Measure & Stir

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

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Popcorn-Bourbon Toddy

As Joe used the iSi whip cream dispenser to flash infuse some freshly popped popcorn into some bourbon, I prepared some spiced butter using the same winter spice mix that we used to make the vin brûlée. Once everything was ready, a tasty toddy was born. Delicious, fun, rather unusual, and seasonally appropriate. Not only would drinking one of these be a fine way to warm yourself up, it’d also go really well with a movie.

Popcorn Toddy
2 oz Popcorn-infused Bourbon
1 oz Brown sugar syrup
.75 oz Lemon juice
1 tablespoon Spiced butter
Dash of bitters
2 oz Near-boiling water (to top)

Melt the butter and spices together. Add ingredients to a snifter, top with 2 oz near-boiling water. Garnish with a popcorn skewer.

We originally wanted to use a rye, Old Overholt, as it tastes particularly corny on its own, but, alas, we didn’t quite have enough of it left to make the infusion, which is why we used bourbon instead. However, this was no loss, and I think it was actually a blessing in disguise because the bourbon perhaps adds more character and complexity. Still, I’d like to revisit this concept and use the ‘holt next time because it’d be interesting to see how its corniness bridges the whisky to the popcorn flavor. Then again, having said that, we’ve sworn off Old Overholt. Ever since Joe and I noticed how corny it tastes, it’s all we can taste. Its corniness almost ruins most drinks, in fact, and for that reason, we probably won’t be restocking that bottle. Yet I feel like every spirit has its uses, and perhaps this drink would be well suited to the corny corn corn taste of the ‘holt.

I was a bit worried that the popcorn flavor in the bourbon wouldn’t be very strong, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results of our infusion. The sip tastes like warm, slightly buttery, spicy bourbon, and smells like cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and star anise. As you swallow, you taste the popcorn, and the spices linger long enough to “season” the popcorn flavor, making it taste surprisingly like spiced popcorn.


Vin Brûlée: Winter Spices, Red Wine, Citrus Peels

Quick Note from Joseph: Hey guys, sorry there was a little bit of miscommunication around the MxMo deadline. We’re still accepting late-comers, and it looks like a few more entries are still rolling in. Check back with us a little later in the week, when we will update the MxMo Roundup and enumerate all of the last-minute submissions. Thanks again for your patience and participation!

This recipe comes to us from an Italian friend, whose family has a tradition of celebrating the holidays every year with vin brûlée. Our friend directed us to this youtube video, which we used as the starting point for our recipe.

Vin Brûlée
1 bottle Red wine
.25 cup Sugar
1 tablespoon Winter spice mix (cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and star anise)
Peels of a lemon and an orange

Combine the wine, citrus peels, and spices in a medium-sized pot and simmer. Once integrated, light it on fire and wait for it to burn itself out. Remove the wine from the stove top and allow it to cool off, slightly. Serve while still warm.

In the video they use an entire cup of sugar, but that is far too sweet for our taste. A quarter cup will be plenty sweet, and is enough sugar to provide a nice viscosity and the desired amount of caramelization. As always, though, let your own good taste be your guide. As for the winter spice mix, we crushed cloves and star anise using a mortar and pestle, and added to that grated cinnamon and nutmeg. What a wonderful aroma!

Vin Brûlée, like a hot toddy, is a great drink to enjoy with dessert at your next family gathering, or any time during the fall and winter holidays, really. What would be more entertaining to your dinner guests than setting a pot of wine on fire? Plus, since you end up burning off most of the alcohol, the proof is low and it goes down easy.

The wine in this drink takes on a wonderful bouquet of winter spices, and tastes similar to a mulled wine, except that, unlike your standard mulled or spiced wine, because you set it on fire, the red wine takes on a deep caramel flavor. Sipping on this warm drink is certainly something to be thankful for this thanksgiving.



MxMo LXVII: Garnish Grandiloquence Roundup

Hello everyone. It’s MxMo roundup time, and I decided to be original and totally use the same format as Fred and Pantagruel. This month’s theme was, as you will recall, “Garnish Grandiloquence“:

I’m always shocked by the way that an orange peel or a lemon peel can transform the experience of drinking a mixed drink from something mundane to something magical. In a similar vein, eating the olive in a martini will totally transform the imbiber’s perception of the drink. So this Mixology Monday, let’s really make a study of art of the garnish, by mixing up drinks where the garnish plays a central role in the experience of the drink. Of course, you don’t have to make a latticework out of orange peels, a pirate ship out of citrus, or a ferris wheel out of pineapple and squash, but it sure would warm my heart. This type of garnish is traditionally in the realm of tiki, but you could mix anything, so long as the garnish is the star of the show.

Sorry the formatting was a little weird. I have very wide columns on my blog, so it made it kind of tricky.

Fred From cocktail virgin slut went for the pyrotechnics, and made the Vellocet from Beta Cocktails, which is a pineapple and green chartreuse swizzle garnished with a pour of flaming green chartreuse over mint. It looks like an angry tiki god.


The Liquid Culture Project made the Mai Tai-inspired Temperate Zone Cocktail, with white and aged whiskey, sweet vermouth, walnut orgeat, and spiced cranberry syrup. He garnished it with an elegeant ensemble of cranberries, rosemary, and lemon peel. Scrumptious.


Scott from Shake, Strain & Sip made a trio of garnish-centric drinks; the Quixote’s Demise with mezcal, sherry, Pisco, and a flamed orange peel; the Benson Streetcar with fig-infused Cognac and a cinnamon sugar rim; and the Kentucky Coffee with a vanilla + allspice whipped cream (pictured). I’ve been wanting to make some spiced whipped cream like this for a while, so it’s great to see it in action.


Mark Sexuaer whipped out his exacto knife and made an “MxMo” stencil, and then used it to graffiti some mezcal foam with the MxMo logo, Banksy style. It’s all sitting on top of a tequila negroni variant that he calls the Humo Flotador. He also drops some knowledge on us about using gelatin to stabilize your foam. Every day, there’s a new technique to learn.


Shaun and Christa from Booze Nerds doubled down on the tropical fruit with a Benedictine and Rhum Agricole tiki drink that they call the Monk’s Paradise. I shall drink it piously, at the beach.


JFL decided to explore Tiki theatrics as well, and he served up a flaming drink called Geaux Nuts, a smoking drink called Cosmos Castaway, and a drink served in a whole pineapple called Boo Loo (pictured). Capital stuff.

Elana from Stir and Strain went MC Escher on us with the Apple Stack, a very seasonal drink with hard apple cider, applejack, and allspice dram. It’s a gorgeous presentation, so be sure to check out her other variations.


Mark Holmes from Cardiff Cocktails made us a cup of Roman Punch with rum, brandy, curacao, raspberry syrup, and lemon juice. He then garnished it with an entire fruit salad, according to a recipe from David Wondrich’s Punch! I wish I could find a bar that serves this.


Raffaele Bellomi garnished a peppered Ramos Gin Fizz with a giant shrimp, cooked in Campari reduction, and called it “From Ramos to Cracco“. I, uh, I think I love you a little bit.

The 3 Archers made a beautiful Martini d’Eté with some edible flowers. The clear drink with the brightly colored flowers are very striking. To tie it all together, they used Hendrick’s, a gin with a lot of floral notes from roses. The aroma from the flower sounds great with a martini.


Our friends at Putney Farm served the McCovey Cove in a hollowed-out orange, and carved the logo of the San Francisco Giants onto the front. Then they served some delicious-looking bacony mashed potatoes in a cocktail glass. It’s a topsy-turvy world.


Zak and John from the Pocket Square also took the citrus-as-vessel route, and made Clementine Shooters with gin, clementine juice, pear liqueur, and pomegranate-clementine sorbet, garnished with cilantro. I am running out of quips, but I think the cilantro in this sounds very intriguing.


Ginhound made a Lavender Rum and Tonic with homemade tonic and three different citrus slices. Simple, yet festive. Great color.

Muse of Doom from Feu de Vie really took the garnish theme to heart, and made a garnish with no particular drink! She made an Art Deco Cranberry Ice Corn, which she artfully placed in a mixture of blueberry liqueur and brut champagne.

Ceccotti from Bartending Notes used Aperol to make an stylish layered sugar “coral” around the rim of a fluted glass, and then made a riff on the John Collins called John Fancy Pants. I love the idea of the coffee mist.

Jordan Devereaux from Chemistry of the Cocktail took a functional approach, focusing on the interplay between the aroma of the garnish and the flavor of the drink. Jordan made a Southern Thai Mehkong Swizzle using dark falernum and palm sugar. Mad props for forcing me to learn about a new spirit.

Joel from Southern Ash made a Winter Apple Margarita, garnished with a baked candied apple and rimmed with turbinado sugar and ground ginger. Pretty and seasonal.

And finally, I made a study in using cheese as a garnish, with a trio of drinks from our gastrophysics week. Pictured here is the Pineapple Under the Sea, a drink with gin, pineapple juice, kefir yoghurt and dry vermouth.

We didn’t get quite as big of a turnout as the last couple Mixology Mondays. I think it’s my fault for choosing an inaccessible theme? Story of my life, really. But that’s how it is with craft cocktails; quality over quantity. It’s a great showing, and I’d like to express my thanks here for all of the bloggers who did participate. You made some beautiful drinks, and took some beautiful pictures. Until next month,

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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.


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.



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.