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What Youth Drinks Building Blocks to a Great Cocktail

what youth radical class cocktails with paul brewer
Photo: The Internet & Photoshop

Did you know making cocktails is as easy as 1-2-3? Well, it can be with Booze-Acid-Sugar.

In this brave new world of crazy ass cocktails, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all these circus dick concoctions. Artisanal aperitifs, flavored vodkas, and flair-full garnishes are all real fancy, but sometimes they cloud the basics. Because, when we boil it down, the fact is all (well, most) cocktails are a riff of three basic building blocks: booze, acid/sour, and sweet.

Think about it. The Manhattan is whiskey (booze), bitters (sour-ish) vermouth (sweet). The old fashion is whiskey (booze), orange and bitters (sour-ish), sugar (sweet). The margarita is tequila (booze), lime (acid), and triple sec (sweet). The negroni is gin (booze), Campari (acid/bitter), and sweet vermouth. Even my beloved martini, with its trusty gin, sweet-toned vermouth, and acidic bite from the botanicals/maybe lemon twist, follows the formula.


For me, this helps. It’s a principle that allows you to understand the concept, not just memorize recipes. So keep it simple. Start here:
• 2 Parts booze: vodka, gin, tequila, or whiskey. Just don’t fuck it up with Sambuca.
• 1 Part Sour: lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange, or bitter liquids, like Campari.
• 1 Part Sweet: simple syrup, honey, agave, etc.


Once you feel the rhythm and feel that rhyme,

it’s 1-2-3 cocktail time.

Freestyle away from there with more ingredients and flavors. Add more layers as you wish, but don’t forget to pay attention to your ice, and for God’s sake don’t add a garnish if it doesn’t add flavor or smell to your creation.

If you find yourself in the weeds with no idea what to make—maybe with a pack of thirsty friends waiting in your living room, maybe with a classy babe expecting magic on your couch, maybe with family in town for the holidays—fall back to the building blocks. Trust them, they will provide.

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