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Oct 20, 2014


What makes a perfect cocktail?

In this sense, it's an equal division of spirits. A formula where very few examples achieve a great result. Equal parts can often end up in competition rather than harmony. Perfect symmetry is the challenge for this month's MXMO and it's deceptively difficult to use an even split of ingredients that wind up tasting great on the palate

I decided to help myself out and borrow the back bone of an already nearly symmetrical classic cocktail, Between the Sheets.

It's a mix of equal parts rum, brandy and orange liqueur with a 1/2 part or less of lemon juice. It's a rare drink that is symmetrical it's even rarer to have two base spirits. So, to have both in one cocktail is really a dream.

Except, the lemon juice. 

Why lemon? 


I just couldn't deal.

I was compelled to find a way to bring this drink into harmony. Perfect symmetry with base spirits wasn't going to cut it. I needed all or nothing.

It's not possible to just add more lemon because there isn't enough natural sweetness to hold it up, even when I tried using a sweeter rum and an orange liqueur with more sugar in it.

To the Cheating.

I decided to cheat by making the lemon juice sweeter and a little bitter so that I could use it in equal proportion to the spirits. By making a burnt, brown sugar, lemon syrup I was able to control the balance of sweet and sour while adding just a little bitterness. I allowed the results of the syrup to dictate my choice of an aged rum and a dry curaçao. 

I wish you could see that it was actually on fire when I took this.

the sweetness/symmetry conundrum also helps to illustrate one of the difficulties in learning to bar tend at home. 
Unless you are already a cocktail nerd, (ahem, fellow MXMO-ers) you probably don't have a fully flushed out home bar yet with every ingredient under the sun. I talk about this frequently because I think its important not to allow yourself to become stuck on the idea that you need a huge selection or to spend tons of money to make great drinks at home.

It just becomes more important to experiment and work with the ingredients you have on hand. This comes with other bonuses.You'll get practice in balancing drinks and figuring out what makes them work. You can also more easily identify the ingredients that will be worth spending the money to have, when you constantly wish you had an orange liqueur that wasn't so sweet you 'll know it's time for a bottle of dry curaçao. 

In this case maybe you only have one brand of rum or brandy, great, problem solved. You don't have to choose. Brand snobbery and choosiness can come in down the line when you have nine rums from six regions in three styles. This is your bed to make and your sheets to get in between, perhaps you don't care about perfect hospital corners... Use what you have to make the drink you and your guests will like. 

Between The Sheets Perfect Cheat
3/4 oz rum 
3/4 oz brandy
3/4 oz dry curaçao
3/4 oz burnt lemon syrup

In a shaker combine all ingredients, fill 3/4 with ice, shake for 30 seconds, strain into chilled glass, garnish with a lemon twist

Burnt Lemon Syrup
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

In a heat proof container add sugar, bruleé (torch) for 25-30 seconds. Add lemon juice, stir to dissolve sugar, strain. 

*alternately regular brown sugar and lemon will work, you'll just lose some of the bitter dimension from the burnt sugar

Thank you to MXMO  and Southern Ash for providing yet another inspiring theme. Although, now all I can see is the lack of symmetry every where, this blog, my bar shelves, every other recipe I've ever written..

Here is the Roundup. All of the other drinks look awesome you should check them out, the symmetry lends well to home bartending. 

Do you need perfect symmetry? Tell us about your balancing battles behind the bar in the comments below.

Find the window pic.


  1. I like the brulee torch to burn the sugar. Nice touch!

  2. I see we're on the same page. Clearly I took a short cut this time but I'll be trying the burnt honey for sure.