The Basics of Making a Great Cocktail

Streamline your cocktail making with Wheyward Spirit as a versatile base spirit and a simple starting ratio you can create an endless number of perfectly balanced, delicious cocktail.
December 8, 2021

The Basics of Making a Great Cocktail

For centuries, bartenders have been concocting simple and complex recipes alike. Though we don’t recommend abandoning your local watering hole, we believe that anyone can create simple, delicious cocktails just from the comfort of their home! But where to start? 

No matter the cocktail, the versatility of Wheyward Spirit can serve as your base spirit and you can rely on a few basic rules to start your mixology journey to create a balanced, delicious cocktail and truly bespoke drink. There are many elements to consider when building cocktails, but the number one goal is always balancebalance, balance, balance! Always keep that in mind when building any drink and don’t be afraid to play around to learn the exact ratios and flavors that work best with your palate.

Consider The Flavor

Whether it be a sweet and tart Lemondrop Martini or our waste not sour or spirit forward like our riff on the old fashioned called the New Era , there are four basic flavor profiles that you will want to consider: sweet, bitter, acidic, and alcohol. Each flavor has its own complementary and contrasting flavor as well. Sweetness is balanced by acid and bitter. Alcohol can be balanced out by a combination of all three. Deciding how you balance out those flavors requires a basic understanding of how to build a basic cocktail. 

Standard Cocktail Recipe

Though this isn’t always the case, you typically can’t go wrong with this the classic 2:1:1 cocktail build:

2 oz of base spirit (Wheyward Spirit)

1 oz acid/bitter ( think fresh lemon  juice or amaro)

1 oz sweet (think simple syrup or liqueurs)

Just like cooking, sometimes you’ll taste your final product and find that it’s just missing… something. Famously, you’ll discover that a pinch of salt is all you need. Well, in cocktail building, your sweet element is your ‘pinch of salt.’ As mentioned above, sweet helps balance acid/bitter and alcohol so it is the go-to complementary flavor. Whether it be a tried-and-true simple syrup or a store-bought Triple Sec, the addition of sweetness will almost always help you build balance in your cocktail. Alternatively, if your cocktail is too sweet, consider adding more alcohol to help rebalance. If your cocktail is lacking brightness, feels flat, or one dimensional, increase the acid or bitter element to hone in on a perfectly balanced cocktail.

But Wait, There’s More...

There is one additional ingredient that is easy to overlook when crafting your recipe, but is essential to consider: Water. Would you be surprised to learn that roughly 25% of any cocktail is water? Dilution is key to making your cocktail balanced. There are times where a splash of club soda or tonic water will satisfy the dilution requirement. However, most times, ice is going to be your best bet. This is where the question, “to shake or to stir?” is posed. 

Stirred Cocktails

Stirred cocktails lend themselves to stronger, more powerful drinks. For instance, think about a Negroni or Old fashioned. It is meant to be strong and sipped over a conversation. But without water in the form of ice, both during mixing and in the glass,  it would be overpowering. By gently stirring the ice for around thirty seconds, the ice melts, dilutes and chills the spirits, and makes it incredibly smooth and enjoyable. 

Shaken Cocktails 

When you have a strong citrus, juice, or cream component, you’ll want to rely on shaking your cocktail. Think about a Daiquiri. A tart, sweet classic cocktail composed of simple syrup, lime juice, and spirit. The density of the simple syrup and the weight of citrus need a little extra ‘umph’ to break apart, otherwise they will just separate in the glass. The force of shaking breaks up those components and blends the ingredients all together. Shaking typically breaks up the ice creating more instant dilution and chilling.

On The Rocks

Think of any spirit forward drink you have had. The first sip is always stronger than the last because the ice has significantly melted in that time. When creating your cocktails, consider what the drink will taste like throughout the entire experience and size your ice accordingly for how fast you want it to melt.

Lean on the Classics

Classic cocktails are the epitome of tried-and-true recipes. There is a reason they continue to be the foundation of all cocktails. If you’re just starting out with cocktail building, we recommend you perfect the art of a few classic cocktails with Wheyward Spirit as the base spirit to get your feet wet. Once you’ve mastered the build and execution of a few classic cocktails, you can start experimenting a bit more.  Make your own simple syrups. Try out a different citrus fruit. Explore the vast world of amaros and bitters. Try the same drink shaken and stirred. You’ll begin to notice that most classic cocktails were built from this same skeleton and with Wheyward Spirit as your trusted base spirit foundation of any cocktail you can be more adventurous with all of the other flavors to create new bespoke creations.

Whether you are experimenting with three ingredients or twenty, always remember to have balance as the focus. Start adding in additional ingredients - whatever you have laying around; herbs, spices, liqueurs, vegetables, different fruits, etc. Don’t take yourself too seriously and remember to taste, taste, taste. Similar to cooking, you can only learn what you personally prefer by tasting throughout the whole process. When in doubt - ask your favorite local bartender for some tips! They have years of experience, spirits knowledge, and insight that will be of enormous help. 

If you’ve got a bottle of Wheyward Spirit on hand, we’ve already made a list of easy-to-make recipes on our website! Check it out here. 


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