Todd Appel

What should the sugar to water ratios in syrup for cocktails be?This has been a very important subject and one that for some reason still has some controversy over in our new world of drink mixing. One would think sugar syrup wouldn’t be a hot button issue, but whenever I have brought it up, I get some pretty hot responses and like I am a heretic that I should even question such a law of “mixology”. But there are some very good historical as well as logical reasons for my disdain of 1-1 simple syrup in cocktails.

For years I have wondered why my taste buds seemed to be at odds with many of the classic and new cocktails being offered around the country in during the renaissance of our modern cocktail world.
And I thought about something important that I realized many years ago.
Syrup in cocktails should be sugar heavy. Not to make the drinks sugar heavy, but to balance the sour ratios to their proper place and lessen added water.

I am not here to say drinks should be made in any way other than what the drinker wants. That takes precedent over anything. So if they want a sweet or sour or “balanced” drink, or a watered down drink, that is their prerogative. and you can do all of those things with a rich syrup, but once you have made your syrup 1-1, you can’t go back and you can’t get the balance that I believe is needed and was intended from the beginning and in most classic cocktail recipes calling for simple syrup.The original reason for making syrup for cocktails and other drinks was to make the sugar soluble. Pure and simple, no pun intended. One doesn’t need an equal amount of water to dissolve sugar, and I can only speculate as to how this practice came to be. But I believe it was out of a bit of laziness and expediency, both very human traits, but traits that unfortunately lead to things like “White Whiskey” and “Hamburger Helper”.

Many of the oldest drink recipes call for lump sugar to be dissolved by crushing or mixing. This became impractical as the cocktail evolved and pre-melting the sugar into a syrup became a standard.
That being said, the logical conclusion would be to nudge the solid sugar into liquid sugar. But we can’t realistically have that so we must add water to melt the sugar. Logic would have us add only as much water as needed to melt the sugar to be as close to liquid sugar as possible. But that logic has, for some reason, eluded far too many in our modern cocktail world.

Some basic premises, first.
1 When making cocktails, the general rule is that any outside water that gets into the drink, that isn’t added on purpose, will come from the ice melt and/or any juice.  This is very important to getting the correct dilution for spirits in cocktails.
2 The more water you have in your syrup ratio, the less sugar you have in your measurements and the more water you have in your cocktail, and the reverse.

3) The more water you have in your ratio, the less sugar you have in your syrup to balance the acid (lime or lemon juice)  1 oz of 1-1 simple is only .5 oz of sugar.

These two points are incredibly important to making a balanced cocktail, particularly when trying to recreate classic recipes that call for sugar, sugar syrup or gomme syrup.
But points that I realized have been lost on nearly the entire renaissance of cocktail culture in the US.
While there is a definite demand for quality ice and attention to ice melt today, there hasn’t been that same attention to the water and sugar in 1-1 sugar syrup.

It is also the reason, I believe, that far too many cocktails in our new cocktail world are terribly unbalanced, even though they seem to be following classic recipes to a tee. And those erroneous ratios are also translated to many modern originals today with the same poor results.
In Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks, (William Terrington, 2nd edition,1870, pg. 60)  for making syrup…”..(sugar) …should be close in texture and hard to break. It requires for its solution one-third of its weight in cold, and less of boiling water.” This is a 3-1 sugar to water ratio.

When reading the classic Embury tome, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (David Embury,1948), some time ago, I was very disappointed to see his ratios of citrus juice to syrup up to 2-1 in his cocktail recipes, until I read his ratios of sugar to water in his syrup. Now it made much more sense and was important historical and logical evidence to support the use of heavy sugar syrup in cocktails..
He used almost pure liquid sugar and not the 1-1 sugar water that so many of today’s mixologists blindly use and not adjusted to the ratios that Embury might suggest. This leads to a complete disaster in the final product..

The problem here is twofold. 1-1 syrup offers more water and less sugar. This leads to more dilution and/or overly acidic drinks. Another problem is that if you are using measuring cups and not using a scale, you will have even less than a 1-1 ratio since a cup of dry granulated sugar weighs less than a cup of water.

Embury goes on about the sugar to water ratio to my absolute delight..”The object to determining the ratio of sugar and water is to make the syrup as heavy as possible without getting later crystallization. I have found that a mixture of 3 cups of sugar to each cup of water yields very satisfactory syrup.”

Embury also goes on to state he uses only syrups in even his Old-Fashioned cocktails and other cocktails that call for granulated or lump sugar and that there is absolutely no need nor desire to use gum arabic in syrups (pg 83-84, Art of Mixing Mixing Drinks, Embury)
The 1-1 ratio for simple syrup in cocktails is the elephant in the room of bartenders and mixology today.
I can’t think of one cocktail that would be better served with a ratio of more water, less sugar and/or more acid than what is called for in it’s recipe, and that is exactly what is happening in even some of the best cocktail bars in around the country.

The idea of delineating “rich” simple syrup vs “regular” simple syrup use in cocktails today is rendered inane with this realization.

All cocktails that use sugar really should use at a minimum a 2-1 ratio and the days of blindly using 1-1 sugar water in any cocktail needs to be a thing of the recent past.

A Philosophy of the Manhattan Cocktail

Todd Appel
Origins of the Manhattan date back to New York of 1870’s. A different world existed back then. A time when Ulysses S. Grant was President, Stanley met Livingston, and the first Kentucky Derby was run and a time when the cocktail was still in its infancy in the U.S. It was the Manhattan that was born and sired may offspring while staying important and popular above the thousands of cocktail ghosts that litter old bar books today.
It is my favorite cocktail. This is the quintessential drinking man and woman’s cocktail and for good reason.  The simple blend of dark spirit, Italian vermouth (sweet) and bitters yields a cocktail that is very complex and rich in flavors and aromas. It was born for the sophisticated drinker, the one who wants to enjoy each sip with a smile, as it rolls gently over tongue and mouth.
It is excellent in either summer or winter. By adding a dash of orange or peach bitters it becomes the perfect summer evening cocktail. A hint of allspice makes it a special winter sipper.
While tobacco products are certainly becoming taboo, the Manhattan does blend perfectly with a wonderful cigar or slow burning clove scented cigarette.
Recipes abound for this drink, yet the basics are simply a dark, barrel matured spirit, Italian vermouth and bitters mixed over ice and served up in a cocktail glass.
Many other cocktails are derivatives or themes on the Manhattan. The Old Fashioned is a very close relative to the Manhattan, born some years later in Kentucky. Whiskey, bitters, sugar, ice and citrus garnish make the Old Fashioned a very similar play on the theme built by the granddaddy of all these drinks, the Manhattan.
Some variations have actually taken on names of their own. A Manhattan made with Scotch whisky is a Rob Roy and a Manhattan made with Brandy can also be called a Harvard. The Brandy Manhattan is most popular in the state of Wisconsin, where they do call it a Brandy Manhattan and also drink their Old Fashioneds with brandy as well.
Acceptable variations that can be put together like a jazz improvisation on a melody can include any of the following.
Dark Spirit: Canadian Whiskey, Bourbon Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, Brandy or Cognac, Scotch whisky or any other whiskey that you may desire. Añejo tequila and rum are now accepted dark spirits that makes a delicious Manhattan style cocktail.
Vermouth or Amaro could be dry, sweet , bitter or a combination.
Liqueur Modifier  Try a splash of Maraschino, Peach, Pear etc. to add some fruit and depth to your manhattan style cocktail
Garnishes could include lemon peel, orange peel, maraschino or brandied cherries, or olives.
Bitters could be any of a multitude of homemade creations or prepared variations, such as Angostura, Fee Bros. Orange or Peach, or Peychaud’s.
Ice  Try it on the rocks for a cool slow sipping cocktail.
Ratios for any or all of the above can be varied to taste, but the dark spirit should be dominant in the drink.
Mixing the Manhattan is as important as deciding on your ratios. Ice is the unnamed and unseen ingredient that mellows and smoothes your Manhattan while the overt ingredients are blended together perfectly. Whether you drink your cocktail up, or on the rocks, an easy shake, stir, or tumble is essential to finishing your Manhattan.
My current favorite recipe for a Manhattan on the rocks:
½ part Dubonnet Rouge
½ Part Italian Vermouth
2 dashes of Angostura
1 dashes of peach bitters
1 Homemade Maraschino Cherry with stem
Build in your favorite rocks glass filled completely with ice and pour all contents into shaker and gently roll or swirl the cocktail and ice together. Do not shake. 15 seconds should do. Strain over fresh clear ice and add garnish. I sometimes swirl all ingredients including the garnish and pour all contents back into my rocks glass without straining. This adds some seasoning to the garnish and also extracts some subtle flavors from them into the cocktail.


This is the menu I offered at the spirited dinner at Bacco at this year‘s Tales of the Cocktail. I added a rationale for my pairings at the end of this menu.

Bacco Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Dinner Menu 2010

1st Cocktail Welcome
1.5 oz Citadelle Gin
.75 oz Dubonnet ROUGE
Fresh Pitted Sweet Cherries for muddle and garnish
Peychaud’s Bitters
Homemade Bitter Lemon Cordial
Club Soda
12 oz Zombie Glass
1st course
Carpaccio tuna belly with arugula, ponzu and citrus aioli
2nd COCKTAIL Appetizer
Santa Catarina
.5 oz MATHILDE Pear Liqueur
.5 oz Perfect Puree Pear Puree
.5 oz Spiced Syrup*
.5 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
Cracked Ice
Candied Lemon peel
8 oz Rocks Glass
In iced mixing glass add all ingredients except garnish. Hard shake and strain into fresh iced 8 oz rocks glass. Garnish with pear slice and candied lemon peel.
*Spiced Syrup is infused with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, allspice, wintergreen, mace, vanilla
2nd course
Gulf seafood minestrone with saffron and pancetta
3rd COCKTAIL Interlude
.5 oz Pineapple Shrub Syrup*
Dash Angostura Bitters
Pineapple Ball Garnish
4.5 oz California Style Cocktail Glass
Add all ingredients except garnish and bitters to iced mixing glass and stir. Strain into small chilled cocktail/cordial glass and add pineapple ball and bitters.
*Pineapple-Cane Sugar- rice wine vinegar syrup
3rd course
Quail with Serrano ham, Mission figs and farro risotto
In honor of the Marquis de Lafayette and French assistance in our rebellion against English tyranny
.5 oz Vinagre de Jerez Reserva Solera 1970 and Vinagre de Pedro Ximenez 25 year syrup and Mathilde Orange XO reduction
Bitter Truth Decanter Bitters
1 Large Caramelized Cocktail Onion*
5 oz Antique Coupe Cocktail Glass
*Pearl onions caramelized in bacon fat from Maplewood Meats, Green Bay,WI packed in orange peel and sherry vinegar syrup
Add all ingredients except garnish to iced mixing glass and stir. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with cocktail onion.
4th course
Braised wagu short ribs with creamy polenta and chocolate stout reduction
Sélection des Anges 1er Cru de Cognac
1 oz Sauternes Wine
3 Tellicherry Black Pepper Corns
3 Fresh Pitted Sweet Cherries

Tulip Glass
Muddle 3 pitted sweet cherries with 3 Tellicherry black pepper corns and .5 oz Sauternes in an un-iced mixing glass. Add rest of Sauternes, Sélection des Anges and stir. Add ice to mixing glass. Stir very briefly just to bring a chill and double strain into unchilled Tulip glass. No garnish.
This drink is chilled just slightly to ensure aroma and nose, and yet be refreshing and playful with dessert. The fruit, spice and young wine bring some youth back to the masterly matured cognac!
5th course
Chocolate glazed chocolate Barolo cake with Louisiana blackberry sauce
About this menu
We begin with a few themes and threads through this cocktail pairing.
First is the use of fine Ferrand Cognac in two different ways. The young Ambre in a chilled traditional cocktail, the Pink Chemise, and a luxurious use of very mature master crafted Selection des Anges in the Gabriel’s Share. Not wishing to diminish the 30 year masterpiece of cognac, we wanted to create a cocktail that would focus on and respect this amazing Cognac. Just a bit of fruit, spice and mature sweet wine. All quality ingredients, but they pay homage to the star: The Ferrand Selection des Anges Cognac.
Cherries are used in two cocktails, the Cherry Bounce and the Gabriel’s Share to contrast the use of the same fruit in different ways. We are also using a Fino Sherry in the Pink Chemise and LaFayette cocktail, the former also including a Sherry vinegar syrup reduction for acid and sweetness and further depth for the main course.
Another theme is the inclusion of two vinegar shrubs/syrups in the Pink Chemise and Lafayette Cocktail; the Pink Chemise being fruitier, and the Lafayette being earthier. To contrast the use of general use of citrus fruit as the acidic part of a cocktail, we hope we can show the earthy tones in vinegar can be quite pleasant.
Two cocktails will also use Dubonnet Rouge, the Pink Chemise and the Cherry Bounce.
We begin the evening using white base spirits in two cocktails and follow with brown base spirits in the last three cocktails. The welcome cocktail is a gin long drink designed to refresh guests and quench thirst before dinner. The second slows down a bit, but stays refreshing by playing on a short Brasilian style batida; The Santa Catarina.
The third is a fun bridge between the previous cachaça based fruit drink. The Pink Chemise uses cognac, Dubonnet and pineapple vinegar reduction and a complex, deeper flavor emerges at the heart of the dinner menu.
The fourth, and main course is a bigger earthier cocktail, the LaFayette, with Rye, Cognac, Fino Sherry, Sherry vinegar syrup reduction and caramelized cocktail onions. The Rye anchors and adds some sharpness; the Cognac some softness, the Fino Sherry adds the dryness to balance the acidity and sweetness of the Sherry vinegar. The cocktail onion adds earthy tones with orange, the smokiness of bacon, sweet acidity, and, well, onion. The Rye and Cognac symbolize French assistance to America in our rebellion against the British.
Finally the Gabriel’s Share uses one of the finest cognacs in the world to end the evening. While the Selection de Anges stands on it’s own in exquisite complexity, we wanted to go against protocol and make a singular and luxurious cocktail as a grand finale to pair with the bitterness of chocolate and sweet/tart blackberries in the dessert.  The grandfather gets out and plays with cherries, pepper and Sauternes.