All Things Equal

Make entertaining easy this upcoming holiday season with this family of drinks that has become a bartender favorite.

Does this sound familiar? You’re in the middle of making cocktails for your guests when you can’t remember if you need 1/2 ounce or 1/4 ounce of a certain spirit. Or you’re making two drinks at a time in a mixing glass and realize you’ve done the addition incorrectly, so you throw out the drink and start again.

Make it easy on yourself this holiday season by choosing an “equal parts” cocktail (that’s bartender speak for a drink made from ingredients in equal proportions). Cocktail writer Kara Newman, who is also the spirits editor at Wine Enthusiast, collected the best examples of the kind in a new book, Shake. Stir. Sip.: 40 Effortless Cocktails Made in Equal Parts.

For Newman, the path to all things equal parts came when she began tracking the rise in popularity of the Negroni.

She noticed that the iconic drink’s easy template–one part Campari, one part gin, and one part sweet vermouth—began popping up in playful renditions at bars across the country. “Swap in rum for gin and it becomes a Kingston Negroni; take out Campari and put in Aperol, and dry vermouth instead of sweet, and it becomes a white Negroni,” she says. “Once the light bulb clicked on that it was so versatile, I started looking around to see what other cocktails had that template.”


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Photo courtesy Kristen Olson (

In her research, the Last Word—a classic cocktail made from equal parts of gin, lime juice, green chartreuse and maraschino liqueur—stood out as a particularly versatile drink. “There are so many riffs—bubbly riffs, strong riffs, sweet riffs,” she says. “It’s incredible—it all comes down to four parts.” And that formula works for close relatives, such as The Final Word, which subs rye whiskey for gin and lemon for lime juice, to more distant relations, such as the Paper Plane, which is made from Aperol, Bourbon, Amaro Nonino and lemon juice.

Newman says that bartenders love these equal part cocktails for the same reason that home mixologists will: they’re dead simple to make. There’s no special equipment required—you can use a cup or whatever you have on hand instead of a jigger to parcel out equal amounts of ingredients. And when you’re assembling the drink, you don’t have to concentrate on getting exacting proportions. “As a home bartender, I was so excited to find a foolproof recipe— something I can’t screw up,” she says.

If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at making up your own drinks, equal parts cocktails are a good place to start. But if you’d rather practice with some well-honed recipes, here are two from Newman’s new book—one for sipping solo, and the other for a crowd—that work well when the holidays roll around.

Try This at Home


For a cooler weather cocktail, Newman recommends this twist on the classic Cin-Cyn, which is itself a relative of the three-part Negroni. “It’s really beautiful for a fall setting—mellow without being overly strong,” she says. The “Cyn” is an abbreviation for Cynar, an Italian artichoke liqueur in the amaro family that Newman likes for its gentle bitterness. Serves 1

1 ounce Cynar
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce Scotch whiskey

Directions: In an ice-filled mixing glass, combine Cynar, sweet vermouth and Scotch. Stir well, and strain into a rocks glass over a large ice cube. Garnish with an orange twist.


Newman likes this bulked-up recipe for fall parties because it’s colorful, festive and batches well as a pre-made aperitif. “It’s not bland—the flavors have a lot of oomph—and the color is so attractive, especially in a holiday setting,” she says. Serves 10 to 12

2 cups gin
2 cups sweet vermouth
2 cups campari
1/2 cup water

Directions: Serve with fresh ice, soda water and a bowl full of lemon peels. The host (or the guests) can pour into glasses and choose whether to drink theirs up or on the rocks, and whether to add a splash of soda water. Garnish and you’re ready— no additional shaking or stirring needed. That said, you might want to give the bottle a shake right before pouring out to make sure everything is still well-mixed.

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