Measure & Stir

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Popcorn-Bourbon Toddy

As Joe used the iSi whip cream dispenser to flash infuse some freshly popped popcorn into some bourbon, I prepared some spiced butter using the same winter spice mix that we used to make the vin brûlée. Once everything was ready, a tasty toddy was born. Delicious, fun, rather unusual, and seasonally appropriate. Not only would drinking one of these be a fine way to warm yourself up, it’d also go really well with a movie.

Popcorn Toddy
2 oz Popcorn-infused Bourbon
1 oz Brown sugar syrup
.75 oz Lemon juice
1 tablespoon Spiced butter
Dash of bitters
2 oz Near-boiling water (to top)

Melt the butter and spices together. Add ingredients to a snifter, top with 2 oz near-boiling water. Garnish with a popcorn skewer.

We originally wanted to use a rye, Old Overholt, as it tastes particularly corny on its own, but, alas, we didn’t quite have enough of it left to make the infusion, which is why we used bourbon instead. However, this was no loss, and I think it was actually a blessing in disguise because the bourbon perhaps adds more character and complexity. Still, I’d like to revisit this concept and use the ‘holt next time because it’d be interesting to see how its corniness bridges the whisky to the popcorn flavor. Then again, having said that, we’ve sworn off Old Overholt. Ever since Joe and I noticed how corny it tastes, it’s all we can taste. Its corniness almost ruins most drinks, in fact, and for that reason, we probably won’t be restocking that bottle. Yet I feel like every spirit has its uses, and perhaps this drink would be well suited to the corny corn corn taste of the ‘holt.

I was a bit worried that the popcorn flavor in the bourbon wouldn’t be very strong, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results of our infusion. The sip tastes like warm, slightly buttery, spicy bourbon, and smells like cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and star anise. As you swallow, you taste the popcorn, and the spices linger long enough to “season” the popcorn flavor, making it taste surprisingly like spiced popcorn.


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Vin Brûlée: Winter Spices, Red Wine, Citrus Peels

Quick Note from Joseph: Hey guys, sorry there was a little bit of miscommunication around the MxMo deadline. We’re still accepting late-comers, and it looks like a few more entries are still rolling in. Check back with us a little later in the week, when we will update the MxMo Roundup and enumerate all of the last-minute submissions. Thanks again for your patience and participation!

This recipe comes to us from an Italian friend, whose family has a tradition of celebrating the holidays every year with vin brûlée. Our friend directed us to this youtube video, which we used as the starting point for our recipe.

Vin Brûlée
1 bottle Red wine
.25 cup Sugar
1 tablespoon Winter spice mix (cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and star anise)
Peels of a lemon and an orange

Combine the wine, citrus peels, and spices in a medium-sized pot and simmer. Once integrated, light it on fire and wait for it to burn itself out. Remove the wine from the stove top and allow it to cool off, slightly. Serve while still warm.

In the video they use an entire cup of sugar, but that is far too sweet for our taste. A quarter cup will be plenty sweet, and is enough sugar to provide a nice viscosity and the desired amount of caramelization. As always, though, let your own good taste be your guide. As for the winter spice mix, we crushed cloves and star anise using a mortar and pestle, and added to that grated cinnamon and nutmeg. What a wonderful aroma!

Vin Brûlée, like a hot toddy, is a great drink to enjoy with dessert at your next family gathering, or any time during the fall and winter holidays, really. What would be more entertaining to your dinner guests than setting a pot of wine on fire? Plus, since you end up burning off most of the alcohol, the proof is low and it goes down easy.

The wine in this drink takes on a wonderful bouquet of winter spices, and tastes similar to a mulled wine, except that, unlike your standard mulled or spiced wine, because you set it on fire, the red wine takes on a deep caramel flavor. Sipping on this warm drink is certainly something to be thankful for this thanksgiving.

Salute!


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Pineapple Under the Sea: Gin, Kefir, Pineapple, and Blue Cheese

Throughout the week we’ve been using the power of science to pair together two ingredients which at first may sound unusual when combined, but are in fact delicious together. Today’s flavor combo is pineapple and blue cheese.

Pineapple Under the Sea
1.5 oz Gin
.75 oz Kefir
.75 oz Pineapple juice
.75 oz Cocchi Americano

Shake it over ice and strain it into a cocktail goblet. Garnish the drink with skewered blue cheese.

OK so admittedly the blue cheese is the garnish, but this drink simply would not be the same without it. Besides, c’mon. Drinking blue cheese is just nasty. Trust us, we tried it.

The amazing thing about this drink is that it comes as a two part experience. The garnish plays a crucial role as you discover while raising the glass to sip the drink, and your nose is filled with the aroma of blue cheese. As you sip, your mouth is greeted by mellowed pineapple, and the two sensations combine to create an intriguing taste, which is the first half of this drink.

Blue cheese and pineapple taste great together because they both contain a chemical called methyl hexanoate, which we detect using our mouth and nose, and which you would describe as “fruitiness”, “sweetness”, and “freshness”. Of course, blue cheese also has its own funk, but strangely, it fits in with the other flavors nicely. The kefir gives the drink a slightly higher-than-usual viscosity, and is slightly sour itself, which perhaps creates an artificial sensation of blue cheese in your mouth.

The second half is experienced as you set the glass down and swallow the drink. The absence of the blue cheese’s aroma allows room for your palate to appreciate the tangy yet sweet mellowness of the kefir and the pineapple. Gin always pairs nicely with pineapple. Cocchi Americano lends the drink its dryness, and its notes of gentian and cinchona give this mellow drink a slightly bitter edge. It is worth noting that white wine also contains methyl hexanoate, which is why we chose to use a white aperitif wine. Mainly you’ll be astonished by how different the drink is without the aroma of blue cheese.

Bottoms up!


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Man Go Violet Your Tastebuds: Violet, Mango, Carrot, Rum

This week we are going to present a series of drinks that combine unlikely ingredients together with surprising results. Using molecular gastronomy (food chemistry), we’ve chosen flavor pairings that complement each other well because they share common chemicals.

For our first drink in the series we packed together a triple flavor combo: mango + carrots, mango + violet, and carrots + violet.

Man Go Violet Your Tastebuds
1.5 oz Ron Zacapa rum
1 oz Mango juice
1 oz Carrot juice
.5 Violet syrup
.25 Lemon juice

Shake over ice and double strain. Garnish with an orange peel.

Carrots, mangos, and violet taste good together because they all share a bunch of chemicals called ionones, which are “floral” aromatic fragrance compounds. The combination of alpha-ionene and beta-ionene smells like “violet”, and is often used to make violet perfumes and artificial violet flavor (I’m looking at you, Monin violet syrup). Carrots are rich in various sorts of carotenes, which all contain beta-ionene, like violet. Joe knew from experience that mango juice and carrot juice are delicious together, but neither of us had ever thought to combine carrots or mangos with violet. This drink was exciting because we did just that!

Personally, I found that the violet syrup we used gave the drink an unfortunate “candy” taste, but I don’t blame the violet flavor, I blame the candy taste on the particular syrup we chose to use. One of these days I’d like to make some homemade violet syrup. We included lemon juice in this drink because it adds just enough sourness, but this drink is by nature a succulent one. The triple combo of ionene-based flavor pairings was a winner. Mangos, violet, and carrots all fit together nicely, united by the violet’s floral sweetness. Sipping this drink is like experiencing a symphony of flavors, all playing together in perfect harmony.

We’ve found a few great resources on the web that list interesting flavor pairings, so I thought it’d be worth dropping a few links here for other adventurous cocktail enthusiasts. Khymos has a great page explaining the idea behind choosing foods with a common chemical makeup, and even a blog where they try out a few. Egullet.org has a pretty sweet thread on their forums all about molecular pairings, so go check it out!


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Thai Tea Rum Fizz

Last week Joe and I were trying to use up the Thai tea syrup that we made for Thai week. I really wanted to try rum and Thai tea syrup together, so I suggested that we make a drink out of the two. We waited until later in the session to explore this idea, and, since we hadn’t made one yet, why not a fizz?

Thai Tea Rum Fizz
2 oz Doorly’s rum
1 oz Thai tea syrup
.75 oz Acid phosphate
1 oz Heavy cream
Dash of allspice dram
White of 1 Egg
Top with soda water and flamed angostura

Combine all but the toppers and dry shake for about a minute. Add ice and shake again to chill. Strain into a tall glass and top with soda water. Add 4 drops of angostura and use a toothpick to swirl it into the foam. Flame a bit more angostura over the top.

Traditionally, a fizz contains gin, lemon juice, sugar, and carbonated water. A Ramos fizz has all of that plus egg white, cream, and orange flower water. We decided to make ours more like the Ramos fizz, with some twists. I wanted the flavor profile to be focused on the rum and thai tea, so I chose to use acid phosphate as the souring agent, which is sour yet neutral. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any orange flower water, but we added some allspice dram to spice it up a bit, which paired well with the rum.

The fizz is an interesting form of cocktail. I guess I would describe this drink as kind of like an alcoholic milkshake. At first I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted, being rich and thick, but by the end of the glass I was sorry to see it finished. The aroma of charred bitters and the tiny bite from the allspice complement the rum rather well. Working with cream turned out to be a double-edged sword because, although it adds body to the drink and helps to draw out the sweetness in the tea flavor from the syrup, too much of it clobbers some of the tea’s complexity. For that reason, we used half as much cream as you usually would for a Ramos fizz.

Enjoy!


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Rumba, Seattle

A while ago I asked Joe a question I’m sure all booze lovers ask themselves at least once: if you were stranded on a desert island and could only drink one spirit for the rest of your life, which would it be? After a while of careful consideration, Joe responded “rum”. I think we may have found that desert island’s bar.

Rumba, a rum bar, in Seattle is an excellent bar, focused on serving choice rum-oriented cocktails. Located on Capital Hill, in downtown Seattle, Rumba offers great tiki drinks, punches, daiquiris, and authentic island-style drinks, as well as an impressive selection of rums. Not only do they mix a mean drink, but they also offer some tasty, cuban-inspired food.

The first thing you notice at Rumba is their vast rum selection, which fills most of their backbar. In fact, Joe and I weren’t even sure if they had other spirits in the bar, but, of course, they did. Rum is certainly at the heart of Rumba, but they are a cocktail bar, after all. But back to the rum. It’s why you go there. Their menu of rum is even organized geographically, so you can try rums from different parts of the globe, if you so desire. I ordered a taste of Angostura 1824, which was great; spicier than their 1919 rum, with some fruity notes.

Their array of daiquiris was delightful, and I think Joe ordered the No. 3 variation for his first round. As for myself, I ordered the Queen’s Park Swizzile: Lemonhart 151, bitters, lime, mint, and sugar. For my second round I went tiki, and ordered a Port Antonio: rum, coffee liqueur, falernum, and lime. The drinks were all top-notch, skillfully prepared by the bartender, who was a great conversationist and very attentive. I’ve been back a few times since Joe and I first went, and they’ve consistently impressed me with their drinks, food, and service. It has quickly become one of my favorite bars.

As the evening came to an end, we needed some snacks to help absorb some of that alcohol, so Joe and I split an order of empanadas. I’ve also had their cuban-style rice and beans, and chicken wings, which are marinated in hibiscus and served with a side of fried yucca chips. The food at Rubma is as legit as their drinks, so make sure to order a bite to eat while you’re there.

If you’re a fan of rum and you’re in Seattle, you’d be silly if you didn’t make your way to Rumba. Their enormous rum selection, exciting and exotic drinks menu, and delicious food make this place one of the best bars on Capital Hill, and definitely one of my favorite bars in Seattle.


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Turkish Bath: Apricot Bourbon, Cumin, Lemon, Rosewater

There’s something almost magical about a hot toddy that can transform a rainy, miserable day into a warm, cozy one. Last Saturday was such an occasion, and this was the perfect remedy, and an excellent drink.

Turkish Bath
1.5 oz Apricot-infused bourbon
.5 oz Lemon juice
.5 oz Cumin syrup
1 oz Near-boiling water
2 Drops of rosewater

Combine apricot bourbon, cumin syrup, and lemon juice in a tea cup. Top with hot water and float the rose water on top. Garnish with a bourbon-soaked apricot.

I was skeptical when Joe told me he wanted to make a drink using cumin syrup. When he told me about his apricot bourbon infusion, this wasn’t what I had in mind. We had thought that Apricot and Cumin was a classic Turkish pairing, but it turns out it’s actually Moroccan. That is unfortunate, but we are not going to change the name, because the name “Turkish Bath” suits the idea of the toddy so well. The inspiration for this drink came from taking a page out of Drink Inc‘s book, looking to cuisine to find a flavor pairing that is not obvious, at least not to us Americans. We were very pleased with the results.

Apricot Bourbon Infusion
1 cup Bourbon (Evan Williams)
1 cup dried apricots
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar

Shake it up and let it infuse for 1 week.

The apricot bourbon was absolutely delicious on its own. Using dried apricots worked brilliantly, and – best of all – you can reuse the bourbon-soaked apricots as garnishes. As usual, a 1:1 ratio of fruit to spirit and roughly a tablespoon of sweetener results in deliciousness.

Cumin Syrup
1 Tsp powdered cumin (Freshly ground seeds would be better)
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar

Simmer and stir until fully integrated.

The most surprising element of the drink was the cumin syrup, and its interaction with the apricot flavor. On its own, it’s both sweet and savory. It isn’t particularly spicy, but it does have a certian warmth. As you sip the drink, you’re greeted by the cumin’s glow, wich compliments the nature of a hot toddy splendidly. The drink is at once sweet, spicy, and soothing. Fruity, but also savory. Perfectly balanced, and very relaxing.

Also noteworthy is the affect that the rosewater has on the drink. Make sure to drop it on top, right after pouring hot water over the other ingredients. Its role is aromatic, and its presence adds a floral complexity that works well with the citrus from the lemon juice, and also with the sweet fruity taste of apricots.

If you enjoyed this drink, I also recommend checking out this apple cider hot toddy from a while back. Fresh apple cider, rye, cinnamon, and cloves together make for another delicious fall toddy. Also, a shout out to The Liquid Culture Project’s Hot Scotch Toddy, which is awesome.

Bottoms up!


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Avocado, chili-infused tequila, mezcal

Nestled amongst the limes, lemons, and oranges of Joe’s fruit bowl was an avocado. I think I heard him say something like “I’m tired of ‘vacation cocktails’, but I really want to make a blended drink”. Then I saw him reach for the avocado, and watched as he scooped out about 1/4 of it into the blender, and so we started constructing this little number.

That night I had brought over an infusion made with tequila and cayenne peppers. I really enjoyed the bird’s eye soju infusion we had made for Thai week, but I knew that tequila would have been a better match. Joe recommended using a reposado tequila, which was a great idea. Since I had decided to work with tequila, I thought I’d choose a different pepper, and so I selected several mild-looking cayenne peppers and submerged them in tequila for a few days. I also threw in a tablespoon of agave nectar, as I’ve found that adding a small amount of sweetener can really help an infusion pop, and agave and tequila harmonize perfectly together.

Cayenne Peppers and Tequila Reposado
1 cup tequila reposado
3 cayenne peppers, cut in half
1 tablespoon agave nectar

Let infusion for 2 – 3 days, tasting regularly. Remove peppers as soon as you taste the burn. Avoid over-infusion.

I was careful to taste the concoction regularly as I was afraid it would become too spicy. After two and half days or so, I grew impatient, surprised by how mild the infusion was, and decided to add another pepper. It must have been a particularly spicy one, however, as the next time I tasted it I knew the infusion had to stop immediately. Maybe it had even gone on for too long, so let this be a lesson for you: chilis are unpredictable. Some are hot. Some aren’t. I don’t know how to tell them apart, and if you have tips, please share them with us by dropping a comment.

We had been telling ourselves all night that’d we get around to using it, but so far we had been struggling to find a drink for my spicy tequila. Naturally, avocado and tequila go well together, and so finally its time had come. We decided to use it as a modifier, to add some spicy kick to a drink, since my infusion had come out so hot. I can’t quite remember where the idea to use both tequila and mezcal came from, but I want to say it was because we wanted to make some sort of Mexican tiki drink. Most tiki drinks use two rums, so why not two “tequilas”? The rest of the drink kind of built itself, as I said before, agave nectar and tequila are partners in lime.

As we tasted the nearly finished drink, we realized it needed a pinch of salt. Joe was going to use regular kosher salt, but I jokingly urged him to use some fancy artisan salt. “We’ve got a blended avocado, some cayenne pepper-infused tequila, mezcal, fresh lime juice, agave nectar… Keep it craft, Joe. Keep it craft.” And so we did.

Keep it Craft
1.5 oz Mezcal
.5 oz Cayenne-infused Tequila
.5 oz Lime Juice
.75 oz Agave Nectar
1/4 of a small avocado
pinch of fancy salt

Blend thoroughly over ice and pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

The avocado gave the drink a nice, rich texture, similar to a blended piña collada, only slightly creamier. The spice from the chili-infused tequila and the smoke from the mezcal pierce through the mellow avocado, reinforced by the agave nectar. The pinch of salt helps to tone down the avocado a little bit, so be sure to include it, if you make your own. Indeed, it was a great blended drink without being a rum/tiki/vacation drink, and I can’t wait to make another.


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La Vida Buena: A Mezcal Negroni

A few weeks ago I was at the Rob Roy, in Seattle, celebrating a friend’s birthday. The men’s room at Rob Roy is covered in graffitti, like pretty much any men’s room at any bar, only the scribblings at Rob Roy aren’t just of random profanity. They’re cocktail recepies. Yes dear readers, it just so happens that today’s drink came to me in a public bathroom. But, hey, sometimes inspiration comes from unexpected places.

La Vida Beuna
1.5 oz Mezcal
.75 oz Sweet Vermouth
.25 oz Campari

Pour all components into a mixing glass over ice and stir. Strain drink into a cocktail glass over a nice, fresh ice chunk. Garnish with a blood orange peel.

It has become popular recently to templatize the negroni. The classic negroni is an equal parts drink made of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Although this ratio tastes fine, it isn’t my favorite. I find that the texture of an equal parts negroni is overwhelmingly syrupy because of the amount of Campai used. Also, I find that in this ratio the Campari’s bitterness overpowers the gin and vermouth. These days it seems to be more popular to use a 3:2:1 template, which does a great job of addressing these two critiques. In this version we used 6:3:1 because the original recipe I saw in the bathroom at Rob Roy called for Aperol, not Campari. Some handy advice: you can substitute Campari for Aperol and get away with it as long as you use half as much Campari.

La Vida Buena is a mezcal version of the old, classic drink. Personally, I prefer the smoky taste of mezcal in a negroni over gin, as I enjoy the additional layer of complexity it brings to the glass. I also simply love mezcal, and pretty much anything that has mezcal in it. The aroma from the blood orange peel lends the sip a subtle tartness that plays well with vermouth, and foreshadows the bitters from the Campari, which linger after the swallow.

Cheers!


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Tom Kha Soju

It’s Thai week here at Measure & Stir, a week of Thai-inspired drinks made using the limited pallet of beer, wine, and soju; lower-proof spirits that don’t require a liquor license to pour – perfect drinks for any Thai restaurant to serve!

Today I present a drink that Joe and I both agree was one of the best drinks we came up with this week. When we thought “Thai”, we thought “tom kha“, and stealing an idea from Steve Livigni, of Drink inc, we set out to make a drink inspired by the soup. We imagined lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves infused in soju.

We made this drink last Saturday, during our first Thai drinks mixing session. I think it was probably the best drink we made that day. The idea just came together so well. The aroma of galangal, the bright zest from the lemongrass, and the citrus notes from the kaffir leaves are represented brilliantly in soju infusion. Add some coconut juice and it’s flavor Thaime.

Live and Let Thai, version 1
2 oz Lemongrass/Galangal/Kaffir Lime Leaf-Infused Soju
1 oz Coconut Milk
.75 oz Fresh Lime Juice
.5 oz Demerara Syrup

Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a kaffir lime leaf.

This drink was awesome… But when we decided to hold another Thai mixing session on Wednesday, our creative juices began to flow and we had a lot of ideas. So we iterated…

Live and Let Thai, version 2
2 oz Lemongrass/Galangal/Kaffir Lime Leaf-Infused Soju
1 oz Coconut Milk
.5 oz Fresh Lime Juice
.5 oz Demerara Syrup
1 tsp Bird’s-eye chili-infused soju
1 dash Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce)

Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a kaffir lime leaf and a sprig of lemongrass.

Now, you may be thinking “fish sauce?”. And as you mix this drink, you may think to yourself “this stuff smells awful, how can this possibly taste good in a drink?”. Trust us. It does. This is why we decided to make this drink again. The fish sauce amps up all of the flavors, and lends a certain umami to the drink, especially accentuating the richness of the coconut flavor. The flavors in the first version are too mild, and don’t really shine. The improvements we made for the second iteration are keepers, and vastly improved this drink. You should make this version of the drink if you choose to mix one for yourself.

Dry shaking this drink didn’t seem to affect how the coconut juice frothed in the end. Also, as we discovered the night we made the Singha Highballs, adding a teaspoon of bird’s-eye chili-infused soju doesn’t affect the flavor of a drink in a significant way, but does add just enough heat to simulate the sensation of drinking a stiffer spirit, something that’s usually missing in a cocktail with a base spirit like soju.

Usually this would be the last post this week, but since Joe and I went a little crazy with Thai week, we’ve decided to keep on posting all the way through the weekend. Stay tuned for another drink tomorrow, followed by our final Thai drink menu and summary on Sunday.