At the very beginning of this text, I want You to know, that everything You`re going to read here is not supposed to be your bible and rules to follow. It`s my thought and conclusions after personal experiences.
It occurred to me lately that many of my new guests asking for cocktails throw in “…just not too sweet” (asking for drinks both “from” and “off” our menu). My colleague always rolls his eyes when he hears this. I, however, thought “interesting” and started to search for the reason for this phenomenon.
I`ve asked a couple of these guests if they ever had an unpleasant experience with our cocktails or whether they generally prefer sour/bitter drinks. Turns out, that 8 out of 10 of them say that their general adventure with cocktails is that they`re most of the time served oversweetened, wherever they go unless they asked for them to be “not too sweet”. Other 2 said that they like them extra bitter, or sour – either perverts or bartenders 😉
During almost 13 years of working in our industry, I`ve learned to put the “bartender`s ego” on a side when solving such cases and first look for mistakes that I/We could be making rather than blaming our guests for “knowing nothing about cocktails” (which on many occasions is a common answer to such complaints).
What could We be making wrong?
1. Failing to cook the sugar syrup using correct ratio water:sugar.
A common mistake that I`ve seen in many bars is that sugar syrups are made using “more or less” measuring method or roughly adding 1kg sugar to 1L water. This way You get your sugar out of balance and results will always be inconsistent. Besides that in fact to get the perfect 1:1 or 2:1 ratio You should use the scale and weight both sugar and water
2. Forgetting about liqueurs, vermouths, amaros…
Yes, they also contain sugar. You`d be surprised how much! In some vermouths, You can find even 180g in 1L! Not mentioning liqueurs. What does it mean? That if You use your 2:1 or 1:1 sugar to citrus juice/acid ratio when building the recipe then You`re getting extra sweetness from your modifiers that outbalance the cocktail. Producers of spirits rather keep in secret how much sugar they put in their bottles not to scare off consumers who become quite aware of what this white powder does to our bodies. Therefore looking for the right balance You have to experiment with portions of your sugar syrup, lowering down its amount until You reach the perfect taste. The same rule applies to any fruits or other ingredients that You add to your cocktails, don`t forget to think whether they`re sweet or sour and take them into consideration when calculating the perfect sweet & sour balance.
3. Prebatching / freezing citrus juices
I`m not an alchemist but I`ve read and tried to learn as much as possible about lime and lemon juice diminishing its pH and one of these articles You can find here https://www.alcademics.com/2013/12/how-the-ph-of-lime-juice-changes-as-it-ages.html – good read challenging Dave Arnold`s theory.
Nevertheless, I found that for my guests freshly pressed lime juice brings a better balance to Daiquiris and Margaritas than the one that`s been stored and/or frozen.
4. Juices again
Limes and lemons are not all the same, they have different pH meaning some will be more, some less acidic depending on where they come from. Knowing what You deal with can help You to find the right balance.
5. Using different types of sugar
1kg sugar doesn`t equal 1kg of stevia, muscovado do not bring the same amount of sweetness. Get to know the sugar You use to figure out the right way to balance the sourness in your cocktails. Here`s a nice read from “Cocktails For You” about making an “ultimate” syrup and different types of sugar https://www.cocktailsforyou.net/single-post/2018/10/29/The-Ultimate-Cocktail-Syrup
These`re just 5 cases that could cause our cocktails to be “too sweet” in my opinion. Can You think of more examples of what could cause cocktails to come out oversweetened?
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