Here's the One Simple Formula You Need to Make Dozens of the World's Best Cocktails

Here's the One Simple Formula You Need to Make Dozens of the World's Best Cocktails

Why equal-parts cocktails are your new secret weapon.  

By Shelby Pope

Drinking is easy, but making cocktails can be complicated: What’s a jigger? Is that shrub really necessary? Tell me again why I need this infusion?  Luckily, drinks writer Kara Newman is making at-home cocktail mixing incredibly easy and foolproof with her new book, Shake. Stir. Sip. In it, she offers a genius trick for no-brainer mixology: equal-parts cocktails.

Newman, the spirits editor at Wine Enthusiast, discovered the magic of equal-parts drinks like many people do: with the first sip of a Negroni. After a tip from a helpful bartender, she discovered a whole category of drinks like the Negroni—delicious cocktails made from equal proportions of each spirit. “People have such sophisticated palates, but we’re not that experienced at making drinks at home,” she said. “It's so much easier than we’ve been led to believe.”

Toffee Negroni. Photo credit: John Lee/Chronicle Books.

Some equal-parts drinks are simple, like the two-part Bamboo cocktail. Others are seasonal, like the apple and ginger Hudson Mule. And some are riffs on classic drinks, like the Last Word or the Negroni. (One of Newman’s favorites is the Toffee Negroni, pictured above; recipe below.) But all of these drinks are a breeze to make at home, with the majority made from just a handful of spirits and accessible mixers like soda water or bitters. They prove you don’t need a huge home bar or a lot of time to make delicious, complex drinks rivaling the $13 ones at your local cocktail bar.

Another plus? Their straightforward measurements make it easy to batch cocktails for your next party. Newman said, “I did this for an event yesterday,” explaining how she quickly whipped up a big batch of drinks.  They "looked really fancy," she said, "and I didn’t have to do anything.”

Here, we’ve included some of our favorite recipes from Newman’s book, which includes 50-plus recipes. If you’re new to making cocktails, she offers some crucial advice: just relax. “Don’t be afraid. Master a couple of basic drinks. If you have one or two good drinks under your belt, you’re ready to go,” she said. “Conquer that initial fear that you can’t do it, because you can. It's just a drink. If it doesn’t work, you can pour it down the drain and start over.”

Hudson Mule


Photo credit: John Lee/Chronicle Books.

This refreshing highball was created by Christopher James of The Ryland Inn in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, to celebrate the autumn harvest. The original recipe was made with an apple-based vodka from Hudson Valley producer Tuthilltown Spirits.

2 oz vodka

2 oz unfiltered, all-natural apple juice

2 oz ginger beer

Apple wheel for garnish

In an ice-filled collins glass, combine the vodka, apple juice, and ginger beer. Garnish with the apple wheel before serving.

Ice cubes

Toffee Negroni


Photo credit: John Lee/Chronicle Books.

There’s not really any candy in this drink, loosely modeled on the Negroni template and created by New York bartender Lynnette Marrero. But the rich, deep tones of aged rum combined with luscious amontillado really do evoke caramel and toffee without overt sweetness.

1 oz aged rum

1 oz amontillado sherry

1 oz Aperol

Grapefruit twist for garnish

In an ice-filled mixing glass, combine the rum, sherry, and Aperol. Stir well, and strain into a rocks glass over a large cube of ice. Garnish with the grapefruit twist before serving.

Ice cubes, plus a large ice cube or sphere for serving

Bamboo Cocktail


Photo credit: John Lee/Chronicle Books.

This classic cocktail was created in the 1890s by Louis Eppinger, manager of the Grand Hotel in Yokohama, Japan, to serve to visiting dignitaries. The symmetry of this drink is admirable—it even includes two types of bitters dashed out in equal proportion.

Ice cubes

11/2 oz dry sherry

11/2 oz dry vermouth

2 dashes orange bitters

2 dashes angostura bitters

Orange twist for garnish

In an ice-filled mixing glass, combine the sherry, vermouth and both bitters. Stir for 20 to 30 seconds until well chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with the orange twist before serving.

Recipes reprinted with permission from Shake Stir Sip by Kara Newman. Photos courtesy of John Lee/Chronicle Books (2016).


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