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Recreating drinks.


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#1 Tri2Cook

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 06:41 PM

A couple of drinks on the Violet Hour website that interest me got me thinking about this subject. With no chance of actually going there in the foreseeable future, recreating them is the only potential option but I'm not sure how to go about it. Is there a trick or thought process to figuring out drink recipes, or at least finding a good starting point to work from, from just the ingredients? My first thought is, without having tasted a drink, recreating it from an ingredient list would be a tall order unless you get a damn good description from someone who has. But I don't have anywhere close to the skills or experience that many here do.

Disclaimer: This isn't a long-winded attempt to fish out the recipes I mentioned having interest in, I actually think this would be good information to have in general if people are willing to share their secrets, tips, ideas, derision, etc.
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#2 Chris Amirault

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 06:51 PM

I think that, if you had a sense of the basic drink family, to use Gary Regan's taxonomy, you could probably get somewhere fairly close to proportions. If I saw "spirit, sugar, bitters" on a menu, for example, I'm thinking we're in the Old Fashioned ratio (2 oz, tsp, dash or two, roughly), and if I saw "spirit, sugar/liqueur, citrus," I'd go with my usual base ratio (2:1:1) and then fiddle around.

What drinks on the Violet Hour menu are you interested in? Perhaps we can take a crack at one together.
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#3 Tri2Cook

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 07:03 PM

The drinks below are what I was looking at but if there's another recipe you feel would serve better as a walkthrough on how you would approach it, that's fine. I'm more interested in the how than the specific recipe at this point.

Lincoln County Revival - George Dickel, Lemon, Creme de Peche, Blis Maple Syrup, Herbsaint

Vato Loco - Reposado Tequila, Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth, Campari, Aperol

Chica Marmalade - Reposado Tequila, Lime, Barbancourt 5 Star, Orange Marmalade Syrup, Apple Bitters
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#4 lesliec

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 07:08 PM

A trial-and-error, (relatively) non-wasteful method we've used is to make mini cocktails in a shot glass or some baby cocktail glasses we have. Put in teaspoons (or fractions thereof) of your ingredients and increase one or another until you get close to something you like.

Chris's proportions are a great starting point to get one or two more errors out of the trialling. But it's fun either way.

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#5 Chris Amirault

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 07:15 PM

If Toby's around he can weigh in and correct the errors I'm about to make. Ahem:

Lincoln County Revival - George Dickel, Lemon, Creme de Peche, Blis Maple Syrup, Herbsaint


My first attempt would be aiming dry; I'd worry about that Creme de Peche taking over:
2 oz GD
1/2 or 3/4 oz lemon
1/4 oz CdP
1/4 oz Blis
dash (rinse?) Herbsaint

Vato Loco - Reposado Tequila, Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth, Campari, Aperol


That's fascinating! I think I'd do two trial runs, an equal parts for the fun of it and then maybe...

1 1/2 oz tequila
1 oz vermouth
1/2 oz Campari
1/2 oz Aperol

I'm kind of tempted to try this now but I have no NP vermouth...!

Chica Marmalade - Reposado Tequila, Lime, Barbancourt 5 Star, Orange Marmalade Syrup, Apple Bitters


This one is tricky: is the lime an accent or is this a sour? I'm guessing the former, sort of a tequila McArthur, which I'd make boozy:

2 oz tequila
1/2 oz Barbancourt
scant 1/2 oz lime
scant 1/2 oz marmalade syrup
dash apple bitters
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#6 Tri2Cook

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 07:30 PM

That was quick! I really wasn't sure how to approach the Vato Loco. The best I could come up with was a tequila martini with a few drops of the Aperol and Campari standing in for orange bitters. I like where you went with it better. More importantly, I see how you were thinking about what was in them. That's the stuff I want to learn. I hope this discussion catches on enough to pick your brain some more and to see how others approach it.
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#7 bostonapothecary

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 07:40 PM

i make my drinks in fairly even ratios and really try to shoot for 3 oz. portions with a few exceptions.

Lincoln County Revival - George Dickel, Lemon, Creme de Peche, Blis Maple Syrup, Herbsaint


i would make this one of two ways: the first being tarter
1.5 oz george dickel
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz peach liqueur
.25 oz maple syrup (800g/l undiluted syrup)
dash herbsaint

the second is less tart wich emphasizes aroma

1.5 oz george dickel
.5 oz lemon juice
.5 oz peach liqueur
.5 oz maple syrup (syrup diluted to 400g/l. i usually do it 1:1 with spirit to also preserve the syrup)
dash herbsaint

Vato Loco - Reposado Tequila, Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth, Campari, Aperol


i like how this creates the mid point between campari in aperol by averaging them. a very simple ratio allows that averaging idea to really express itself. next time i come across a bottle reposado i'll be sure to give it a try.
1 oz tequila
1 oz vermouth
.5 oz Campari
.5 oz Aperol

Chica Marmalade - Reposado Tequila, Lime, Barbancourt 5 Star, Orange Marmalade Syrup, Apple Bitters


this could be shaped so many ways. this recipe is like a 3:2:1 which emphasizes aroma.
1 oz tequila
.5 oz Barbancourt
1 oz marmalade syrup (400g/l with an aroma that is not too concentrated)
.5 oz lime
dash apple bitters

if i made it for me i'd stretch it out a little differently:

1.5 oz tequila
.5 oz Barbancourt
.5 oz marmalade syrup (400g/l with an aroma that is not too concentrated)
.5 oz lime
dash apple bitters
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#8 Tri2Cook

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 08:00 PM

Really interesting stuff. So many ways to approach these recipes. The scary part is, all of these approaches sound good. I think I'd be happy with any of them in my glass. I didn't think this was going to be an easy subject... I was correct.

Edited by Tri2Cook, 22 January 2013 - 08:06 PM.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#9 Lisa Shock

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 10:39 PM

Honestly, I'd try emailing them and simply asking. I've gotten a lot of formulas this way.

#10 Tri2Cook

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 04:36 AM

Honestly, I'd try emailing them and simply asking. I've gotten a lot of formulas this way.


That would be the intelligent way to approach it if the recipe is the only goal but I'm actually interested in the process of trying to figure it out. I can look at a list of ingredients for a food dish and feel pretty confident about putting it together, even without measures disclosed, and ending up in the general vicinity of what was intended. I was just curious if there's a way of approaching that with drinks, where often the smallest of changes make a big difference. Maybe it's a tough call to get the same drink without more information but it looks like there are ways to narrow it down to a few likely suspects if you have sufficient knowledge of the craft. Experience, and maybe even instinct, probably helps narrow it down even further. I'm guessing that Chris and Stephen are at least within a hair of the actual recipes and wouldn't be surprised at all if any of them turned out to be spot on. Seeing how they thought about it to get those results is exacty what I'm after. So, even if this thread dies (which I hope it doesn't), I've already learned from it.
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#11 bostonapothecary

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 09:09 AM

i gave a presentation a while ago which i turned into an article called The Manhattan: Prior Convictions and Ulterior Motives. it is about the different shapes a Manhattan can take and their specific objectives. the presentation had a comparative tasting of numerous different formulas. the ideas are definitely different from the norm, but i couldn't believe how well received everything was. it might provide insights into how these drinks can be shaped.
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#12 Chris Amirault

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 09:19 AM

I want to credit Stephen with helping to shape my thoughts on this matter. I remember posting around here years ago and using the word "balance"; Stephen pointed out that some cocktails aren't, and shouldn't be, balanced. Rather, the question is emphasis, or structure, particularly across the experience of drinking (aroma; entry, midpalate, finish; cold -> warm; etc.).

That is to say, all of these recipes may be entirely inaccurate in re VH's ratios -- and they may still work.
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#13 KD1191

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 02:38 PM

Since I've spent a bit (ahem) of time bellied up to the bar at TVH, and have had some success recreating their recipes, I'll add a few points to consider.

1) Toby generally dislikes equal parts drinks.

2) This site has a number of 'official' recipes (based on contributions from Toby to this thread from a Chicago-based forum)...they will help get you acquainted with their general philosophy of drink construction.

3) What constitutes the 'official' recipe at TVH may change as the season progresses, or as ingredients become more or less available...this is particularly true if a drink is able to survive for more than one menu.

Edited by KD1191, 23 January 2013 - 02:49 PM.

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#14 Tri2Cook

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 06:55 PM

i gave a presentation a while ago which i turned into an article called The Manhattan: Prior Convictions and Ulterior Motives. it is about the different shapes a Manhattan can take and their specific objectives. the presentation had a comparative tasting of numerous different formulas. the ideas are definitely different from the norm, but i couldn't believe how well received everything was. it might provide insights into how these drinks can be shaped.


That was a great read. I've peeked at your site a few times before but I think I need to do some serious digging into it. It leads me to another question though. When trying to recreate someone's drink strictly from an ingredient list, the creator's intent has to be an important part of the equation. If there's no way of knowing that intent, do you contemplate it (such as Chris did with the role of lime in the Chica) and then quit worrying about it and let preference steer you or do you bounce your thoughts off of possible intents (such as known ratios or drink categories) until something feels like a good fit?
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#15 Tri2Cook

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 07:40 PM

Since I've spent a bit (ahem) of time bellied up to the bar at TVH, and have had some success recreating their recipes, I'll add a few points to consider.

1) Toby generally dislikes equal parts drinks.

2) This site has a number of 'official' recipes (based on contributions from Toby to this thread from a Chicago-based forum)...they will help get you acquainted with their general philosophy of drink construction.

3) What constitutes the 'official' recipe at TVH may change as the season progresses, or as ingredients become more or less available...this is particularly true if a drink is able to survive for more than one menu.


Good information for working with TVH-specific drinks. Thanks!
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#16 bostonapothecary

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 09:33 AM


i gave a presentation a while ago which i turned into an article called The Manhattan: Prior Convictions and Ulterior Motives. it is about the different shapes a Manhattan can take and their specific objectives. the presentation had a comparative tasting of numerous different formulas. the ideas are definitely different from the norm, but i couldn't believe how well received everything was. it might provide insights into how these drinks can be shaped.


That was a great read. I've peeked at your site a few times before but I think I need to do some serious digging into it. It leads me to another question though. When trying to recreate someone's drink strictly from an ingredient list, the creator's intent has to be an important part of the equation. If there's no way of knowing that intent, do you contemplate it (such as Chris did with the role of lime in the Chica) and then quit worrying about it and let preference steer you or do you bounce your thoughts off of possible intents (such as known ratios or drink categories) until something feels like a good fit?


it is tough to come up with a succinct answer. i like trying things two ways such as with my examples of the Lincoln Country Revival. one way explores making it more of an acquired taste by being more acidic while the other way minimizes polarizing features and emphasizes aroma. i probably prefer tarter drinks myself but often when i make them with unique ingredients i end up thinking to myself that i really squandered the aroma.

i have my bar program where i work which is super tiny; one vodka, one gin, one rum, one bourbon, lemon juice only. the cocktail list is set in stone because i know more than 20 people by name that must have their favorite of the eight drinks. all classic ratios or batched straight spirit stuff. we could easily take on a guest bartender because they'd get the list in a second. a very successful and restrained program yet we make an ungodly amount of drinks.

anyhow, we also run a place two doors down which i have no influence over. when i'm working lunch at my spot i get summoned down there all the time to make drinks when the owner is waitressing (she likes to torture me and i think when i'm not around she just says for lunch they only serve beer and wine). when i get back i find the chefs have run my food and anyone who has sat themselves automatically knows i must be over at the pub doing something. the regulars always understand. it really runs like new orleans and not boston. i've never encountered anything like it. anyhow, the pub's cocktail list changes fairly often, they never have a sheet with the ratios and their ratios are whacky. all the time i just have to read the ingredients off the menu and make do. i never know if someone has had the drink before. i just do my best to squeeze everything into common harmonies and i get that phone call for a second round quite often.. i guess the story offers no real advice, but i do have to interpret other people's drinks constantly.
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#17 Lisa Shock

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 10:10 AM


Honestly, I'd try emailing them and simply asking. I've gotten a lot of formulas this way.


That would be the intelligent way to approach it if the recipe is the only goal but I'm actually interested in the process of trying to figure it out. I can look at a list of ingredients for a food dish and feel pretty confident about putting it together, even without measures disclosed, and ending up in the general vicinity of what was intended. I was just curious if there's a way of approaching that with drinks, where often the smallest of changes make a big difference. Maybe it's a tough call to get the same drink without more information but it looks like there are ways to narrow it down to a few likely suspects if you have sufficient knowledge of the craft. Experience, and maybe even instinct, probably helps narrow it down even further. I'm guessing that Chris and Stephen are at least within a hair of the actual recipes and wouldn't be surprised at all if any of them turned out to be spot on. Seeing how they thought about it to get those results is exacty what I'm after. So, even if this thread dies (which I hope it doesn't), I've already learned from it.


My intention was simply to point out that passionate people in the food industry are also generally nice people who are willing to help out fellow foodies. I wasn't trying to kill the creativity, sorry, carry on.

#18 Tri2Cook

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 02:25 PM

My intention was simply to point out that passionate people in the food industry are also generally nice people who are willing to help out fellow foodies. I wasn't trying to kill the creativity, sorry, carry on.

Hopefully you weren't offended by my reply, that was definitely not the intent. I appreciated the input regarding specific recipes, I was just explaining what it is I'm trying to accomplish in the long term to be sure everybody who reads this understands that I want to hear their thoughts even if they know nothing about the specific drinks I mentioned. Those were only mentioned because they were what I was looking at when this question popped in my head. I wasn't brushing off your suggestion, which was an excellent suggestion, I just don't want the discussion to end because someone pops in with the exact recipes.
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.