What Your Maths Teacher Never Told You About Cocktails

Using a little maths, and particularly the Fibonacci sequence, can give you a new perspective on making the perfect cocktail.

By: Tiff Christie|August 17,2018

If you were one of those kids who constantly questioned how math was relevant to your everyday life, then you’ll be surprised to hear that it could just be the thing that will help you construct the perfect cocktail.

And we’re not just talking about the common cocktail equation of two parts alcohol, one part sour and one part sweet. A bartender in Philadelphia, Paul MacDonald, is looking at something a little more complex.

Fibonacci in Autumn (Cocchi Americano, Cappelletti Apertivo, Laird’s 100, Amaro Nardini, Green Chartreuse, grapefruit twist).

A post shared by Paul MacDonald (@express_and_discard) on

MacDonald is in fact applying the Fibonacci sequence to the cocktails that he makes.

The Fibonacci sequence is a series of numbers that pop up everywhere. It is most easily seen in nature, in the spiral of a nautilus seashell or the an unfurling of a fern. It’s essentially a series of numbers in which each number equals the sum of the previous two (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc…).

“I had an idea to make a cocktail out of five different fortified wines,” says MacDonald. “I was going for a booze-free cocktail with no distilled spirits in it, but with a diverse enough flavor profile that you could get all the flavors to stand out against each other and taste every one of them.”

After testing different formulas, the one that ultimately worked turned out to be a Fibonacci sequence: one quarter ounce, one quarter ounce, one half ounce, one three quarter ounce and one ounce and a quarter.

Intrigued by the idea of using the sequence to create drinks, he continued experimenting to see if it would work with other ingredients and other combinations. His verification process has resulted in the creation of a collection of new recipes at his bar, Friday Saturday Sunday.

Drinking The Well-Tempered Cocktail is the ideal way to celebrate the summer solstice like civilized people (Revivalist Equinox Gin, Dry Vermouth, elderflower liqueur, Besk, and Suntory Toki).

A post shared by Paul MacDonald (@express_and_discard) on

Some of the popular Fibonacci drinks are Fibonacci in Autumn which has Cocchi Americano, Cappelletti Apertivo, Laird’s 100 proof Apple Brandy, Green Chartreuse, and Amaro Nardini served on ice with a grapefruit twist.

Another is The Well-Tempered Cocktail, which uses Revivalist Equinox Gin (which adds a bright peppermint flavour), Dolin Dry Vermouth, Elderflower Liqueur, Letherbee Besk, and Suntory Toki Japanese Whisky (light grassy notes).

And if the holiday season seemed a bit much to you, then you’ll appreciate another of MacDonald’s Fibonacci Cocktails, The War On Christmas with Brennivin Aquavit, Cardamaro, Banyuls, Creole Shrub & Ramazzotti.

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Now that Thanksgiving is past, the time is right for The War on Christmas (Brennivin Aquavit, Cardamaro, Blandy’s Rainwater Madeira, Amaro Ramazotti, Creole Shrubb).

A post shared by Paul MacDonald (@express_and_discard) on

While playing around with equations can be fun, MacDonald will be the first to stress that flavour is really the only thing that matters. MacDonald is quick to say the science of his new cocktail-mixing method may not be air-tight, but it has served to kick-start his creative process.

“For a lot of the cocktails in the classic canon, one big difference between the market that begat a lot of those cocktails in the 19th century and the modern market, is that we have a much bigger array of ingredients available to us.”

So next time you’re fiddling around at your home-bar, why not try to wrap something up using the Fibonacci Sequence. MacDonald has probably created at least a dozen seasonal drinks based on the concept – all perfect examples of how remarkably harmonius a drink can be when it’s balanced on the tip of a spiral.

To see more of Stephens creations go his Instagram or visit him in person at the Philadelphia restaurant Friday Saturday Sunday

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