Measure & Stir

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


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Yuppie Salad

Hello Internet, I am sorry I was so late to speak with you this week. I have not forgotten you, but my time has been short. James and I could not really decide on a theme for session #4, so we made an eclectic collection of drinks exploring various ideas.

I drink fresh juice for health, and I am always struck by the brilliant, verdant color of fresh spinach or kale juice. I wanted to make a drink that could capture that color, and I know it’s a little bit out there, but I took inspiration from the sweet salads that I have enjoyed in many yuppie restaurants

yuppie salad

Yuppie Salad
1.5 oz Gin (Hendrick’s)
1 oz Spinach Juice
.5 oz Strawberry Juice
.25 oz Orgeat
.25 oz Balsamic Vinegar
Shake over ice and double-strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a skewered roasted red pepper.

Now I know what you’re thinking; “Darnit guys, couldn’t you just stir up a base spirit with some vermouth, maybe add a dash of absinthe or something? Spinach juice, really?” Spinach juice actually has a very mild flavor, and with the little bit of orgeat + vinegar, this really did taste like I was drinking a fancy salad. It was grassy, tangy, sweet, and fruity. Slivered almonds might also have been nice.


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Thaiquila

Brown, bitter, and stirred is a genre to which we probably don’t pay enough attention. To be perfectly honest, by the time you add two fortified wines, two liqueurs/amari, and/or two base spirits, things start to taste a little muddy. I went through a period where I mixed every BB&S that I came across, and they all ran together in my mind.

Fernet, St. Germain, Bourbon, Lillet? Reposado, Nonino, Punt e Mes, Tiki bitters? Why not? Appleton Reserve, Dry Sherry, Pimento Dram, Campari? Don’t mind if I do. Personally, I like to keep it simple most of the time, because I really want to notice each flavor distinctly. The theme at our last session was tea, and astute readers might have noticed various manifestations of Camellia sinensis in several of our recent posts.

For this drink, we wanted to infuse the tea in a spirit, and we chose an old favorite, Thai tea, which is black tea that has been flavored with star anise, crushed tamarind, and possibly orange flower water, and we infused it into Reposado tequila for about an hour and a half. It’s important when infusing tea into spirits to taste them frequently, to avoid creating a tanniny mess with a drying and unpleasant mouthfeel.

thaiquila

Thaiquila (Sorry about the name)
1.5 oz Thai Tea-Infused Reposado Tequila (El Jimador)
.75 oz Sweet Vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz Amaro Zucca
1 dash Orange Bitters (Scrappy’s Seville)
Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

I love Amaro Zucca, and I found that the earthy flavor of the rhubarb was well-balanced against the flavors of the tea and the vermouth. 6-3-1 may not be the most exciting formula in the world, but it’s solid, and with careful choices, it can pay off in a big way. I always taste and smell a few different options for each slot when I am using a formula like this, to make sure that the flavors fit. Two flavors that are too similar will blur together, making the drink “muddy”. Ideally, the flavors should be far enough apart from each other that they all come through on their own.

BB&S drinks almost always benefit from a fresh orange or lemon peel, depending on the ingredients. Though spirits are very good at capturing aromas, they can never quite retain the bright flavor of fresh citrus oil.

A personal rule, though far from a universal one, is to avoid having two ingredients in drink with the same flavors. If you have orange liqueur, you do not need orange juice. It’s redundant. The only time I break this rule is with bitters.

On a completely different subject, and as a little bit of administratriva, we tend to have about one mixing session about every two weeks, and then blog about it over the next two. Most sessions have a theme, or an ingredient set from a particular market. We’ve had three sessions so far this year, and I’m going to start calling them out in the posts in question. Makes it fun.

I’ll be sipping on one of my favorite bourbons this weekend. I hope your plans are as exciting as mine!


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Blood and Smoke

So we were brainstorming what to do with various teas, and we wanted to try every way we could think of to get tea into a drink. We tried infusing the tea in spirits, and in vinegar, and in syrups; we tried brewing the tea and reducing it, we tried matcha, we tried adding boiling tea to hot toddies and chilled tea to iced-tea style drinks. We had one drink that failed three times. Sometimes you just have to make peace with your failures… Cardamom and earl grey are just too similar to make a nice drink together.

But this is not a post about failure! This is a riff on a drink we made last summer, the Blood and Oak. I wish I could say it was for Mixology Monday, but it isn’t. I inverted the um, uh, the– I inverted the infusion! Normally you would infuse the base spirit, but for this one I infused the liqueur. I’m so edgy.

blood and smoke

Blood and Smoke
2 oz Mezcal (Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida)
1 oz Blood Orange Juice
.5 oz Lapsang Souchong Syrup
.25 oz Ancho Chili-Infused Campari
Shake over ice and double strain into a coup. Garnish with a blood orange peel.

This was a little too sweet. I wanted that lapsang souchong in the drink, but the syrup just added unnecessary sugar. You can see I followed the same formula that you would for a Blood and Sand. I infused the campari with a dried ancho chile, seeds removed, for about two hours. You have to watch a chili pepper infusion very carefully — overdo it and it turns into mace. I think if I had to do it again, I would put the lapsang in with the ancho, and just infuse it all into the campari. Bump up the proportion to .5, and I think you would have a much more respectable drink.

So, if you actually do it, do it like this:

Blood and Smoke (Revised)
2 oz Mezcal (Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida)
1 oz Blood Orange Juice
.5 oz Lapsang Souchong and Ancho Chili-Infused Campari
Shake over ice and double strain into a coup. Garnish with a blood orange peel.

And adjust the proportions to your taste. You need to select an amount of orange juice that mediates, but does not nullify, the capsaicin burn from the chili, and it might be that .75 oz works better. That depends on the strength of your infusion and your own good taste.

Sorry I missed you, MxMo, and Cheers.


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Pina Porter

Hey guys, sorry I missed our usual Monday rendezvous.

Last month, Mark Holmes over at Cardiff Cocktails was inspired by our beer week to make a drink with tequila and porter, which he called the pina porter.

I found it through his twitter, and then I tweeted back at him that I loved the idea of pineapple juice and porter… that was probably confusing. Anyway, James and I made the drink to spec, and it suited our fancy. It seems that when Mark made it, he got a much fizzier head on his drink than we did, but ours was fizzier than it looks, I assure you.

pina porter

Pina Porter
1 1/2 oz Tequila
3/4 oz lime
1/2 oz kahlua
1/2 oz Dark Caramel syrup
3 oz Porter
Dash Angostura bitters

The kahlua + porter worked really well, but we made the mistake of using a not-smokey-enough reposado. I enjoy a lot of smoke in my tequila, and I was looking for the smoke to complement the beer. We added a quarter ounce of mezcal to the drink, post-mix and post-photograph, and it corrected the problem, but I think it would not have been a problem in the first place, had we used a smokier reposado.

So thanks a lot, Mark, it was a good one.


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Matcha Grandmother’s Toddy

If the name is confusing, say it out loud, like “Not ya Grandmother’s Toddy”. The joke isn’t funny if you explain it. I know. The hour is late so I’m going to make this a quick one.

matchatoddy2

James had the idea to have a small tea party, in which all of our drinks would contain tea. I was greatly enthused by the idea, and we set about brainstorming some different ideas. In the brainstorming phase I thought, “this ingredient is going to be a snap!” But it turns out that tea is very subtle, and there are many opportunities for the drink to go horribly wrong.

For our first drink we wanted to get some green tea in a glass with some hogo. The problem is that brewed tea has a very light flavor, and a tea syrup made in the usual way has a similarly light flavor. There was no way it was going to stand up to a high proof spirit! So the first thing I tried was brewing six cups of green tea, and then reducing it to roughly 2 cups. Making the reduction caused the tea to oxidize, and it lost both its green color and its grassy flavor.

In fact, it started to taste like a black tea, but not like a good one. So we dumped that. Fortunately, I had some matcha powder in my cabinet, and we were able to find a solution that was both flavorful and colorful.

If you want to get the flavor of green tea in a drink, matcha is your best friend. A brief green tea infusion in vodka, pisco, or gin is another way, but I think matcha delivers the boldest and truest flavor of green tea. It is very bitter, however, and not in a delicious fernet kind of way.

matchatoddy1

Matcha Grandmother’s Toddy
1.5 oz Cachaça (Pitú)
1.5 oz Cocchi Americano
3 oz boiling water
1/4 tsp matcha powder
1/2 tsp white sugar
In a mixing glass, combine matcha, sugar, and boiling water. Stir vigorously. Add spirits and pour into a warmed irish coffee mug. Top with a matcha whipped cream*, lime twist, grated lime zest, and skewered blueberries.

We ended up using cachaça instead of J. Wray, for it has a similar flavor, but it is not quite so pungent and overpowering. This is one of my favorite drinks to date, both in taste and appearance. I loved the sulfurous, vegetal funk of the cachaça against the grassy, floral tea, along with the bitter notes from the cocchi on the backend.

The presentation was inspired by this Orange Pisco Hot Chocolate from Serious Eats. By the way, here’s how to make matcha whipped cream:

Matcha Whipped Cream
.5 L Heavy Cream
1 tsp matcha powder
sugar to taste
Combine all in an iSi whipped cream dispenser, pressurize, and shake.

Bottoms up!


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How to Write a Cocktail Menu

I have never put together the menu for an actual commercial bar, but I do enjoy hosting cocktail parties, and I spend a fair amount of time seeking out new and interesting bars.

fruitbowl2

Cocktail menus should be small, to give the guests room to explore. When I first started hosting cocktail parties, I did not know very many drinks, and I made menus with ten or twelve drinks on them. In a real bar, ten is an appropriate number, but in a home party, that number is cumbersome.

Even in a real bar, I often see menus that are too big. Some bars, like Bourbon and Branch, bring a gigantic book to your table, impossibly full of recipes. I personally prefer a minimalist approach; I think the goal should be to lead the guest to a new and engaging experience, by a path of comfortable steps.

It’s a little bit disappointing when every drink on the menu is something I have had many times before. There is a lot to be said for executing classic drinks perfectly, but a balanced menu also contains something adventurous.

The drinks you serve should be orthogonal to each other. If everything on your menu is a sour, your guests will fatigue of sours. Similarly if everything is brown, bitter, and stirred. Be aware of the categories of your different drinks, and of the flavor profiles that you are providing. They should be substantially different.

A thoughtful drink will slightly defy the expectations of the person who orders it. The other day I had a drink with prosecco, campari, cynar, and lime. You can imagine what that probably tastes like, but the proportions or the presentation could surprise you. Between viscous liqueurs, drying bubbles, and stinging citrus, there is a lot of room for variation in texture.

Last month, I held a birthday party, and I designed a menu based around some of my favorite Measure and Stir creations from 2012. I broke one of my own rules, though; I had two drinks based around ginger. They were very different drinks, but even so, there was too much overlap.

Monogram
Barrel-Aged Monogram: Oaked Campari+Maraschino, Orange Juice, and Bourbon with orange-infused scotch foam and spray of bitters. This drink was bitter, oaky, and tasted of orange.

stepchild2_2
Stepchild: Ginger wine, fernet, pineapple, mint garnish. This drink was minty, and tasted of dry, spicy pineapple. Ginger wine as the base made it lighter in alcohol.

cant catch me
Can’t Catch Me:
This drink was dark, viscous from molasses, and heavily spiced. In retrospect, I should not have had a drink with ginger wine and a drink with gingerbread infusion, but I thought the flavor profiles were different enough. None of the drinks on the menu had a light spirit, such as gin or cachaça, and I think that was an omission.

buyaboat
I Should Buy A Boat: Grapefruit, rum, champagne, and cinnamon syrup. This was the unexpected favorite at the party. I think the champagne was what drew people in.

I also had mulled apple cider (not pictured), which definitely did not contain ginger, and was intended for those practicing temperance. As a final note, always take care of the designated drivers, pregnant women, or anyone else who chooses to abstain. Making a good mocktail is even harder than making a good cocktail, and a worthy art all on its own.

May all of your parties be successful.