Measure & Stir

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


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Libation Laboratory: Running the Gimlet, Part II

Joe and I made a variety of citrus cordials, and mixed up some gimlets, trying out various base spirits with each sort of cordial. In this series, we present our tasting notes. Part II brings us to the lime cordial, which was so tasty that we went a little nuts and made six different gimlets!

Lime Cordial
1 cup lime juice
1 cup sugar
Peels of 8 limes, piths removed.

A word of advice when making a lime cordial: You need to remove as much of that lime pith as you can. Lime pith is very bitter, and can ruin your cordial. Lime cordials are a huge pain to make, but the payoff is worth it, I promise.

Round 1

lime gimlets 2

In the image above, from left to right, we have:

Mezcal Gimlet

Eye: A slightly yellow clear, with a ghastly green glow.
Nose: Cactus and lime.
Sip: Smokey cactus, sweet lime.
Finish: Sweet.

The mezcal gimlet was excellent, probably one of my favorites out of the six that we made. Lime and mezcal really go well together, and the cordial mixes very well with mezcal, indeed. I love the depth that the mezcal’s smoke adds to such a simple drink.

Suze Gimlet

Eye: A deep yellow, almost amber.
Nose: Herbal.
Sip: Bitter, herbal, dry, crisp.
Finish: Dry, suze is pronounced in the finish.

Suze is a gentian-based liqueur, and as such it tastes very bitter. Honestly, this would make a decent apéritif, as it is slightly sweet, but mostly bitter and dry. Perhaps Suze has an acquired taste, but it is one that is well worth acquiring. This was in the top three, for sure.

Gin Gimlet

Eye: Clear, with a hint of green glow.
Nose: Botanicals and citrus.
Sip: Gin is present in the sip.
Finish: The lime cordial balances out the finish.

Of course we had to make a gin gimlet. A word of advice: the gimlet is a simple cocktail, and as such, it emphasizes the base spirit, so don’t skimp out and use the cheap stuff, go for your favorite gin, as the gimlet is a brilliant way to showcase it. I’m not sure I need to say much about this gimlet, since we’ve all probably had it a million times. If not, definitely make sure you try one soon.

Round 2

gimlets2

In the image above, from left to right, we have:

Fernet Branca Gimlet

Eye: Brown
Nose: Fernet Branca
Sip: Fernet Branca
Finish: Fernet Branca, lime detectable in the finish.

Drinking lime juice and Fernet Branca is a delicious experience, and so Joe and I had high hopes for mixing Fernet with our lime cordial. It worked out about as well as Fernet and lime, which is to say it was great, however I will probably stick to squeezing fresh limes into my Fernet in the future. Making a lime cordial is a pain, whereas juicing a lime isn’t, and the extra effort involved in making the cordial isn’t justified by this gimlet.

Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum Gimlet

Eye: White, hard to discern that lime cordial is present.
Nose: Sweet fruits, and citrus.
Sip: Strong grassy hogo, mellowed by the lime cordial.
Finish: Rum and lime are both present, well-balanced.

The Wray & Nephew gimlet was outstanding, and definitely in my top three. I love rum agricole, with its funky, grassy flavors. Wray & Nephew lacks some of the frutier notes that I’ve had in other white rums, but that is OK here, since it gets out of the way and gives the lime cordial some breathing room. Together, the two components balance each other well. Make this gimlet, you won’t be sad.

Tequila Reposado Gimlet

Eye: Yellow.
Nose: Smoke, citrus.
Sip: Tequila and lime.
Finish: Smoke, lime.

The tequila gimlet was quite similar to the mezcal gimlet, as you might expect. After the success of the mezcal gimlet, I wanted to see how tequila reposado would work out, and the results were similar. Of course lime and tequila match well, but I think I enjoyed the smokier flavors present in the mezcal gimlet.

Next week: Grapefruit Cordials.


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Sangriento Maria: Mezcal, Heirloom Tomato, Cumin, Chili Garlic Sauce

Joe, for whatever reason, is determined to make a bloody mary that he honestly enjoys, despite agreeing that nobody is excited by savory cocktails and that the bloody mary may be beyond saving. At best, in my opinion, tomato drinks taste like spiked, soupy salsa. At worst, they’re retch-inducing. Yet Joe tries to not only make these drinks palatable, but to make them great. His measure of success is whether or not we’d want to mix the drink twice in a night. This time it actually happened!

Sangriento Maria
2 oz Mezcal
2 oz Heirloom tomato juice
.5 oz Lime juice
.5 oz Cumin syrup
1/2 teaspoon of Chili Garlic Sauce (Huy Fong)

Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail goblet filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a quesadilla, si se puede.

To give this drink a more round tomato flavor, we used a medley of freshly juiced heirloom tomatos instead of sticking to one variety. If you don’t have any cumin syrup on-hand, or don’t feel like going through the trouble of making a batch, you can mix a pinch of cumin with simple syrup, to taste, and achieve a similar flavor. The bit of chili garlic was some last-minute serendipity, as I happened to have a bottle of Huy Fong in the fridge at the time.

Serving this sort of drink over ice helps to cut down on the tomato juice’s heavy viscosity, making it easier to enjoy. I’ve also found that using a smokey spirit, like mezcal, helps to distract you from the fact that you’re drinking tomato juice. That, or using teas also works well with tomato drinks. This bloody mary was so tasty that we ended up mixing another at the end of the night, but, the second time we made it, it did have that “spiced salsa” quality to it, so we’ve adjusted the amount of chili garlic sauce for our final recipe, presented above.

This is the last bloody mary drink for a long while. Lo sentimos.


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A More Refined Whiskey and Coke

After fixing up the Cosmopolitan, I had a bit of an ego trip, and decided to follow it up with a better Whiskey and Coke. This drink is a mashup of two ideas in the space around coca-cola. First, a Cuba-Libre is about one thousand times better than a rum and coke; the lime juice balances against the sweetness of the cola, and complements the spirit. Second, Fernet and Coke is a popular drink in Argentina. Indeed, this makes sense, as the Dirt and Diesel, a drink with dark rum, lime, and fernet has a flavor which is reminiscent of a Cuba-Libre.

So our thinking here was to combine the concepts of a whiskey and coke, a fernet and coke, and a Cuba-Libre. Our first attempt with Fernet was not an overwhelming success. The Fernet dominated the drink, and the flavors did not come together the way we were hoping. There was something missing or something dissonant. Rather than try to add yet a fifth ingredient, we swapped the Fernet for the Dirt and Diesel‘s other bitter component, Cynar, and it was much more harmonious. The Cynar was not as bitter as the Fernet, of course, so we rounded it out with a dash of bitters.

Improved Whiskey Coke
1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (Rittenhouse Bonded)
.75 oz Cynar
.5 oz Lime Juice
Dash of Aromatic Bitters (Angostura)
2 oz High Quality Cola
Shake over ice and double-strain over fresh ice. Top with 2 oz high quality Cola and garnish with a lime wheel.

This was a great highball, but Cola is not my favorite thing to drink. It will taste much better if you use your favorite local artisanal cola, or failing that, Mexican coke, the kind that uses real sugar and comes in a glass bottle. We used Trader Joe’s “Vintage Cola”, and I must confess, I was disappointed with it. In Seattle, Pig Iron Cola is our favorite, and a much more solid choice.

If you want to splurge on the garnish, you could always use a vanilla bean molded into a straw, as in this Bacardi ad. If you haven’t seen them, the entire series of commercials is worth watching. They have high production values and interesting (maybe accurate?) trivia. I especially enjoy their twist on the mojito.

Cheers!


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Rum Cosmopolitan

Few topics in mixology are more divisive than vodka; I never thought that was the case, but there seem to be two major camps on the issue; in the first camp, there are snobs like me, who believe that any drink that is good with vodka is better with something else. In the second camp, there are people who feel that it is wrong to judge people for their plebian tastes. I think its safe to say that, for those of us in the first camp, we don’t seriously look down on people who enjoy vodka, we simply enjoy snobbery as part of the game. If you can’t enjoy snobbery, you are taking yourself too seriously.

Anyway, I’m done preaching. Today we’re going to talk about the cocktail that may have single-handedly started the craft cocktail revolution; the Cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitans made cocktails cool again, and raised the general public’s interest in drinking cocktails, which had fallen out of fashion as their production descended to McDonald’s-esque lows in the 1990s. I wish I could take credit for that insight, but it was Doug of the Pegu Blog who taught me.

Cranberries are in season, and as with our Thanksgiving drink, the Berry Nutty Maple Whiskey Sour, we wanted to make a sour that uses cranberry juice as the primary source of acidity. To that end, we re-jiggered the classic Cosmopolitan around some of our principles here at Measure and Stir. First off, the vodka had to go. Our first attempt involved using gin, but that was a mistake. Doug warned me:

The ground is littered with the bodies of cocktailians who tried to turn the Cosmopolitan into a decent gin cocktail. The fabled Metropolitan heresy has wasted more good gin on bad results than you can imagine.

Cranberry-orange is a classic flavor pairing, but somehow it just does not mix well with gin’s botanicals. This drink became successful when we swapped the gin for J. Wray and Nephew, an overproof rum with some serious hogo.

Rum Cosmopolitan
1.5 oz Traditional Rum (J. Wray and Nephew)
1 oz Cointreau
.75 oz Fresh, Unsweetened Cranberry Juice
.25 oz Lime Juice
Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with skewered cranberries.

We replaced the sweet and watery cranberry cordial that is commonly used in this drink for fresh, unsweetened cranberry juice, dialed down the lime, and balanced the sourness of the juices with a whole ounce of Cointreau. The result is a very dry, slightly sulfurous cranberry-orange pairing, brightened by a bit of lime. If you like your cosmos sweet, a dash of simple syrup would not be amiss.

We garnished the drink with skewered cranberries, which look very nice but impart virtually no aroma. In a later version of the drink, which is not pictured, we also added small twist of orange peel, and it added both a splash of contrasting color and a mild orange oil aroma. Delightful.

Bottoms up!


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Kansai-jin: Peach-Bourbon, Pecan Orgeat, Lemon Peels

Pretty much the first drink you should mix after making homemade orgeat should be a Japanese cocktail, which is exactly what I did, with a twist, of course.

Kansai-jin
2 oz Peach-infused bourbon
.5 oz Pecan orgeat
2 Lemon peels
3 Dashes of angostura bitters

Stir over ice, strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a fresh lemon peel.

Instead of brandy, I wanted to use this peach-infused bourbon that I’ve had laying around since the end of summer, and I’ve had a strong desire to do something with peaches and pecans for a while now. Just like the Japanese cocktail, there’s nothing Japanese about it, except for its name.

Peach-infused Bourbon
1 cup Peaches, chopped
1 cup Bourbon
1 Stick of cinnamon

Combine the peaches and bourbon and let infuse for 2 days. Add the cinnamon stick at the end of the 2nd day and allow the infusion to continue for another day. Strain.

The peach bourbon was a huge success, and is one of the tastiest infusions I’ve made so far. Infusions of fruits like peaches or pears add a subtle, yet sweet fruitiness to bourbon, and I like to add some spices in on the last day to add a tiny burst of something to the bourbon’s finish. It’s been hard to keep this stuff around as it is a favorite whenever guests raid my home bar.

As for the pecan orgeat, we used the Serious Eats orgeat recipe, except that we substituted pecans for almonds. I’ve found that homemade orgeat is much nuttier than the store-bought kind.

The drink has an aroma of lemon, peaches, and roasted pecans. The nuttiness from the orgeat penetrates the bourbon’s peachy, oaky spice, and the citrus oils and orange flower water in the orgeat add some bright floral notes. Overall, bourbon made an interesting subsitution for brandy, but I can’t help but wonder if it was too much for this drink. Perhaps it would have been better with peach-brandy.

Kanpai!


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Libation Laboratory: Running the Gimlet, Part I

MxMo update: It looks like all of the MxMo latecomers are in, so we went ahead and updated the post with four new entries from Southern Ash, Feu-de-Vie, Chemistry of the Cocktail, and Bartending Notes. Their drinks are awesome, so be sure to check them out. We can’t wait to see you all next month.

Inspired by a New York Times Magazine article describing a “raw” lime cordial, Joe and I decided to explore the spectrum of citrus cordials. We made lemon, lime, and grapefruit cordials and mixed a series of gimlets with each, using an array of base spirits selected because we thought they’d be interesting to try out. In this series, we present our tasting notes.

For the first post in this series, we made lemon gimlets using Zucca, Smith & Cross, and Cognac Salignac. I’ve always made a gimlet using a 4:1 ratio of gin to lime cordial, so we used this as our starting point. However, as we quickly learned, this ratio was designed for gin, and, as always, you should use your taste as your guide when trying something new. Also, home-made cordials are going to taste sweeter and more intense than anything store-bought. For each of our gimlets we fixed the amount of cordial to .5 oz, then poured .5 oz of base spirit at a time, tasting and adjusting until the flavors were balanced well enough.

To make a cordial, make a simple syrup, only add citrus peels and use citrus juice instead of water. Trimming the pith from the peels is a pain, but an essential step because citrus pith tastes bitter. It’s OK to be a little lazy with the piths when making a lemon or grapefruit cordial, but you really do want to remove as much pith as you can when you’re working with limes. Just for completeness, here’s the recipe we used to make our cordials:

Citrus Cordial
Citrus peels (pith removed)
1 cup fresh citrus juice
1 cup sugar

Peel your citrus fruits and remove all pith from the peels. Add all ingredients to a medium-sized pot over medium heat and stir until integrated. Strain and discard the peels.

In the image above, from left to right, we have:

Zucca Lemon Gimlet

Eye: Very dark, can’t see the lemon cordial at all.
Nose: Spicy, bright citrus.
Sip: Bittersweet, zucca and lemon blend together well.
Finish: Bittersweet, pretty much the same as it started.

It’s well known that rhubarb tastes great with citrus, especially oranges and lemons. Zucca, of course, is bittersweet, and its citrus notes are amplified by the lemon cordial. A great gimlet, probably my second favorite of the three.

Smith & Cross Lemon Gimlet

Eye: Dark brown/yellow, an intriguing amber color.
Nose: Sweet caramel with a hint of lemon.
Sip: Dark caramel and fresh, funky hogo.
Finish: Exotic fruits, bright citrus.

Joe and I both agree that this was the winner. Smith & Cross is one of our favorite rums, and the lemon cordial makes it sing to us. It’s amazing how the fruit in the rum is amplified by the lemon cordial. It was a great match.

Cognac Salignac Lemon Gimlet

Eye: Looks yellow, almost like pineapple juice.
Nose: Cognac and lemon, predictably.
Sip: Sweet, caramel, bright lemons.
Finish: Weak finish from the cognac, lemon overwhelms it.

The first few sips of this were great, and Joe and I were considering it for second place, but the problem was that the cognac finished weakly, and is overwhelmed by the lemon cordial in the swallow.

Join us again next week, when we’ll explore the lime cordial.


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Vanilla-Bourbon, Cranberry, Pecan Orgeat, Maple Syrup

Thanksgiving. Turkey time. A day spent with friends and family, stuffing ourselves into food comas. What are we thankful for? Bourbon whiskey, amari, and mezcal, of course!

Berry Nutty Maple Whiskey Sour
2 oz Vanilla-infused bourbon
.75 oz Cranberry juice
.5 oz Maple syrup
.5 oz Pecan orgeat
Dash of angostura bitters

Shake over ice, double-strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a pecan praline.

For today’s drink, we wanted to mix something using fresh cranberry juice. Let me emphasize the “fresh” part. Remember to keep it craft and always use real, freshly-juiced cranberries. None of that ocean spray 20% cranberry nonsense. Fresh cranberry juice is a splendid cocktail ingredient because it’s an excellent source of acidity, and using it is a great way to add sourness to a drink without relying on citrus juice.

To make pecan orgeat, we used the Serious Eats orgeat recipe, except that we used pecans instead of almonds. The sweetness of the vanilla-infused bourbon and maple syrup balance the sourness from the cranberry juice. The pecan orgeat adds a smooth, sweet, mild, buttery nuttiness, and tastes great with maple syrup. Honestly, when you make a drink using ingredients like these, its deliciousness is self-evident.

And now, to enjoy while perhaps sipping on a cocktail and nibbling on the last of grandma’s jell-o mold, I leave you with some lame Thanksgiving-inspired jokes:

What did the turkey say to the computer?
“Google, google!”

What kind of music did the pilgrims listen to?
Plymouth Rock.

What do you call an unhappy cranberry?
A blueberry!

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.