Food + Drink

Simple, Equal Parts Cocktails You Really Can Make at Home

Kara Newman’s Shake. Stir. Sip. is a handy book that proves that artisanal cocktails don’t have to come from a bar. Here is an excerpt from her book on her proclivity for equal parts cocktails.

I’ve been obsessed with “equal parts” cocktails for a long time. At first, I didn’t know that they were a category of drinks. I just knew that they were impossible to screw up. If you’ve never had (or made) one before, an equal parts drink is just what it sounds like: A drink made with ingredients measured out in precisely equal proportions.

The first drink to hit my “equal parts” radar screen was the Negroni: gin, sweet vermouth, and crimson Campari. I’m prob­ably not alone in that—the drink has had an amazing ascent over the past few years.

Shake Stir Sip: The Negroni

But once I started looking around, I couldn’t believe how many cock­tails measure out this way—why hadn’t I noticed it before? From the four-part box step of the Last Word (gin, lime juice, Maraschino liqueur, and Green Chartreuse) to the aptly named 50-50 martini (equal parts gin and vermouth), equal parts drinks have long been part of the classic cocktail canon, and modern-day bartenders love them too. And why not? After years of fussy, baroque cocktails, simplicity is back in style. We want easy elegance, streamlined recipes that work every time.

Let me be clear, “easy” doesn’t mean “dumbed down.” Just ask any bartender who has tried to create an original equal parts drink; finding that perfect balance can present quite a challenge. But once it’s achieved, it’s like magic. It just works.

The secret weapon? Ratios. For many (including me), a lightbulb goes on the minute you realize that cooking is all about ratios. Many sauces, for example, build on basic ratios, like one-part butter to one-part flour in a roux. Baking, too, has its ratios; the classic pound cake takes its name from early rec­ipes that call for one pound each of butter, sugar, egg, and flour.

The same holds true of cocktails. This book focuses on drinks that have equal parts ratios, just like a roux or a pound cake recipe. Houston, Texas-based bartender Bobby Heugel terms them “equi­nox drinks”—cocktails made in perfectly equal proportions, similar to the equinox days when hours of daylight and darkness fall in equal measure. Some drinks also allow for a dash of bitters or a squeeze of citrus, but the basis is always the equal parts template.

These templates aren’t necessarily set in stone. They’re a starting point, meant to be used, tweaked to your preference (adding or sub­tracting sweetness, for example), or built upon with garnishes and dashes and spritzes.

To get started, I recommend this Negroni recipe.

The Negroni

Pour one part (1 oz [30 ml]) each gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth into an old-fashioned glass with ice cubes. (Optional: Top up with soda water.) Stir well, and garnish with an orange peel before serving.

Shake Stir Sip: The Negroni

What is your favorite equal parts cocktail?

You can find Kara Newman’s Shake. Stir. Sip. here.

Photography by Irene Kim Shepherd

Kara Newman

Kara Newman

Kara Newman is the spirits editor at Wine Enthusiast magazine and the author of Nightcap, Shake. Stir. Sip, and Cocktails for a Crowd. She lives in New York City.
Kara Newman

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