Measure & Stir

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


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Libation Labs: India Pale Ale

Hello, everyone. It is the last day before our holiday hiatus, so we thought we’d end on a high note. As you probably know, this has been beer week, and we’re pleased to wrap up with what were, for me, the highlights of the week, which created when we couldn’t decide which direction to take an IPA-based libation.

east indies 1

My first intuition was to play off the bitter notes in the IPA with a bitter liqueur, and I selected Cynar for that role, because I thought that the bitterness of hops would be similar to the bitterness of the artichoke. And indeed, it was a pleasing combination. I also know that gin pairs well with Cynar, and further expected harmony between gin’s botanicals and the herbal qualities of India Pale Ale. We soured it with some lime, but then all the bitter and sour required balance.

I had intended to use simple syrup, but sometimes when drinks are flying left and right (metaphorically), and you realize you’re out of simple syrup, you let it overcook and it starts to caramelize. This is the second time I have accidentally done this since starting the blog; the first time was in production of our Banana Julep . In this case, we decided to go ahead and use the caramelized syrup anyway, and it worked even better than simple syrup would have, in my opinion.

Caramelized Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
bring to a rolling boil for ~ten minutes. Kill the heat, and fortify with 1 oz of 151 proof rum.

east indies 2

East Indies Highball
2 oz Gin (Beefeater)
.5 oz Caramelized Syrup (above)
.5 oz Cynar
2/3 oz Lime
2 oz IPA (Ninkasi Total Domination)
Shake all except beer and then double-strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a scored lime wedge.

This was an herbal drink, effervescent, bitter, with a counterpoint of caramelized sugar. My favorite of the week. I do not have an exact beer template for you, but my general approach is to formulate a drink that tastes good on its own, and that I think will taste good with a particular beer, and then top that drink with beer.

I am of the opinion that mixing wine, including aromatized wine, with beer, would be in poor taste. That means that the base of your beer drink should be sour or succulent, or maybe driven by liqueur. I have greatly enjoyed beer drinks that use viscous, jammy preparations of fruit, including purees as well as actual jams. Beer is already thick, so it works well to fortify that with something pulpy.

If I had to give you a formula, it would look like:

Beer Template
1.5 oz base spirit
1 oz Fresh juice or .75 oz Fruit Puree
.75 oz Liqueur or Syrup
Dash of Bitters
Shake and strain over ice, and top with 3 oz beer

But you’ll notice that maybe none of our drinks conform to that exact template. It’s all about taste and iteration, and balancing the individual flavors against each other. Beers are complex on their own, and getting them to taste right with other ingredients is nuanced. You cannot even rely on any one IPA to taste exactly like another; one might have more of a grapefruit flavor, and another might taste more like pine. That’s why you have to know your ingredients.

west indies

West Indies
1.5 oz Dark Rum (Doorly’s)
.75 oz Falernum
.25 oz Lime Juice
Dash of Orange Bitters (Scrappy’s Seville)
2 oz ipa (Ninkasi Total Domination)
Shake all but beer and double-strain into a goblet. Top with IPA.

For our second variation, and more on a lark than anything else, we wanted to try the IPA with rum and falernum. There was no deep thought behind this choice, but sometimes, the best drinks are extemporaneous. By now, I think we are all familiar with the combination of rum, falernum, and lime. It’s hard to screw that up. We kept the lime short and let the IPA do most of the balancing against the sweeter ingredients. It worked like a charm.

Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next year!


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Rum, Allspice, Pineapple, Barley Wine

For the next drink in our beer cocktail series Joe really wanted to experiment with a barley wine. We shopped around and ended up using a locally brewed barley wine, from Pike Brewing. Usually I’m not super impressed with their beers, but their barley wine is pretty legit.

pineapple express 2

Pineapple Express
1.5 oz Smith & Cross rum
.5 oz Allspice dram
2 oz Pineapple juice
Dash of aromatic bitters (Angostura)

Shake, strain over ice, top with 2 oz barley wine. Garnish with a pineapple wedge.

The idea to combine pineapple and barley wine started with blue cheese. Blue cheese and barley wine are great together. Blue cheese and pineapples are great together. Why not pineapples and barley wine? Turns out that they are indeed great together, no blue cheese required! We threw in the allspice as well because allspice fits in so well with rum and pineapple.

pineapple express 1

This beer cocktail features a wonderful aroma of pineapples and musky hogo. The sip opens up with pineapples and allspice, and finishes with a smooth caramel flavor. The barley wine was pretty hoppy and bitter, and helped add an interesting dimension to the drink.

We kind of debated what sort of base spirit to use in this drink for a while, and eventually we settled on a rum with a funky, musky flavor profile, like a rhum agricole. Although it was very tasty, we can’t help but question ourselves. Perhaps this drink would have been even better if we had used a gin, a bourbon, or maybe even a scotch. If you decide to mix this yourself, start with gin (and orange bitters), and go from there.


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Mezcal, Lime, Cilantro, Negra Modelo

Continuing our beer week, today’s drink comes out of a book about beer cocktails, creatively named “Beer Cocktails”, by Howard and Ashley Stelzer. I really wanted to make a beer cocktail with mezcal, and so this one piqued my interest.

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Para Todo Bien
2 oz Mezcal
1 oz Lime juice
.75 oz Simple syrup

Muddle 3 – 4 sprigs of cilantro in the syrup, then add the mezcal and lime juice and shake over ice. Salt half of your glass’ rim, then double-strain the drink into the glass, topping it off with 4 oz Negra Modelo. Garnish with cilantro.

We unfortunately used the last of our cilantro when muddling, so we improvised and garnished our drink with a lime wheel. Also, the original recipe says you should top the drink with 12 oz of Negra Modelo, and that was supposed to make two servings in total. We decreased the amount of beer in ours to 4 oz and kept it to one serving because we didn’t want to drown the drink in so much beer, and because we felt like the portions seemed more enjoyable as a single serving.

paratodobien2

Admittedly, this drink is margarita-esque. A good way to save a bad margarita (maybe the kind you get at your neighborhood Mexican family restaurant, and the like) is to pour some Corona or Negra Modelo into your drink. This beer cocktail extends this idea, using a quality margarita as the base. It’s true that you won’t find any triple sec here, but the beer kind of occupies the same space and lends similar flavors to the drink. And of course the mezcal just keeps things mysterious and interesting.


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Bourbon, Suze, Creole Shrubb, Spaten Optimater

This week is beer cocktail week, so we’ll be posting a series of beer drinks. Today’s drink came together almost on its own, although its construction was controversial. Joe and I were trying to think of something to do with his bottle of Suze, maybe a spirit-driven drink. We came up with an idea and had something that tasted marvelous, but then Joe wanted to pour beer all over it. We debated whether or not we should add beer for about five minutes, and in the end Joe convinced me and we did it. I must say that it was worth it.

kaiser suze

Kaiser Suze
1.5 oz Bourbon
.25 oz Suze
.25 oz Creole Shrubb
Dash of aromatic bitters (Angostura)

Stir over ice, strain. Top with 2.5 oz Spaten Optimater (or any doppelbock will do). Garnish with an orange twist.

The beer we chose was Spaten Optimater, which is a dark German malt beer. On its own, it has a floral, malty, toasty bouquet and tastes of dark fruits – maybe prunes – and caramel, and finishes with a slight bitterness. What convinced me about this beer? Well, it just tastes great with bourbon. Also, this is one of Joe’s all-time favorite beers (as well as his father’s, so I’m told), and so in it went.

kaiser suze2

Even without the beer, this drink tastes great. With the beer, though, it tastes even better, although it does loose a bit of its hard edge. The beer’s caramel and dark fruit flavors complement the bourbon, and its sourness emphasized the bitterness of Suze. The creole shrubb is almost a cheater’s ingredient (it’s so tasty!), and the citrus notes in the beer help it feel at home in the glass.

Enjoy!


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Brandy, Kumquat, Honey, Weissbier

Before we get started today, a couple of announcements: First, this week is beer week at Measure and Stir, in which we will be making a series of beer cocktails for your enjoyment. Second, after beer week has concluded, we will be taking a hiatus for the rest of the year, so as to enjoy the holidays in a truly relaxed fashion. Third, we are approaching our 25,000th pageview, and will hit it sometime mid-week. Hurray!

beerquat

I have never been able to find too much enthusiasm for beer cocktails, but I think that their time for me has finally arrived. We have a few in the past, specifically Jacob Grier’s Mai Ta-IPA, and later our popular Stouthearted. The idea behind beer cocktails never really clicked for me because I did not like the viscosity of the beer in a mixed drink. What made it come together was a drink in an episode of Drink, Inc., in which they added orange marmalade and apricot purée. I realized that the viscosity is not a bug, but a feature, and that the trick to making an excellent beer-based drink is to play to the viscosity, in some cases by adding something even thicker.

I think beer-based drinks are perfect in the colder months, because their heartiness is warming and nourishing. Moreover, kumquats are in season, so we took paired a kumquat puree with a citrusy Weißbier, and fortified it with honey, another complement to wheat, and brandy, which pairs well with honey. The result was a very pleasing highball, which we served with a fat straw to allow the imbiber to get pieces of the sweet kumquat peel.

beerquat2

1.5 oz Brandy (Cognac Salignac)
.5 oz Kumquat Purée
.75 oz (Honey Liqueuer) Barenjäger
Dash Orange Bitters (Scrappy’s Seville)
Shake over ice and then doubTop with 2.5 oz Weißbier (Franziskaner) and garnish with an orange spiral. Serve with a fat straw. (not pictured)

The orange was very fragrant and the bits of kumquat peel were chewy, adding an interesting texture to the drink. Drinking kumquat pulp might not sound very appealing, but I was inspired by a drink I had in a tea shop in Kyoto. They served me a cup of iced tea with yuzu marmalade sitting at the bottom, and I greatly enjoyed eating the pieces of peel.

This drink was acidic and refreshing, with a nice roundness from the Barenjäger, which is slightly bitter.

Prost!


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Libation Laboratory: Running the Gimlet, Part III

For the past two weeks, Joe and I have been exploring the world of citrus cordials by mixing various gimlets. In Running the Gimlet Part I we made a lemon cordial, and in part II we made a lime cordial. For part III of this series, we played with a grapefruit cordial.

Here’s our grapefruit cordial recipe:

Grapefruit Cordial
1 cup Grapefruit juice
1 cup Sugar
Peels of 3 grapefruits

Add peels, juice, and sugar to a pot over medium heat. Heat and stir until the sugar integrates with the juice and strain.

It’s OK to be a little bit lazy with the piths when making grapefruit cordials, since grapefruit is rather bitter anyway.

grapefruit gimlets

From left to right, bottom to top, we have: scotch (snifter), bourbon (rocks glass), mezcal (coupe glass), tequila reposado (martini glass), and rum (cocktail goblet).

Scotch Grapefruit Gimlet

Eye: A warm, rust-colored brown.
Nose: Mostly scotch.
Sip: Smokey scotch, a bite of grapefruit.
Finish: Scotch and grapefruit balanced each other well.

This combination was the clear winner of the night. Tart citrus and scotch is a great combination, as we knew from the blood and oak. The scotch we used was Longrow 10, which isn’t very smokey or savory, because we wanted to avoid adding those sorts of flavors to grapefruit. I didn’t expect this gimlet to steal the show, but it did.

Bourbon Grapefruit Gimlet

Eye: Brown.
Nose: Spice and citrus fruit.
Sip: Oaky spice from the bourbon, sour, sweet grapefruit.
Finish: Smooth and fruity.

I’ve always enjoyed making whiskey sours with grapefruit juice, so I knew this combination was going to be tasty. Just go ahead and make this one. You’ll thank us. I think this was probably my second favorite grapefruit gimlet.

Mezcal Grapefruit Gimlet

Eye: Pink
Nose: Cactus, smoke, sweet citrus.
Sip: Mezcal with grapefruit.
Finish: Mostly mezcal.

I love mezcal, so I had high expectations for this drink, but I was let down. In our past gimlet experiments, mezcal had paired well with lemon and lime, so why not grapefruit? Well, it turns out that this was the weakest pairing we came up with for grapefruit. In this drink, mezcal and grapefruit did not do each other any favors, and the two flavors fought each other in the glass. I was throughly disappointed.

Tequila Reposado Grapefruit Gimlet

Eye: Pinkish yellow, like a sunset.
Nose: Strong grapefruit scent.
Sip: Tequila and grapefruit.
Finish: Mostly grapefruit.

Once again, I had high hopes for tequila and grapefruit, as we’ve mixed the two together before, in the strawberry paloma. Although this gimlet was better than its mezcal cousin, it just didn’t blow me away. Somehow the two flavors didn’t harmonize the way we had expected them to. I don’t think I’d make this gimlet again.

Rum Grapefruit Gimlet

Eye: Rust.
Nose: Fruity.
Sip: Caramel, fruits, grapefruit.
Finish: Sweet notes from the rum, bitter notes from the grapefruit.

This gimlet was excellent. We’ve paired grapefruit and rum before, so we kind of knew this was going to be awesome. We used Doorly’s rum, and the grapefruit cordial complemented its fruity, citrus flavors very well. It was hard to stop drinking this one, but it still didn’t gel as well as the scotch or bourbon gimlets.

I wonder if you are as tired of gimlets as we are!


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Rob Roy in Seattle

It took us a long time to get around to reviewing Rob Roy, but it’s one of my favorite bars in Seattle, both for the ambiance and the quality of drinks. These are people who take their ice very seriously; a good sign. If you order an old fashioned, they carve a big piece of clear, beautiful ice using big knives and kevlar gloves. The spectacle alone makes the order worth it.

They have a subset of their menu online, but here are some pictures, anyway:
robroymenu1
robroymenu2

As you can see, they have a creative and thoughtful menu. Any time I see a menu with a turmeric syrup drink, or a vinegar drink, I know I am in the right place. David Wondrich rated Rob Roy as one of the best bars in America in 2012, and the article has a great shot of the interior. The large copper still by the bar perfectly conveys Rob Roy’s values.

On the evening of my most recent visit, I ordered the Saffron Sandalwood Sour, below:

sandalwood sour

I was impressed with this drink. It is not often that one has the opportunity to enjoy potable sandalwood. The sherbet gave the drink an appealing, slushy texture. I had assumed that they used sandalwood oil, but now that I look at the drink, I think they simply grated some on top. I promise that was not nutmeg. If I heard that someone grated wood on top of my drink, I might be a bit skeptical, but the texture was not impacted in negative way.

My friend Dave visited Rob Roy with me, and he ordered the Gunpowder Punch:
robroygunpowderpunch

The gunpowder punch is primarily a gin and lemon-grapefruit affair, a flavor which comes from oleo saccharum. It has a spicy, slightly acrid finish from the gunpowder. One does not want to consume very much gunpowder, I imagine, but I honestly would not mind if the flavor were stronger.

Despite their supreme excellence, I feel like Seattlites don’t regard Rob Roy as highly as some of the newer craft bars, and that’s a real shame. They sit in Belltown, quietly brilliant, thoroughly excellent. If you’re in the neighborhood, give them a shot.


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Tequila Reposado, Imbue, Suze

Happy Repeal Day!

A few weeks ago, after work, Joe and I went to a bar on capitol hill, here in Seattle, called Liberty. I asked the bartender to mix something for me with Suze, since I saw it proudly displayed in their bar, and was thinking about that Suze gimlet. I didn’t have any particular base spirit in mind, so I let the bartender make whatever he felt like. Having enjoyed this drink so much, Joe sought out a bottle of Suze for himself, and since acquiring it, we’ve made this drink several times.

tequila-suze-imbue2

Genciana
1.5 oz Tequila Resposado
.75 oz Dry vermouth (Imbue)
.375 oz Suze

Stir, strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

At the bar, this drink was made using the 6:3:1 formula, using Cocchi Americano, which we’ve done a few times since, and which is great. However, in a home bar, it’s not practical to have more than one dry and one sweet vermouth open at a time, and Joe’s dry vermouth du jour happened to be Imbue, a bittersweet vermouth from Oregon. Imbue tastes like pears, honey, and pinot gris in the sip, with a bitter, dry, herbal finish. We thought that Imbue needed a little bit of extra help to stand up against the Suze, and so we adjusted the amount in this recipe.

tequila-suze-imbue1

This drink is a brilliant golden yellow color and smells appropriately of lemon. Somehow the fruit notes from the vermouth combine with the lemon and Suze to produce a sip with a hint of nuttiness, almost like a cashew flavor, that is hard to explain, but delicious. The finish is bitter, from the Suze as well as the vermouth, and smokey, from the tequila.

A very tempting way to enjoy Suze, indeed.