Measure & Stir

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


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Bourbon and Stone’s Ginger

Quick Aside: MxMo: Equal Parts is up at CVS.

This is another one from my recent trip to visit my family, in which I found myself mixing drinks from my father’s bar. It was my sheer delight to find him in possession of a bottle of Stone’s Ginger, a fortified wine made from a blend of fermented raisins and ginger. It is sweet and has a spicy ginger flavor. Being a fortified wine, and given its flavor profile, it can be used in a similar manner to sweet vermouth, though a Manhattan with Stone’s Ginger is a very different beast, indeed.

For this drink, I followed that good old 6:3:1 template about which we’ve all heard so much, and I garnished with a preserved ginger heart, which as far as I can tell is a piece of ginger that’s been cut down to a roughly spherical shape and then preserved in a canning process using whiskey and sugar. It makes the ginger very tender, and you can bite into it and chew it.

Aside from the noteworthy garnish, there is not too much to say about the structure of this one; it’s extremely standard. I sweetened the whole operation some orange oleo saccharum (not the herbed one in that link) that I had lying around from an earlier drink, and poured it over ice. Orange, ginger, bourbon, ginger. If you follow the template, you will almost always have a good drink.

Untitled
1.5 oz Bourbon (Woodford Reserve)
.75 oz Ginger Wine (Stone’s)
.25 Orange Oleo Saccharum
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Stir over ice and then strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a preserved ginger heart on a bamboo skewer.

Not my most beautiful photo, I know, but a beautiful way to enjoy your bourbon. Serving this drink on the rocks made it a bit lighter than it would have been otherwise, and in the California heat, that is exactly what you want. Stone’s Ginger is an excellent product, though I have not seen it in WA. Definitely pick up a bottle if you have a chance.


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Apothegms and Interludes

Your drink is only as good as the worst thing you put in it.

Capture an aromatic ingredient in an infusion; concentrate a flavorful ingredient into a syrup; combine a syrup and an infusion of the same ingredient to make a liqueur.

A bitter flavor will dull the crispness of a sour one.

There are so many bitter flavors in this world, and you have not tasted most of them.

Spices mix stunningly well with citrus.

How to clarify pretty much anything.

“Surnames” of drinks. But I wouldn’t get too hung up on any one nomenclature.

A balanced drink is one in which every flavor is discernible.

We taste first with our noses; a garnish that is not fragrant is worthless.

Perfect stirring technique is silent, and when you stir a drink, strain it gently, with a julep strainer.

When dry-shaking a drink, a single ice cube will prevent the shaker from leaking. The spring from your Hawthorne strainer, dropped into the shaker, will help it to froth.

That vodka in your drink? It really should have been gin, unless it should have been rum.

Trim your citrus peels into perfect rectangles before twisting, rolling, folding, etc.

For the love of god, double-strain your shaken drinks through a fine-mesh strainer.

When you serve a drink on the rocks, fill it completely with ice. More ice will slow the melting process.

Drink it before the ice gets scared.

Perfect the art of making ice, or at least find a reputable icemonger.

Fortified wine is highly perishable — treat it as such.

In an attempt to make the Bloody Mary better, many bartenders adopt a kitchen sink approach, in which they add every savory ingredient they can get their hands on. Pickles, bell peppers, carrots, celery, shrimp, onion, a boiled egg — all of these elements improve the drink only in the sense that they distract the imbiber from the ugly, ugly truth: you are drinking boiled tomato puree mixed with vodka.

A drink with neither citrus juice nor fortified wine — usually a disappointment. The Old Fashioned Cocktail — a rare exception.

If the drink consists of other than gin, dry vermouth, and (optionally) bitters, it is not a martini.

Fine whiskey needs no adornment.

Taste your infusions every day. Tea infuses in an hour or two, dried flowers in four to six.

Treat dairy products in drinks exactly like egg whites.

A fancy occasion? A more elaborate garnish.

When making a champagne cocktail, add the champagne first, then the sweetener. The sweetener will sink and mix with the champagne, sacrificing less fizz than if you add the champagne first, and then stir.

The other day, I watched a bartender shake a lemon drop over one hundred times. If she wanted to ruin the drink, she could have done so with much less effort!

Never touch mint with a muddler. Smack it in the palm of your hand.

Pay less than fifteen dollars for vodka, and keep it in a bottle that cost more than thirty. An exercise in marketing psychology: enjoying the flavor of that which is flavorless.

A game that never gets old: my rum is more obscure than yours.

You only need one liquorice-flavored spirit in your bar.

Pretentious is sometimes a stylistic choice.

Layered drinks do not taste very good, but they sure are pretty.

Learn to appreciate Campari.

Drink the classic cocktails, but don’t let them constrain your thinking.

Respect the tiki gods. More than two tiki drinks can take you to a dark place.

Taste each ingredient separately before you mix them together. If you don’t know your ingredients, how can you know your drink?


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Mixology Monday: Equal Parts

Mixology MondayIt’s been a while, Mixology Monday. I was always a little disappointed that this fine cocktail blog tradition became suspended just as I was getting started. This month it’s hosted by Fred of Cocktail Virgin Slut, which was one of the main resources I have used to learn about the world of fine drinks. Before I started this blog, easily ninety percent of the drinks I made came from CVS, and I still use them every time I am exploring a new ingredient. Their site is easily the best cocktail database on the web.

Anyway, as I was digging around in various blog archives, looking for inspiration, I came upon this comparison of Zombie recipes by Kaiser penguin, and I noticed that the recipe they selected as their favorite was equal parts. That version is the Dr. Cocktail version from Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh. I will confess that this recipe takes a bit of license with the theme; Fred said that dashes of bitters were OK, but this recipe also called for 1tsp of brown sugar. We’ll call that a couple of dashes.

Sadly, I did not have any powdered sugar to sprinkle on top of the pineapple and lime, but I made up for it with a parasol on the straw. I also served it over cubed ice, and I think crushed might have been a bit more in the spirit of the drink, but even so, it was utterly delicious. I was serving several rounds of tiki drinks on this occasion, so I ended up serving half of this recipe to each of my guests, and finishing it with a float of Kraken in equal measure to the other ingredients. That was actually an accident, intended for my second round, but it made the drink beautifully aromatic, and I would do it exactly the same way again.

Zombie

1oz Lime Juice
1oz Lemon Juice
1oz Pineapple juice (Must be fresh!)
1oz Passion Fruit Syrup
1oz gold Puerto Rican rum (151 Cruzan)
1oz 151 proof Demerara rum (El Dorado 12)
1oz light Puerto Rican rum (Ron Matusalem)
1oz Spiced Black Rum, Floated (Kraken)
1tsp brown sugar
1 dash Angostura bitters
Shake over ice and strain over fresh ice. Garnish as outrageously as possible.

Astute readers will notice that I switched the rums up a bit, out of necessity. I am not so fortunate as to have a bottle of Lemonheart, so I ended up using an 80 proof demerara rum and a 151 proof gold rum. So the demerara and 151 proof requirements were satisfied, but not quite as per usual. By far the most difficult ingredient in this recipe was the passion fruit syrup. Passion fruits are costly, but I was not about to use a commercial product. It’s probably pretty obvious how to make a passion fruit syrup, but just in case:

Passion Fruit Syrup
1 cup water
1.5 cups sugar
pulp from 7 passion fruits
Dissolve the sugar in the water on the stove top, and then add all of the passion fruit pulp. Reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes, then strain through a cheesecloth and fortify with an ounce of vodka or everclear. (I prefer everclear)

A huge thanks to Fred for hosting MxMo, and Cheers to all the other participants. Full round-up is here.


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Flash-Infused Peach Ginger Bourbon, Black Tea

A secondary use of the iSi whipped cream dispenser is making flash infusions, as in this Kaiser Penguin article on five minute falernum. This technique as my original motivation for wanting one, but when I learned that it could be used for cocktail foams, it motivated me to buy one at once. For my first foray into flash infusions, I decided to use peach and ginger to infuse bourbon. I thought this flavor combination would perfectly capture what I like about drinking iced tea on a summer afternoon.

Peach Ginger Bourbon Flash Infusion
2 Ripe peaches, peeled and cut into small pieces
4 Medallions of fresh ginger
8 oz bourbon
Place all in a whipped cream dispenser canister and seal. Discharges two nitrous oxide cartridges into the canister and allow to rest for ten minutes. Discharge all pressure before opening.

Alas, on this afternoon I selected white peaches that were under-ripe, and their flavor was very light in the infusion. Fortunately, I used young ginger as an accompaniment, and the ginger flavor was light as well, yielding a balanced infusion. I would have preferred a stronger flavor, and I am certain that riper produce and mature ginger would have delivered. Even so, I soldiered on, adding lychee black tea and turbinado sugar syrup. Lychee-flavored tea was not my intention, but I was mixing on location, and it was available. The combination worked surprisingly well; the subtle lychee flavor rounded out the peach and ginger with an indistinct fruitiness that did not detract from the peach and bourbon flavor. On the whole, tea is a watery ingredient, and it made the drink very light, though in a pleasant way.

Peach Ginger Bourbon Iced Tea (beta)
1.5 oz Peach and Ginger-Infused Bourbon (Evan Williams)
.75 oz Lychee Black Tea
.25 oz Turbinado Syrup
Stir over ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with a fat orange peel.

This was good, but here’s what would have been better:

Peach Ginger Bourbon Iced Tea (beta)
1.5 oz Peach and Ginger-Infused Bourbon (Evan Williams)
.5 oz Lychee Black Tea
.25 oz Turbinado Black Tea Syrup
1 Dash Peach Bitters
Stir over ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with a fat orange peel.

Sugar really brings out the fruit flavors. And yet a part of me can’t help but wonder if all the pressure really did, in this case, was squeeze juice out of the fruit? Indeed the viscosity of the bourbon did thicken and resemble the nectar of a peach. My impression is that this technique would work better for herbs and spices than whole fruits.


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Guest Post: Bourbon and Branch

Hey, my name’s James. I’m usually around when Joe decides to mix up a few drinks, and so he’s become my cocktail sensei. I recently had the opportunity to visit San Francisco on business, and Joe recommended that I check out a place called Bourbon and Branch. It was easy to convince my coworkers to join me for a few drinks, and once I had told them that this bar had Joe’s endorsement, it was a done deal. His recommendation did not disappoint.

Bourbon and Branch is a pretentious speakeasy-style bar located on a grimy downtown San Francisco street corner, under a sign that reads “Anti-Prohibition League”. Being a snobbish drinkery, gaining entrance was, of course, an ordeal. Reservations had to be made. A passphrase had to be received. An intercom had to be used. There are rules one must obey. Personally, I can do without all the role play involved with this sort of thing, but I see how it adds some charm to the experience, and is appealing to some people. Either way, this set the tone for what was to be an evening of fine drinking.

I later learned that this particular location has been operating continuously as a bar since the pre-prohibition era, enduring the ages under various names and ownerships. The latest incarnation is a surprisingly large-scale operation. They even sell gift cards.

The server who greeted us at the door instructed us to wait as our table was prepared. As we waited, I looked around the bar and soaked in the atmosphere. The room was dimly lit by a few glowing light fixtures scattered about and a pair of extravagant chandeliers which hung above the bar. The room felt intimate, but not isolating. Everything screamed of that 1920s/speakeasy/prohibition vibe – almost to the point of feeling a bit like a cheesy theme park, but not quite.

Business wasn’t bumping that night, but it wasn’t dead either. There were a few people sitting at the bar, quietly chatting amongst themselves and enjoying their cocktails. Behind the bar were two bartenders, dressed to match the ambiance, who were busy mixing and shaking drinks. The bar itself boasted a huge selection of spirits, with an entirely separate display showcasing an impressive collection of whiskey.

After a short wait, we were shown to our table. I was surprised at how large the place was. Our server lead our party into a back room that I hadn’t previously noticed, which was easily as large as the front area, but was filled entirely with booths. We were seated at one of the booths towards the back of the room, along a very narrow slab of wood that had been attached at one end to the wall, which served as our rickety table. As we sat down, I watched as another party was shown through a false bookcase into yet another back room, which I guess is “the library”, another bar area, I suppose.

Our server directed our attention to the end of the table, where we saw a hefty, wooden bound tome. It was their menu. The thing was over 50 pages long. The book’s size was such that, when spread open to read, it barely fit atop our narrow table. The covers and spine were decorated beautifully with engraved patterns. It had a table of contents. The first four or five chapters were dedicated to different sorts of cocktails: sweet/fruit-based, spirit-driven, egg-whites, etc. The remainder of the book served as a catalog of spirits, liquors, and fortified wines.

We enjoyed a few rounds that night, but the drink I enjoyed the most was my first drink. I ordered what I guess is a twist on the Manhattan, which they called Agent Smith. Rye, green chartreuse, punt e mes, maraschino, and chocolate bitters. Ever since I had this drink, I’ve been on a rye and green chartreuse kick. The chocolate bitters really tied the whole experience together. Everybody was impressed with their drinks throughout the night, and we decided to end our stay with a nightcap of absinthe.

The one aspect that disappointed was the service, however. It was terribly slow. Bizarrely, they refused our party of four more than a single copy of the menu. C’mon now. If your menu is 50 pages long, how can you expect four people to share it at once?

Even if hoity-toity speakeasys aren’t your thing, the quality of the drinks was superb, so check out Bourbon and Branch if you’re ever in San Francisco. Being a pretentious tavern, their rules (the first page in the menu) “strongly discourage” guests from using cellphones, speaking loudly, flash photography, or wearing hats indoors. I’d like to thank Mike, who broke pretty much all of these rules to bring us these candid photos.


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Cupcake with Fernet Branca Icing, Candied Ginger

I apologize, dear readers, for my unexplained absence. I have been sick. To make it up to you, I have, not a recipe for a drink, but a recipe for a cupcake. At the ground level of the building where I work, there is a fancy cupcake shop, and as I was gnoshing on a bourbon maple cupcake, I was suddenly struck by how much I wanted fernet-flavored icing. I am not very experienced at baking, but when I mentioned the idea to my friend James, he took it and ran with it.

We used a recipe from Magnolia Bakery in New York City, but we took some liberties with the icing, obviously.

Fernet Branca Icing
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
6 – 8 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup – 1 cup + Fernet Branca (to taste)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Place butter in large mixing bowl
2. Add  4 cups of the sugar and Fernet and vanilla, mix on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 – 5 minutes
As you’re mixing it, after the first 3 – 5 minutes, after it starts to become creamy, gradually add the remaining sugar, beating well after each addition (2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of spreading consistency.

As you can see if you look at the picture closely, our buttercream came out with a slightly lumpy consistency, and the internet tells me this is because our buttercream was too cold. For perfect texture, the butter needs to be wholly at room temperature. Moreover, our frosting was a bit too thin to spread. In our eagerness for the bitter flavor of Fernet, we allowed the ratio of sugar/butter/Fernet to become too far weighted in the direction of Fernet. This made the frosting delicious, but it also made it run down the sides of the cupcake.

We garnished the cupcakes with a slice of candied ginger, and it paired beautifully with the Fernet. Here is the recipe for the cupcakes themselves, for those of us who are ready:

Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes
1.5 cup self-rising flour
1.25 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, set aside.
3. In a large bowl, on medium speed of electric mixer, cream the butter until it’s smooth.
4. Add sugar, beat for 3 minutes, until fluffy.
5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.
6. Add dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk + vanilla.
With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but don’t over do it.
7. Spoon batter into cupcake tin with liners.
8. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the the cupcake has finished (tester comes out clean).
9. Cool cupcakes on a rack for 15 minutes.

Do not ice them until they have completely cooled. Even without perfect texture, these cupcakes were delicious. Why not eat them with a small glass of bourbon?


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Lavender Gin, Grapefruit, Toasted Cardamom, Orange

 

 

Ever since I made that lavender-infused gin, I’ve been wanting to do something a little more interesting than just a gin fix. I stand by that drink, but the lavender drink that my heart truly craves contains cardamom, and a subtle bitterness. If you’ve been following my recently you know I’m on a bit of an oleo saccharum binge, but I’m pretty sure this will be the last one for a while, unless I host a party. I’ve made a couple of “plain” oleo sacchara, consisting of only a citrus peel and sugar, but I’ve been much more pleased when I used herbs or spices to flavor the syrup, as well.

For this drink, I toasted cardamom pods in a pan before crushing them with grapefruit peels saturated in sugar. The cardamom flavor was mild, but present, and the grapefruit oil provided a beautiful bitterness. Both flavors were ideal for the strong lavender scent of my infused gin. The orange juice was more of an afterthought; Gin and syrup might be a decent old fashioned, but I wanted something a little bit longer, and not sour, and not a new-wave martini with syrup. Orange juice was the only logical choice, but it stayed in the background in this drink, keeping out of the way of the citrus, spice, and botanicals.

Cardamom is among my favorite flavors in the whole world; it occupies a space that also includes lavender and bergamot, that is why I chose this pairing. When combining flavors, it is often ideal that they should have an element in common. If two ingredients are too similar to each other, then the flavor profile will smear, and the drink won’t “pop”. Conversely, if two flavors are completely dissimilar, they will sit side by side, but do nothing to enhance each other. The best synergies come when two flavors have something in common, but not everything. A good example is sweet vermouth and orange; there are notes of orange peel in most sweet vermouths, but the vermouth also has flavors of wine and herbs. For this reason, orange juice, bitters, or liqueur will match it very well.

I did not garnish this drink, because the gin and the syrup were so fragrant already, but as a result, the picture is kind of lackluster:

Fine Dime Brizzle
1 Grapefruit Worth of Oleo Saccharum, made with Toasted Cardamom
1 oz Lavender-Infused Gin,
1 oz Orange Juice
Shake over ice and double-strain into a tumbler.

I already made a drink based on a Kanye West lyric, so I decided to name this drink after a line in Snoop Dogg’s best song, let’s be honest, Gin and Juice. And sure enough, this roughly equal parts recipe contains both gin and juice, albeit highly modified. It made for a very classy, or possibly a very pretentious gin and juice, so I thought it seemed appropriate. When I looked up “Fine Dime Brizzle” on urban dictionary, it was anything but classy, but I still like it.

Moreover,  I apologize for not having an exact measurement on the oleo saccharum, but if you strip all the peel off of a large grapefruit and then saturate it in sugar, you’ll come out pretty close. If you feel like there is way more sugar than you want, just add the syrup a little at a time, and taste it to make sure you have the ratio right.