Measure & Stir

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


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Poison Yu: A Cocktail with Pear, Parsnip, Tonka Bean, Ginger, and Prosecco

I’m about to hit you with some winter-time Tiki action, a drink that manages to feel like summer and winter at the same time. Long-time readers may remember a similar experiment all those years ago in which James and I paired parsnips and pears, but today we have pared this concept down to pearfection and we hope it will be apparent to you.

mug

This tiki mug is one of my favorite pieces in my bar because it is so shamelessly gaudy. Tiki mugs are intentionally opaque, because most of the best tiki drinks are ugly, cloudy, swamp-brown colors. This is the price you pay for emphasizing flavor over appearance. For this drink, I didn’t want to be burdened by the aesthetics of the liquid itself.

I have never been a huge fan of pears, but there is a particular variety of pear called the Comice, or Christmas pear, which has a soft, custardy flavor and a pale green skin which, in ideal conditions, will exhibit a bit of blush. You can see it on the slices in the photograph. This type of pear is a hidden gem in all of the winter harvest. Its texture is like a ripe peach. I skinned such a pear, removed the seeds, and turned it into a smooth puree with a hand blender.

To be honest, the parsnip did not come through as much as we were hoping. An attempt to juice parsnips revealed that parsnip juice is a shockingly expensive ingredient per ounce, not even remotely practical as a cocktail ingredient. Instead, we tried caramelizing parsnips and then simmering them into a syrup with honey. It “worked” in the sense that there was a caramelly winter spice flavor, but there was nothing discernible as parsnip, per se.

To this I added light rum, fresh ginger juice, and prosecco, all over crushed ice. The prosecco did not keep any of its effervescence, of course, with so much crushed ice and pulpy pear puree, but its acidity and its flavor brought the balance to the otherwise sweet flavor profile of this drink.

drink

Poison Yu
~4 oz Comice Pear Purée
2 oz Light Rum (Bacardi)
1 oz Caramelized Parsnip and Honey Syrup
1/2 oz Ginger Juice
Top with 2oz Prosecco
Shake and pour over crushed ice into a tiki mug.
Garnish with Grated Tonka bean.

As delicious as that combination is, what really makes this drink stand out is an unusual ingredient called Tonka bean. Tonka beans are illegal to serve in the US, because they contain a high concentration of a chemical called coumarin, which has been shown to be toxic to the liver when it is fed to rats in quantities equal to their body weight. (Side note: Some types of cinnamon, specifically canela has a similar concentration of coumarin. No one has died from it yet, as far as I know).

Many thanks to the FDA for saving us from this dangerous, and delicious spice. Its aroma is like dried cherries, vanilla, gingerbread, and cloves, and yet there is nothing quite like it. I was able to buy some on ebay for a few dollars, and it came with a label warning me not to eat it, and a note about their use in “voodoo magick”. If that’s not Tiki, I don’t know what is.

This drink is named after a Chinese gangster who was active during the romance of the three kingdoms. When I read the story of this man, I knew instantly that I had to make a tiki drink that bore his name, and the “poisonous” Tonka bean was the perfect addition to drive home the theme of “Poison Yu”.

Cheers.

 

 


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Phat Beets: Beet, Rye, Cumin, Balsamic Vinegar, Orange Oil and Green Peppercorn

I know, I know, I haven’t written in a year. I’m not going to waste a lot of time on throat-clearing but I want to assure you that I’m still here, and I still like you, and as always, I want to help you elevate your cocktail game.

drink

I was fishing around for novel flavor combinations that would be timely for the winter season, and I found that green peppercorn jelly is appropriate to mix with beetroot, as is cumin, as is orange oil. I decided to put all four of them together, using beet juice as the bridge between the other ingredients.

For the beetroot, I ran several beets through a masticating juicer and then a fine-mesh strainer and then a chemex. Chemex clarification of juices works better with some juices than others. Beet is among the ones that work less well. Although my beet juice did achieve an elegant texture, its color was so dark that there was no noticeable effect of clarification. You could safely skip the chemex step, but you might consider straining through a 100 micron superbag.

I tried this drink with both bourbon and rye, and I discovered that the additional sourness that comes from a rye was a better complement to the sweet and earthy notes of the cumin and beet. Use a workhorse rye for this, as anything subtle will tend to be drowned out.

For the cumin syrup I toasted about a teaspoon of whole cumin seeds in a pan, then crushed them and simmered them in a 1:1 simple syrup until their flavor was extracted.

In the past I used to reach for lemon juice as my cocktail acid of choice, but a man can only drink so many lemon or lime sours before he starts to ask what other acids exist. Most every good cocktail has a source of acidity, except for the family of drinks that takes after the old fashioned.

For this drink I used a quarter ounce of 10 year aged balsamic vinegar. It is syrupy and sweet, but it also adds the ascetic tang on the backend that is needed to find balance and challenge.

Finally, for the green peppercorn jelly, I crushed ~2 teaspoons of green peppercorns with a mortar and pestle, and simmered them with sugar, agar agar, and filtered water. As soon as the agar dissolved, I poured the mixture through a strainer into a small mold and let it set in the fridge. In 20 minutes I had a firm, pale green jelly.

garnish

Phat Beets
1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (RI1)
.75 oz Finely Strained Beet Juice
.5 oz Toasted Cumin Syrup
.25 oz Extra-Old Balsamic Vinegar
Express Orange Oil over the drink and discard the peel.
Serve with Green Peppercorn Agar Agar Jelly.

 

Green Peppercorn Jelly
250ml Filtered Water
1 Tsp Green Peppercorns, crushed
1 Tbsp. Sugar
2g Agar Agar powder
Bring all to a boil and whisk until sugar and agar agar are fully dissolved. Strain into a small mold and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

This is not one of those viscerally delicious, I-can’t-wait-to-have-another-one type of drinks. I don’t think beet juice is anyone’s favorite, but my hope is that a refined palate can appreciate this as a much more cerebral cocktail experience. First, the imbiber should take a sip of the drink, and observe its sweet, earthy, and spicey notes. The flavors are more or less orthogonal and exist such that each is distinct.

Then, they should take a bite of the peppercorn jelly. The subtle piperitious burn lingers on the palette with an unctuous, floral note. Another sip reveals an unexpected synergy between peppercorn, beetroot, and cumin, pulling the brighter elements of the drink’s composition into contrast against the bassy note of the pepper.

I apologize (#sorrynotsorry) for the previous two paragraphs but I have been watching a lot of Iron Chef Japan lately.

Cheers.