The 'Golden Ratio' Behind Almost All Your Favorite Cocktails

A well-crafted cocktail has the potential to elevate any evening or event. A poorly poured refreshment has the power to put a damper on both. From the classic martini to your beachside piña colada to the latest speakeasy's signature drink, every good bartender knows a quality cocktail should never be eyeballed.

If your bartending style at home is a splash of this, two fingers of that, and a "one, one thousand" of this, you're missing out. Don't be intimidated by attempting your own shaken or stirred libation. You don't have to be a master muddler or memorize the bartender's bible, but knowing the golden ratio the pros use will help you craft a better cocktail.

What is this universally known ratio, and what makes it so golden? For starters, knowing the easy combination makes it pretty hard to mess up any drink and may even have you experimenting with your own craft cocktail recipes.


The golden ratio is two parts liquor, one part sweetener, and one part sour. This magical formula originated with the making of a punch. The fruity beverage was trendy on the social scene from the 1600s to the 1800s. At that time, punch was a blend of liquor, spirits, water, and fruits and spices. This concoction led to the birth of the golden ratio that became the basic blueprint of most future cocktails (via Mental Floss).

Like most culinary concoctions, this ratio helps achieve a delicate balance of flavors. There are five basic tastes — sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami (via Science of Cooking). These tastes are the foundation of flavors in all dishes. Often one or two tend to be the most noticeable on the tongue, but some combination of the five is what leads to a palatable plate. A nice balance also lends to a harmonious highball.

If you look at the classic whiskey sour drink, it consists of bourbon, simple syrup, and lemon. Knowing the golden ratio, that would be two parts bourbon (complex flavors), one part simple syrup (sweet), and one part lemon (sour).

Sometimes a good cocktail is hard to come by, but with this ratio in your back pocket, one will always be at your fingertips.