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Cocktail Curiosities: The Balanced Cocktail

Dive into your most-asked mixology questions with week one of our Cocktail Curiosities series, featuring Jean-Felix of @trufflesontherocks and his tips on creating a balanced cocktail!

We’re heading back to (cocktail) school this month!

Forget sharpening our pencils this back-to-school season, we’d much prefer to shine up our best glassware and learn from the mixology experts. For the next four weeks, we’ll be diving into your most-asked cocktail curiosities with the help of our talented teachers, and friends!

We’re kicking off week one with perhaps the core principle of cocktail creation: The Balanced Cocktail. Calling on Jean-Félix Desfossés of Truffles On The Rocks to distill the art of creating a perfectly balanced cocktail, we’ve curated a few tips & tricks to get you started!

Meet Jean-félix desfossés:

French Canadian Bartender, Youtuber and Photographer.

Jean-Félix began bartending about 10 years ago at the iconic Fairmont Château Frontenac in Quebec City, where he was able to build a successful career. His passion for both cocktails and photography/videography led JF to start Truffles On The Rocks about 5 years ago with Sefra (the food side of the operation.)

With the ultimate goal of democratizing mixology, Truffles On the Rocks has become a platform to help people make world-class cocktails at home. This mission made JF a natural choice as our teacher when it came to breaking down the balanced cocktail!

the balanced cocktail: everything old is new again

When asked why it’s important to know the basic cocktail templates in the journey of balanced recipe creation, JF had this to say:

“I think it’s mandatory to understand the basic cocktail templates to balance your recipes because most of the modern cocktail recipes are nothing but riffs on those classics. So if you know them and understand their DNA, it’ll then become extremely easy to create cocktails of your own while still maintaining a perfect balance.”

Today, we’ll dive into four classic cocktail templates, and how you can make them your own with Empress 1908 Gin: The Sour, The Martini, The Daisy, and The Old Fashioned.


Let’s start with the sour: 2 parts spirit, 1 part sweetener, and 1 part sour!

JF’s tips:
  • Find your perfect balance: “as balance is subjective, this may be too sweet for you or too dry/tart for your palate…based on this template, you can cut down the sweetener little by little until you reach your perfect balance.”
  • Swap out the sweetener: “Once you know where the perfect balance is for you, you can replicate that every time regardless of what your sweetener is. For example, making a gin sour with lemon and plain simple syrup with a 2:1:1 ratio will feel the same as if you make it with raspberry syrup.”
  • Make it long: “Lastly…take a sour template which is a short drink and transform it into a long one by topping it with bubbles.”
THE martini:

Next up, the Martini: 2 parts spirit, 1 part dry vermouth, and 2 dashes bitters!

JF’s tips:
  • Play with the ingredients: “Is this too dry for you? if so, try with sweet vermouth…Want to keep it dry but are not a fan of dry vermouth? Try with dry sherry…Like the bitterness? Try replacing the vermouth with bitter aperitifs”
  • Experiment with bitters: “Playing with bitters is also a fun way to mess around with this template. Olive bitters instead of orange bitters in a dry martini can hit the spot for those of you who can’t get enough of that umami!”
  • A tip to remember: “…in contrast to the sour, if you replace a dry ingredient with a sweet one, it’s harder to counterbalance that sweetness”

Now, for the Daisy: 2 parts spirit, 1 part sweet liqueur, 1 part sour!

JF’s tips:
  • Divide & conquer: “Many times the sweet part will be divided into two kinds of sugar (syrup and liqueur)”
  • Just strong enough: “…liqueurs are not as sweet as syrups and they have alcohol in [them]. So if you increase the amount of liqueur to achieve the balance for your palate, here, I would recommend [decreasing the quantity of spirit] by the same amount…in order to keep the strength balance.”
THE Old Fashioned:

Finally, meet the Old Fashioned (yes, with gin!): 2 parts spirit, 1⁄4 part sweetener, 2 dashes bitters!

JF’s tips:
  • Not your classic Old Fashioned: “…you absolutely can make a Gin Old Fashioned. Take the classic Alaska cocktail, for example, it’s gin, yellow chartreuse, and orange bitters. The Chartreuse [is] acting as the sugar here…the Alaska fits in the Old Fashioned Category.”
  • It’s all about the sugar: “…if you’re using a dryer sweetener like an aperitif, you can up that to a 1⁄2 part or even 1 whole part sometimes… just think of how sweet your ingredient is compared to theclassic template (plain sugar) and try to guess what is the amount of your ingredient that would achieve that level of sweetness.”

In summary— JF’s TOP TIPS for keeping the balance:

the sour & the daisy

“In the sour and the daisy, if it’s too sweet, cut out some sugar rather than adding more citrus and vice versa”

the martini

“In the Martini, if it’s too dry, add a bar spoon of your favorite liqueur. Maraschino, Chartreuse…

“If you make a martini style cocktail using sweet fortified wine and you find it too sweet, make it a split base with one part of the chosen sweet and one part of dryer one like dry sherry.

the old fashioned

“In the Old Fashioned, if it’s too sweet, add a little more bitterness.

“It’s always easier to add something to a drink than it is to remove some. So if you’re not sure of what you’re doing, just go little by little when you add new flavors and ingredients. Taste in between and if you are satisfied, add ice and finish the cocktail.”


the sour & the daisy

“when acidity is involved like in the sour or the daisy, it’s role is to brighten the cocktail, add a Tang but also to balance the sweetness otherwise it wouldn’t be pleasant on the palate. So playing with the sugar is the easiest way to swap out ingredients because most of the sugar will have more or less the same sugar content. Honey vs maple vs agave are very similar in terms of sugar content but they are very different in taste.”

the martini

“In a Martini, instead of Vermouth I recommend amari or sherry. Those are my favorite

the old fashioned

“For the Old Fashioned, there are a myriad of different bitters so experiment with those and with the type of sugar as well. And Don’t forget, you can also infuse your syrups… a rosemary syrup is a great option for a Gin Old Fashioned

And finally, Jf’s favourite Empress 1908 cocktail!

My favorite Empress cocktail is a Gin Gimlet with triple syrup (made of equal parts simple syrup, Agave syrup and honey syrup) and a zest of grapefruit. This cocktail let the botanicals of the Empress shine, it’s crisp, fresh, simple and extremely tasty. I just love it!

Be sure to check back next week when we chat with boozy video creator @spiritedla about the art of selecting the perfect cocktail glassware. You won’t want to miss it!

Sip responsibly!