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Cucumber Rai Tai

I don’t  have a lot to say about this one. I was leafing through The Flavor Bible and my eye landed on on this combination: “Dill, Yoghurt, Cucumber”. And of course those things go together. Who here hasn’t enjoyed tzatziki sauce on a gyro, or a bit of cucumber raita alongside their vindaloo?

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Cucumber Rai Tai
1.5 oz Gin (Tanqueray Rangpur)
1 oz Cucumber Juice
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
3 Heaping barspoons of Greek Yoghurt
4 Dill Sprigs, Muddled
Shake over ice and double-strain into a coupe. Garnish with a sprig of dill.

Absent garlic and other savory elements, this did, in fact, taste like a tzatziki sauce. It was good, especially paired with seafood, which we were eating at the time. The herbal notes in the gin are a natural fit for cucumber and dill. It’s so obvious it’s almost academic. I found it to be light and refreshing; the yoghurt was not too heavy on a summer night.

The name “Rai Tai” is a play on the name “Mai Tai”, but of course, this is a far cry from a Mai Tai, or even a tiki drink. Even so, I’m sticking with it.

Cheers.


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Acid Trip #3: Caramel, Apple, Fennel

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Today let us consider the apple, whose dominant acid content, like the grape, is malic. The thought process that drove this drink was very similar to that of the Peanut Butter Jelly Time. In both drinks, I have taken a classic flavor pairing which would ordinarily be cloying in a drink, and balanced its sweetness with malic acid. The standard procedure for this type of drink would adulterate the purity of the pairing with lemon juice, but with malic acid, we can find balance by adjusting a sourness which is already found in one of the key elements of the pairing.

Earlier this week, I had a drink made with tarragon and apple juice, and yet all I could taste was gin and lemon. This is a common problem. I wanted to make an apple drink that tastes strongly of apples, but which would taste more like summer than autumn, and to that end, I pursued a staple of the summer county fair, the caramel apple.

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Acid Trip #3
2 oz Fresh-Pressed Apple Juice (1 oz Gala, 1 oz Granny Smith)
1 oz Demerara Rum (El Dorado 12)
.75 oz Rum Caramel Sauce*
.5 oz Vodka (Tito’s)
.25 tsp Powdered Malic Acid
Dash of Simple Syrup
Dash of Barkeep Chinese Bitters
Dash of Absinthe
Shake over ice and strain into a coupe. Garnish with a fan of thinly sliced apples and a try-hard caramel drizzle.

I made a caramel sauce using some Barbados rum that is probably better for cooking than drinking, and it adds a layer of toffee and sugar flavor to the already caramel tones of El Dorado 15. Caramel is the juncture for apple and rum, and I also suggest dropping shot of your most caramelly rum into a glass of apple cider. Apple is the juncture for anise and caramel, so that the sugar flows into the apple flows into the herbal flavor of anise.

You can follow this caramel sauce recipe, but swap out the water for your least expensive dark rum.

Chinese five spice bitters threaten to take this into autumn territory, but fortunately the fennel and anise flavor is the loudest, and the cinnamon and clove are mercifully quiet.

Cheers.


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Acid Trip #2: Kyoho Grape, Lavender

 

I spoke yesterday of malic acid, and also of Kyoho grapes. Moreover, I have written in the past of the inspiration that I found at bar Gen Yamamoto, which informed an apricot cocktail earlier this summer. In that post, I described the philosophical underpinnings of this drink.

I wanted to apply Gen’s “shiki” style of Japanese seasonality to the Kyoho grape, so I started with brandy as a base to preserve the purity of the grape’s flavor. We can add a bit of drama to this otherwise harmonious pairing by playing up the contrast between sweet and sour. I would not make such an attempt with standard souring agents, but since malic acid is already present in the grape, the additional tartness feels very natural and flowing.

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Acid Trip #2
1 oz Brandy (Cognac Salignac)
.5 oz Vodka (Tito’s)
8 Kyoho grapes, muddled
2 Dashes Scrappy’s Lavender Bitters
1 Dash of Simple Syrup
1/8 Tsp Powdered Malic Acid
Shake and double strain into an Old Fashioned Glass. Garnish with a grape.

The grape on its own was a little too simple. With the brandy tracking so closely to the grape juice, I needed one other flavor to create some space and some distance in the perception of the drink’s flavor, and lavender worked surprisingly well. I did not anticipate the deliciousness of this pairing, and I was pleasantly surprised. Lavender and grape were made for each other, and I imagine that lavender grape preserves would be wonderful.

I think this drink beautifully captured the experience of a fresh grape, while maintaining a refined complexity.

Cheers.


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Acid Trip #1: Peanut Butter Jelly Time

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Hello friends. We haven’t spoken in a while, and I want you to know that I have missed you. Lately in my cocktail journey, I have been contemplating the composition of basic drinks. With precious few exceptions, all of the standard drink formulas combine a base spirit with a source of acid and a source of sugar. In spirited drinks, the acid and the sugar often reside in a single bottle, in the form of a fortified wine. In a sour drink, acidity comes from lemon or lime, and sugar comes from syrup, liqueur, or both.

I have explored vinegar in the past, and also acid phosphate, but there still exists a lot of unexplored territory. Can the acidic component of drink mirror and meld into the other ingredients, as opposed to merely synergizing with them?

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There is a wide world of flavors to be captured in syrups and liqueurs, but in most drinks, we find that the carrying capacity for sweeteners is very low before the drink becomes cloying. It may be that we like the interplay between a sweet fruit juices and a liqueur, but that the desirable attributes of such a blend are overpowered by a balancing volume of lemon or lime juice.

This problem can be overcome by the use of acid phosphate, but although it is neutral in flavor, it is expensive and its acidity is low relative to its volume.

A better choice is to find a source of acid that can reinforce the natural flavors of fruit juice. Most juices contain multiple acids, but a very common one is malic acid, particularly in apples and grapes. It is commonly used in wine-making, but I have been experimenting with it as a souring agent in juice-driven drinks. Malic acid tastes fruity and succulent all on its own, and when it is added to a juice that already contains it, it reinforces and amplifies certain aspects of that juice.

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Acid Trip #1

1.25 oz Wheated Bourbon (Weller 107 Antique)

.75 oz Peanut Syrup*

6 Kyoho Grapes, Muddled

1/8 Tsp Powdered Malic Acid

Grated Cinnamon

Pinch of Salt

Muddle grapes, grate a little fresh cinnamon, and shake all over ice. Double-strain into a coupe glass with a lightly salted rim and garnish with skewered grapes.

Kyoho grapes are fat and juicy with an intense sweet flavor. They almost taste like grape jelly all on their own. I found some at the farmer’s market and I knew they would be perfect for my malic acid experimentation.

I combined them with a peanut syrup, which one might even call peanut orgeat, but how does one decided what constitutes an orgeat? Is it merely a nut-based syrup? Is it the presence of rose or orange flower water? Does it require apricot pits, overnight steeping processes, or perhaps the blood of innocents? Some orgeat processes I have read are more like a sweetened almond milk, calling for nuts to be crushed or ground. In any case, this is how I made my peanut syrup:

Peanut ‘Orgeat’

1/2 Cup Water

1/2 Cup Peanut Butter

1/2 Cup Sugar

Pinch of Salt

Bring peanut butter and water to a boil, then simmer for ten minutes. Stir in sugar and strain through a fine-mesh strainer.

The resulting syrup was viscous, unctuous, creamy, and opaque. I made the syrup more intense by adding a bit of salt and freshly-grated cinnamon to the drink before shaking it, but you could also integrate them right into the syrup to simplify the recipe during drink service. I will definitely do so in the future. The cinnamon should not read as cinnamon; it should fade into the background and add just a little woody, spicy complexity to the peanut.

I chose to use a wheated bourbon for this because the whiskey is playing the role of bread to the peanut butter and grape. Without additional malic acid, this drink would have been too sweet, but the powdered acid allowed me to make whiskey and peanut butter sour, with grape standing in for lemon. Concept drinks don’t always work out, but this one did. I would proudly serve it to anyone.

Cheers.


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MxMo LXXXVI: Pineapple, IPA, Chardonnay, Coffee, Curry

Hello everyone. It’s been a while since I participated in Mixology Monday, but somehow, no matter how you try to escape the shrouded underworld of artisanal mixology blogs, it finds a way to draw you back in. This month our host is Ceccotti over at Bartending Notes, and the theme is pineapple.

Let’s bring the king of fruits back! After being canned, mixed with all sorts of sugary liquids and blended into guilty pleasures not to be named some 80s dreadful cocktails, the pineapple needs more respect!

Once a symbol of hospitality, the King of fruits might be know misunderstood. One of the greatest non-citrus souring agents, used for crazy garnish ideas, infusions, old gum syrup flavoring, the pineapple is a fruit to be reckoned.

Be in a tiki cocktails, an old school classic like the Algonquin, a crazy flavor pairing or just mixed in a delicious Verdita, get creative and make a cocktail using any part of this delicious, juicy fruit or share you favorite pineapple cocktail with us!

I couldn’t make up my mind so I decided to do a series of drinks investigating some of pineapple’s lesser-known affinities. The aromatic of the hour is a molecule called methyl hexanoate, which can be found in coffee, pineapple, white wine, hops, kiwi, and oysters, among other things. And although I am definitely crazy enough to put oyster brine in a pineapple cocktail, that particular experiment will have to wait. Long-time readers may remember when we capitalized on this commonality in the past with a blue cheese and pineapple pairing.

I am still drawing a lot of inspiration from my mixology tour of  Tokyo, and for this MxMo I decided to apply the same technique I used for the Carrera to try to bring the flavor of pineapple to the fore. For all of these drinks, my process and template were the same: I mixed an ounce of fresh pineapple juice with an ounce of the other main ingredient in the drink, tasted it, adjusted the ratio, padded it with vodka, and sweetened it with simple syrup.

In order to maximize the flavor of the pineapple, I cut a pineapple into rings and roasted them in the broiler until the surface became caramelized and brown. The smell of roasted pineapple filled my whole house, and this is something that I would wish for you, as well. If you have a grill, you could grill the pineapple instead of roasting. I then muddled the roasted pineapple into the drink to provide cooked and caramelized pineapple flavors along with raw and fresh ones.

The ratios of ingredients are kind of all over the place. I’m sorry for that. I like my drinks to be properly jiggered but in these lower-alcohol drinks, jiggers start to matter less. I think we’ve learned the rules sufficiently at this point that we can break them when we want.

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Wineapple

1.5 oz Chardonnay (Project Happiness Chardonnay)
1 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
1 Roasted Pineapple Ring, 3/4″ Thick
1 oz Vodka
1 Barspoon simple syrup*
Muddle roasted pineapple with vodka until its juice is thoroughly extracted. Add other ingredients and then shake over ice. Double strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a pineapple leaf.

*My barspoon is 1/8 of an ounce.

This drink was the lightest in the series, probably too light. I considered using a white wine reduction, but although this pairing is unobjectionable, it is not more than the sum of its parts. The most intriguing thing about this drink was the way that the vodka brought out the other flavors. Before I added the vodka, the taste of this drink was flat and bland, but adding the vodka somehow turned up the volume on both the pineapple and the wine. Even so, I wouldn’t remake this.

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IPAnapple

1.5 oz IPA (Knee Deep Hoptologist)
1 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
1 Roasted Pineapple Ring, 3/4″ Thick
1 oz Vodka
1 Barspoon simple syrup
Muddle roasted pineapple with vodka until its juice is thoroughly extracted. Add other ingredients and then shake over ice. Double strain into an old fashioned glass and garnish with a pineapple leaf.

If you enjoy IPA, you will probably love this. Pineapple and IPA were meant to go together. Don’t overcomplicate things by putting other flavors into the mix. As with the above, the vodka helped to increase the perception of contrast between the flavors. Especially after drinking this, I can discern prominent notes of pineapple in an IPA all on its own.

coffee

Ocelot

1.5 oz Single Origin Coffee from your favorite local roaster
1 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
1 Roasted Pineapple Ring, 3/4″ Thick
1 oz Vodka
1 Barspoon Coffee Liqueur
Muddle roasted pineapple with vodka until its juice is thoroughly extracted. Add other ingredients and then shake over ice. Double strain into a small mug and garnish with a pineapple leaf.

I don’t know why, but I felt like calling this “Ocelot”. Probably I have been watching too much Archer. In any case this was the best of the bunch. Coffee and pineapple both froth up pretty fiercely when you shake them, so after I double-strained this drink, I used my barspoon to get some of the froth sitting at the top of the strainer onto the top of the drink. In my first version of this, I used simple syrup instead of coffee liqueur, but I wanted to reinforce the flavor of the coffee a little more. If you make a drink from this post, this is the one.

curry

Shrunken Head

1 oz Vodka
1 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
.5 oz lime juice
1 Roasted Pineapple Ring, 3/4″ Thick
2 cloves
1 Barspoon simple syrup
1 Barspoon Demerara Rum
Curry Powder to taste

Crush the cloves in the vodka with a mortar and pestle, then add the vodka to your measuring tin with the roasted pineapple. Muddle and add all other ingredients. Shake and then double strain into a snifter and garnish with a pineapple leaf.

I broke the mold with this one. When one has a pitcher of fresh pineapple juice, it is advisable to make something in the genre of tiki. I was originally going to call this a “minimalist” tiki drink, but upon looking at the ingredient list I’m not sure if I can get away with that. This was my second pick from this cocktail lab, though I think I need to explore the concept of a curried pineapple drink a little further. It’s not perfect yet.

I’d like to close up by saying a bit thanks to Ceccotti for hosting MxMo, and a big thanks to you for reading.

 

As they say in Hawaii, Huli pau!


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Carrera: Apricot, Vanilla, Bourbon, Vodka, Cinnamon

I made this a few weeks ago, and I just couldn’t let it sit any longer. I think it is one of my best drinks to date. I was influenced by my time in Japan, particularly at the bar of Gen Yamamoto, who I think is one of the most creative and inspiring bartenders in the business. The strength of his drinks is in their subtlety, and in the way that the natural flavors of his ingredients become objects of contemplation.

To duplicate this effect, I have been casting fresh fruit juices from my macerating juicer in the role of the base spirit, and using lower volumes of alcohol as accent marks. The juice from soft fruits is often saturated with soft pulp, and as such the yield from an apricot or a kumquat is halfway between a juice and a purée. The balance of the viscosity of the juice against that of the spirits provides ample space for a bartender to meditate on texture.

carerra

Carrera
1.25 oz Fresh Apricot Juice
.5 Vanilla-Infused Bourbon
.5 Vodka
.5 Fresh Orange Juice [optional]
1 Barspoon agave syrup

Shake and strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a coupe glass. Agitate the mixture through the strainer with a barspoon if necessary. Grate fresh cinnamon across the top.

In the past I was quite offended by vodka, but I have found that it is highly desirable in this style of drink. Soju, Shochu, Sake, and Vodka all have their place when the emphasis is on the delicate and ephemeral. The mere presence of alcohol can make other flavors seem louder and more distinct. Wine, whiskey, coffee — we are accustomed to looking for the entire world of culinary flavors in these things — but perhaps we can perform the same trick with an apricot?

My method is to use a minimum of a spirit to achieve its presence in the end product, and then pad the volume of 80 proof liquor in the drink up to a single ounce. In this case, I wanted to combine the vanilla and bourbon with the taste of fresh apricot, but I wanted the bourbon to play the auxiliary role.

Apricot can be quite acidic when consumed as a juice; it is tangy and floral, and a bit of sweetness from syrup draws out hints of spice; cinnamon in the garnish and vanilla in the bourbon should be like echoes of the notes struck by the fruit. Raw fruits and vegetables can possess a surprisingly complexity all on their own, if one is patient and attentive. Anything as strong as bitters or herbal liqueur would be distracting, like a crashing cymbal in the middle of a cello suite.

Finally, an optional half measure of orange juice blends very seamlessly into the apricot, elongating it, and recalls the flavor of a tangerine. Unfortunately, it sacrifices some of the apricot’s sharpness. I suggest trying both variations.

乾杯!


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Soukichi Glassware Company – Tokyo Craft Cocktail Series #11

This is our final stop on Measure and Stir’s Magical Mixological Journey in the Land of the Rising Sun(tm). Thanks for reading. Tomorrow I will be posting a summary and some closing thoughts.

As I mentioned earlier, the glassware in Japan is top-notch. In every bar we visited, from the elegant Gen Yamamoto to the internationally renowned Tender to the unassuming Aliviar, a single name kept popping up: The Soukichi Glassware Company. A pilgrimage was in order. Located next to Asakusa station, we had a little bit of difficulty finding this one. It is a very small store, easy to miss, but inside they sell the most beautiful barware I have ever seen.

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Most of it is so delicate and thin that I feared to purchase it, lest I simply return home with a suitcase full of broken glass. Even so, we could not help ourselves, and brought back several souveneirs. Of course they carry the standard trident-style japanese barspoons, as well as a collection of shakers, ice picks, muddlers, jiggers, and japanese-style mixing glasses, similar to the Yarai. Words cannot convey the beauty of the barware that is available in Soukichi, so I will simply say it with pictures:

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Isn’t that the most adorable bottle of Porfidio you’ve ever seen?

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As an added bonus, Soukichi is not far from the Kappabashi-dori restaurant supply district, where you can find more affordable Japanese barware and kitchen ware, as well. It’s worth a look. Soukichi’s high end of glasses can go over over a hundred dollars a glass, so if that pricetag intimidates you, Kappabashi-dori might be more your style, but even if you don’t buy anything, Soukichi is worth the trip for a barware enthusiast.

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Bonus pic of my friend Tom, looking fly outside of their unassuming storefront.

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