Overproof Spirits

What is an overproof spirit?

Welcome to Lockdown 2.0. The sequel. The first lockdown might have seen your drink supplies dwindle. The new version might see you reaching for higher ABVs.

Sailors in the 18th Century were often partly paid in alcohol. To ensure they weren’t being short changed they’d mix the spirit with gunpowder and set it alight. If it burned steadily it hadn’t been watered down. Nowadays most spirits are mixed with water before being bottled so the ABV is around 40% and it can be difficult to know what to do with the higher strength varieties.

Navy strength gin, 151 rums, barrel proof bourbon, cask strength cognac. There are many overproof spirits on the market. They are often difficult to enjoy neat so what else can we do with them?


When you add an overproof spirit to a cocktail it enhances the rest of the flavours. The high alcohol content can make them difficult to use in short cocktails as tastebuds become numb very quickly. The spirits shine in long drinks however.

Tiki Style drinks such as the pina colada are the perfect showcase for an overproof rum. A mai tai is another excellent choice.

If you want to experiment with them in a shorter drink there are ways to do so. Avoid switching your usual tipple for a full shot of it’s more alcoholic counterpart but substitute a few ml of standard gin for navy strength by all means. Even just rinsing the glass with it before pouring your cocktail in will change the texture and flavours of your drink.

Making subtle changes to a recipe may mean having to adjust other flavours to redress the balance, adding extra syrup or more citrus notes may be required for example. This may mean several attempts to get your perfect serve, it’s all part of the fun of making cocktails though!

If you’d like guidance from an expert mixologist why not book some time with one of our professionals, our online masterclasses are proving very popular!


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