Keeping It Simple
A Reengineered Sea Breeze and Madras
Todd Appel

I have many favorite drinks and cocktails I love to sip on and entertain with during the northern summer months.
Peaches, cherries and berries abound and are wonderful ingredients in numerous drinks and mix with nearly every spirit available. Most of these drinks are not difficult, but they generally have some lengthy prep involved. Peach infused bourbon lemonades with tart cherries, Bitter Lemon Sodas with gin, White Sangria with summer fruits, cognac, curaçao and white Spanish wines among many others.
But one of my favorite ones for pure, simple refreshment is a re-engineered take on a Sea Breeze that anyone can make and take to parties, picnics, BBQs, the pool or beach. In reality this is a blend of Madras and Sea Breeze cocktails, but nothing like most people have ever had.
It doesn’t have a laundry list of ingredients. It doesn’t take a lot of prep work or lengthy infusions. It can be made on the fly and will please everyone and anyone.
The key to this drink is using fresh squeezed citrus. The difference between fresh grapefruit and orange juice and the refrigerator carton counterparts that say “fresh” is measured in light years. The boxed stuff doesn’t taste, smell or feel like the real stuff. They are thick, sour, bitter, and murky.They aren’t worth drinking in any manner that I can think of.
The real stuff is refreshing, naturally sweet but not cloying or syrupy. They are wonderfully aromatic and such a pleasure to drink. Even if the summer months are not the high season for citrus in the U.S., you can still get delicious grapefruits and oranges.
By simply using fresh orange juice and fresh grapefruit juice you can make a seemingly ordinary vodka drink into something people will remember.  With no added sugar.
Oranges and Grapefruits
Citrus Juice Mix
4 Parts Orange Juice
2 Parts Grapefruit Juice
1 Part Cranberry Juice
All citrus juice MUST be fresh squeezed and strained. Use juice style oranges (Valencia etc.). They are made for juicing and give more juice than navel oranges. I prefer ruby red grapefruit, but white grapefruit will work too.
I generally make at least a few quarts of this at one time. If you are going to make it, you might as well make a lot of it. It is great for breakfast if you don’t use it all in your poolside drinks.
If you feel so inclined you can make your own cranberry juice by simmering fresh cranberries with some sugar and a little water, puree and then strain. But I find this is not nearly as important as the fresh citrus, so a good quality store bought cranberry juice works fine here. I try to think in terms of “value added” when deciding such things. Making fresh OJ has a lot of value added to your small amount of labor. Making cranberry juice doesn’t have nearly the value added. I think the same way with food and drink.
The base spirit I suggest is a good quality PLAIN vodka, but I really love a good London Dry gin in this as well. Tequila or rum would work beautifully too. Try to avoid flavored vodkas here. I believe they diminish the natural freshness of drinks like this.
By the Pool

2 oz Absolut Vodka
4 oz Citrus Juice Blend
16 oz Cup or Glass
Long Straw
No garnish needed
Fill glass with ice. Add vodka and top with citrus juice blend. Stir.
In a proper glass
If you feel so inclined again, I suggest both grapefruit and orange peel for garnish. You can make the garnishes ahead of time by making the peels from the citrus before you juice them and keeping them in a container in the fridge. Wash the fruit before making the peels.
Citrus Peel

For best results, chill the juice before hand. It isn’t as shocking to your ice, especially on a hot day. Keep it in your cooler filled with ice or in the refrigerator at home.
This recipe is just a guide. You can use more or less vodka and the amount of juice is really what fits in the glass after adding your spirits. Use your best judgment and your own taste.


Since Americans were introduced to Cachaça (ka-sha-sa) over the last 15 years in the form of the Caipirinha (Kai-pee-reen-ya) and the many new cachaças that have been marketed here, there has been a little confusion with the proper method of making one, and even from some of the best bartenders around the country.

First and foremost, there are 4 things that always go into a Caipirinha in Brasil. Lime, white superfine sugar, un-aged cachaça and ice. It should be shaken. You can use simple syrup but it absolutely must be at least 2-1 rich syrup. Superfine or “Bar” sugar is the best choice. This kind of sugar acts to macerate the lime and extract the lime oils as well as dissolve easier than regular American table sugar. Once you understand the traditional method, you can then understand and do riffs on this basic theme

I’ve spent many years traveling or living in Brasil and have seen Caipirinhas made from Rio to Recife and from beach to bar. There are always some subtle differences to each person making one but there are some subtle common denominators to making the classic Caipirinha like a Brazilian that everyone in Brasil does.

On a beach it will most likely be made in a makeshift plastic container/shaker and served in a plastic cup.

But in a bar it will more likely be served in a small rocks glass.

The proportions will vary depending on the size of the cup or glass. We will be using an 8 oz rocks glass in the demonstration here.

I will only be giving rough quantities for the drink, they will vary according to glass since that is generally the way you regulate quantities….and it is a good way to get a feeling for making this without measuring tools…the natural or every day way!

An 8 oz rocks glass is perfect for 1 small cut up lime and one heaping tablespoon of fine sugar, ice and filled the rest of the way with cachaça. Let’s talk about sugar first.


The table sugar in Brasil is comparable to super fine, or “bar sugar” in the US. It melts and mixes easily. “Bar sugar” is kind of a lost item in American bars these days with the prevalent use of simple syrup that has taken its place. Regular table sugar in the US is a bit too coarse for making cocktails, and there is a real lack of general knowledge of bar sugar hence the reliance on simple syrup in cocktails here in the States. American table sugar grinds up what you want to muddle too much, and is also not nearly as soluble as the fine sugar.

I’ve seen many recipes that use brown or raw sugar. Brown or raw sugar are almost non-existent in Brasil and, although they make a rich Caipirinha and seem rustic, neither are or should be used in making a classic one.
Brasilians like things sweet. I like balance, but it’s all in the eye of the beholder. Adjust sweetness and tartness to your own taste, but be careful your adjustments overflow and imbalance the spirits.

Let’s talk about limes now.


Regular Persian limes in Brasil tend to be smaller than in the US where they sometimes get as big as lemons. That large size can throw off your Caipirinha if you use a whole giant one in a small glass. So try to purchase medium to small limes. Always adjust to the size of glass. If you have a giant lime, use only half of it or 3/4 of it. You will have to use your own judgement here. It’s easy.

When buying limes, choose ones that are rounder and have smooth, thin skins, with hardly any dimples. These limes are juicier and give up their juice easier, there is less pith and less bitterness. The more elongated limes with dimpled skin tend to have very thick skins and interiors. They feel hard. This means less juice and makes the limes more difficult to juice as well. A few trips to the grocer and you will be able to verify the difference easily.

Notice the two limes pictured above. The top lime is elongated and dimpled. Inside the pith and skin are much more dominant, making the lime harder and less juicy. The one on the bottom is nearly spherical, and inside the pith and skin is hardly noticeable. It is full of juice.


Cachaça is made from sugar cane. It is a style of rum called rhum agricole. The most recognizable rum to most Americans is rhum industriale. Bacardi, Myer’s, Appleton Estate, Mount Gay etc..are all this style. The difference between them is that rhum industriale is distilled from molasses, a byproduct of sugar making, and rhum agricole is made from fermented cane juice. The flavors are completely different. In the French Carribbean, rhum agricole is used in a cocktail similar to the Caipirinha, Ti Punch, which is lime juice, cane syrup and rhum agricole.

 rhum agricole

There are many cachaças in the US market today. Some are old standards from the large industrial distilleries in Brasil like “51”, Pitu, and Velho Barreiro. There are also many home distilled or artisanal cachaças made all over Brasil that may have nothing more than a hand written label. There are also some larger artisanal brands of cachaça being produced now such as Novo Fogo and Sagatiba that are really bringin the level of taste and quality to new heights.

Finally we have the cachaças made for the US or international markets such as Cabana and Leblon. If you are at a beach or barzinho (bar-zeen-yo) or botequim (bo-che-keen) in Rio,  you will almost assuredly get one of the big national brands like “51” in your caiprinha. But there are bars in Brasil  where you can get amazing cocktails and caipirinhas or riffs on caipirinhas made with a huge array of different cachaças; aged, flavored, from different regions and in different styles..etc..


This drink is always made with cracked or chunks of ice. Clear bag ice from the grocery store is perfect. If you are using something like Kold Draft large format ice, then you will have to crack it. It is important that the ice melts some with the drink. The drink is muddled and built in the glass, then shaken and poured back into the glass or cup. It is important that your glass be FILLED with ice. This brings the temperature down fast with the perfect amount of melt and regulates the amount of spirits to top off the glass..

8 oz Rocks Glass
Wooden muddler
1 Small Lime
1 Heaping Tblsp of Super Fine sugar
Ice to fill glass
Cachaça to fill glass
I prefer NOVO FOGO Cachaça


This is a detailed step and almost always never done in the US. It really does make a big difference in taste, appearance and ease of muddling.

Your lime

Cut the ends off your lime

 Cut the lime lengthwise into quarters

 Cut the center white rib out of each quarter

 Cut the pieces into eighths

 Add to glass

 Add sugar to taste (2 regular spoons or a big tblspn)

 Muddle until sugar is dissolved and all juice extracted

Fill glass with ice

 Fill glass with cachaça

Pour contents into shaker and shake hard

Return all contents, unstrained, back to glass. Top with more ice if needed.
short straw

This is the classic Brazilian Caipirinha




I previously wrote on the subject of simple syrup and what I believe are preferred ratios of sugar to water (RATIONALE OF SUGAR SYRUP).
I wanted to take that rationale a step further and expand on the balancing and blending of acid, sugar and spirits for cocktails and other drinks in general.
Well-balanced ratios are key to making good cocktails.  Once the ratio of acid to sugar to water is in your glass is upset, your drink will suffer with little ability for repair.
In the first article, the focus was on making and using simple syrup, with the point being that simple syrup was originally created to make pre-dissolved sugar so it would be easily mixable in cold drinks and cocktails. Granulated sugar does not dissolve easily in cold drinks and making simple syrup eliminates this problem.
The critique I had with many, if not most, bars and bartenders today, was the unquestioned use of a 1-1 ratio of sugar to water *, thus making more of a sugar-water than the just pre-dissolved sugar desired for easily mixing in cocktails.
Reasons for this 1-1 being the standard, I believe, are a general inexperience and relative youth of the new bartenders in this cocktail renaissance and ease of making 1-1 syrup without the need for a kitchen, general misinformation mixed with herd mentality.  All you have to do at the bar is shake up some warm water and sugar and voila!  I’ve heard reasons for it from many people, but none have anything to do with taste or balance. 1-1 is easier to pour and make is the gist of the support for 1-1. But what you gain from taking the small amount of extra time to pre-make a rich syrup is better control of sugar and water in your glass and a better syrup for mixing cocktails. It is pre worked. It is part of your mis en place. It is what you want.
I will take this a step further then in discussing the next step that is also rarely seen today, but was a staple of old school bartending:  Fresh Sour Mix.

To eliminate the need for water in dissolving sugar, one can skip it’s use altogether and mix fresh juice and cane sugar until dissolved. The sugar and citrus then become a very concentrated and pre-balanced sour mix ready to expand in your shaker tin with the proper ratio to spirit and ice melt. 
This sour mix is not the over-produced gooey mixture of lemon, lime, eggs, corn syrup, sugar, powdered ingredients and other things, although this is an old school style that, done right, is delicious. This sour is just pre-mixing your lemon or lime and cane sugar. 
Once made, fresh sour can be thought of as one ingredient and used in many mixed drinks as well as non-alcoholic drinks. My rule of thumb in making a fresh lemon or lime sour is 1-1.  (eg 1 cup sugar and 1 cup juice). This is actually a little less than 1-1 by weight. *
*I’m referring to dry volume and liquid volume rather than weight so it isn’t exactly 1-1 and in fact is less than 1-1 by weight since 1 cup of sugar weighs about 7 ounces and 1 cup of water is about 8 ounces. Most people refer to the ratio this way, and that is why I haven’t changed that, but do want to acknowledge this. Also, first and foremost, ratios should always reflect the taste and balance that you or your guest prefer.
One can easily see how ratios in cocktails can often be horribly imbalanced by the measured or overuse of citrus and then under using sugar in your syrup and putting that ratio into your cocktail. An example of a typical error is making a Daiquiri with 2 oz rum, 1 oz lime juice and 1/2 oz 1-1 simple syrup. This drink is half lime juice…yuck This much lime needs an ounce of sugar to balance it and with 1-1 simple it is getting 1/4 of that.  The approximately 1 ounce of sugar needed to balance the 1 ounce of lime would mean using a whopping 2 ounces of 1-1 simple. You can see that there is no way to fix this mess once it is in your glass.
One full ounce of lemon or lime is, by my taste, far too much for most mixed drinks and then on top of this, the sugar that would be needed to balance this already imbalanced ratio further imbalances your drink. 
The ratio I prefer is 2 oz rum 1 oz Fresh Lime Sour (.5 oz lime +.5 oz sugar). This gives the rum some breathing room for you to taste and enjoy and open up with the light lime flavors and aromas that are now also able to open up.
While overuse of water in simple syrup is something I believe should be avoided, water is still a very important part of the balanced cocktail.
When you employ a sour mix you have all the control in your hands. The water melt from your ice is generally all the extra dilution you will need, unless you are making fresh lemon or lime “ades” or sodas.  I think of the ice melt as the air in a round balloon, the common denominator. It is what expands the balloon (your pre made, room temp cocktail) into a balanced and drinkable mixture.
The other dilution of the “sour” comes from the spirit itself…they actually modify each other and thus need to be in balance.
The imbalance of bad simple and the consequent overuse of citrus is two fold, as I mentioned above.
One ounce of lime in a cocktail should get about one ounce of dry sugar…thus the need for two ounces of 1-1 syrup resulting in three ounces of mixer before you even add the spirits. Many bartenders use one ounce of simple or less thus making most drinks of this nature overly acidic and imbalanced. One ounce of bad simple and one ounce of lime juice make a very sour sour and also a watery sour that over powers the spirits and gets even more watered down after shaking.
The lime is looking for more sugar…the sugar is looking for less lime and they are both looking for less pre-shake water…and the poor spirits are overwhelmed.
In a fresh Gimlet, for example, that little bit of balanced sour being used packs a lot of flavor. A 2-1, 3-1 or even 4-1 spirit to sour ratio are all balanced with the 2-1 being obviously less spirit focused and 4-1 much more spirit focused. I like the 3-1 as a perfect fit between the two. But this way of thinking gives you control over the spirit to acid/sugar/water ratio by creating that initial sour balance to begin with. You can then choose how spirit forward you wish your cocktail to be.
The beauty of fresh sour here, then, is taking two ingredients and making one out of them. I find that this also makes it easier for many people to think about balance…rather than think in terms of simple or sugar, citrus, spirit etc. In this case all you have to do now is consider balancing the spirits and sour mix.
It’s a way of thinking in terms of the sweet and acid as one balanced ingredient and that thinking can also be used when considering liqueurs in place of simple or sugar. 
This can be the base for many drinks and the base for lemonades and limeades by shaking with more water. Lemon and lime zest can be added for more citrus aromas. Other fruits can be incorporated for more complex sours.
1 Part Lemon Juice
1 Part Cane Sugar
1 Part Lime Juice
1 Part Cane Sugar


1 Part Lime Juice
1 Part Ginger Syrup

(Infused Syrups)

1 Part Lemon Juice
1 Part Orange Juice
1 Part Cane Sugar
 All juices should be fresh and strained
Stir all of these at room temp until the sugar has dissolved.
2 oz Bourbon
1 oz California Style Sour Mix
Orange Peel or Wheel
Shake hard and strain into fresh iced rocks glass.
Garnish as you see fit. A dash of Angostura works well on top.


1 Part Lemon or Lime/Ginger-Lime Sour
3-4 Parts Ice Water

This works well with all infused syrups for flavored ades

In David Embury’s classic tome, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, he prefers a sour ratio of 1 part sweet to 2 parts sour.  But lets look deeper into what he is saying.
After listing many, many ratios at all extremes during this epoch, he settles on the above ratio and prefers it’s “dryness” for a before dinner drink and for that reason only. His rationale is that this ratio is best for an aperitif and the addition of more sugar will ruin your appetite (I don’t agree since many aperitifs are much sweeter than 1-1 sour). He labeled this ratio as “dry”. But I have to say that I believe the dryness comes out more with a higher ratio of spirit to sour that he professes, and in this we are more in agreement. His ratio is 8 parts spirit, 2 parts acid and 1 part rich syrup. 
Embury is a strong proponent of very rich simple syrup (3-1), in this case the sweet should absolutely be pure sugar or 3-1 syrup, but not 1-1 simple syrup. This mix is really good this way and isn’t as sour as it might look since nearly pure sugar is being used to offset the sour and the water in the syrup is now a negligible part of the ratio.
We can then take this that step further and pre-mix the sour rather than use even rich syrup. You then have a pure citrus and sugar blend ready to use in whatever ratio you prefer.
1 Part 3-1 Sugar Syrup
2 Parts Lime or Lemon Juice
8 Parts Gin
This is very close to the 3-1 Gin Gimlet recipe that follows. This also demonstrates how the use of a whole ounce of lemon or lime would require a 4oz pour of base spirit thus creating a very large drink, indeed. The ratio is the key.
When using liqueurs in drinks, using a premade sour, generally, doesn’t make sense. Liqueurs impart flavor by using infused/flavored spirit and sugar. So adding more sugar by the use of sour is redundant. Think of the liqueur as your sugar/sweetening agent and the citrus to balance that out.
Liqueurs have different amounts of sugar and different densities as well as percentages of alcohol. All of these must be taken into consideration when balancing with citrus. Generally the sweeter and denser a liqueur is, the more citrus you will need to balance the sugar. This is one area that your own taste and experience must come into play because each situation is different. This can also be more complicated by the use of other sweet or tart ingredients such as sweet or tart juices, fruits, aperitifs, sweet or dry wines, etc.. Bitterness and saltiness are different stories but do play a part in this balancing act when included in the recipe.
Cointreau and some other Curaçãos and Triple Secs are generally dry and light and not as sweet or syrupy as other liqueurs or rich simple syrup or fructose as in corn syrup or agave nectar, so care must be made in order to not over use citrus in these styles. Ratios will change depending on the sweetness of liqueurs used. I think taste is the best way to figure this out, although you could take a more scientific path and use brix/specific gravity to figure out particular sugar content
My experience and taste usually is 2 parts Cointreau to 1 part lime juice. In this ratio the lime modifies the dry orange liqueur without overwhelming it.
With that sweet/acid balance made, you can then modify the Tequila. My ratio for the Margarita is 4 parts tequila, 2 parts Cointreau and 1 part lime juice.  (I prefer the use of ratios rather than exact amounts for most recipes as it makes it easier to adjust for any sized amounts of the end product and also gives you an idea of the balance the recipe is calling for)
I believe a Margarita or any sour of this nature should be heavily focused on the base spirit and then modified by a perfectly balanced sweet/acid mixture.
The tequila is the star in a Margarita. The Margarita is not a long drink, it shouldn’t be made in giant glasses, so mixers should be minimal in ratio with the Tequila The drink is powerful, but amazingly refreshing, not boozy tasting and is easy to drink. No unbalanced tartness, no cloying syrupy sweetness.
I have seen horrible ratios of 2 oz Tequila `1 oz Lime and up to 1 ounce of agave nectar. In this ratio your “mix” is actually equal parts to the Tequila. This drink is cloying, syrupy, tart and overwhelms the Tequila. One other mistake I often see of is the idea that the Triple Sec isn’t sweet enough for the lime so you need to use some simple to help. This is astonishing to me since it is a backward way of saying there is too much lime in the drink to begin with…or not enough Cointreau. Yet rather than cut the lime, or add more Triple sec, people will use simple. Astonishing.


Hard shake and strain over iced rocks glass or a chilled cocktail glass
In this day and age the abover ratio might cause many bartenders concern or outright disagreement.  I would just say try it first. These are only experienced suggestions and taste is subjective so the drinker must find the ratios and balance that they prefer.
This drink does not call for a liqueur so the Gin will take an even more dominant role. Whether using a sweetened lime cordial or a fresh lime and sugar sour, it will still have about the same ratio.  The lime cordial is already a pre-made, sour-like ingredient, so care has to be taken with your preferred ratios, but they are roughly the same. This works beautifully for Daiquiris…minus the cordial.
¾ or 1 oz FRESH LIME SOUR (1-1) OR
Shake and strain into iced rocks glass or chilled cocktail glass