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Balancing Sweet & Sour


Balancing Sweet & Sour

Spectrum of Sweet & Sour

Understanding the Spectrum of Sweet & Sour:

We find it’s helpful to visualize sweetness & sourness on a spectrum, to help plan cocktails that are likely to be balanced at the outset.


On the right, you can see a spectrum going from sour (on the left) to sweet (on the right).

  • A cocktail with all sour and no sweet to balance it would be all the way on the left – and taste much too sour.
  • Likewise a cocktail with all sweetness and no sour would be all the way on the right, and be so sweet it was undrinkable.

Where to start?

If you’re unsure where to start, the generally accepted formula for balancing lemon or lime juice with simple syrup is 1 part lemon / lime juice to 1 part of simple syrup.



Moving Toward Sweetness:

Moving RIGHTThere are two ways to move towards the right (sweeter) side of the spectrum:

  • Adding Sweetness
  • Removing Sourness


Adding Sweetness:

  • You could use more sweetener like sugar, simple syrup, or other ingredients that are sweet like juice.
  • You could swap out a sweet ingredient (like simple syrup) for a sweeter ingredient (like rich simple syrup)


Removing Sourness:

  • One option to remove sourness would be to use proportionally less lemon juice (compared to the water & sugar content in the drink).
  • Another option to consider would be to replace your souring ingredient with one that has a less-sour (higher number) pH.

Moving Toward Sourness

Moving LEFTThere are three ways to move towards the left (sourer) side of the spectrum:

  • Adding Sourness
  • Removing Sweetness
  • Adding Bitters

Adding Sourness:

  • Add (or add more) of a sour ingredient
  • Add another sour ingredient like citric acid powder, to make the sour ingredients even more sour.


Removing Sweetness:

  • Use less of the sweetener.
  • Replace the sweetener with one that is less sweet, like replacing rich simple syrup with simple syrup, for example.

Add Bitterness:

As we discussed previously, bitterness can actually counteract sweetness.

  • Add Bitters or bittering ingredients
  • Exchange existing bittering ingredients for ingredients that are even more bitter.