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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.


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Grapefruit, Vanilla, Rum, Cinnamon

I was mixing drinks at my friend James’ house last Sunday, and I suddenly had to improvise a drink for some ladies. I knew they did not want to drink turmeric and J. Wray, and I had already served them an aromatic drink of gin and plum wine, so the next round needed to be based on citrus. On this occasion, I had already stripped the peel from two grapefruits (a portent of drinks to come!), and I did not want to waste their juice.

Cinnamon and citrus is a match made in heaven, and lately I’ve been on a real cinnamon kick. I love the fragrance of it when its used as a garnish, and I love its spiciness and its depth. Cinnamon sticks are a must-have ingredient in your home bar; they are useful for infusions, garnishes, and syrups. In a pinch, you can use one to impale a citrus wheel, making an excellent addition to a tiki drink. It’s important to break the cinnamon apart before using it. Doing so releases its oil and its aroma.

Having settled on cinnamon and grapefruit (in Tiki terms, a blend called “Don’s Mix”), aged rum was an obvious choice. Honey syrup would have turned made this a sort of Rum Brown Derby, but James’ honey syrup had run out, so Monin vanilla took its place. Overall I was very pleased with this drink, and I think you will be, too. You don’t have to use Monin vanilla syrup. In fact, I encourage you to make your own:

Vanilla-Cinnamon Syrup
Two vanilla beans, split length-wise with a knife
Three Cinnamon sticks, preferably Canela
1.5 cups sugar
1.25 cups water

Simmer the syrup on the stove for fifteen minutes, and then allow to cool. Place the steeped spices in the vessel with the syrup, and add an ounce of vodka (or everclear) as a preservative.

Cinnamon Rum Derby
1.5 oz Aged Rum (Pusser’s)
1 oz Fresh Grapefruit Juice,
.5 oz Vanilla Syrup (Monin)
2 Cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

If you make Cinnamon-Vanilla syrup, you can omit the cinnamon sticks in the shaker. I was surprised how excellent this was, in fact, as I usually don’t love grapefruit juice. Don the Beachcomber knew what he was doing.


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Rum, Turmeric Juice, Lemongrass

Hot on the heels of the Curry Derby, I wanted to really explore this concept of turmeric in drinks. To that end, I purchased a healthy knob of turmeric, and ran it through my juicer, along with a bit of young ginger. The resulting juice was light, with a depth of peppery curry flavor, and a slight burn on the finish from ginger. Turmeric is something we have all experienced in Indian curries, but I had never really tasted it on its own, except for sad, dried out turmeric powder. A word to the wise: putting dried spices in your food is depressing; they have the texture of sand and most of the flavor. It’s the difference between a grand piano and a casio recorder.

The spices gave the drink a bitter dimension, but it still needed high notes, so I chose J. Wray and Nephew as the base. Lately I have been trying to temper my enthusiasm for rums with hogo — there are so many styles out there, after all — but the beauty of hogo is that it pairs so well with herbal and vegetal flavors. I enjoy seeking out such flavors, of course, so J. Wray is always in my well.

J. Wray and Turmeric was a good base, but the flavor was incomplete. A proper mixed drink needs an abrasive quality to make it pop. The most common sources for this are fortified wine, which provides astringency from herbs, and citric acid from fresh lemon or lime. There are other options: the tannin in tea can also be bracing, as can the pungency of aromatic bitters. Originally I had tried muddling some lemon grass in some simple syrup, but the lemon grass that I had purchased that day was of inferior quality, and would not convey a strong enough flavor to the syrup. I ended up deciding that rum called for lime, with the end result being a kind of succulent turmeric daquiri.

Tim Curry
1.5 oz Traditional Rum (J. Wray and Nephew)
1 oz Turmeric Ginger juice
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup

Muddle lemongrass in simple syrup, then combine all in a shaker. Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a piece of broken lemongrass.

Rum is a piratey drink, after all, and as such this drink is named after Tim Curry, mostly for his role in Pirates of the Plain, and because his name happens to fit the ingredients. Good. A couple of notes on working with turmeric: everything it touches will turn golden curry yellow. The tasteful 80s mauve of my juicer is now permanently stained golden. My finger nails, until they grow out. The place on the counter where some of the juice dripped. It’s positively Faustian. Definitely don’t spill it on your white shirt. Also, it oxidizes within about two hours, turning from glowing neon carrot to a more muted rust. Use it quickly if you want to extract maximum vibrancy.

Despite its appealing color, turmeric is not for the faint of heart. This drink was savory, halfway between a daquiri and a bloody mary, but not as thick. As the evening went on, we made this variation:

Señor Curry
1.5 oz Reposado Tequila (Espolón)
.75 oz Turmeric-Ginger Juice
.25 oz Lime Juice
.25 oz Pimento Dram (Homemade)
Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

This was not quite as good as the first version, but the reposado tequila hit some of the same notes as the J. Wray, and the allspice liqueur complimented both the juice and the tequila. Still, the recipe wasn’t perfect. I think I would have preferred chocolate instead of allspice, but I did not have any on hand.


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Gin, Mangosteen, Umeshu, Turbinado

A quick stroll through the Japanese Market equipped me to make today’s drink, in which I made use of mangosteen, and also Choya Umeshu, which is a Japanese plum wine. Mangosteen is not as sweet as lychee, and it has a softer texture, but it’s close enough that I intuitively used a similar process to this muddled lychee and gin drink, except I omitted the lemon juice, for it was not necessary.

Mangosteen is very expensive, and its flavor is not distinctive. It is light and watery, with a hint of a tropical fruit flavor, like like tart berries with a touch of pear. For this reason, I do not recommend using it to make drinks, but I didn’t know that, and neither would you if no one told you, no? If you’re like me, you’re constantly looking for novel flavors in your food and drinks, so maybe you think, sure, I’ll splurge on some tropical fruit, even though I have no idea how to pick a ripe one or if it’s even reasonable to expect to get good quality mangosteens this time of year. Maybe if you eat them closer to their point of origin, they have a stronger flavor.

No matter! I made a drink out of them anyway, and it was quite a good drink in spite of the mildness of the muddled fruit. Umeshu is made by infusing macerated japanese plums, called ume in shochu, and sweetening it with sugar. I noticed that the neighborhood Japanese market was selling 750 ml bottles of this as a liqueur (subject to the WA state hard liquor taxes) and also as a wine, so I, of course, opted to purchase the latter. I’m not sure if Choya is the good stuff; in fact I’m pretty sure it’s the cheap stuff, but it tasted pleasantly of plums, so I used it exactly like a fortified wine.

Bonus: it came in 50ml glass bottles, perfect for making exactly two drinks. A fortified wine you can keep in the pantry? Someone needs to put the fine folks at Choya in touch with whoever makes Carpano Antica.

Mango Should Be Steen and Not Heard
1.5 oz Old Tom Gin (Hayman’s)
.75 oz Umeshu (Choya)
1 tsp Turbinado sugar syrup
Flesh from one mangosteen fruit
Muddle the mangosteen in the turbinado syrup, then shake all ingredients over ice. Double strain over fresh ice and garnish with a piece of candied ginger.

This drink was excellent, in spite of the mangosteen having a light flavor. The extra sugar from the syrup helped to bring out its fruity flavors and the umeshu bridged the gap between astringent gin and sweet fruit. Making the drink was easy, but naming it… that I am not so good at. If anyone has a better idea of what to call this, please let me know. Personally, I don’t think every delicious thing you throw in a mixing vessel needs a name. If observe good practices regarding drink construction, and you mix according to your good taste, then you have done enough.

The best drink names are clever puns.