Friday cocktail hour: Between the Sheets. Photos by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

I was, by chance, in the offices of the venerable publisher Little, Brown with Donna a few weeks ago during a surprise trip to NYC, and the editor I was speaking with about a potential book deal mentioned a cocktail book they’d published the previous fall. He described it. I asked, nay, demanded, to see it. He swiveled around, swiveled back, and there it was. A book that immediately pissed me off. “HEY!” I wanted to say, “THIS IS MY TURF! THIS IS RATIOS!” (If you didn’t know, I wrote a little book called Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking. We developed and built a Ratio app for iPhones and iTouches and then we—that is, my friend Will Turnage—built a Ratio app for Android devices.)

Ratios simplify all of cooking. Know a ratio and you know not one recipe, but rather a thousand. The amazing Alton Brown wrote of my book, “It wouldn’t surprise me if Ruhlman is forced into hiding like a modern-day Prometheus, who, in handing us mortals a power better suited to the gods, has changed the balance of kitchen power forever.”

Now here I was handed a book of cocktail ratios by some guy named Brian Murphy called See Mix Drink, a guide to a hundred contemporary cocktails all broken down into proportions (ratios). I wanted to shout at the editor, “Did you not know I am considered a modern-day Prometheus? I demand you unpublish this blatant rip-off immediately!”

What I actually said was, “I’m really annoyed that I didn’t think of this first!” True. I didn’t invent ratios or even think about it first. An instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, Uwe Hestnar, told me about his ratios (that’s when I first started thinking about them; I dedicated the book to Uwe). Bakers share what they call bakers’ percentages (since ratios are especially important in baking). So I fondled the book, enviously and with admiration. This is the cocktail version of my Ratio, and I commend the author. Mr. Murphy, I don’t know you, but I bow to you and hope one day to raise a glass to your fine intellect.

In honor of Mr. Murphy, and today’s cocktail hour, I’ve chosen the first cocktail in the book, Between the Sheets. (I’ve been on a brandy-based jag, what with the chilly fall coming on, but next week we will move on).

Between the Sheets is equal parts brandy, rum, orange liqueur, lemon juice, and a twist. I used Cointreau for the triple sec component; Courvoisier; a new rum for me, the lovely white, dry, cask-aged Brugal rum (sent to me by the company’s public relations firm—who was I to refuse?); and lemon juice.

Donna took a sip after shooting these pix and said, “Whoa, that’s strong.” So its name is apt, suggesting that after one or two of these things you are past the second and approaching the third sheet. Or, it might also refer to where you hope to coax your lover after imbibing this fine creation.

This is an excellent, simple cocktail. Be forewarned: it’s as sour as an Aviation, but not uncomplex. I chose to add a little more Cointreau to balance the acidity. Taste it first before adding the ice to the shaker and adjust as you see fit. I also garnished with a twist and flamed lemon zest over the drink (the key to good flaming, by the way, is to hold the flame to the zest for a second or two to get it hot, then squeeze).

Happy Friday, all!

The technical layout of the cocktail Between the Sheets, from See Mix Drink.

Between the Sheets

  • 30 grams/1 ounce brandy
  • 30 grams/1 ounce white rum
  • 30 grams/1 ounce Cointreau (or other orange liqueur)
  • 30 grams/1 ounce lemon juice
  • Lemon zest and twist as needed
  1. Combine all fluids in a cocktail shaker
  2. Stir and taste, adjusting as you wish.
  3. Fill the shaker with ice and stir for a minute or so.
  4. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of lemon.
  5. Flame lemon oil over the surface if you wish.

Other links you may like:

© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


20 Wonderful responses to “Friday Cocktail Hour: Between the Sheets”

  • Roger Stowell

    Great idea and I like the idea of “Ratio”. But, am I wrong in thinking that graphics speak more of the nursery than the cocktail bar?

  • Michael Ruhlman

    In this case, you are wrong sir. I’m not the design person, but my photog wife is and she pronounced the design excellent.

    • Mantonat

      I dig the book design. Looks a little retro and textbook-ish. Reminds me of the old car care and home improvement books my dad had when I was a kid in 1970s.

  • Tags

    You might like some of Mr. Murphy’s other books, such as “Making of a Bartender,” “Soul of a Bartender,” “Reach of a Bartender,” and “Elements of Tippling.”

  • garth clingingsmith

    Long time reader, first time poster is the phrase?

    Tags–you made me laugh out loud.

  • mpw

    I love Brugal, their rums are excellent. Their aged rums, Viejo and Extra Viejo, are great if you like the darker rums. mpw

  • allen

    Whoop, there it is! That Ruhlman ring.

    Fridays can’t come fast enough, you make em Better, F’d up week needs a good drink in a sexy glass!
    Fine job!

  • Ken

    Charles Baker’s 1939 book “Jigger, Beaker, & Glass” contains (besides a great many fascinating stories about how he always seemed to be sitting in a hotel cocktail lounge when a revolution was breaking out a few blocks away) a version of Between the Sheets as mixed in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in the early 1930’s.

    Exactly the same proportions (equal parts of everything) but dry gin is used instead of rum. I always thought that, in this case, gin shouldn’t work; but it does, and it turns out I prefer it to rum.

    I would like to offer one suggestion, though, when it comes to cocktails in general and that concerns the temperature of the drink. Cocktails should be cold, and as written this drink would contain over four ounces of liquid, counting the ice that melts into the drink. The larger the drink, the longer it takes to imbibe, and the longer it takes to imbibe the warmer the drink gets.

    To keep things cold, I’ve made a move towards smaller cocktail glasses, like vintage champagne coupes that top out at four ounces max. For my taste, though it means more mixing and shaking (which counts as aerobics in my house) the drink is colder even when getting to the last drop.

    Oh, and that flaming lemon oil? That’s pure genius, that is!

    • Michael Ruhlman

      good call on imp of temp! I say, Drink faster!

      and the WARMING of the rind is the key, and not my genius, watched Paulius do it at VTR last weekend.

  • nicholas l. hall

    Drink recipes are frequently discussed as parts/whole. A daiquiri, for example, is two parts rum, one part lime, half-part simple. Not that a specifically Ratio based book on cocktails isn’t a good idea. If you really wanted to get clever with it, you could combine the notion that, much as with The Big Eight, cocktails frequently follow fairly set formulas, simply swapping different ingredients in the same ratio. A sour is a sour is a sour, for example (two parts spirit, 3/4 part citrus, 3/4 part sweetener), but if you swap tequila in, it’s a margarita. Same with your recent example of the Martini vs. the Martinez.

  • Tim

    “though it means more mixing and shaking (which counts as aerobics in my house) ” – I’m stealing this and using it as my own…

  • Natalie Luffer Sztern

    I love the design – cookbooks can never have too many graphics or pictures provided the pictures and the graphics are true replicas…once I saw a picture in a book of a fried chinese eggroll which had been tied with a long green chive, which in the picture was bright green – but when I fried it, the chive came out dark. That is when I knew the book was going to be full of impossible pictures because any way you look at it a chive goes brown when fried. Directions place that chive on the roll before cooking – ie picture fraud

  • Allen

    O the benefits of working graveyard!
    Maybe f’d up sleep, but I get to have a martini @ 10am.
    You all suck on that,while I sip on this!
    According to Ethan Coen, any sentence that starts with O is literature, so suck on that too.
    A literary martini sippin, blogging, snoot wrote this because I used the letter O and have a perfect martini with lye cured olives in front of me.

  • Brian Murphy

    Michael, your post about See Mix Drink just made my WEEK! How many other authors can say they’ve ruffled the feathers of a modern-day Prometheus! Similar to Ratio’s ability to make cooking accessible to all kitchen dabblers, my hope for See Mix Drink is to make crafting cocktails an enjoyable and simple experience for cocktail beginners and enthusiasts alike. Hopefully you’ll like my next work – a new visual method for cooking.

    I’d love to stay in touch, cheers!


  • Tim Mueller

    Now, which sheets are we between? Hmm …

    “I like to dink martinis
    Two at the very most
    Three I’m under the table
    Four I’m under the host”
    — Dorothy Parker

    As Nicholas Hall pointed out, drink recipes are basically just … dare I … yes … ratios. And they can be expressed as fixed quantities (by weight or volume) or as the simple proportions:

    One of sour
    Two of Sweet
    Three of strong
    Four of weak
    Five drops bitters and nutmeg spice
    Serve well chilled with lots of ice.

    And there you have a rum punch as made in many of the Windward Islands.

    After that, it comes down to the technique, just as with pie dough.

    • ruhlman

      Didn’t realize triple sec was a Category, thought it was it’s own thing, like luxardo or, well, cointreau. thanks!

  • Carol Melancon

    Doesn’t flaming the oil from the zest burn it off, preventing it from wafting gently to the surface of the cocktail to perfume each sip?


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