Measure & Stir

I make drinks

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If you work in the service industry you have to create totally repeatable drink recipes, they need to come out the same each time, so that each customer, each order, each will be perfect. I respect and enjoy this type of consistency. But when you mix at home, I think you can learn to find a certain pleasure in doing things which are unrepeatable. The drink I have made to demonstrate this does so poorly, alas, but maybe it’s that precise sense of wabi-sabi, the acceptance of transience and imperfection, that makes it ideal.

I like to make drinks using whatever I have at hand, and in my own home I can exert some control over that, but the logistics of a home kitchen are very different from those of a commercial one. Ingredients come and go; one day we might have a certain sauce or condiment on hand or leftover, some berries or even vegetable scraps held over from a previous dish. There is no requirement for consistency in what we purchase, and so consistency becomes evasive.

It’s not as if we couldn’t choose to take notes and meticulously iterate and control every variable. I do this for example when I brew coffee; it’s that the joy of home mixology is partly in not needing to obey any such requirements. The best drink is always the drink that makes you, personally, happy in the moment you drink it. It’s true that if you mix off the cuff, you are unlikely to find perfection in a glass on the very first try. If I make a syrup or a juice or a puree, something like this, it may take two or three iterations before I am content.

But then, upon crafting that cup, I am just as content to let it go again. I may never make the same drink quite the same way. I like to document these things on my blog, more for me than for you, though I esteem you highly as well. When you build a sandcastle on the beach, the waves will come and wash it away. I don’t think that detracts from its beauty.

A Sandcastle, but not the Sandcastle

1.5 oz Wheated Bourbon (Redemption)
.75 oz dry vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz Cynar 70
.25 oz Fernet Branca
.25 oz Thai Basil Syrup*
a dash of lavender bitters


*To make Thai basil syrup, blanch a bundle of thai basil, pulverize it in a blender with 1:1 simple syrup, and strain.

I’ve been intrigued lately by the combination of any base spirit mixed with dry vermouth, fernet, and cynar. These two bitter liqueurs complement each other very well; the cynar with its syrupy vegetal notes play the bass to fernet’s more delicate bouquet of oak, rhubarb, saffron, and mint. The dry vermouth adds acidity and many other flavors can play atop this canvas.

Thai Basil, Wheated Bourbon, and Lavender bitters were things I had on hand, and the end result tastes a bit like walking through a forest on a brisk spring day. An infused gin and a berry syrup wouldn’t go amiss here, in place of those things. Nor would tequila and elderflower.