Learn with A Bar Above

Tips for Substituting Ingredients

A Few Tips for Substitution:

Don’t Get Discouraged

Cocktail design is an art, not a science.  Using the framework we’ve discussed here will almost certainly get you closer to a balanced, finished cocktail quickly – but it’s not a silver bullet!  Expect to build the cocktail on paper, then make it in the glass and adjust at least one final time before calling the drink complete.

LemonLemons vs. Limes

Here’s a quick trick I use for choosing my acid for a cocktail:

  • If the base spirit has seen time in a barrel, I will almost always use Lemon.
  • If the base spirit is clear and has not been barrel aged, Lime is usually the right choice.

As usual, this is just a suggestion and won’t work 100% of the time.  But hopefully it can give you a good place to start.

Choose Similar Spirits

When doing like-for-like substitutions with spirits, you will generally find the results are better if you attempt to substitute spirits that share some characteristics.

For example:

If you’re substituting out Whiskey from a drink, it would be a better choice to replace it with something that’s barrel-aged, like a cognac or aged brandy.  You won’t have to make as many adjustments to the drink if the substitutions are somewhat similar.