How To Calculate The ABV Of Homemade Cocktails
Mixology is getting to be more and more popular with the home bartender these days, no doubt due to the recent quarantine. With people stuck at home, many have decided to teach themselves something new. From learning a language to starting a blog, learning something new is a great way to pass the time. Of course, I personally started learning how to make cocktails. One of the things I wanted to figure out was how to calculate the abv of homemade cocktails, so that I know how strong are the drinks I create.
I’ll assume everyone reading knows a little about ABV, but for those that do not, it stands for Alcohol By Volume. This is the percentage of pure alcohol in a given beverage. A standard shot of vodka is 40%, wine is usually between 11-13%, and a basic lager is around 5%. Of course, there are overproof alcohols, fortified wines, and beers like IPAs which are usually stronger than your basic lager.
When calculating your homemade cocktails alcohol by volume (ABV) we’ll need to learn some key terms. This is just a basic guide to help you understand the math later on in this article.
Alcohol: The reason we drink. This is the drinkable ethanol made through various forms of fermentation and distillation of grains, fruits, yeast, and more.
ABV: Alcohol By Volume is the percentage of pure alcohol in a given drink.
Proof: The proof of a drink is a numerical unit generally considered twice the ABV. Historically it was the minimum amount of pure alcohol needed in a drink to sustain the combustion of gunpowder.
Liquor: A drink made by distillation of previously fermented grains, fruits, or vegetables. Typically liquor is over 30% ABV. Beer, wine, and cider are not liquors as they are fermented but not distilled.
Liqueur: A liqueur is a liquor that puts more emphasis on added flavorings than liquor. Usually in the 15-30% ABV range these are commonly added to cocktails to add complexity. However, many people do enjoy drinking liqueurs on their own. Example of liqueurs include the popular Luxardo Maraschino, St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur, and various Amaros.
Mixers: Commonly used to describe non-alcoholic additions to cocktails and mixed drinks. Popular mixers are fruit juices, sodas, and tonics.
Inventing New Cocktails
While anyone can invent a new cocktail, it is actually pretty difficult to invent one that is good. I’ve probably tried to create 50+ cocktails just during the quarantine, and I’ve only uploaded 5 that I was actually happy with. I’m not going to teach you in this article how to create your own homemade craft cocktail, but a good starting point is taking a classic recipe you like and making minor adjustments.
For example if you like Negronis you might try to substitute the vermouth for Lillet Blanc since they are both in the fortified wine family. Is it now too sweet? Try a few dashes of your go-to bitters to re-balance the cocktail. It really is just a matter of trial and error.
Homemade Cocktails ABV Formula
Alcoholic Drink 1: AD1
Alcoholic Drink 2: AD2
Mixer 1: M1
Mixer 2: M2
Alcoholic Drink 1 ABV: AD1ABV (this should be in decimal format, eg. 40% alcohol will be written as .40)
Alcoholic Drink 2 ABV: AD2ABV (this should be in decimal format, eg. 40% alcohol will be written as .40)
Total Cocktail Volume: TCV = AD1 + AD2 + (…) + M1 + M2
(AD1 x AD1ABV) + (AD2 x AD2ABV) + (…)
How To Calculate The ABV Of Homemade Cocktails
So you want to find out the ABV of your new homemade cocktail creation, but don’t know the first step. Well, it is honestly just a bit of simple math. Let’s use for an example one of the most popular home cocktails…The Jungle Bird. With only five ingredients it is a great starter cocktail for many home mixologists. We will use my recipe for the Jungle Bird rather than the standard since, well, this is my blog so I make the choices.
50 ml Gold Rum. The original recipe calls for dark rum, but I actually prefer gold.
40 ml Pineapple Juice. Freshly pressed.
15 ml Campari
15 ml Lime Juice
15 ml Honey Syrup. This is just a 1:1 mix of honey and water. The original recipe called for simple syrup, but I wanted to see if honey syrup was better…I think it is.
Next we have to separate the alcohol ingredients from the non alcoholic ingredients.
Gold Rum has an ABV of 40%
Campari has an ABV of 25%
From here we will find out how much pure alcohol these two additions contribute.
50 ml Gold Rum at 40% uses the formula 50ml x .40 = 20ml
15 ml Campari at 25% uses the formula 15ml x .25 = 3.75ml
The total amount of pure alcohol in the Jungle Bird cocktail is 20 + 3.75 = 23.75 ml
Next we add up the Total Cocktail Volume, or TCV. For this drink it is: 50+40+15+15+15= 135 ml. To find the ABV of the Jungle Bird just divide the amount of pure alcohol by the total cocktail volume and you get your answer.
23.75 / 135 = 0.1759 means The Jungle Bird has an ABV of 17.59%
Does that surprise you? Seems kind of weak for a tiki drink if you ask me…however it gets a pass since it is just so darn delicious.
A More Complicated Example
This is my variation of the New Orlean’s classic Hurricane cocktail, and while the forumla is the same, this time there are 10 ingredients. However, as you can see, the math still makes sense.
30 ml Dark Rum @ 40% ABV = 12 ml pure alcohol
30 ml Gold Rum @ 40% ABV= 12 ml pure alcohol
30 ml White Rum @ 40% ABV= 12 ml pure alcohol
30 ml Passoa (Passionfruit Liqueur) @ 17% ABV= 5.1 ml pure alcohol
12.5 ml Cointreau Blood Orange @ 40% ABV= 6 ml pure alcohol
Total amount of pure alcohol in ml: 47.1
15 ml Pineapple Juice, freshly pressed.
15 ml Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed. (I know, I didn’t have any on hand for this picture so I had to use store-bought)
12.5 ml Cinnamon Syrup (homemade)
5 ml Amarena Syrup (from packed Amarena cherries)
4 dashes Orange Bitters
Total Volume in ml: 180
Alcohol divided by total volume: 47.1 / 180 = 26.17%
(30 x .40) + (30 x .40) + (30 x .40) + (30 x .17) + (12.5 x .40)
ooooooo30 + 30 + 30 + 30 + 12.5 + 15 + 15 + 12.5 + 5