Measure & Stir

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MxMo LXVII: Garnish Grandiloquence: A Study in Garnishing with Cheese


If you were reading last week, you might have noticed that three out of five of our drinks featured cheese in the garnish. This was no coincidence, but rather a deliberate study using cheese as an ingredient in a mixed drink. I do not have a whole lot to add to the content of those posts, but I will note that while I think cheese can be an effective garnish, it is a positively disgusting ingredient to actually mix into a drink. Do you want to drink alcohol broccoli cheddar soup? Me neither.

Ultimately, I think would prefer to have a good cocktail, and cheese on the side, rather than try to mash them together into some kind of unholy Frankendrink. Speaking of which, all of the drinks in this post use flavor pairings suggested by molecular gastronomists, who analyze the chemical makeup of varios foods’ aromas, and use similarity as a basis to suggest novel combinations. Anyway, these are my creations:

Pineapple Under the Sea
We used kefir yoghurt to try to bridge the distance between pineapple and gin, on the one hand, and blue cheese, on the other. As the imbiber takes a sip of the drink, the smell of blue cheese fills the nostrils, creating a surprising synergy with the pineapple juice. Kefir is a fickle beast, as a cocktail ingredient, but the pineapple tames it nicely.

Rainy Day
You could almost call black tea, tomato, and grilled cheese a rainy day survival kit. We clarified fresh heirloom tomato juice using a coffee filter, and paired it with earl grey-infused Pisco. Savory drinks are hard to love, but the tannin in the black tea went very well with the tomato’s umami notes. Unlike in the Pineapple Under the Sea, you couldn’t really smell the cheese in the garnish, but it was still a tasty snack.


That’s No Moon!
The strength of the cheese in this drink was somewhere in the middle between the other two, with the cooked Parmesan contributing a subtle aroma to bolster the flavors of strawberry and honey. This was the weakest drink of the trio, and even though the nuttiness of the cheese matched well with the flavor of the honey, it left something to be desired. Actually eating the Parmesan wafer was pleasant. We used honey to “glue” the wafer to the glass, so that even though it appears to be resting precariously on the rim, it was in reality quite sturdy.


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That’s no Moon!

Quick note: Don’t forget, this Monday, the 19th, is the roundup for MxMo LXVII: Garnish Grandiloquence. Please get have your submission ready by this Sunday night.

Today’s gastrophysics pairing is twofold; first, honey and cooked Parmesan, and second, strawberry and Parmesan. As with the Pineapple Under the Sea, the cheese here is entirely in the garnish, and the idea is that the aroma of the cheese should interact with the flavors in the drink. Parmesan is not quite as fragrant as blue cheese, unfortunately, so the effect was not as high-impact.

This drink may have been too ambitious. The name comes from the fact that the Parmesan wafer is intended to look like a full moon. Unfortunately, the wafer broke as we were extracting it from the vessel in which we made it. It is very easy to burn your Parmesan wafer, and it took us several tries in the oven before we got it mostly right. It is very important that you use parchment paper instead of wax paper when making these. Our process was to grate the Parmesan onto a sheet of parchment paper in a glass casserole dish and bake it in the oven at 350 for around 7 – 10 minutes. If you take it out when its golden brown, there is a high chance that you burned it slightly.

But Joseph, isn’t the garnish here golden brown? Hush, my child. In an earlier iteration of this drink, we had tried dizzling the wafer with balsamic vinegar, but (predictably), the aroma of the vinegar completely overpowered the cheese and ruined the aromatic effect of the garnish. As for the drink itself, it’s tasty enough, but a little one-dimensional. I wanted to make sure that the honey and strawberry were at the forefront of the drink, in order to emphasize the unusual flavor combination.

I was trying out a new sweet vermouth, the offering from Dolin, for this drink, and it just does not have the punch that I am used to in Carpano Antica or Punt e Mes. The unchallenging combination of strawberry, honey, and Brandy cries out for a very robust vermouth, whereas the Dolin is on the lighter side. For the honey flavor, we used Bärenjäger , which despite the copy of the Wikipedia entry, is surprisingly bitter for a honey liqueur. I enjoy this bitterness, and I would like it if someone would make a substantially more bitter version.

That’s No Moon!
1 oz Brandy (Cognac Salignac)
1 oz Fresh Strawberry Juice
.75 oz Honey Liqueur (Bärenjäger)
.25 oz Sweet Vermouth (Dolin)
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake over ice and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a Parmesan wafer, drizzled in honey.

The quality of Parmesan that matches honey and strawberry is its nuttiness. It almost reminded me of honey nut cheerios. I suggest rimming half of the glass with a little honey to serve as “glue”, and then using it to fix the Parmesan wafer to the glass. That way, the imbiber can drink while smelling the cheese without the risk of the garnish falling off. We did this, and it worked very well. As usual, aromatic bitters are the salt of the cocktail world, greatly needed to impart depth and completeness to the drink.

I swear, soon we’ll make some drinks that are normal… but not too normal.

Salute!


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Rainy Day: Tomato, Black Tea, Pisco, Lime

As you have probably noticed, this week is all about using science to take advantage of unintuitive flavor combinations by looking for chemical similarities in aromas. Today’s pairing is tomato and black tea. It turns out that molecular gastronomy enthusiasts have their own version of mixology monday, which they call “They Go Really Well Together“, and that’s how I discovered this particular combination.

The unfortunate truth is that it’s hard to get excited about savory drinks, and tomatoes lean very heavily toward the umami side of the flavor spectrum, so even if you sweeten it, it’s going to be savory. One trick I have found for making tomato a more appetizing cocktail ingredient is to clarify it, as we did during our Bloody Mary Workshop. The procedure is very simple; pour fresh tomato juice into a funnel lined with a coffee filter and wait a few hours. You could even set it up in the fridge and let it go over night if you needed to make a lot. The end product still tastes like tomato juice, but it has a mercifully un-chunky texture, which I think is the worst part of tomato in a cocktail.

I wanted to use a relatively neutral spirit for the base of this drink, and I’ve been flush with Pisco lately, so it was a convenient choice. In order to get some black tea in this drink, I decided to infuse earl grey into the Pisco. Tea infuses into hot water in a matter of a few minutes, and it infuses into strong spirits only slightly slower. I let the earl grey steep in the Pisco for only fifteen minutes before it became dark and cloudy with the tea. But don’t trust my steep time; as with all infusions, your own good taste must be the final arbiter regarding how long to allow it to infuse.

Rainy Day
1.5 oz Earl Grey-Infused Pisco (Tabernero)
1.5 oz Clarified Heirloom Tomato Juice
.25 oz Simple Syrup
.25 oz Lime Juice
Pinch of Salt
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake over ice and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a tiny grilled cheese sandwich and a cherry tomato.

This drink had a tangy, pungent flavor from the combination of the tomato and lime, which also went nicely with the bergamot in the earl grey. I did enjoy the interplay between the tea’s bitter tannin and the tomato’s roundness, but as with all savory drinks, it’s hard to love it. Actually, James thought it might be the best tomato drink we have made, and I am inclined to agree. It didn’t have any of the salsa or soup qualities from which most Bloody Mary style drinks suffer. If you like tomato juice, it’s worth a try, otherwise, may I direct you to The Pearnsip.

Before I go, a quick note on the theme: I garnished this drink with a grilled cheese because I reasoned, on a rainy Washington day, what could be better than a cup of hot tea, a bowl of tomato soup, and a grilled cheese sandwich? This drink was my attempt to capture all of those elements in a single preparation. You have to eat the grilled cheese right away, unfortunately, as it is but a single bite, and it does not retain its heat, not even long enough for a photo shoot.

Salud!


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Pineapple Under the Sea: Gin, Kefir, Pineapple, and Blue Cheese

Throughout the week we’ve been using the power of science to pair together two ingredients which at first may sound unusual when combined, but are in fact delicious together. Today’s flavor combo is pineapple and blue cheese.

Pineapple Under the Sea
1.5 oz Gin
.75 oz Kefir
.75 oz Pineapple juice
.75 oz Cocchi Americano

Shake it over ice and strain it into a cocktail goblet. Garnish the drink with skewered blue cheese.

OK so admittedly the blue cheese is the garnish, but this drink simply would not be the same without it. Besides, c’mon. Drinking blue cheese is just nasty. Trust us, we tried it.

The amazing thing about this drink is that it comes as a two part experience. The garnish plays a crucial role as you discover while raising the glass to sip the drink, and your nose is filled with the aroma of blue cheese. As you sip, your mouth is greeted by mellowed pineapple, and the two sensations combine to create an intriguing taste, which is the first half of this drink.

Blue cheese and pineapple taste great together because they both contain a chemical called methyl hexanoate, which we detect using our mouth and nose, and which you would describe as “fruitiness”, “sweetness”, and “freshness”. Of course, blue cheese also has its own funk, but strangely, it fits in with the other flavors nicely. The kefir gives the drink a slightly higher-than-usual viscosity, and is slightly sour itself, which perhaps creates an artificial sensation of blue cheese in your mouth.

The second half is experienced as you set the glass down and swallow the drink. The absence of the blue cheese’s aroma allows room for your palate to appreciate the tangy yet sweet mellowness of the kefir and the pineapple. Gin always pairs nicely with pineapple. Cocchi Americano lends the drink its dryness, and its notes of gentian and cinchona give this mellow drink a slightly bitter edge. It is worth noting that white wine also contains methyl hexanoate, which is why we chose to use a white aperitif wine. Mainly you’ll be astonished by how different the drink is without the aroma of blue cheese.

Bottoms up!


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The Pearsnip: Pear, Vanilla, Parsnip, Lemon

It is gastrophysics* week here at Measure and Stir, a week in which we make drinks using unusual flavor pairings suggested by molecular gastronomy. The idea  is that if ingredients have chemically similar aromas, they will probably taste and smell good together. Some of our experiments turned out better than others, but I think this one was probably the best of the bunch. It helped that we started with an excellent base, namely, pear and vanilla-infused brandy.

(*Yes, I know, it’s a silly word)

To make the infusion, I chopped up a bartlett pear, and infused it in one cup of cognac along with a tablespoon of cane sugar and a filleted vanilla bean. After three days, the infusion was ready, and thoroughly delicious. In my experience, brandy is the best spirit to combine with pears. This was one of the best infusions I have made, and I really wanted it to be the star of this drink, so I started with two ounces of the pear-infused brandy.

Parsnip juice has a very light flavor, but it is sweet, much like carrot juice. Indeed, I often think of a parsnip as an albino carrot. I found that I had to add two ounces of parsnip juice to balance it against the brandy. That combination was delicious on its own, but it still needed some acidity to add interest upon the palate, and lemon is less disruptive than lime or vermouth. Half an ounce of lemon was just right, along with a touch of brown sugar syrup, to bring out the parsnip, and two dashes of grapefruit bitters, for depth.

I cannot explain that last decision, it just felt right.

The Pearsnip
2 oz Pear Vanilla Brandy (infused Cognac Salignac)
2 oz Parsnip Juice
.5 oz Lemon Juice
.25 oz Brown Sugar Syrup
2 dashes Grapefruit Bitters (Fee’s)
Shake over ice and double-strain into an old fashioned glass. Garnish with pear wedge impaled on vanilla bean, and grate a little bit of vanilla bean over the top.

Ordinarily I am opposed to grating anything over the top of a drink, lest the small particles disrupt the texture of the drink. Nutmeg and cinnamon work in this format, but lemon or lime zest are unpleasant to imbibe, in my opinion. I was on the fence about the vanilla bean, but we ran it over a microplane grater and it was surprisingly flavorful and unobtrusive.

Until next time, keep it craft.


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Man Go Violet Your Tastebuds: Violet, Mango, Carrot, Rum

This week we are going to present a series of drinks that combine unlikely ingredients together with surprising results. Using molecular gastronomy (food chemistry), we’ve chosen flavor pairings that complement each other well because they share common chemicals.

For our first drink in the series we packed together a triple flavor combo: mango + carrots, mango + violet, and carrots + violet.

Man Go Violet Your Tastebuds
1.5 oz Ron Zacapa rum
1 oz Mango juice
1 oz Carrot juice
.5 Violet syrup
.25 Lemon juice

Shake over ice and double strain. Garnish with an orange peel.

Carrots, mangos, and violet taste good together because they all share a bunch of chemicals called ionones, which are “floral” aromatic fragrance compounds. The combination of alpha-ionene and beta-ionene smells like “violet”, and is often used to make violet perfumes and artificial violet flavor (I’m looking at you, Monin violet syrup). Carrots are rich in various sorts of carotenes, which all contain beta-ionene, like violet. Joe knew from experience that mango juice and carrot juice are delicious together, but neither of us had ever thought to combine carrots or mangos with violet. This drink was exciting because we did just that!

Personally, I found that the violet syrup we used gave the drink an unfortunate “candy” taste, but I don’t blame the violet flavor, I blame the candy taste on the particular syrup we chose to use. One of these days I’d like to make some homemade violet syrup. We included lemon juice in this drink because it adds just enough sourness, but this drink is by nature a succulent one. The triple combo of ionene-based flavor pairings was a winner. Mangos, violet, and carrots all fit together nicely, united by the violet’s floral sweetness. Sipping this drink is like experiencing a symphony of flavors, all playing together in perfect harmony.

We’ve found a few great resources on the web that list interesting flavor pairings, so I thought it’d be worth dropping a few links here for other adventurous cocktail enthusiasts. Khymos has a great page explaining the idea behind choosing foods with a common chemical makeup, and even a blog where they try out a few. Egullet.org has a pretty sweet thread on their forums all about molecular pairings, so go check it out!


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Thai Tea Rum Fizz

Last week Joe and I were trying to use up the Thai tea syrup that we made for Thai week. I really wanted to try rum and Thai tea syrup together, so I suggested that we make a drink out of the two. We waited until later in the session to explore this idea, and, since we hadn’t made one yet, why not a fizz?

Thai Tea Rum Fizz
2 oz Doorly’s rum
1 oz Thai tea syrup
.75 oz Acid phosphate
1 oz Heavy cream
Dash of allspice dram
White of 1 Egg
Top with soda water and flamed angostura

Combine all but the toppers and dry shake for about a minute. Add ice and shake again to chill. Strain into a tall glass and top with soda water. Add 4 drops of angostura and use a toothpick to swirl it into the foam. Flame a bit more angostura over the top.

Traditionally, a fizz contains gin, lemon juice, sugar, and carbonated water. A Ramos fizz has all of that plus egg white, cream, and orange flower water. We decided to make ours more like the Ramos fizz, with some twists. I wanted the flavor profile to be focused on the rum and thai tea, so I chose to use acid phosphate as the souring agent, which is sour yet neutral. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any orange flower water, but we added some allspice dram to spice it up a bit, which paired well with the rum.

The fizz is an interesting form of cocktail. I guess I would describe this drink as kind of like an alcoholic milkshake. At first I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted, being rich and thick, but by the end of the glass I was sorry to see it finished. The aroma of charred bitters and the tiny bite from the allspice complement the rum rather well. Working with cream turned out to be a double-edged sword because, although it adds body to the drink and helps to draw out the sweetness in the tea flavor from the syrup, too much of it clobbers some of the tea’s complexity. For that reason, we used half as much cream as you usually would for a Ramos fizz.

Enjoy!


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Plummer’s Helper: Plum, Thai Tea, Ginger Wine, Lemon

Before last weekend, I had never tasted plum eau de vie, yet I have had a bottle of it in my auxiliary liquor cabinet for nearly two months. Eau de vie, of course, is made by fermenting fruit and then distilling it twice. It is typically unaged. Most plum eau de vie, from what I can gather, is made from Mirabelle plums, and certainly, my bottle proudly proclaims that this is the case. Eau de vie is expensive, which is why you don’t see too many drinks that use it as the base, but I think it’s lovely, and you can expect to see several more plum eau de vie drinks in the near future.

My initial impression of this spirit was that the flavor was light, and I feared that too many strongly-flavored ingredients would crush it. I still had some Stone’s Ginger lying around, and for a home mixologist, it is doubly important to use up a fortified wine before it goes off. I am hooked on Stone’s Ginger right now, so I had it in my head to use the eau de vie for a classic 6:3:1 sort of a drink.

The 6:3:1 template is a starting point, not an ironclad rule; in fact, it is thus with any drink template. It establishes a baseline, which you then taste and modify as appropriate. In this case, I added only half an ounce of Stone’s Ginger to one and a half oz of eau de vie, and I found that I could not taste the ginger at all. Indeed, the nature of eau de vie seems to be that although the flavor is light, it is resilient. I added another half ounce of ginger wine, and still the plum was overpowering. I added yet a third half ounce, and finally, the flavors came into balance. For a modifier, I still had some Thai tea syrup lying around, and it went into the mix, more out of a desire to use the syrup than in pursuit of some grand flavor concept. The best mixed drinks tend to result from careful planning, but sometimes you can get lucky with a shot in the dark.

Moreover, good technique and taste-driven iteration can smooth out a lot of the wrinkles in the drink-creation process.


Check out those lemon oils, floating on the surface of the drink.

Plummer’s Helper
1.5 oz Mirabelle Plum Eau De Vie
1.5 oz Stone’s Ginger Wine
.5 oz Thai Tea Syrup
1 Dash orange bitters
Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel, and express the oils.

As we were developing this drink, neither James nor I were enthusiastic about the direction it was going, but the orange bitters and the lemon peel really tied it together. The first sip did not arrest my thirst, but in subsequent sips, the flavor started to grow on me, and by the end I was sad it was over. The plum was subtle, yet crisp, and the lemon peel complemented it spectacularly. The ginger wine could probably have been dry vermouth without a real loss to the drink’s integrity, though the thai tea syrup’s tannin brought a nice body and roundness of flavor that you could not get from a simple or fruit syrup, though perhaps with a spice.

In truth, I think this drink might work as well with pear or cherry eau de vie, but plum is what I have, so plum is what you get. Plum, Thai tea, ginger, and lemon; if only it had been Chinese tea, the drink would have been thematically consistent. Even so:
乾杯 (Gan Bei!)


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Stouthearted: Strawberry, Amaretto, Coffee-infused Bourbon, Oatmeal Stout

I’m so glad the election is behind us, and now we can get back to focusing on the thing that truly makes America great: Bourbon whiskey.

Usually when I am brainstorming for drinks to make for the blog, I start with a concept based on a flavor pairing that I want to try. In this case, I was inspired by two separate drinks, both from the series Drink Inc. First, they made a drink of gin, pineapple, lime, and Lillet, floated with Amaretto and strawberry juice. I personally thought that was too complicated, but I was taken with the idea of the strawberry juice/amaretto combo. No one has to tell you how delicious that is; its deliciousness is self-evident. I wanted to take that flavor pairing and extract it into a drink where it could shine on its own.

I was also inspired by their beer-based drink, the “Heiferweizen”, consisting of apricot puree, lemon juice, orange marmalade, and hefeweizen. Since beer is already relatively viscous, it matches well with the texture of a fruit puree or jam. For my first iteration on this drink, I mixed up an ounce and a half each of strawberry juice (very thick, for a juice) and amaretto, shook it up, and then topped it with four ounces of stout. It was excellent, but it was slightly too sweet for my taste.

For round two, I had been planning to cut the sweetness with vanilla-infused bourbon, but James came over with some coffee-infused bourbon, recipe courtesy of Boozed and Infused, and I knew that the coffee would pair well with both the amaretto and the stout. The coffee bourbon tastes very similar to a cold-brewed coffee, with notes of bourbon on the back end, and a nice alcoholic kick. This is only my third beer cocktail, the first two being a pair of Singha highball drinks for Thai week. (Technically it is not a cocktail if we are being pedantic, though I don’t think there’s really a name for this genre other than “beer cocktail”).

Stouthearted
1.5 oz Coffee-Infused Bourbon (Evan Williams)
1.5 oz Fresh Strawberry Juice
1 oz Amaretto (Luxardo)
3 oz Oatmeal Stout (Rogue)
Shake all but beer over ice and double-strain into an old fashioned glass. Top with 3 oz of Oatmeal stout and then garnish by floating coffee beans on the foam.

The stout mostly dominates the sip, along with some fruitiness from the strawberry. Strawberry, Amaretto, and coffee round out the finish. There is something a little bit romantic about the combination of amaretto and strawberry–something you might serve to your girlfriend. Hence we called it, “Stouthearted”. Even so, it is not an unmanly concoction, though it’s probably best saved for dessert.

Since it’s a beer drink, I can say: Prost!