Cocktail Calculus: Dissecting the PDT Book

One of the rewards of having been a massive nerd in college is that I get to tell people that I’m a published theoretical mathematician. And one of the side effects is that any time I stumble across a large collection of numbers — such as the recipes in the PDT Cocktail book — I’m compelled to pick it apart and try to analyze it.

I spent a few painstaking weeks transcribing the PDT recipes into a spreadsheet format that included columns (“fields” as us analysts say) for drink, ingredient, amount used, how it’s used and how the drink is prepared. From there I was able to discern a few things:

  • Not including infusion guides, there are 304 cocktail recipes.
  • And there are a lot of unique ingredients too. 440 to be exact (once you adjust for inconsistencies between brand names).
  • ~50% of ingredients are only used in one drink. ~70% are only used in two drinks.
  • The top five most commonly used ingredients are: Lemon Juice (84 times), Simple Syrup (63), Lime Juice (58), Lemon Twists (44) and Angostura Bitters (41).
  • The top five most commonly used spirits are: Plymouth Gin (29 times), Benedictine (19), Rittenhouse Bonded Rye Whiskey (17), Dolin Dry Vermouth (16) and Hine V.S.O.P. Cognac (16).

I also used a very rudimentary weighting system to pull up a list of cocktails that could be easily made from some of the most common ingredients. The top five of these are:

Southside: 2:1:1 (click here if you’re rusty on your ratios) of Plymouth Gin to Lemon Juice & Simple Syrup, with 4 muddled mint leaves. Shake and fine-strain into a chilled coupe.

Vieux Mot: 6:3:2:2 of Plymouth Gin, Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup and St. Germain. Shake and strain into a chilled coupe.

Champs-Elysees: 8:3:4:1 of Hine V.S.O.P Cognac, Lemon Juice, Green Chartreuse and Simple Syrup, with 1 dash of Angostura Bitters and garnished with a Lemon Twist. Shake and strain into a chilled coupe.

French 75: 2:1:1 of Tanqueray Gin, Simple Syrup and Lemon Juice, topped with Moet Imperial Champagne and garnished with a Lemon Twist. Shake all but the champagne and strain into a chilled champagne glass, then top.

Bee’s Knees: 8:3:3 of Plymouth Gin, Honey Syrup and Lemon Juice. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe.

By now I’m sure you’ve noticed an abundance of Gin, Lemon Juice and Simple Syrup. The reason there’s so much clustering towards these ingredients is that:

1) the PDT book uses specific bottlings
2) there isn’t that large of a spread across the types of Gins used

If you consider ingredients by “class” (i.e. “Whisk(e)y” as a whole instance of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, for example), you see there are more Whisk(e)y drinks than Gin drinks, followed by Brandy, Sugarcane (Rum/Rhum, Cachaca, etc), Agave (Tequila, Mezcal) and, finally, Vodka.

And, if you’re looking at Liqueurs, Fortified Wines, Aromatized Wines and Bitters (as in Amari, not Angostura) you see Benedictine leading the pack, followed again by Dolin Dry Vermouth, then Lillet Blanc, the Chartreuses (Yellow & Green), Cointreau, Luxardo Maraschino, Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, St. Germain Elderflower and Aperol.

So, what good is any of this information, you ask?

Well, the long term goal is to do a bit more standardization work on the ingredient list so that it’s easier to find the smallest number of ingredients which can make the maximal number of drinks. Not that one must strive to meet an exact recipe, as we discussed last time.

In the meantime, I’m simply sharing a few insights into PDT’s cocktail compositions. Having been recently, I can attest to the quality of the real thing and wonder how the facts I’ve come up with, in combination with their menu at any given time, relate to their business logistics.

Hmm, maybe I’m still a massive nerd.

P.S. And yes, more cocktail recipe analysis from the PDT Book (and others) is coming.

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5 thoughts on “Cocktail Calculus: Dissecting the PDT Book

  1. jamaz says:

    Thanks for the run down of this – any chance you still have that spreadsheet?

  2. admin says:

    Not quite enough there for a relational database 🙂 If there were several books worth of recipes, and the ingredient lists and unit measurements were standardized, then sure. I suppose at the very least with just the PDT data it could make searching a big easier with WHERE clauses and the like.

  3. Bradley says:

    Oh this is a dream come true. I love that book, but always waste time trying to use the (incomplete) index. Thanks!!!

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