Category Archives: Cocktail Calculus

Battle of the Booze: Which popular cocktail packs the most punch?

A month ago, I did a comparison of ABVs for different types of alcoholic beverage, including beer, wine, a stirred cocktail and a shaken cocktail.

Today, I’m going to do the same thing for 12 popular cocktails, including: Manhattan, Old-Fashioned, Corpse Reviver #2, Sidecar, French 75, Negroni, Margarita, Daiquiri, Mai-Tai, Bloody Mary and, yes, a Long Island Iced Tea.

Before I dive into the results, a few words to the wise:

  • Shaken & stirred drinks have an additional 25% added to their total volume to account for ice melting
  • Drinks served over ice are listed at their start ABV; yes, they will “soften” as the ice melts
  • Recipes are mixture of common ratios and the IBA standard

Okay? Okay. Onto the list, going from highest to lowest ABV.
[NOTE: Each item is listed as: “Drink — (ABV, Volume, Ounces of Alcohol per serving)]

  1. Old-Fashioned — (38.09%, 2.44oz in volume, 0.93oz alcohol)
  2. Manhattan — (27.68%, 4.75oz in volume, 1.31oz alcohol)
  3. Mai-Tai — (26.2%, 6oz in volume, 1.57oz alcohol)
  4. Sidecar — (25%, 4oz in volume, 1oz alcohol)
  5. Margarita — (22.5%, 5.33oz in volume, 1.2oz alcohol)
  6. Negroni — (20.13%, 4oz in volume, 0.81oz alcohol)
  7. Long Island Iced Tea — (19.35%, 6.4oz  in volume, 1.24oz alcohol)
  8. Corpse Reviver #2 — (18.73%, 4.08oz  in volume, 0.76oz alcohol)
  9. Cosmopolitan — (16.5%, 6.67oz  in volume, 1.10oz alcohol)
  10. French 75 — (15.43%, 4.67oz in volume, 0.72oz alcohol)
  11. Daiquiri — (15%, 5.33oz in volume, 0.8oz alcohol)
  12. Bloody Mary — (12%, 7.5oz in volume, 0.9oz alcohol)

What this list tells me is that ABV is not really an indicator of how drunk you’re going to get; that’s totally up to how much you’re drinking. Well, duh. So let’s sort this list by “Ounces of Alcohol per serving” instead:

  1. Mai-Tai — (26.2%, 6oz in volume, 1.57oz alcohol)
  2. Manhattan — (27.68%, 4.75oz in volume, 1.31oz alcohol)
  3. Long Island Iced Tea — (19.35%, 6.4oz  in volume, 1.24oz alcohol)
  4. Margarita — (22.5%, 5.33oz in volume, 1.2oz alcohol)
  5. Cosmopolitan — (16.5%, 6.67oz  in volume, 1.10oz alcohol)
  6. Sidecar — (25%, 4oz in volume, 1oz alcohol)
  7. Old-Fashioned — (38.09%, 2.44oz in volume, 0.93oz alcohol)
  8. Bloody Mary — (12%, 7.5oz in volume, 0.9oz alcohol)
  9. Negroni — (20.13%, 4oz in volume, 0.81oz alcohol)
  10. Daiquiri — (15%, 5.33oz in volume, 0.8oz alcohol)
  11. Corpse Reviver #2 — (18.73%, 4.08oz  in volume, 0.76oz alcohol)
  12. French 75 — (15.43%, 4.67oz in volume, 0.72oz alcohol)

Simply put, this shows us that if you’re rounding your third Margarita while your friend is just finishing off their second Old-Fashioned, you’re going to be nearly twice as drunk, despite whatever pre-conceived notions you might have about which is the stiffer drink. Interestingly enough, our boozy and stirred star child, The Manhattan, is at the top of both lists, demonstrating that some common wisdoms hold true even in the face of bitter analysis.

How about the much aligned Long Island Iced Tea, often ordered for its, ahem, potency? By the standards above, it is actually does pack quite the punch but it also comes in a six and a half ounce servings so assuming you don’t drink it down as quickly as actual iced tea, you should be fine.

Your safest bet is a French 75, largely in part due to the small amount of gin (just 1oz) and the use of a lower proof champagne (in this case, Moet @ 12% ABV). A Daiquiri is likely to treat you pretty well too, provided there’s someone behind the stick who actually knows how to make one properly.

Want to calculate the eABV and the amount of alcohol for your own drinks? It’s easy, just follow this formula:

(Ingredient 1 Volume x Ingredient 1 ABV) + (Ingredient 2 Volume x Ingredient 2 ABV) + … + (Ingredient N Volume x Ingredient N ABV) / ((Volume of ingredients that will be shaken or stirred) * 1.33)

This gives you the effective ABV (eABV). If you want the amount of alcohol, just don’t divide by (Volume x 1.33). For drinks with a top or a float, it’s a little trickier and I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader.

Do you want to play a game?

You’re at your local bar with a friend and the bartender asks both of you if you’d like to play a game. Being amenable, friendly folk, you agree. The bartender explains the game as follows:

“I’m going to give you each a sheet of paper and on this sheet I want you write down either SHAKEN or STIRRED. Do not tell or show the other person what you’re writing down.

“If both of you write down SHAKEN, neither of you gets a drink. If one of you writes down SHAKEN and the other STIRRED, the one who writes SHAKEN will get two drinks of your choosing (you need not drink both at once). But if both of you write down STIRRED, you’ll each get a drink of your choice.

“You’re welcome to discuss strategy with one another but, as I said, do not tell or show what you’re writing down. You have one minute. Go.”

So what strategy do you adopt and what strategy do you try to convince the other person of? Are they one in the same? If no, why not?

If you’ve seen the British show Golden Balls, you might already be familiar with this scenario — here’s an exceptional example to check out if not:

Now, let’s say the bartender, amused by your willingness to play along, offers another game, this time to you, your friend and the other 98 people in the bar. It goes something like this:

“I’m going to give each of you a piece of paper and on this I want you to write the most you’d be willing to pay for a cocktail, from somewhere between $0 and $20.

“The people in the second highest quartile will each win a cocktail. For example, if there are eight guesses: $5, $7, $10, $12, $15, $17, $19 and $20, the people who guessed $15 and $17 would win.

“In the event of a tie, everyone wins. And, as with before, you can openly discuss strategies but you cannot show them what you write down. Go.”

Now what should you do? If you’d like, take a little time and think it out before reading two recommendations below:

1) The “$20 conspiracy”— If you can convince more than 25% of people to pick $20, everyone who picks $20 will win.

Why? Well, if you have 100 people and at least 26 of them pick $20, that twenty-sixth person will be part of the winning, second highest quartile. And because their guess is the same as the other 25 people who chose $20, our rule about ties will allow ALL of those 25 to win as well.

In other words, at least 50% of people will win — wahoo!

2) The “0 hero”— If you convince more than 50% of people to pick $0, then you’ll create a similar effect to #1, where the “0 hero” group will inch their way into the second highest quartile. In this case, at least 75% of people will win (the 50%+ who pick $0 AND the second highest quartile).

Of course, getting 50%+ of people to agree to $0 is significantly trickier.

The neat thing about this little snippet of game theory is that you can add risks/rewards to alter the group behavior.

For example, if you penalize everyone who over-guesses by making them pay the cost of their guess, you’ll have a much rougher time with the “$20 conspiracy” strategy. Or you can have the “reward” be a cash payout, split evenly among all winners and thus encouraging that only a small number of people win.

And yes, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I just held drinking hostage to teach you game theory and there’s nothing you can do about it.