Measure & Stir

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


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Cucumber Rai Tai

I don’t  have a lot to say about this one. I was leafing through The Flavor Bible and my eye landed on on this combination: “Dill, Yoghurt, Cucumber”. And of course those things go together. Who here hasn’t enjoyed tzatziki sauce on a gyro, or a bit of cucumber raita alongside their vindaloo?

raitai

Cucumber Rai Tai
1.5 oz Gin (Tanqueray Rangpur)
1 oz Cucumber Juice
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
3 Heaping barspoons of Greek Yoghurt
4 Dill Sprigs, Muddled
Shake over ice and double-strain into a coupe. Garnish with a sprig of dill.

Absent garlic and other savory elements, this did, in fact, taste like a tzatziki sauce. It was good, especially paired with seafood, which we were eating at the time. The herbal notes in the gin are a natural fit for cucumber and dill. It’s so obvious it’s almost academic. I found it to be light and refreshing; the yoghurt was not too heavy on a summer night.

The name “Rai Tai” is a play on the name “Mai Tai”, but of course, this is a far cry from a Mai Tai, or even a tiki drink. Even so, I’m sticking with it.

Cheers.


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Acid Trip #3: Caramel, Apple, Fennel

appleAcidTrip

Today let us consider the apple, whose dominant acid content, like the grape, is malic. The thought process that drove this drink was very similar to that of the Peanut Butter Jelly Time. In both drinks, I have taken a classic flavor pairing which would ordinarily be cloying in a drink, and balanced its sweetness with malic acid. The standard procedure for this type of drink would adulterate the purity of the pairing with lemon juice, but with malic acid, we can find balance by adjusting a sourness which is already found in one of the key elements of the pairing.

Earlier this week, I had a drink made with tarragon and apple juice, and yet all I could taste was gin and lemon. This is a common problem. I wanted to make an apple drink that tastes strongly of apples, but which would taste more like summer than autumn, and to that end, I pursued a staple of the summer county fair, the caramel apple.

appleAcidTrip2

Acid Trip #3
2 oz Fresh-Pressed Apple Juice (1 oz Gala, 1 oz Granny Smith)
1 oz Demerara Rum (El Dorado 12)
.75 oz Rum Caramel Sauce*
.5 oz Vodka (Tito’s)
.25 tsp Powdered Malic Acid
Dash of Simple Syrup
Dash of Barkeep Chinese Bitters
Dash of Absinthe
Shake over ice and strain into a coupe. Garnish with a fan of thinly sliced apples and a try-hard caramel drizzle.

I made a caramel sauce using some Barbados rum that is probably better for cooking than drinking, and it adds a layer of toffee and sugar flavor to the already caramel tones of El Dorado 15. Caramel is the juncture for apple and rum, and I also suggest dropping shot of your most caramelly rum into a glass of apple cider. Apple is the juncture for anise and caramel, so that the sugar flows into the apple flows into the herbal flavor of anise.

You can follow this caramel sauce recipe, but swap out the water for your least expensive dark rum.

Chinese five spice bitters threaten to take this into autumn territory, but fortunately the fennel and anise flavor is the loudest, and the cinnamon and clove are mercifully quiet.

Cheers.


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Acid Trip #2: Kyoho Grape, Lavender

 

I spoke yesterday of malic acid, and also of Kyoho grapes. Moreover, I have written in the past of the inspiration that I found at bar Gen Yamamoto, which informed an apricot cocktail earlier this summer. In that post, I described the philosophical underpinnings of this drink.

I wanted to apply Gen’s “shiki” style of Japanese seasonality to the Kyoho grape, so I started with brandy as a base to preserve the purity of the grape’s flavor. We can add a bit of drama to this otherwise harmonious pairing by playing up the contrast between sweet and sour. I would not make such an attempt with standard souring agents, but since malic acid is already present in the grape, the additional tartness feels very natural and flowing.

grapeAcidTrip

Acid Trip #2
1 oz Brandy (Cognac Salignac)
.5 oz Vodka (Tito’s)
8 Kyoho grapes, muddled
2 Dashes Scrappy’s Lavender Bitters
1 Dash of Simple Syrup
1/8 Tsp Powdered Malic Acid
Shake and double strain into an Old Fashioned Glass. Garnish with a grape.

The grape on its own was a little too simple. With the brandy tracking so closely to the grape juice, I needed one other flavor to create some space and some distance in the perception of the drink’s flavor, and lavender worked surprisingly well. I did not anticipate the deliciousness of this pairing, and I was pleasantly surprised. Lavender and grape were made for each other, and I imagine that lavender grape preserves would be wonderful.

I think this drink beautifully captured the experience of a fresh grape, while maintaining a refined complexity.

Cheers.


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Acid Trip #1: Peanut Butter Jelly Time

Peanut-butter-jelly-time

Hello friends. We haven’t spoken in a while, and I want you to know that I have missed you. Lately in my cocktail journey, I have been contemplating the composition of basic drinks. With precious few exceptions, all of the standard drink formulas combine a base spirit with a source of acid and a source of sugar. In spirited drinks, the acid and the sugar often reside in a single bottle, in the form of a fortified wine. In a sour drink, acidity comes from lemon or lime, and sugar comes from syrup, liqueur, or both.

I have explored vinegar in the past, and also acid phosphate, but there still exists a lot of unexplored territory. Can the acidic component of drink mirror and meld into the other ingredients, as opposed to merely synergizing with them?

pbj2

There is a wide world of flavors to be captured in syrups and liqueurs, but in most drinks, we find that the carrying capacity for sweeteners is very low before the drink becomes cloying. It may be that we like the interplay between a sweet fruit juices and a liqueur, but that the desirable attributes of such a blend are overpowered by a balancing volume of lemon or lime juice.

This problem can be overcome by the use of acid phosphate, but although it is neutral in flavor, it is expensive and its acidity is low relative to its volume.

A better choice is to find a source of acid that can reinforce the natural flavors of fruit juice. Most juices contain multiple acids, but a very common one is malic acid, particularly in apples and grapes. It is commonly used in wine-making, but I have been experimenting with it as a souring agent in juice-driven drinks. Malic acid tastes fruity and succulent all on its own, and when it is added to a juice that already contains it, it reinforces and amplifies certain aspects of that juice.

pbj

Acid Trip #1

1.25 oz Wheated Bourbon (Weller 107 Antique)

.75 oz Peanut Syrup*

6 Kyoho Grapes, Muddled

1/8 Tsp Powdered Malic Acid

Grated Cinnamon

Pinch of Salt

Muddle grapes, grate a little fresh cinnamon, and shake all over ice. Double-strain into a coupe glass with a lightly salted rim and garnish with skewered grapes.

Kyoho grapes are fat and juicy with an intense sweet flavor. They almost taste like grape jelly all on their own. I found some at the farmer’s market and I knew they would be perfect for my malic acid experimentation.

I combined them with a peanut syrup, which one might even call peanut orgeat, but how does one decided what constitutes an orgeat? Is it merely a nut-based syrup? Is it the presence of rose or orange flower water? Does it require apricot pits, overnight steeping processes, or perhaps the blood of innocents? Some orgeat processes I have read are more like a sweetened almond milk, calling for nuts to be crushed or ground. In any case, this is how I made my peanut syrup:

Peanut ‘Orgeat’

1/2 Cup Water

1/2 Cup Peanut Butter

1/2 Cup Sugar

Pinch of Salt

Bring peanut butter and water to a boil, then simmer for ten minutes. Stir in sugar and strain through a fine-mesh strainer.

The resulting syrup was viscous, unctuous, creamy, and opaque. I made the syrup more intense by adding a bit of salt and freshly-grated cinnamon to the drink before shaking it, but you could also integrate them right into the syrup to simplify the recipe during drink service. I will definitely do so in the future. The cinnamon should not read as cinnamon; it should fade into the background and add just a little woody, spicy complexity to the peanut.

I chose to use a wheated bourbon for this because the whiskey is playing the role of bread to the peanut butter and grape. Without additional malic acid, this drink would have been too sweet, but the powdered acid allowed me to make whiskey and peanut butter sour, with grape standing in for lemon. Concept drinks don’t always work out, but this one did. I would proudly serve it to anyone.

Cheers.