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Proof


Dave the Cook
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There's a topic over here that discusses high-proof spirits and (mainly) the small number of them that are worth drinking straight. There are many other topics where the idea of proof comes up in singular instances. What I want to talk about here is the meaning of proof in the broader context of cocktails. What impact does proof have on the quality of the cocktail experience? (Boy, does that sound pretentious.)

In the Vacation Bar topic, for instance, Libationgoddess implies that there is a significant difference between a drink made with 80-proof gin and one made with 92-proof:

Charles Baker (author of The Gentleman's Companion) wrote of the "Daisy de Santiago", a recipe that he received from the offices of Facuno Bacardi----basically a daiquiri with reduced sugar, and a float of chartreuse. Splash with soda if you like. And then do it all over again, but this time, try it with gin (and go 90+ proof)...because you can.

I don't believe people who are serious about cocktails are equally serious about getting drunk faster by consuming higher levels of alcohol. In a cocktail, the difference in absolute volume isn't much, anyway. So what's the deal?

Dave Scantland
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The proof of the beginning ingredients isn't nearly as important as the proof of the finished cocktail. Or rather the proof of the beginning ingredients only matters so much as they effect the proof of the finished cocktail.

Alcohol heat is just as much an ingredient in a good cocktail as anything else. If it is too strong or too weak, it has a negative effect on the finished drink. This is why when you sub triple sec for Cointreau in the Cointreau margarita recipe (equal parts tequila, Cointreau and lime juice) you have to adjust the ratios or it won't taste strong enough. This is also why when you sub Cointreau for triple sec in the triple sec margarita recipe (2 parts tequila, 1 part triple sec, half part lime juice) you have to either cut the Cointreau with orange juice or modify the ratios or it will taste too strong.

I personally have found that cocktails in the 16-20% abv range after meltage tend to be the smoothest while still maintaining their cocktail heat. 20-25% abv after meltage can also work, but the cocktail needs to be ice cold, or it will seem a bit harsh. Higher than that and you're basically making shot drinks.

Some people prefer stronger liquor because it gives them more flexibility. After all, you can always add water to your liquor, but you can't take it back out again. Plus you don't necessarily need to cut the proof of your liquor with water, you can use other liquids for more creative returns.

Some people prefer stronger liquor under the mistaken assumption that the stronger it is, the more flavorful it is. This is true to the extent that the closer the bottling proof is to the distillation proof, the more concentrated the flavors will be, but the minute you add water to that Bacardi 151 you've basically cancelled that out, and really drinking it straight at that proof will just end up anesthizing your mouth so you won't be able to taste the concentrated flavors anyway. Trick to getting more flavorful liquor is in lowering the distillation proof, not upping the bottling proof.

Some people like things that make them sweat, especially in hot climates for some reason. Barrel strength bourbons and the less ridiculous overproof rums clock in at a more drinkable 63% abv, but they fall into a sort of a unique category that doesn't have much to do with cocktail-making. You can use overproof spirits in cocktail making, you just have to adjust your ratios accordingly.

Edited by mbanu (log)
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There are several ways that proof effects the flavor of a cocktail. You just have to understand a little bit about the way the liquor is made.

When liquor is distilled, it comes out of the still at a certain percentage of alcohol by volume. The higher the % abv, the greater the percentage of straight ethanol and the smaller the percentage of fusel oils, aromatic compounds and all that sort of thing ("congeners"). These congeners are largely responsible for giving the unaged distillate flavor, aroma, mouthfeel, etc. On the other hand, not all of these flavors are very good and some congeners are actively bad for you.

So, we know that an alcohol distilled to a lower % abv is likely to have more flavor/aroma/etc. compared to an alcohol distilled at higher % abv. We also know that the alcohol distilled to the lower % abv might have flavors and other substances in there that we would like to get rid of. One way of getting rid of these unwanted substances is by aging in wood, which absorbs certain undesirable substances and reacts with others to create desirable substances. The wood, of course, adds its own flavors to the distillate.

Different distillers (and different spirits) will use different methods of distillation and distill their spirits to different percentages of alcohol. For aged spirits, a lower distillation % is often a good thing. But when we say "lower distillation %" we're still talking about something north of 50% abv. Some spirits (aka "neutral spirits") are distilled to more than 95% abv and retain very little flavor from the distillation process. This is why very few overproof proof spirits are particularly flavorful. Unless the overproof spirit spends a lot of time in wood, or is otherwise flavored, it doesn't bring much flavor or its own to the table. Even if it spends a lot of time in wood, it's fundamentally getting just about all of its flavor from the wood. People reasonably assert that vodka derrives more flavor from the water used to dillute it to bottle proof (more on this below) than it does from the actual raw ingredients.

In the case of certain spirits (gin, aquavit, etc.) we start with high % abv neutral spirits and flavor them with various substances. Sometimes this will be a straight infusion, sometimes it will be infusion followed by redistillation, sometimes it will be by placing baskets of spices in the neck of the still so the rising vapors are infused with flavor, etc. But the point is that we're taking something that has little flavor and putting flavor into it. At this point, we have an overproof spirit with plenty of flavor.

The final step is to dilute the spirit to bottle proof by adding water. Needless to say, adding water has the additional effect of diluting the flavor of the spirit.

If we start off with freshly-infused gin at 97% alcohol and dilute it down to 80 proof (40% alcohol) we are adding a lot of water. In fact, we have diluted the spirit by more than 50%. That's going to "water down" the flavor of the gin quite a bit. As you may imagine, if we start off with freshly-infused gin at 97% alcohol and dilute it down to 92 proof (46% alcohol) we aren't watering the flavor down as much. In general, the 93 proof gin will have a more emphatic flavor than the 80 proof gin. Similarly, 100 proof whiskey will have more flavor than 80 proof whiskey. This is all verifiable by science, by the way. 101 proof Wild Turkey has a higher concentration of flavor components than 80 proof Wild Turkey.

So, in general, we would like aged spirits like whiskey, brandy and rum to be distilled at low proof, we would like unaged spirits like white rum and silver tequilla to be distilled at medium proof and we would like unaged spirits like vodka and gin to be distilled at high proof. We would like for all of these to be bottled at high proof, because that means that they will have the most flavor (i.e., the least dilution by water). Since we're going to be diluting the spirit with water from melting ice and other nonalcoholic flavorings when making cocktails anyway, we would rather go for the maximum flavor. Also, if you use a higher proof base spirit, it can spend more time with the ice getting colder without watering down. I prefer base spirits at around 100 proof.

One other thing that may not be clear: 50% abv is "proof" -- aka "100 proof." "High proof" generally means "near 100 proof." Spirits that are substantially above 100 proof (e.g., 151 proof) are often referred to as "overproof." While mixing with 151 proof gin might be interesting (keeping that it gets all its flavor by infusion at high proof), noninfused overproof liquors are typically not as flavorful because the most flavorful components have been distilled out of them.

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I'm sorry that I wasn't clearer on this, Dave. I'm glad you brought this up as these are important scenarios that should be kept in mind when preparing drinks. Thanks for prompting me to elaborate.

When I create a new cocktail, (and in addition to the flavor profile of the spirit I choose), I also take into consideration the proof; especially with gin. In cocktails that have softer flavor profiles (Aviation, French 75, or Corpse Reviver #2), or in drinks which are not going to be diluted or "lengthened", I'll lean toward an 80 proof. When utilizing the lower proof in these drinks, it will generally not overpower the softness of the other ingredients (i.e., maraschino, lillet, etc).

When creating cocktails that utilize ingredients which are sharper, or more intense, I prefer a bolder gin with a higher proof. An example of this is a drink I call a "Gin Gin Mule". For all intents and purposes, think of it as a gin mojito with ginger. I specified a higher proof gin for this as it can stay in the boxing ring with the ginger and mint; both of which are prominent, more agressive flavors. The higher proof is a much better match here than an 80 proof could ever be.

Here's another scenario where I think proof plays an important role. When we think in terms of the "Daisy De Santiago' (technically a daiquiri with a float of yellow chartreuse; served over crushed ice and gets a squirt of soda), or anything else where the "base" of the cocktail will be "lengthened" (extended), a higher proof is extremely helpful. The further dilution by melted ice or soda will only make for a watery cocktail with a blander flavor profile. The higher proof will help these drinks maintain their posture; their spine.

I'll go one step further with a Tom Collins or any other lengthened drink, and gently intensify the rest of the foundation, as well----meaning, I will probably add a bit more lemon juice and a dash more syrup to the base---so that the sour flavor doesn't get washed away as the soda gets added. We -do- want the refreshing sparkle of a collins or fizz when we add soda, but we don't want it so watter-logged that the flavors drown.

At the end of the day, the whole point of considering proofs translates into the desire to achieve further balance in cocktails. It's not only the sum of the ingredients that you use, but how good a host the primary spirit will be to them.

Audrey

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This is a great thread. On the one hand it makes deciding how to compose a drink more difficult because there are so many factors to take into account :wacko: . But it does help me to understand why a certain combination works or doesn't. I'm going to taste each ingredient before I make the drink rather then just follow a recipe. If I drank more often this process wouldn't take so long, but I'll just have to tough it out. Instead of doubling a recipe whenever we're having drinks, I'm going to make each drink two different ways to see how different combinations work out. I've started making drinks that call for bitters without the bitters first so I can taste it and then add the bitters to really appreciate what they add to the drink. Now I'll go home tonight and review the proofs of my gins and consider that when choosing what to shake/stir for the evening. It's barely 9:30 AM, but I'm already planning the cocktail hour. :biggrin:

KathyM

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm trying to put this information to work in making cocktails and figuring out how they work. Tell me if I've got this wrong, keeping in mind that I've done nothing with whiskey, and I've not tested my assertions with brandy/cognac. So this is pretty much about gin and rum (and only white rum at that).

- While proof is a measure of alcoholic strength, perhaps it's more useful to relate proof to flavor strength. Up to a point, assuming you're working with a well-made product, bottled proof gives you some indication of how well the essential flavor of the spirit will show through.

- This doesn't necessarily mean that a Brand A 90 proof spirit is unequivocally better than Brand B at 80 proof, because many things contribute to flavor. Also, flavor isn't everything -- you have texture, mouthfeel and olfactory considerations, too.

- Even though higher proof = higher flavor, you shouldn't always choose higher proof, because more oftne than not, you don't want the flavor of the base spirit to dominate. You're after a balance between the ingredients.

- On the other hand, other things being equal, higher proof can give the base spirit enough strength to withstand the power of flavor modifiers and dilution.

I realize that mostly I've just paraphrased what others have said, but putting it in my own words helps me. Have I got it right?

Dave Scantland
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dscantland@eGstaff.org
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- While proof is a measure of alcoholic strength, perhaps it's more useful to relate proof to flavor strength. Up to a point, assuming you're working with a well-made product, bottled proof gives you some indication of how well the essential flavor of the spirit will show through.

Well not quite. Flavor strength is primarily related to distillation proof. If a spirit fresh off the still is 95% abv and is diluted to 50% (like some vodkas), it will have less flavor than a spirit distilled to 67% abv and diluted to 40% (like some bourbons); even though the second one is a lower proof, it has been diluted less.

Also, flavor isn't everything -- you have texture, mouthfeel and olfactory considerations, too.

Yep. This is one of the reasons some distillers distill light rum to such a high proof. The way that many distillers make their mash, by fermenting the molasses with wild airborne yeasts, create rather nasty flavors that would only be more obvious at lower distillation proofs.

- Even though higher proof = higher flavor, you shouldn't always choose higher proof, because more oftne than not, you don't want the flavor of the base spirit to dominate. You're after a balance between the ingredients.

- On the other hand, other things being equal, higher proof can give the base spirit enough strength to withstand the power of flavor modifiers and dilution.

Distillation proofs being equal, I'd prefer the higher proof, simply because I can add water to the liquor myself, if needed, plus I'm given more flexibility in using other ingredients instead. If I wanted a 15% abv coffee liqueur, I could buy a 15% abv coffee liqueur, or I could cut my Kahlua with water, coffee, cola, melted ice cream, whatever and end up at the same 15% abv, but with more options as to how to get there.

Edited by mbanu (log)
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- While proof is a measure of alcoholic strength, perhaps it's more useful to relate proof to flavor strength. Up to a point, assuming you're working with a well-made product, bottled proof gives you some indication of how well the essential flavor of the spirit will show through.

Well not quite. Flavor strength is primarily related to distillation proof. If a spirit fresh off the still is 95% abv and is diluted to 50% (like some vodkas), it will have less flavor than a spirit distilled to 67% abv and diluted to 40% (like some bourbons); even though the second one is a lower proof, it has been diluted less.

I think it depends on the spirit. What you are saying works for spirits that derive most of their flavor from the wash and from wood aging (e.g., whisk(e)y, brandy, rum). On the other hand, for an infused neutral spirit like gin or aquavit, flavor strength isn't particularly related to distillation proof.

A general rule of thumb for distilled spirits is that a spirit of higher proof will have more intensity of flavor than a spirit of the same type at lower proof. In other words, a 100 proof white rum will tend to have more flavor than an 80 proof white rum, a 94 proof gin will tend to have more flavor than an 80 proof gin, a 100 proof bourbon or rye will tend to have more flavor than an 86 proof bourbon or rye. This isn't always the case, of course. For example, Junìpero gin is 98.6 proof and Gordon's is only 80. Yet, there are certain notes in Gordon's that come through more assertively. This might be because Gordon's is so much more aggressively flavored after infusion that these certain notes are still stronger even though it is diluted more than Junìpero.

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I think it depends on the spirit.  What you are saying works for spirits that derive most of their flavor from the wash and from wood aging (e.g., whisk(e)y, brandy, rum).  On the other hand, for an infused neutral spirit like gin or aquavit, flavor strength isn't particularly related to distillation proof.

Well I would agree with you that with infused spirits distillation proof becomes less important because there are more variables. But I wouldn't say it's irrelevant. It's role just isn't as obvious.

With infused spirits instead of one or two important variables (distillation proof and barrel proof if it's aged) you have three (distillation proof, wash proof, botanical concentration), or possibly four if it's aged.

Wash proof effects non-infused spirits too, but not really as much because most washes are within 5-15% abv. With infusions however they can be anywhere from 5%-95% so it's more of an issue.

If you use a low botanical concentration, (such as using a gin head) it's cheaper because it uses less botanicals to flavor the same amount of spirit, but it makes a less flavorful gin, all other things being equal.

If you use a high wash proof (such as making your gin "tea" out of 40%abv neutral spirits) it's cheaper because you need less botanicals to flavor the same volume of gin, but it makes a less flavorful gin, all other things being equal.

If you use a high distillation proof it's cheaper because you get more gin out of your efforts. But once again, all other things being equal, you get a less flavorful gin.

For instance if you start out with 50% abv vodka and redistill it through a gin head to 79% abv, and then water it down into 40% abv gin, it will be very lightly flavored. I don't know how many distillers do this though (besides possibly Bombay Sapphire), since you can get the same results through using essential oils and it's probably cheaper.

On the other hand if you start out with a 10% abv wash steeped with a large number of botanicals and then distilled to 55% abv and cut into 40% abv gin, it will be far more flavorful. I also sincerely doubt any distillers fall on this end of the extreme either, since it really isn't a very cost effective way of making gin, and most gin marketing is going towards luring in vodka drinkers, not giving a "ginny" gin to people who already drink gin.

Edited by mbanu (log)
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Thanks -- this discussion is what I was after. But if I'm standing in front of a shelf of liquor at the store, all I know is the bottled proof. How am I supposed to know the distillation proof?

The way that many distillers make their mash, by fermenting the molasses with wild airborne yeasts, create rather nasty flavors that would only be more obvious at lower distillation proofs.

Ick.

Dave Scantland
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Interesting stuff, mbanu. I'm still not sure I entirely understand, however.

Here's what Plymouth does to make their gin:

  • Begins with neutral spirits and rectifies to >96% alcohol.
  • Dilutes that alcohol down to approximately 69% alcohol.
  • Puts the botanicals into that 69% alcohol wash and fires the still.
  • Distills the flavored wash to produce gin at 85% alcohol.
  • Dilutes the gin to 41.2% alcohol for their main bottling, 50% alcohol for Navy Strength.

I assume this is a fairly standard technique. This is to say that, while a 10% infused wash distilled to 55% and diluted down to 40% might have more intensity of flavor, this would seem to be a largely theoretical construct and it's unclear to me that the 10/55/40 gin distillation you mention wouldn't result in some pretty harsh flavors and un-gin-like characteristics.

Thanks -- this discussion is what I was after. But if I'm standing in front of a shelf of liquor at the store, all I know is the bottled proof. How am I supposed to know the distillation proof?

IMO, a higher bottle proof almost always equals more intensity of flavor in rum and whiskey. With gin also it's often the case, but not always. All in all, it goes back to some of the things Audrey mentioned. Sometimes you might rather use 80 proof Old Overholt rye in a drink instead of 100 proof Wild Turkey because you're looking for a milder flavor. You're also very rarely going to want to mix with ~125 proof Booker's, because it will almost always overwhelm everything else in the drink. Sometimes you might want to use a higher proof gin like Junìpero because the drink you're making has a lot of nonalcoholic ingredients and you don't want to water down the alcohol content of the drink. Other times -- in a modern-style ultradry Martini at 10:1, for example -- you might prefer one of the lower proof gins.

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Maybe it's me, but the alcoholic strength of a finished cocktail doesn't concern me very much. It's going to be what it's going to be, and almost all cocktails have enough alcohol in them to promote conviviality. My main concern is something that tastes good. Maybe I can check my understanding with a couple of examples.

Take a Twentieth Century:

1.50 ounce gin

0.75 ounce Lillet

0.75 ounce lemon juice

0.50 ounce white crème de cacao

To me, this cocktail is all about balance. You don't want to numb the palate with high-proof gin or you'll miss the chocolate follow-up. Also, the more pronounced gin flavor would drown the Lillet.

On the other hand, a French 75:

1.00 ounce gin

0.25 ounce lemon juice

0.125 ounce simple syrup

5.0 ounces champagne

is hardly worth making with 80-proof gin. I know this because I've got one in front of me now (and I cheated on the champagne, using only about four ounces).

Am I making sense yet, or do I need another drink?

Dave Scantland
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dscantland@eGstaff.org
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Eat more chicken skin.

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Thanks -- this discussion is what I was after. But if I'm standing in front of a shelf of liquor at the store, all I know is the bottled proof. How am I supposed to know the distillation proof?

If you're wandering around the store looking for a more flavorful aged product, here's a few things to look for:

Age statements - All other things being equal, the older it is the more flavorful it is.

"Barrel proof" declarations - Some producers market barrel proof bottlings. These are generally more flavorful.

Bottling proof to a degree. For instance, if two versions of a liquor by the same distiller come in at 80 proof and 100 proof, the stronger one will be more flavorful than the weaker one, but not necessarily more flavorful than a competing brand.

After a while it comes down to either going by customer reviews, buying a test bottle and comparing yourself, or talking to people at the distilleries or online who can give you the information you need.

Quite helpfully, in Gary Regan's The Book of Bourbon and Other Fine American Whiskeys he has a rather lengthy list of all the major bourbon distillers at the time that the book was published, that includes the distillation proofs and barrel proofs of all their bourbons.

The way that many distillers make their mash, by fermenting the molasses with wild airborne yeasts, create rather nasty flavors that would only be more obvious at lower distillation proofs.

Ick.

That's the other thing to remember. :) More flavorful doesn't necessarily mean more good flavors. :) Whether or not the extra flavors of a lower distillation proof will be worth having are entirely based on the quality of the base mash. A good mash will take you to many surprising places. :) That's how Germain-Robin's $100 American brandies distilled from quality wines have been able to compete with $1,000 French brandies distilled from crappy ones. ;)

Edited by mbanu (log)
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You need another French 75. What a perfect cocktail that is! Just assertive enought, the lemon and champagne in perfect balance. Thanks for reminding me about the French 75 -- I think Carter was President the last time I drank one.

The 20th Century toubles me a little, because I really don't like chocolate in cocktails. Would it be the Twenty First Century if you left out the C de C? Lillet is such a rare treat to me that diluting it with C de C seems weird. (Then again, of course, I've never tasted one.)

Margaret McArthur

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Interesting stuff, mbanu.  I'm still not sure I entirely understand, however.

Here's what Plymouth does to make their gin:

  • Begins with neutral spirits and rectifies to >96% alcohol.
  • Dilutes that alcohol down to approximately 69% alcohol.
  • Puts the botanicals into that 69% alcohol wash and fires the still.
  • Distills the flavored wash to produce gin at 85% alcohol.
  • Dilutes the gin to 41.2% alcohol for their main bottling, 50% alcohol for Navy Strength.

I assume this is a fairly standard technique.  This is to say that, while a 10% infused wash distilled to 55% and diluted down to 40% might have more intensity of flavor, this would seem to be a largely theoretical construct and it's unclear to me that the 10/55/40 gin distillation you mention wouldn't result in some pretty harsh flavors and un-gin-like characteristics.

The information on Plymoth is quite useful. Thank you very much. :)

Whether or not the flavors would be harsh depends primarily on how the wash is treated, and the distillation process. Whether or not it would be "gin-like" is a very valid point. Assuming that their primary botanical is still juniper, I suppose it would be, but since as both of us have agreed noone makes gin like this, I suppose it's hard to say one way or the other. :)

You're also very rarely going to want to mix with ~125 proof Booker's, because it will almost always overwhelm everything else in the drink.

But with the higher proof Booker's you're given more opportunity. :) Let's say you wish to make a whiskey sour. You can make it the same way you always do, only cutting the Booker's down to appropriate strength with water before using. Or you can use the opportunity to cut it down with other ingredients, orange juice, tea, whichever, that you wouldn't have had the opportunity to use before without modifying the other ingredient ratio to keep it the same strength. Plus given the higher proof you can suddenly be more creative with it. Use it as a float on top of cocktails or in the top layer of pousse cafes instead of Bacardi 151 for instance. :) Set it on fire if you care to. :P As the proof increases, options increase. As long as it's not at the cost of flavor, this is a good thing.

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On the other hand, a French 75:

1.00 ounce gin

0.25 ounce lemon juice

0.125 ounce simple syrup

5.0 ounces champagne

is hardly worth making with 80-proof gin. I know this because I've got one in front of me now (and I cheated on the champagne, using only about four ounces).

Am I making sense yet, or do I need another drink?

Perhaps if you could elaborate on what it is that you dislike about the French 75 using your current recipe?

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Maybe it's me, but the alcoholic strength of a finished cocktail doesn't concern me very much. It's going to be what it's going to be, and almost all cocktails have enough alcohol in them to promote conviviality. My main concern is something that tastes good.

Well, whether alcoholic strength is important depends on the cocktail. There is definitely something to be said for a short, cold, strong drink. There's a very old fashioned cocktail that I like very much. Dave Wondrich's version, called the Tombstone, has two ounces of Wild Turkey 100 proof rye whiskey, a bar spoon of 2:1 demerara syrup and two dashes of Angostura bitters. Now, you could make this drink with Old Overholt, a very good rye at 80 proof, but it just wouldn't be the same. Part of the difference would be in the strength of the cocktail. A better example might be Audrey's Gin-Gin Mule. It's a tall drink with ice, 1.5 ounces of gin, .75 ounces of lime juice, 1 ounce of simple syrup, mint and 2 ounces of ginger beer. That's only 1.5 ounces of spirit to 3.75 ounces of nonalcoholic ingredients -- more once the ice starts melting. Make this with an 80 proof gin, and it might get a little weak.

Take a Twentieth Century:

1.50 ounce gin

0.75 ounce Lillet

0.75 ounce lemon juice

0.50 ounce white crème de cacao

To me, this cocktail is all about balance. You don't want to numb the palate with high-proof gin or you'll miss the chocolate follow-up. Also, the more pronounced gin flavor would drown the Lillet.

I think the idea of "numbing the palate with high proof spirits" is hogwash. That said, I agree that this is a drink that you might want to balance with a softer gin (I personally prefer only 0.5 of Lillet and lemon juice, but that's another topic). But gin proof and assertiveness of flavor do not always go hand in hand. It's more complicated because of the infusion technique thing.

On the other hand, a French 75:

1.00 ounce gin

0.25 ounce lemon juice

0.125 ounce simple syrup

5.0 ounces champagne

is hardly worth making with 80-proof gin. I know this because I've got one in front of me now (and I cheated on the champagne, using only about four ounces).

Exactly. You want an assertive gin with a French 75, and it wouldn't hurt to use a higher proof one as well (I think 4 ounces is the right amount).

You're also very rarely going to want to mix with ~125 proof Booker's, because it will almost always overwhelm everything else in the drink.

But with the higher proof Booker's you're given more opportunity. :)

Well, it's true that you can always cut a higher proof spirit down in alcoholic strength and intensity of flavor simply by dilution. But it's sometimes nice to start with something softer. I guess if you could only use one bourbon, you'd want the higher proof one. Luckily we don't have to make that choice. :smile:

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That's the other thing to remember. :) More flavorful doesn't necessarily mean more good flavors. :) Whether or not the extra flavors of a lower distillation proof will be worth having are entirely based on the quality of the base mash. A good mash will take you to many surprising places. :) That's how Germain-Robin's $100 American brandies distilled from quality wines have been able to compete with $1,000 French brandies distilled from crappy ones. ;)

The perfect counter example is tequila. :) Traditionally made tequilas have a distillation proof of 55% abv, one of the lowest in the industry. Because of this, tequila is very polarized, based on how the wash it was made from was created. This is why cheap tequila tastes AWFUL and good tequila tastes FANTASTIC; since the distillation proof is so low, more flavors end up shining through one way or the other.

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