Measure & Stir

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Thanksgiving Cocktail: “One Sweet Root” Sweet Potato, Bourbon, Muscovado, Marshmallow

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Candied yams are a baffling Thanksgiving tradition. Who came up with this concept? Yams, brown sugar, and toasted marshmallows for dinner? Hey, that pairs perfectly with cream of mushroom green beans! When it comes to Thanksgiving, I am a hater, but I yam happy to drink my sweet potatoes.

sweetpoato2First, a few notes on composition:

It’s tempting to try to mix sweet potatoes with a creamy element, but I tried this in some initial tests, and I found it to be lacking. What made this drink recipe click into place was the inclusion of lemon juice. I’ve been trying to stay away from lemon juice lately, because at some point everything just starts to feel like a whiskey sour, but the other day I found myself thinking, “if only there were a relatively neutral source of acid…”

That’s known as coming full circle. It works in this context because sweet potato and lemon is not very common in the culinary world, so the familiar becomes new again.

This drink was inspired, obviously, by that old thanksgiving staple of roast sweet potatoes with marshmallow and brown sugar. What has really become apparent to me this year is the need, not only to attend to the flavor of the drink, but also the color. Yes, I’ve always been fixated on garniture, but now more than ever I find myself obsessing over the final color of the liquid. If I use an ingredient like sweet potato or persimmon, the drink had damn well better be orange. If it’s cranberry, I demand a rich reddish purple.

For this reason, I used a mixture of half muscovado and half white sugar. Pure muscovado might have been more flavorful, but it risks turning the drink too dark. As for the sweet potato itself, the juice will oxidize into an ugly brown color within 24 hours. Make the juice the same day you intend to use it.

starchThe extra twist to using sweet potato as an ingredient is that it’s uncomfortably starchy. When you run a sweet potato through your juicer, the intriguing and beautiful juice that comes out has a chalky mouthfeel. I tried destroying the starch with amylase enzyme, but the heat required to activate the enzyme changed the flavor, and not for the better. The juice became insipid, overly sweet, and reminiscent of boiled squash. A better practice is to let the juice settle in the fridge for a few hours, until it looks like the picture above, and then carefully pour out the juice, leaving the starch behind.

I suggest straining it several times for the best effect. The tradeoff here is that the longer you let the juice settle, the more starch you will lose, but the more your color will degrade. I found that three to four hours was the sweet spot. A little starch is inevitable, but a lot is unacceptable.


One Sweet Root
1.5 oz Demerara rum
1.5 oz Sweet potato juice
.5 oz Lemon juice
.25 oz Simple syrup
.25 oz Muscovado syrup
Shake over ice and strain into a tall, narrow glass. Garnish with a toasted fall spice marshmallow*

I spent some time on this one and I think it came out really nice. I’m not going to go into how to make a marshmallow, but if you want a recipe, here’s the one I used:

63g Egg Whites
3g Cream of Tartar
125g Water
125g Caster Sugar
88g Inverted Sugar
45g Liquid Glucose
38g Powdered Gum Arabic / Gum Acacia Powder
14g Gold Gelatine Sheets
5g Fall Spice Mix (Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Clove, Black Cardamom)

Place the sugar, water, inverted sugar, glucose and the gum Arabic in a saucepan and heat to 115°C, stirring continuously with a whisk. Once it reaches 110°C start whisking the egg whites with the cream of tartar until you reach a soft peak. Pour the cooked syrup slowly onto the whisked egg whites. Continue whisking and add the pre-soaked gelatine and cut and scraped vanilla bean. Continue to mix until the marshmallow reaches approximately 30°C. Immediately pipe onto prepared chocolate discs. Leave at room temperature to set. Spray the tips of the marshmallow with purple cocoa butter.


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