Measure & Stir

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


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Pineapple and Fernet

Last Saturday was a great day. James had just purchased his first bottle of Fernet Branca, and the occasion merited a thorough exploration of the ingredient. Pineapple juice and Fernet is one of those few truly extraordinary flavor pairings, like chocolate and peanut butter, or foie gras and sauternes, and I wish it were better-known.

Moreover, fresh pineapples have a limited window of availability, and I like to get while the gettin’s good, so I juiced a whole pineapple, and separately, a few ginger roots, and took them to the party. For our first drink of the day, I mixed up a Bartender On Acid. I first learned of this drink through CVS, and I fell in love with it because it was a classed up version of a prole drink, like Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

Bartender On Acid

1 oz Fernet Branca
1 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
1 oz Traditional Rum (Wray and Nephew)

Shake over ice and double strain. Serve “Up”.

The Bartender on Acid is a highly improved version of that old college classic, the Surfer On Acid, a trainwreck of a shooter containing equal measures of canned pineapple juice, Jagermeister, and Malibu. Fernet Branca has the same dark, herbal, bitter personality that Jager does, but it has much more subtlety, and much more bitterness. It also has the alluring quality that frat boys don’t really drink it.

A traditional rum such as Wray and Nephew or Smith and Cross replaces the Malibu’s artificial coconut flavor with a hefty slug of “hogo“, the sulfurous, grassy, funky quality of rum which is distilled from molasses in a pot still, as in the traditional style. It’s rare to see an equal portions drink achieve such an excellent balance. A+, would drink again.

For round two, I was feeling inspired by this post at the Tiki Speakeasy, so I decided to put that pineapple juice to good use with a couple of original creations. Ginger and pineapple is another great pairing, and so is ginger and fernet, so I had it in my mind to combine the three of them into a highball.

Piña Branca

1.5 oz Pineapple Juice
1.5 oz Pusser’s Rum
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Fernet Branca
3 barspoons Fresh Ginger Juice
1 oz Ginger Beer

Combine all except ginger beer in a shaker, shake over ice and double strain over fresh ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with a pineapple slice and a lime wheel.

Double-down on your garnishes when you’re making a tiki drink. It has to look exotic, and we accomplish that with more cut fruit. I added a few spoonfuls of fresh ginger juice to this drink to add a ginger spice, and relied on the ginger beer to contribute the necessary sugar.

It was very refreshing, but without any simple syrup, the whole drink was very dry, perhaps too dry for some palates. Such a drink is to my taste., but we also had some orgeat hanging around from the Trinidad Sour, and James wanted to see how the orgeat would fit into this drink.

Marzipiña

1.5 oz Pineapple Juice
1.5 oz Pusser’s Rum
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Fernet Branca
3 barspoons Fresh Ginger Juice
.75 oz Orgeat Syrup
1 oz Ginger Beer

Combine all except ginger beer in a shaker, shake over ice and double strain over fresh ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with a pineapple slice and a lime wheel. Cut the pineapple so that it’s eating the lime wedge, like Pac Man.

I tasted this drink with only .5 oz of the orgeat, and it didn’t really have the almond sweetness that I was looking for. The addition of orgeat covered up the fernet, and I didn’t want to add any more lest I upset the balance between the other flavors. The addition of sugar to the drink made it much more approachable, and I think that a mint leaf might help bring the fernet back into focus.

This variation will probably suit most peoples’ tastes more than the Piña Branca, and I’m fine with that, as long as it keeps them off of the Malibu.


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Black Forest

Thursday already! Where does the week go? My friend Julian recently acquired an espresso machine, so I did some research to find interesting drinks that incorporate coffee. This one comes from Imbibe Magazine, and it stood out to me for several reasons. First, I liked that it treated coffee as the base “spirit”, similar to the way I did in the Bialetti Aspro.

I went over to Julian’s on Saturday morning for coffee, and he was kind enough to pull a shot for this drink. He is a serious coffee geek, and he has a serious rig, so the coffee in this drink, which was made with Stumptown Roaster’s Hairbender blend, was top notch. Your drink is only as good as the worst thing you put in it, so go the extra mile to ensure that every ingredient is the highest quality possible.

In Italian, fortifying a shot of expresso with a shot of liquor is called a Caffè Corretto, or “corrected coffee”, which is correct in the sense of being proper. I love the idea that it is proper to drink coffee that has been spiked with liquor, though I am also enamored with all of the many non-boozy incarnations of espresso, and I have been delighted to explore them.

Black Forest

2 oz. espresso
.25 oz. Bénédictine
.25 oz. Maraschino (Luxardo)

Shake over ice and strain into a fluted glass.

The espresso in this drink was so oily, rich, and viscous, and shaking it gave it a beautiful foamy top. .5 oz of liqueur gave it the appropriate amount of sweetness, but it didn’t have quite the level of booze that I would have preferred. Half an ounce of brandy would probably have taken it from a B to an A, but it might also be the case that the espresso overpowered the other elements, and if I had used french press I think it would have been perfect.

All things being equal, I think I would rather have the brandy, and stick to espresso.


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Orgeat Syrup and Trinidad Sour

Unfortunately, we now return to your regularly scheduled amateur photography by me.

After an excursion to Smith’s on Capitol Hill, James was inspired to make orgeat syrup using this Serious Eats recipe. It is often the case for me, too, that I will be moved to recreate a drink after ordering it at a bar or a restaurant. The drink on the menu at Smith’s was called a Trinidad Sour, and when I heard the name I thought perhaps James had stumbled onto this Trinidad Sour that made a splash a few years ago by using Angostura as a base spirit.

And indeed, the drink at Smith’s seems is very similar to the one that I remembered, except it uses Fernet instead of Angostura for its bitter component. Mint and orgeat go very well together, as we know from the Mai Tai, so it is a reasonable and interesting substitution, though it required very different proportions.

Smith’s Trinidad Sour

1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (Old Overholt)
.5 oz Fernet Branca
.5 oz Lemon Juice
.5 oz Orgeat Syrup

Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Gently float a lemon wheel on top.

The home-made orgeat was very milky, and had a much nuttier flavor than the Monin Orgeat that I have been using lately. The Monin has the marzipan/almond extract flavor that you expect in an orgeat syrup, but it does not actually taste all that much like an almond. The home-made syrup, on the other hand, was more reminiscent of sweet almond milk, and the orange flower water was very discernible, and pleasant. As you can see from the photo, it gave this drink a creamy color and texture. If you’re on the fence about fernet, this is probably a great drink to aid you on your journey.

Drinking this put me in the mood for the original, and I wanted to see how the fernet version compared to the Angostura version, so I made one of those, too:

Trinidad Sour

1.5 oz Angostura Bitters
1.5 oz Orgeat Syrup (Homemade)
1 oz Lemon Juice
.5 oz Rye (Old Overholt)

Shake and double-strain into a coupe glass.

I had thought this drink would be less accessible than the Fernet version, but I was wrong. The Angostura Trinidad Sour is sweet and spicy, and it tastes like cinnamon, clove, and cherry wood. Equal parts of syrup and bitters cuts all of the challenge away from the Angostura, and gives the drink a cotton candy quality that I don’t mind, but that I don’t crave. I suspect I would prefer it with only an ounce of syrup, and I will be trying that variation soon.

I adore the color of the Angostura bitters version, however; Angostura has an oily, staining red color to it, and with the cloudiness from the orgeat, it has a distinctive and striking appearance. Even so, if you only make one of these, I suggest the Fernet version, but both are excellent.


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Dirt and Diesel

Today I would like to present one of my all-time favorite cocktails, the Dirt and Diesel. This drink is reminiscent of the much more traditional Corn N’ Oil, a potion of blackstrap rum and falernum, a tiki ingredient that I promise I will make one of these days. The Dirt and Diesel was invented by a bartender at one of my favorite Seattle bars, Tavern Law, and it truly does have an industrial sort of flavor from Cynar and Fernet Branca.

Dirt and Diesel
(by Cale Green, Tavern Law and Needle & Thread, Seattle)

2 oz Cruzan Black Strap Rum (Kraken)
.5 oz Fernet-Branca
.5 oz Demerara sugar syrup
.25 oz Cynar
.25 oz lime juice

Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

To be honest, the Cynar is not very prominent in this drink, hiding as it is behind double its volume of Fernet Branca, but it is there if you look for it. When I first tasted this drink at the bar, I went home that same night and tried to replicate it out of my own head. I came pretty close, but I mixed up the proportions of the half ounce and quarter ounce ingredients. It looked like this:

Poorly-Recreated Dirt and Diesel

1.5 oz Black Strap Rum (Kraken)
.5 oz lime juice
.5 oz Cynar
.25 oz Fernet Branca
.25 oz Demerara sugar syrup

My version was too juicy, and not as balanced, so don’t make it, except switching the Fernet and Cynar is a fun variation. As for the real version of the drink, it is one of my all-time favorite mixed drinks, and an excellent way to enjoy that queen of spirits, Fernet Branca. If you do not have Fernet Branca in your home bar, what are you doing, son?

Also, a word on Demerara sugar syrup; Demerara sugar, or turbinado sugar, or “sugar in the raw”, for those of us who are ready, is not as sweet by volume as more refined sugars, and must be made in a ratio of 2:1 sugar:water in order to be adequately sweet. If you don’t have any Demerara sugar, or you are very lazy, I won’t be offended if you make brown sugar syrup instead, and probably no one will really know, but you’ll know, and that should be enough to move your conscience.

As with the Whiskey Fix, photo credit goes to my friends Michael Schmid, John Sim, and Matt Barraro.


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Vanilla Whiskey Fix

You may notice a marked difference in the quality of the photography in this post. For that, I need to thank my friends Michael Schmid, John Sim, and Matt Barraro, for having an awesome camera and technical skills, and for contributing their time to taking pictures of some of my drinks.

Today I present a twist on a classic, the whiskey fix. Fixes and Sours are the two broad categories of short punch, with the difference between them being that a fix is served over ice, whereas a sour is served up. Neither is diluted with an aqueous element such as soda water or ginger beer. One of the first drinks I learned to make, and one of the most accessible, is the whiskey sour. The basic formula for a sour or a fix is:

2 oz of base spirit
.75 oz of lemon or lime juice
.5 oz of syrup.

Shake over ice and double strain.

With the difference being that a fix should be strained over fresh ice into an old-fashioned glass, and a sour should be strained into a cocktail glass or, if you listen to Andy, a sour goblet. A sour becomes a daisy if it is modified with a liqueur instead of a syrup. Adding a bit of liqueur to a sour made with syrup makes it fancy — curaçao or maraschino are the common choices, but any high quality liqueur is acceptable.

It is sometimes desirable to thicken a sour or a fix with an egg white, in which case one must first “dry shake” the drink, which is to say, shake it without ice, to foam the egg white, before shaking it with ice. In the winter time, an egg white is very appealing, but in the summer, I usually choose to omit it.

Whiskey Fix
1.5 oz vanilla-infused bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz brown sugar syrup

Shake over ice, double-strain over fresh ice.
Garnish with fruits in season (lychees).

I love vanilla-bean infused bourbon whiskey, and I always keep a bottle on hand. It takes about one week for the vanilla flavor to fully mature in the whiskey, though many whiskey-lovers might find that this is treating the whiskey a little too harshly, and indeed, one ought not to give this treatment to a whiskey that is too fine. I wouldn’t go cheaper than Evan Williams, but I also wouldn’t go more expensive than Buffalo Trace or Bulleit. Vanilla brings out the oaky qualities in the bourbon, and adds a little more interest to the relatively commonplace whiskey sour.

My friend James made this drink in my house about a month ago, and he chose to use brown sugar syrup instead of simple. Since then, I have made it this way exclusively, and it’s a drink that I will serve to any guest in a pinch.

It is proper to garnish a fix with seasonal fruit, as they contribute interesting aromas, and add a fancy, festive quality to the presentation. I just happened to have these lychees on the day that we took the pictures, and after de-pitting them carefully with a paring knife, I skewered them with bamboo and set it on top of the glass. Most people don’t eat lychees very often, at least in the U.S., so the opportunity to eat an uncommon tropical fruit adds even more intrigue to the experience.

If you don’t have lychees, I have also garnished this with fresh pineapple, and with raspberries, and both are great.


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Rose Syrup

I bought some rose syrup from Travelers, the local Indian market. Whenever I make or purchase a new syrup, I try it in an old fashioned. I thought that lemon would complement the rose more than orange, since lemon oil is an extremely bright flavor, and rose is a a little bit darker. Moreover, rose and rye did not work together all that well, so I opted for dark rum, instead. The rose syrup had even more red dye in it than Campari, and it managed to completely overpower the color of  Flor de Cana Centenario 18, which is a very dark rum, indeed.

Old Fashioned Rum Cocktail with Rose

1.5 oz aged dark rum (Flor De Cana 18)
1 barspoon rose syrup
1 dash orange bitters (Regan’s)
stir and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a lemon peel

The clerk at the store told me rose would not work in an old-fashioned. That’s what happens when you think one-dimensionally and assume that rye or bourbon has to be the base. Rum was made for roses. It tastes like romance, and as long as you have a light hand with that rose syrup, it won’t be cloying.

Rose Pegu
1 3/4 oz. London dry gin (Beefeater)
3/4 oz. Combier Pamplemousse Rose (Rose Syrup)
3/4 oz. lime juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Shake over ice and double strain. Garnish with a lime peel.

Ok, so using a syrup isn’t quite in the spirit of a Pegu, which is supposed to contain liqueur, but the dirty secret is that you can often sub a syrup for a liqueur as long as the liqueur is reasonably sweet and the drink has other substantial alcohol components. This recipe came from Jacob Grier, but I didn’t have any Combier Pamplemousse Rose.  I suspect the liqueur is not quite as sweet as this syrup, as I ended up adding an additional 1/4 oz of lime to balance the sweetness.

To be honest, I feel like making a gin sour is the easiest way in the world to incorporate one other flavor into a drink. If you have a liqueur or a syrup and you aren’t sure how to express it, gin and lemon or lime is almost guaranteed to make a nice base for it. I have to admit, this was a very tasty drink, like a citrusy Turkish delight, even if it was the easy way out. And speaking of Turkish delight, the flavor of pistachio might be a beautiful addition.

The lime oil was a delicious contrast to the sweetness of the rose, and the gin added a fine botanical complexity on the swallow. If I were serving this at a party, I would express lime oil over the surface of the drink and then garnish it with a few white rose petals instead.

Rosey Disposition (beta)

1.5 oz Cuban Rum (Matusalem Clasico)
.75 oz dry vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz rose syrup
1 dash of Angostura bitters

Stir over cracked ice and garnish with a lemon knot.

A great template to know is 6:3:1 with a base spirit, a fortified wine, and a modifier. I used this same template last week with gin and apricot-flavored brandy. So I’m not sure if this is any less of a cop-out than the Rose Pegu, but as with the old fashioned, the caramel qualities of the rum blended almost romantically with the rose syrup.

I also tried mixing rose syrup with several amari, but I found that the flavor of rose occupies a very similar place on the spectrum as an amaro such as Ramazotti, and even though the rose came through, it was blurry. The syrup went a little bit better with Campari, though I did not use it in the above variation. There is a pleasing consonance between the two brilliant reds. A rose Negroni may be in my future.

Finally, since we’re on the subject, a note on garnishes:

If you have a channel knife, you can easily cut a long, graceful strip of lemon peel. Tying it into a very loose knot is an excellent alternative to a twist, once in a while.


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arts district

Thank you, Chuck Taggart, for giving me so many excellent ideas! I am a sucker for Cynar, and a huge fan of rye and Benedictine, so this recipe drew me like a moth to a flame. It’s not the most daring or unusual drink, but if you like them brown, bitter, and stirred, then this is a drink for you.

Arts District

2 oz rye (RI1)
1/2 oz Cynar
1/4 oz Benedictine
grapefruit peel (expressed)

To express the oil in a piece of citrus peel, simply squeeze it over the surface of the drink. A mist of citrus oil will spray out and float on top, providing a crisp, aromatic experience for both the imbiber and the bartender. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a drink with grapefruit oil before, and I found it to be a rewarding experience. The bitterness from the grapefruit made an intriguing contrast with the bitterness from the Cynar, because one is vegetal and the other is fruity.

The Arts District was a welcome study in bitter flavors, although the the rye whiskey was overshadowed by the strong herbal qualities of the liqueurs. That might have been my fault for using RI1, which is delicate for a rye. Even with that minor complaint, the drink is well put-together, with an excellent balance between the Cynar and the Benedictine, and a pleasing sweetness that spans the flavor ‘spectrum’.