Measure & Stir

A Craft Cocktail Blog for the Home Bartender that Focuses on Original Creations Drawn from Culinary Inspiration.


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Halloween Cocktail: 80s Cocktail Stranger Things 2 Tequila Sunrise Cranberry Grenadine Nostalgia

WUBBA LUBBA DU-Oh, sorry, that was last month’s horror story.

Alright, yes, I’m a day late for Halloween and five days late for the Stranger Things 2 Premier, but in the long run that won’t matter. Most of my traffic comes from the long tail (an excellent name for a drink), so I’ll post when I want and call it what I want. There is an evil presence in the air, whispering to artisans of all types, offering them a dark pact: turn your work into a series of ads for pop culture trends and I will bring you traffic.

I guess that makes me Dr. Faustus.

I made this drink because there was an instagram competition held by Death and Co NYC to make a drink to commemorate the new season of Stranger Things. Be sure to check out the hashtag https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/strangerthingsab/. In particular take a look at this beauty by Ashley Minette, I think it captured the aesthetic of the show more than anyone else.

In order to bring some 80s nostalgia, I decided to make a classic staple of 80s drinking, the tequila sunrise. First, let me say that the tequila sunrise is a terrible drink, best left in the 80s along with mullets and neon spandex pants on men.

That said, sometimes we can make familiar things strange, so I decided to try to update this drink to suit modern tastes by using seasonal ingredients. Instead of the usual orange juice, I used fresh persimmon juice, which is a stunning and scintillant shade of orange. Persimmon, of course, is a fall crop.

In lieu of the usual pomegranate grenadine, I made a cranberry grenadine using fresh cranberry juice, sugar, and orange flower water. I treated both of them with powdered malic acid to find an appropriate balance of flavors. Because of the layered nature of the drink, we don’t necessarily get to taste the ingredients together, and we want to insure a pleasing balance between acidity and sweetness throughout. In practice this is difficult to achieve, but we can get close.

As always with these things, it comes down to an exercise of your personal good taste.

Mind Flayer
2 oz fresh persimmon juice (seasoned with malic acid)
1.5 oz mezcal
dash of simple syrup
.5 oz Cranberry Grenadine

Pour the grenadine into the glass, then shake the other ingredients and carefully pour them over the grenadine, creating a gradient effect.

[Spoiler Alert]
The fog from the dry ice is meant to be evocative of the scene where the Mind Flayer possesses Will Byers. I tried using activated charcoal in the liquid that I poured over the dry ice, but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) the resulting mobilization of CO2 vapor did not mobilize any of the charcoal particles. I did some reading and it turns out it is not possible to make colored fog using dry ice.

Erlenmeyer flasks suck as drinking vessels. The narrow neck kills any aroma that might come off of the drink, and it impacts your perception of the flavor quite a bit. They look good in the photo but they aren’t fun as serving vessels, not even with a straw.

Cheers.


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Rick and Mortini

WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB I’M PICKLE RICK WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA As a consequence people who dislike Rick & Mortini truly ARE idiots DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB I’M PICKLE RICK WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB I’M PICKLE RICK  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB   WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB   WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB

WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB

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WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB And yes, by the way, i DO have a Rick & Mortini tattoo those addlepated simpletons And yes, by the way, i DO have a Rick & Mortini tattoo those addlepated simpletons And yes, by the way, i DO have a Rick & Mortini tattoo those addlepated simpletons And yes, by the way, i DO have a Rick & Mortini tattoo those addlepated simpletons And yes, by the way, i DO have a Rick & Mortini tattoo those addlepated simpletons And yes, by the way, i DO have a Rick & Mortini tattoo those addlepated simpletons And yes, by the way, i DO have a Rick & Mortini tattoo those addlepated simpletons And yes, by the way, i DO have a Rick & Mortini tattoo those addlepated simpletons And yes, by the way, i DO have a Rick & Mortini tattoo those addlepated simpletons

WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB DUB

WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB To be fair, you have to have a very high IQ to understand Rick and Morty. The humour is extremely subtle, and without a solid grasp of theoretical physics most of the jokes will go over a typical viewer’s head. There’s also Rick’s nihilistic outlook, which is deftly woven into his characterisation- his personal philosophy draws heavily from Narodnaya Volya literature, for instance. The fans understand this stuff; they have the intellectual capacity to truly appreciate the depths of these jokes, to realise that they’re not just funny- they say something deep about LIFE. As a consequence people who dislike Rick & Mortini truly ARE idiots- of course they wouldn’t appreciate, for instance, the humour in Rick’s existential catchphrase  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB I’M PICKLE RICK WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  which itself is a cryptic reference to Turgenev’s Russian epic Fathers and Sons. I’m smirking right now just imagining one of those addlepated simpletons scratching their heads in confusion as Dan Harmon’s genius wit unfolds itself on their television screens. What fools.. how I pity them. 😂

I’M PICKLE RICK  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB PH’NGLUI MGLW’NAFH CTHULHU R’LYEH WGAH’NAGL FHTAGN WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB

WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB I’M PICKLE RICK WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB I’M PICKLE RICK

WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB I’M PICKLE RICK

WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB I’M PICKLE RICK

I’M PICKLE RICK

I’M PICKLE RICK

I’M PICKLE RICK

I’M PICKLE RICK I TURNED MYSELF INTO A PICKLE MORTY There’s also Rick’s nihilistic outlook, which is deftly woven into his characterisation- his personal philosophy draws heavily from Narodnaya Volya literature, for instance. WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB

WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB

WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB

WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB I’M PICKLE RICK WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB I’M PICKLE RICK WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB I’M PICKLE RICK WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB I’M PICKLE RICK WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB I’M PICKLE RICK WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB I’M PICKLE RICK WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB I’M PICKLE RICK WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB I’M PICKLE RICK WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB CLEANTH OLEAD CLEANTH OLEAD SLAME TODD CLEANTH OLEAD CLEANTH OLEAD SLAME TODD WERE MULL CLEANTH CLEANTH OLEAD CLEANTH OLEAD SLAME TODD EMULSIVE OF THE CLEMS CLEANTH OLEAD CLEANTH OLEAD SLAME TODD I’M PICKLE RICK WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB I’M PICKLE RICK WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB

And yes, by the way, i DO have a Rick & Mortini tattoo. DUB WUBBA DUB WUBBA  DUB WUBBA DUB WUBBA DUB WUBBA DUB WUBBA DUB WUBBA DUB WUBBA DUB WUBBA DUB WUBBA DUB WUBBA DUB WUBBA DUB WUBBA DUB WUBBA DUB WUBBA  It’s for the ladies’ eyes only Nothin personnel kid 😎 I’M PICKLE RICK DUBBA LUBBA WUB WUB DUBBA LUBBA WUB WUB DUBBA LUBBA WUB WUB DUBBA LUBBA WUB WUB DUBBA LUBBA WUB WUB DUBBA LUBBA WUB WUB DUBBA LUBBA WUB WUB DUBBA LUBBA WUB WUB DUBBA LUBBA WUB WUB DUBBA LUBBA WUB WUB  I’M PICKLE RICK I’M PICKLE RICK I’M PICKLE RICK I’M PICKLE RICK I’M PICKLE RICK I’M PICKLE RICK I’M PICKLE RICK I’M PICKLE RICK I’M PICKLE RICK I’M PICKLE RICK

I’M PICKLE RICK

I’M PICKLE RICK I’M PICKLE RICK I’M PICKLE RICK I’M PICKLE RICK I’M PICKLE RICK

1.5 oz Vodka
.25 oz simple syrup
.125 oz rice vinegar
.125 oz Binging with Babish’s Rick and Morty Szechuan Sauce, thickeners omitted.

Ground Szechuan peppercorn rim
WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB with ice and GARNISH WITH PICKLE RIIIIIIIIIIICK

Drink concept inspired by discourse with Mike Schmid from Apple in California

Pasted image at 2017_10_11 03_08 PM

DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA RICK PICKLE DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB I’M PICKLE RICK To be fair, you have to have a very high IQ To be fair, you have to have a very high IQ To be fair, you have to have a very high IQ WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB  WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB To be fair you have to WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB I’M PICKLE RICK As a consequence people who dislike Rick & Mortini truly ARE idiots DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA

DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA And yes, by the way, i DO have a Rick & Mortini tattoo.

The fans understand this stuff;

The fans understand this stuff;

The fans understand this stuff;

I’M PICKLE RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICK WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB

I’M PICKLE WUBBA LUBBA RICK DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB

DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB

DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB DUB

people who dislike Rick & Mortini truly ARE idiots

Nothin personnel kid 😎

LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA  LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA  LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB WUBBA


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Clarified Tomato with Shochu, Basil, Chocolate, Peppermint

Johan got a Spinzall from Booker and Dax, and we decided to revisit that old chestnut, the Bloody Mary. I’ve made bloody Maries in the past using a variety of tomatoes and flavor profiles, but it’s been quite a while. Partly that’s because, as I discovered, no one gets excited about savory cocktails. I’m doing this out of narcissism and my need for personal validation, so I mostly respond to my incentives in the market for your attention.

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I.

What makes a bloody Mary? I use this term as a catch-all for any savory drink with a tomato juice base. Is this fair? After all, there are many ways to use the tomato as a cocktail ingredient. Is every tomato sauce marinara? Indeed, is ketchup a form of marinara? is bolognese? What about tomato jam, tomato confit, salsa roja?

Obviously, our cocktail lexicon is lacking. The nomenclature is either foolishly over-specific or else uselessly broad. I think, if we are stuck with the language we have, this is a tomato sling.

II.

Tomato juice does not taste very good, even when you use ripe, tail-end-of-autumn heirloom tomatoes. It is sweet, but not sweet enough, earthy, yes, but also too viscous. It has an umami note that makes it feel rich, but at the cost of being refreshing. You take a swig of tomato juice and “I want more of that” is precisely what you don’t think. “Ah, that quenched my thirst”, said no one, ever.

Among people who like tomato juice cocktails, they usually order them for breakfast, they mostly just want to snack on the pickles, and they probably don’t drink a lot of cocktails otherwise.

A big part of the problem with tomato juice is the texture. It’s fatiguing and satiating, dulling the appetite. A good mixed drink should excite the palate, preparing the imbiber for a meal. To fix this problem, we must alter the nature of the tomato juice itself. Pectinase is the answer.

photo-1485795046599-702122cd1267.jpeg

III.

There are many ways to clarify tomato juice. You could make a consommé. You could use agar agar and a cheesecloth. You could strain the juice through a coffee filter. You could, if you’re a little smarter, add pectinase and then strain the juice through a coffee filter.

If you have a spinzall, you could add pectinase, kieselsol, and chitosan, and run the juice through a centrifuge. In the past I have usually defaulted to the coffee filter method. It takes some planning, and it’s inappropriate for large volumes, but it works when you’re just making overengineered drinks for your frou frou blog.

My take is that anything you can do with a spinzall, you can make with other methods and a little more patience. The main advantage of the centrifuge is that it can process large volumes of liquid in relatively little time. If you’re clarifying juice for a dinner party, it might be worth it, but in the majority of cases, you will get comparable results with the coffee filter.

IV.

Now, let’s talk about the drink composition. Clarified juice becomes lighter in flavor as well as in color, but it retains its essential qualities. To complement the lighter flavor of the juice, I chose to use shochu instead of vodka for this drink. Shochu, despite its superficial similarities to vodka, has a lot of flavor. It tends to retain the qualities of the grain from which it was distilled.

Tomato juice has a pleasant acidity all on its own, so no further acid was needed. My goal for this drink was to cultivate a subtle flavor, best regarded slowly. A dash of simple syrup, a pinch of MSG, and a dash of chocolate bitters round out the flavor of the liquid, which I stirred.

Chocolate and tomato may seem like an unusual combo, but if you have ever enjoyed Chili or Molé, you are acquainted with the combination. A hint of sugar helps to bridge the savory tomato and the sweet chocolate. A pinch of MSG reinforces the savory qualities of the tomato.

V.

The spinzall came with a manual, and in that manual was a recipe for herb-infused oil. I have been quite taken, lately, with the addition of aromatic oils to stirred drinks. A small oilslick floating on top of the drink can add dimensions of flavor and aroma that remain distinct from the aqueous liquid underneath. The ability to keep two liquids separate in the same cup opens a lot of possibilities for contrast and interplay.

It’s not a big stretch, considering that we often express citrus peels on top of our drinks already, to go from that to a more generous pour of an oil which is deliberately flavored. Some readers may have a negative reaction to the idea of drinking an oil, but in small quantities it is delicious, I assure you. It is much like drizzling a flavorful oil on top of a soup.

For my aromatic oil, I put mint leaves and basil leaves into a blender with sunflower oil, and then used the spinzall to separate the oil from the plant matter. The resulting oil was flavorful, but it took on too much of the chlorophyll “plant stem” flavor, and the aroma of the mint was lost. I brought it back by adding a few drops of peppermint essential oil, but it was kind of a kludge.

I think I would have preferred to make this oil using sous vide, and without macerating the green herbs.

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Clarified Tomato with Shochu, Basil, Chocolate, Peppermint
1.5 oz shochu
1.5 oz clarified purple cherokee tomato juice
.25 oz simple syrup
1 dash Bitter Truth Theo Chocolate bitters
1 pinch of msg
stir, and garnish with peppermint and basil infused oil, and a mint leaf.

Basil and tomato, chocolate and tomato, chocolate and peppermint. These are the flavor affinities I was trying to exploit. Basil and mint are perhaps not the best compliments to each other, but they did layer nicely in this drink. I think the pepper mint was a bit tacked on, and if I could have, I would have emphasized the basil more, the peppermint less.

Somewhere in here, there is also a chocolate and peppermint oil drink, trying to escape.

Cheers.


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La Diabla: Tequila, Black Currant Cocktail

I wrote about this style of drink in my Mixology Crash Course, in which I discuss the use of whole fresh fruits. Indeed, there are bloggers who have built their entire oeuvre on this one drink formula. And why not? Drinks in this format are delicious, unchallenging, and appealing to almost everyone. The key is to use fresh, high quality seasonal produce.

Your local Safeway/Albertsons/Vons sells garbage-tier produce that’s been designed and bred for appearance and durability at the expense of flavor. If I may step on a soap box for a second, it’s garbage-in, garbage-out, and the berries, stone fruits, etc., at most supermarkets are bland and awful. Farmer’s markets and grocers that stock foods from local farms are integral to the success of fruit-based drinks.

The greatest chef in the world will struggle to make a good sauce, if constrained to mediocre industrial produce. A perfectly ripe peach, picked at the height of its season, needs no adornment to be a match for the finest meal from a 3-starred Michelin restaurant.

ladiabla

La Diabla
2 oz reposado Tequila
A handful of black currants
.5 oz simple syrup
.5 oz fresh lime juice
1 dash of Absinthe
Muddle the currants, shake it all over ice, and then pour over crushed ice into a large glass. Garnish with red or black currants.

The astute observer will recognize this as a twist on the classic El Diablo, though I have rendered it according to my own taste. I have omitted the ginger beer, and replaced it with a dash of absinthe, to serve as the herbal element. Anise and fennel are a natural complement to black currant, and this substitution exploits the combination.

Ginger beer is a bully that crowds out everything else in the glass, which is why it is ideally suited to the Moscow Mule, and why its presence in the original El Diablo is suboptimal.

Instead of creme de cassis, I used fresh black currants, which yield both lovely pink color and a sweet earthy flavor that pairs beautifully with vegetal, smokey tequila. I found that I had to make several.

Cheers.


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Postmodernist Cuisine: Galaxy Cocktail, Mermaid Cocktail Best Hot Instagram Trends Rainbow Food Spirulina Charcoal Healthy Superfood

I.

The hot new thing, I’m told, is Instagram, and I have been spelunking this Cthonic hellscape so that you, my readers, can spare your delicate sensibilities. Instagram food becomes a genre unto itself, because it propagates under different constraints from actual food. In meat space, food trends are driven by deliciousness, availability, and ease of reproduction, but on Instagram, they are subject only to selective pressures along the axes of color and photo composition.

In short, the idiosyncrasies of the platform establish the norms for the content it supports. As bored white collar workers on your commute, I know that you are hungry for pictures of neon pizza milkshakes, and as a social media mogul, you know that I am hungry for attention, which I quantify in likes and pageviews. Note that neither of these things will sustain us.

RainBowCheese

Photo Credit: Heston Blumenthal after he stayed up all night reading Jean Baudrillard.

I have about four seconds to grab your attention as you scroll through your feed, and in those four seconds, I have to entice you with slightly more than half a square inch of glowing pixels. You’re not going to click on something brown. Consider the garish monstrosity above, a classic example of what Instagram does to food. Does this actually look appetizing to you in any way?

Close your eyes and imagine you just got home from your job browsing facebook, fully two hours from the last time you ate an industrial simulacrum of a muffin, and you come home to this visual tour de force, poly-scintillant dye leaking mineral hues into the bread, the cheese stringy and dry from being overcooked, the bread somehow under-toasted at the same time.

Does it get your gastric juices flowing? Ah but I intuit that many of you are trying to double tap your screens.

II.

We are all, by now, aware of the treachery of images, We know that the rainbow sandwich above, is not a sandwich in fact, but merely a picture of a sandwich. However, I claim that it is not even a picture of a sandwich, it is a picture of a dramatic portrayal of a sandwich. Regarding the subject of the photo above, there was no point in its lifecycle in which it was intended for human consumption.

That “sandwich” might be edible, but it does not constitute food. You already know this, too, because it never even occurred to you to ask: what does it taste like?

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Top Instagram influencers focus test the next iteration of Soylent

I, culinary chromonaut that I am, have prepared and eaten technicolor foods, and I assure you that they all taste the same, i.e., like nothing. You may be thinking, “It’s a grilled cheese, it tastes like a grilled cheese, I didn’t wonder because I know.” You are mistaken. For various psychogustatory (term of art) reasons, it is a flavor void.

If you put red food coloring in Chardonnay, even wine experts will tell you it’s Pinot Noir. We think orange juice dyed green tastes like limeade, and we think coffee in a white mug tastes sweeter than coffee in a blue one. Long time readers of measure and stir may remember this eldritch horror. I served three completely different drinks, all colored with squid ink, and my guests could not tell the difference between them.

I’m told this is largely determined by expectation and cultural conditioning. I have no doubt that if you had been raised in a society that always only served green orange juice, and orange lime juice, your predictions and experience would be reversed. Ultimately, the source of our gastro-optical predictions does not change that we have them.

Social constructs exist because they are useful, and the face that a norm is socially constructed in no way necessitates its malleability. Long before food dyes were used to enhance the colors of agricultural products, farmers practiced the venerable art of plant husbandry, and you can be sure that they chose to breed those plants which bore the most visually appealing fruits.

III.

Adulterating foods to make them prettier is nothing new. French patisseries used to color their blancmange with arsenic and 16th century Germans would literally burn you alive for using yellow colorants to move counterfeit saffron.

What, intrepid reader, would they make of mermaid toast?

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Vibrance Slider -> All the Way Right

I harbor no contempt for Ms. Waugh. Her creations are beautiful and she well deserves any fame, accolades, and liquor endorsement contracts she has accrued. With a couple of mini cookie cutters and a jar of Blue Majik, you, too, could hop on these hot Instagram trends. 1000 likes, here I come!

Unlike the rainbow grilled cheese, mermaid toast has no illusions. It’s toast and cream cheese and gold flakes. As with the grilled cheese, you could, technically, eat it, but then you could technically eat an airplane. Blue Majik contains twenty-two times as much iron as spinach, but your typical airplane contains one hundred metric tons. And it flies!

Tired: Blue spirulina is the new healthy superfood.
Wired: Cessna-150s are the new healthy superfood.

Many uninitiated plebs are shocked to learn that the color of their precious Campari comes from crushed up Cochineal bugs, but yes, food dyes come from surprising places. At least we stopped using red lead. Blue Majik’s marketing team claims that it is 64% protein, and that this fact, along with its nutrient density and anti-oxidant content makes it desirable. 64% protein times a 1 gram dose is, in fact, 640 mg of protein. It’s a substantial meal for a Cochineal bug, but we humans have much greater caloric needs. The health benefits of anti-oxidants are also wildly overstated.

Twenty-two times as much Iron as spinach! so maybe, uh… .05 mg in a typical dose. You’d be much better off with some Flintstones gummies, though I admit they don’t photograph well. The perennial popularity of Campari is due to its appealing red hue, and the viral success of Blue Majik is mostly due to its vibrant color. How do you sell useless “chemical” food additives to people who are aspirationally into food purity? Academic.

It costs $4 for a 4oz bottle of blue gel dye, $65 for 50g of a proprietary spirulina blend. But who cares how much it costs, it’s all about that hashtag #healthyfood. If you’re the sort of person who eats photographs smoothie bowls, you’re going to buy Blue Majik for the same reason I’m holding ethereum: #fomo.

Rainbow food isn’t real food, crypto-currency isn’t real money, and blue majik’s dubious health claims are an accent mark to its success.

IV.

Perhaps nothing exemplifies the ascendance of rainbow food more perfectly than Starbucks’ recent Unicorn Frappuccino. I promise, they did not achieve this color with blue spirulina and beet powder, and no one cares.

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Photo Credit:Jacques Le Merde after she got stuck in an elevator with Matt Perger

This creation was vomited from forth from the collective unconscious of Instagram, which reached out with its glowing prismatic tendril into the minds of Starbucks’ marketing department, and used them as an avatar for its x-pro filtered thoughts.

“That looks delicious, I want one,” thought no one, ever. But one of the joys of logic is that the antecedent can be true regardless of the validity of the consequent. All marketing is about selling symbols. The signified is dead, the signifier is the only thing that matters, as reddit will attest.

No one expects symbols to point to real world objects. That kind of alignment has been gone for decades, but it took mass participatory media before we could find that consciousness in the average person. Artists and authors have known about the signifier/signified divorce since the 1950s, and their works have diffused into our culture, but the Instagram filter is the apotheosis of postmodern awareness.

We’ve been coloring our foods for much longer than we’ve been photographing them, but in the past it was always about enhancement; a greener pickle, a redder steak, a yellower saffron. The goal was to bring the manifestation of a symbol into closer alignment with its idealized form.

Rainbow food stems from an altogether different animus, from a desire to sever any link between ideal and instantiation.

V.

Given all that, I wanted in. Whereas my mixological journey started as a quest for flavor and technique, it ended (or perhaps plateaued?) with the realization that narrative (set and setting) is the ultimate arbiter of taste and enjoyment. Aesthetic preferences are mostly fashion, loosely constrained by biology. As one wag put it, “I am not of the opinion that food has to taste good in order to be good.”

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Photo Credit: Johan Moe

Mermaid Cocktail
6 oz coconut cream
1 g blue gel dye or Blue Majik or whatever
Ice
In a blender, combine ice and coconut cream. Reserve half.
Add the blue dye, and blend up the rest.
In a hurricane glass, layer the blue and white slush, and then give it one small stir.
Top it with a black coral tuile* and a pink straw.
Do not drink.

*Tastes like nothing, made by frying oily flour in more oil.

This cynical recipe is not exactly the truth. The truth is I used some rosé and simple syrup and tried to make something kind of refreshing. I actually did try blue spirulina (though not blue majik) before giving up and using gel dye. The taste was fine, but it was also incidental to the recipe. Anything that won’t spoil the color is fine.

Another popular Instagram color scheme is “Galaxy”. This consists of black, blue, white, and sometimes, purple. I did not use any purple, but I had some beet powder out in my work space, just in case.

galaxy

Photo Credit: Johan Moe

Galaxy Cocktail
2 oz good amaro (or not)
2 oz white rum (or not)
1 oz lemon juice (or not)
1 oz orange juice (or not)
1 oz coffee liqueur (or not)
.5 oz simple syrup (or not)
3 oz coconut cream
ice
1 g blue gel dye
1 tsp activated charcoal
a small dish of heavy cream
Blend half the coconut cream, rum, lemon, sugar, and blue dye together in a blender, and reserve in the freezer.
Blend the other half of the coconut cream, charcoal, amaro, and coffee liqueur.
Carefully layer in an oversize coupe glass and garnish by flicking little dabs of heavy cream on top.
Drink (or not). It tastes like sound and fury, signifying nothing.

In fact I did try with the second one (did I?) but it just didn’t matter. Nothing could punch through the overwhelming void of black and blue ice.

Cheers.


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Black Yukon Suckerpunch

With the long-awaited return of Twin Peaks imminent, I decided to hop on that sweet pop culture traffic. I never actually watched the original show, but I did some homework, and I learned that David Lynch liked to be extremely detailed in his world-building. Even though no recipe for the drink was ever given, the mise en scène suggests that the drink might contain black coffee, bourbon, blue curaçao, and sparkling mineral water, and that a blender may be involved.

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Of course, detailed world-building only goes so far. In the end, it’s a TV show, and they probably weren’t afraid to bend the rules a bit to get the look that they wanted in the drink. You hear the blender in the scene, so it seems likely that the bartender blended egg whites and blue curaçao into an blue foam, and then spooned it on top of an irish coffee consisting of jack, simple syrup, and black coffee. Possibly it was topped with Perrier.

The blogger that taught me all this thought the Perrier went in the blender, and at first brush, that does not make much sense. A blender is going to shake all the gas out of the Perrier, but it will add a slight bit of acid from the carbonation. The formula for an egg white foam is egg white, sugar, water, and acid, usually lemon juice. This probably worked for him, but how does that help me?

Another blogger also took a stab at the drink recently, but I’m more inclined to call his a Brown Yukon Sucker Punch, because of the light color. The problem is that he used a crafty third wave coffee, and these modern light roasts, as much as I like to drink them, brew to a chocolatey light brown. In 1991, the coffee was roasted practically to ashes, and that’s the only way to get the color right without dye.

Personally, I’ll stick to my Ethiopian Kochere. If you’re squeamish about food coloring, 1. Use food grade activated charcoal powder and 2. Get over it, you ingest commercial food dyes all the time, probably without realizing it, unless you are Amish.

I also don’t care for the whipped cream meringue. It’s too white and too solid. Who wants to drink that creamy gloopy monstrosity?

Anyway, if you want the classic, stick with Jamesoart. His technique is accessible and probably the truest to the show. My version uses a modernist technique à la Jamie Boudreau. This is how to make the Black Yukon Suckerpunch in the 21st century.

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21st Century Black Yukon Suckerpunch
1.5 oz Bourbon
.5 oz Coffee liqueur
1 oz brewed black coffee
As much black food color as it takes (like 3 drops)
Blue Cocktail Foam
4 egg whites
6 oz blue curaçao
3 oz lemon juice
2 oz water
Combine all foam ingredients in an iSi whipping siphon and charge with two N02 cartridges.
Stir the bourbon, liqueur, and coffee over ice, and pour into a highball. Top with the blue cocktail foam.

Getting the texture of a cocktail foam just right is always a challenge. The ratio of sugar, water, lemon juice, and egg white has to be just right to get a foam that is stable and springy. To be honest, it takes a little luck, and I have found some variability in the stability of this foam recipe. If your foam is falling apart, try replacing some or all of the water with simple syrup.

Cheers!


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Enchanted Valentine’s: Beauty and the Beast Cocktail with Rose, Bourbon, Pomegranate

Who told you that you might gather my roses? Was it not enough that I allowed you to be in my palace and was kind to you? This is how you show your gratitude, by stealing my flowers? But your insolence shall not go unpunished!

The merchant, terrified by these furious words, dropped the fatal rose, and, throwing himself on his knees, cried: “Pardon me, noble sir. I am truly grateful to you for your hospitality, which was so magnificent that I could not imagine that you would be offended by my taking such a little thing as a rose.

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We finished our Enchanted Valentine’s Day with a cream puff and a cocktail centered around roses, and inspired by Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. As before, Johan describes his half of the project in excruciating detail.

Despite the French setting of the story, the flavor of rose is most at home amongst Levantine flavors, and without any particular intention, we found ourselves pairing it with arak, pistachio, and pomegranate, as well as white chocolate and bourbon. We had a few false starts with this dish, but ultimately we landed in a place that made me feel proud.

At one point I tried smoking the drink by burning rose petals, but it made the drink smell like cigarettes and cheap perfume. Beautiful cloche or no, I cannot suggest rose petal smoke in any capacity.

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To keep things sweet, and to announce our desserty intentions, I used a vanilla-infused bourbon as the base of this drink, and paired it with a rose shrub, a rinse of arak, and a bit of pomegranate juice. The rose shrub was perfect in this drink, and to be honest I made it as much for the pun value as for the flavor. I’ve used rose syrup before, but to develop the  complexity of the rose, I chose to extract the flavor of fresh rose petals into white vinegar.

Don’t get fancy with the vinegar when you’re making something like this. Apple cider or champagne vinegar would muddy this up too much. To get a clean flavor, I used distilled white vinegar as my base.

Rose Shrub
170g of sugar
150 ml of white vinegar
All of the petals from 6 red roses
In a large bowl, toss all the petals in the sugar to coat them, and let them sit, covered, for half a day. Add the vinegar and stir. Allow the shrub to sit covered, at room temperature, for 2-3 more days.

For the garnish, I bought some wires for arranging flowers, and wired a whole fresh rose around the stem of a coup glass. My roses weren’t very fragrant, so I sprayed them with a little bit of rose-flower water before serving. It’s easy to overdo it with rose flower water, so be careful.

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Be So Kind as to Bring Me a Rose
1.5 oz Vanilla-Infused Bourbon
.5 oz Rose Shrub
.25 oz Pomegranate Juice
1/2 tsp of Arak
Stir over ice, strain, and serve in a coupe with a rose wired around it. Intimidate your guests with your gruff presence and threatening demeanor.

At this point I have used vanilla-infused bourbon in so many drinks that I’m not going to bother to talk about it. Drop a vanilla bean in a bottle of bourbon. Wait about three days. There is no need to ever remove the vanilla bean. If the vanilla gets too strong, blend the vanilla bourbon with un-infused bourbon at mixing-time.

I never thought mixology would take me to flower arranging, but here I am.