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Ideal spirit proof for cocktails (rum, in this case)


Hassouni
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So, I'm in the middle of comparing my old-bottling Lemon Hart 151 to my newly acquired old-bottling Lemon Hart 80, by means of diluting the 151 down to 80 proof and doing a side by side (I'm adding water slowly, so it's not done yet), to see for myself if indeed the 80 is just weaker 151

I then plan to do this with the new bottling 151 (which I need to go out and buy), comparing that to the old 80. If it's close enough, I won't bother buying more of the 80 proof.

But this got me thinking - I can make it any proof I want - I could go for Smith & Cross style Navy Strength, at 114, or London dry gin proof, at 94, or make it a bottled-in-bond 100 proof.

Lemon Hart 80 is not really a sipping rum, but it does make canny cocktails - but personally I feel 80 proof spirits tend to get lost a bit. What's the general feeling here on the Spirits forum on higher proof spirits for mixing? What would be most versatile?

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My kneejerk answer is "at least 94," but the question is an interesting one. I'd imagine that higher proof is generally better (assuming appropriate adjustments in proportions), since you can achieve dilution using ice, but that's probably bad extrapolation from George T. Stagg.

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Why 94? Because that's what gin usually is, and gin is typically designed for mixing?

In any case....my initial experiment has proved interesting. After mixing 18ml of water into 30ml 151 over the course of a few hours, and letting it sit (covered) for a couple more hours, it seems they really are identical - except the diluted one tastes...diluted. Apparently over on Ministry of Rum and Tikiroom, the suggestion is to mix the water SUPER slowly (this guy did half a 750 over two days!) and then let it sit for a day to marry - and then it won't taste watery.

I've also just now started the process of doing a navy proof one.

Mind you, this is all in Glencairn glasses, so only an ounce or two at a time!

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Apparently over on Ministry of Rum and Tikiroom, the suggestion is to mix the water SUPER slowly (this guy did half a 750 over two days!) and then let it sit for a day to marry - and then it won't taste watery.

Why should the speed of dilution or the time left to sit make a difference?

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I'm no chemist, but according to Ed Hamilton diluting alcohol is not the same as diluting, say, juice, and for the best marriage between water and ethanol + flavor, it's best to take it gradually. As for letting it sit, I suspect it's for similar reasons as to why chili, curries, etc, taste better the next day.

The poster on Tikiroom I think made a brief mention of his initial trial tasting diluted, but after adding water over 2 days and letting it sit a day, it tasted right and proper.

(edit: here's the thread http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?mode=viewtopic&topic=42188&forum=10&start=0 - both pages are relevant)

Edited by Hassouni (log)
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I don't think it's the water and ethanol that are at issue here, but the myriad other aroma compounds, some of which are more soluble in ethanol than water (and some of which are more soluble in water than in ethanol). So you're probably looking at a phenomenon similar to an absinthe drip, but that's just a guess.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I will say that after 18 hours or so, maybe a bit longer (I covered the glasses tightly in foil), the genuine 80 proof and the diluted-to-80 151 are a lot more similar to each other than they were last night.

Also, navy proof Lemon Hart is an ass-kicker! Might try 100 proof next, cos GOD DAMN, it makes Smith & Cross look like child's play.

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I usually prefer my spirits [where I can choose it] also at 45% - especially in mixology. I believe that 40% / 43% abv can be great sippers. But already when you add ice, they usually tend to loose. And if you make a cocktail, you would need the extra º to fight the dilution.

I tried to mix quite neutral overproof rum [bacardi 151º] with a decent light rum [Matusalem Platino] and this mixture works wonders in classic daiquiris and especially in mojitos.

But also Bourbon is great, when it comes on a higher proof. And - naturally - gin!

After I tried several different spirits in cocktails, I would say between 45% and 50% - off course depending on which cocktail you like to savor.

Would not "mix" great [precious/expensive] spirits though...

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