1:1 is your friend. Lets understand this perfect cocktail formula before breaking down the most common cocktail recipe templates:

2 parts spirit (e.g. rum)

1 part acidity / citrus (e.g lime)

1 part sugar (e.g simple syrup)

In the United States a “part” is often referred to as an “ounce” because that’s our most common measure. The “part” can be any unit of measure from ml to cups, the ratio always works out (e.g. 40 cups vodka, 20 cups lemon, 20 cups sugar). Although, more commonly this ratio would break down as “2 oz spirit, 1 oz citrus, 1 oz sugar.”

David Embury’s 8:2:1 Ratio

The 2:1:1 isn’t the only cocktail formula to build your cocktails. David Embury, author of The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (1948) defined his popular 8:2:1 ratio, which favors spirit and sour over sweet. This is a great balance for those that find most “sours” a bit too sweet.

The 2:1:1 ratio is often referred to as the Golden Ratio because it’s the ratio that has risen above all others. Cocktail trends have changed over the last hundred years and the 2:1:1 ratio is the key balance that has prevailed as the industry standard. This cocktail formula does not define a cocktail or the drinker, it is simply the base for where much greatness has started.
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