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.

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Maliciously Do The Superfluous

This is a drink that has been in the back of my mind for a while, and this past weekend I finally summoned the motivation to mix it up. I think it was a roaring success, the color maybe not withstanding. One of my favorite snacks is a type of Indian street food called bhel puri, which is made from puffed rice, crunchy chickpea flour noodles, fried wheat crackers, and seasoned with onions, fresh herbs, and a few kinds of chutney. Sometimes I make this dish at home, and when I do, I make a mint chutney which is a beautiful vibrant green, and a tamarind chutney, which comes out in a, well, let’s say a delicious shade of brown.

Below is a picture of a bhel puri that I stole from the internet.

Bhel Puri

When I prepare tamarind chutney at home, I am always struck by how delicious it is, and how very much I want it to be a cocktail. I have visited a few Indian restaurants lately around the Washington DC area, some of which even use Indian ingredients in their cocktail menus, but I have not been able to find a drink that really integrates the brilliance of Indian spices with the best of modern mixology. I believe the flavor in this drink is outstanding.

Tamarind Chutney (via Serious Eats)
2 cups water
2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
1 cup jaggery sugar
1/2 teaspoon black salt or Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
Reduce until thick and strain.

This chutney is so flavorful that you may want to eat it with a spoon. Certainly you could mix it with seltzer water to make a refreshing tamarind soda. I carefully added the sugar to the mixture a little bit at a time, because I wanted to find the right balance of sweetness and tartness. Tamarind is aggressively sour, and we want to retain some of that in the final product.

Maliciously Do The Superfluous
1 oz Tamarind Chutney
1 oz Rye (Rittenhouse)
.5 oz Demerara Rum (El Dorado 12)
1 barspoon aged balsamic vinegar
Shake, strain, garnish with a cilantro sprig.

The balsamic vinegar doesn’t “go” from a cultural perspective, but it was exactly the right end note to cut through the richness of the tamarind and the brown spirits. You can get your cilantro to “float” above the waterline of the glass if you leave a long enough stem on it to prop it up. This works because the drink has a muddy color that hides the stem.

If I were trying to max out the presentation in a bar or restaurant, I would add a bit of red food coloring, because many of the chutneys you see have a reddish purple color that I think would look a lot better in the glass. The other solution is to serve it on the rocks in some kind of ceramic tiki mug, or a tumbler made out of hammered copper, something like that.


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Come Quat About It: Black Sesame, Kumquat, and Aquavit

I’ve been feeling creative lately, but sometimes the pressure of doing a full photoshoot stops me from posting a perfectly nice drink. To address this I am starting a new series of “Sunday Night Sessions” wherein I will trade some production quality for actually posting a drink I find interesting.


Phone cameras are getting pretty good these days, so I feel like I can put out a passable product, but the point here is to not stress about it too much. This drink explores two different ideas that have been spinning around in my mind lately.

Oil Syrup

First, I have been increasingly fixated on finding ways to integrate fat into drinks. Cocktails are mostly lean. Many aromatic drinks have an expression of citrus oil as a garnish, such as variants on the martini and the manhattan, but for some reason, they stop there.

Some old comfort food classics like the White Russian and the Grasshopper incorporate milk or cream, and hot buttered rum tries to integrate butter into a hot toddy. More recently, (well, 2009) I saw this recipe for cold buttered rum floating around the internet. Someone figured out that you could create a delicious and stable butter syrup using ticaloid gum, and used it to make a cold version of the classic. Is a butter emulsion reconstructed milk? 

Ticaloid gum is proprietary, and can be substituted by a 9:1 mixture of xanthan gum to gum arabic. It works really well in the butter, because it gives a produces a thick, creamy mouthfeel, but when I tried it with other oils I did not like it. One of my guests compared a szechuan chili oil emulsion with ticaloid gum to a mango smoothie, but it wasn’t the texture of a fresh blended mango, it was the texture of a bottled pasteurized supermarket mango smoothie. I did not find this to be appetizing. The texture distracted from the flavor, to the point of ruin.

Now I make my oil syrups with the scarcest amount of xanthan gum possible to achieve a stable emulsion. They still come out a little milky; the more fat you use, the creamier the syrup becomes.


Chemesthesis is defined as the chemical sensibility of the skin and mucous membranes. Chemesthetic sensations arise when chemical compounds activate receptors associated with other senses that mediate pain, touch, and thermal perception. These chemical-induced reactions do not fit into the traditional sense categories of taste and smell. Examples of chemesthetic sensations include the burn-like irritation from capsaicin and related compounds in foods like chili peppers; the coolness of menthol in mouthwashes and topical analgesic creams; the stinging or tingling of carbonated beverages in the nose and mouth; the tear-induction of cut onions; and the pungent, cough-inducing sensation in the back of the throat elicited by the oleocanthal in high-quality extra virgin olive oil.[2] Some of these sensations may be referred to as spiciness, pungency, or piquancy.

I have been especially fascinated with chemesthetic sensations in drinks, and I have found that fats are ideal carriers for many of these compounds. Indeed, kumquat is rich in an aromatic compound called limonene, which is a skin irritant and which can produce a numbing sensation. It is found in the peels of most citrus fruits, but kumquat has a high concentration of it, and is unusual in that most people eat the skin of the kumquat whole, whereas other citrus has too much bitter pith.

If you’ve ever bitten into a citrus peel and felt that numbing sensation, then you know what I’m aiming for. It’s a similar, and equally enjoyable numbness to that of a szechuan peppercorn.


I found the idea for this drink in the Alinea cookbook, which I picked up when I was fortunate enough to visit them last year. In the book, he describes a dish in which one component is a candied kumquat filled with sesame oil and aquavit.


Come Quat About It
1.5 oz Aquavit, preferably caraway-forward
3-4 raw kumquats
3-4 poached kumquats, sous vide at 85C for 20 minutes
.75 oz black sesame orgeat
Muddle the kumquats until they are fully smashed, yielding all of their juice. Be sure to macerate the peels to get out as much oil as possible. Shake over ice and then double strain through a fine mesh strainer. This is laborious but worth it.

Garnish with black sesame seeds.

If you are serving this to a group, you might want to muddle and strain the drink in advance, and then shake it to order. Toasting the sesame seeds will help to increase their aroma.

Black Sesame “Orgeat”
100g water
100g sugar
45g toasted black sesame oil
.1 gram xanthan gum
Make a slurry of 10:1 granulated sugar:xanthan gum, and blend it together with a fork. In a microwave or a small pot, combine 100g water with 99g sugar until all the sugar is integrated and the syrup is clear. Add the oil and 1.1 grams of the xanthan slurry and integrate it using a hand-blender.


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Valentines Day Cocktail: Love’s Alchemy

I am back from my winter hiatus to post some Valentine’s miscellany. My friend Johan and I like to make multi-course dessert and cocktail menus for Valentine’s day. It’s bromantic. This year we have a series of four, and I swear I will post them all eventually. This is the second in the series, as the first needs a reshoot.


As you can see, this drink required equipment. The above is a siphon pot, an esoteric geeky device for brewing coffee. The bunsen burner heats the water in the lower chamber, which rises into the upper chamber, where it steeps with various reagents. The brewer then turns off the flame, and the water falls back into the lower chamber through a filter, leaving beautiful tea or coffee behind.

We caught it on film! Mild seizure warning. We ran into some technical issues with the timing of the flash, leaving us with a hideous flicker that feels like shrieking daemonic madness echoing from the tenebrous depths of the ultimate abyss. Steady your gaze and steel your will, dear reader, lest your mind should be consumed by an eldritch abomination.

In this case, I used the siphon pot to make tea out of blue pea flower and sweet osmanthus. The pea flower was mostly for color, the osmanthus for flavor. Pea flower, as you probably know, extracts into a brilliant indigo, and then, in the presence of acid, turns purple.

The trick with using pea flower in a cocktail is to make the imbiber of the dramatic transformation. If you just shake it up with your other ingredients, you get purple. What you want is blue, a theatrical transformation, and then purple. The siphon pot solves this problem handily, as it allows us to brew the hot toddy table-side, and in a way that draws attention to this beautiful chemical reaction.

love in a blooming meadow

This drink was designed to pair with a unique dessert designed by Johan, which he calls “Love in a Blooming Meadow”. We wanted to realize a fantasy motif in this dish, and I thought it would be fun to expand on that theme with my drink. The dish has liquorice yoghurt, matcha, cardamom cake, rose-scented meringue, and pistachio dacquoise.

To complement this, I chose hendrick’s gin and floral tea, and sweetened it with wildflower honey. In terms of ingredients this drink is relatively simple, but when it comes to warm drinks I often find simple is best. The delight of this drink is the rich color, the beautiful presentation, and the surprising juiciness of the flavor, despite a relatively small amount of juice.


Love’s Alchemy
600 ml hot water
100 ml lemon juice
4g blue peaflower tea
4g sweet osmanthus tea
Per Guest:
1 oz Hendrick’s gin
.75 oz wildflower honey syrup
2 o.z Hot tea, as above

Brew the peaflower tea in the siphon part, starting with the peaflower alone. Once the blue color of pea flowers is fully extracted, add the osmanthus and lemon juice, stir, and steep for one minute. Kill the flame and allow the tea to settle in the bottom chamber of the siphon pot. In a teacup, measure out gin and honey syrup*. Pour the hot tea into the cup.

*To make honey syrup, choose a high quality wildflower honey, and mix equal parts of honey and water in a pot over low heat, until just combined.

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Glam Nog: The Hot New Holiday Trend

This will, as you no doubt intuit, be my final post of the year. I will confess that the subtitle “The Hot New Holiday Trend” is more aspirational than fact, but you, gentle reader, can easily actualize it.

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Glam Nog is not a specific recipe, it’s more like a feeling you get, deep inside your heart. It’s the friends you made along the way. It’s edible glitter and gold sprinkled all over the top of your egg nog. You can make glam nog with two ingredients: your favorite egg nog from the grocery store, and edible gold.A fancy ribbon will also go a long way, but let’s be real, you can also go much, much bigger.

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Below I will give my recipe for luxurious, silky, dare I say it, glamorous egg nog. Think of it as my Christmas present to you, and as your Christmas present to yourself.

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Regarding the composition of egg nog, I will first note that many people are put off by the idea of drinking raw egg yolks, drowned in liquor or not. To me, the ideal egg nog needs to be accessible, so I chose to use créme anglaise as the base of my nog. Long-time readers may remember a previous foray of mine into the use of this ingredient. To make the créme anglaise, I followed this recipe from Chefsteps, but in lieu of the whisk/double boiler conventional method, I cooked mine sous vide at 82c for 15 minutes.

This will, of course, scramble the eggs a bit, but you can easily repair this damage by giving your custard a spin in a high speed blender. I’m not sure if this is technically correct, but it’s easy and delicious, and yields a lovely pourable custard. For mine, I also made a mélange of winter spices and cooked them into the custard. Mine was something like:

3g nutmeg
3g allspice
3g mace
2g cardamon
2g cinnamon
5g vanilla paste

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I did have a small issue from my previous work with this ingredient. The custard is too heavy, and it can’t hold any air. Shake it, blend it, whisk it — it just won’t aerate. It sinks instantly. In pursuit of aeration, I sampled several high quality local Seattle nogs, and I found that a higher milk:yolk content is one way to make the drink more frothable. Too much yolk weighs the mixture down, but more milk results in a lighter, eminently more aeratable nog.

I wanted to build on the egg flavor more, and I felt like the milkier nogs were a tease. To deliver a double whammy of egg in my nog, I had the idea to try integrating a meringue into the custard. I made an italian meringue by bringing 150 grams of sugar and 57 grams of water up to 235 C, and then pouring it into a stand mixer full of stiff peaks egg whites. The hot sugar cooks the whites and stiffens them up into a velvety, marshmallowy foam. To drive home the holiday flavor, I used a blend of white and muscovado sugar in my meringue.

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For the spirits I used a 50/50 blend of vanilla bean-infused bourbon and demerara rum. I find that the presence of fatty liquids such as milk, cream, or custard makes booze taste boozier. In order to keep my nog smooth and drinkable, I dropped the proportion of alcohol down to a single ounce. An ounce of whole milk rounded out the drink, giving it a little bit of levity.

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Glam Nog: The Hot New Holiday Trend
2 oz Muscovado Italian Meringue
1 oz Winter Spice Creme Anglaise
1 oz Whole Milk
.5 oz Vanillla-infused Bourbon
.5 oz Demerara Rum
Shake it Briefly, then double strain into a glass decorated with ribbons and Christmas ornaments. Top it with edible glitter and gold.

The more you glam this up, the more you will enjoy it. Use your imagination and follow your heart.

See you in 2018!

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Thanksgiving Cocktail: The Day After Thanksgiving: Bourbon, Cranberry, Mushroom, Savory Herbs Air, Crispy Turkey Skin

Thanksgiving is over, but I wanted to get this one out before the end of the year. It is inspired by the sandwich you make the day after Thanksgiving. You remember that, right? It was like a week ago.


I’ve been attempting a lot of sweet and savory drinks this year. I like the challenge. It took a while, but I finally had one succeed. As always, some notes on ingredients and method. The ingredients in this drink proceeded straightforwardly from the concept. I looked into my mental toolkit and found the ingredients suited the theme.

Wild Turkey Rye. Rye whiskey here fills in for the bread in the sandwich. Nothing else will do, although a splash of aquavit might not have been a miss. It pretty obviously has to be Wild Turkey, for the name.

Cranberry juice. Cranberry juice varies wildly in its sweetness. Freshly juiced cranberries are earthy, sweet, tart, and bitter. On their own they can sometimes make a fine replacement for lemon juice in a cocktail, but it is necessary to taste them and calibrate your level of simple syrup appropriately. In one iteration of this drink, I made the mistake of mixing blindly, and I over-sweetened the drink to catastrophic effect.

Mushroom reduction. Mushroom in cocktails has been a white whale of mine for some time. I cannot resist the lure of the idea: umami, earthy, funky. To make this mushroom reduction, I soaked about 50g (total) of dried porcini, morel, and chanterelle mushrooms in about a liter of water. Once the mushrooms were reconstituted, I reduced the liquid down to about 20%. Raw mushroom broth tastes like the pantry, you must heat it.

Savory Herbs Air. Perhaps I repeat myself, sometimes, and with this one I feel a bit repetitive. First, I make a syrup from rosemary, sage, and thyme. To make the syrup, I first blanch the herbs, then blend them in a high speed blender with equal parts of sugar and water, then strain through a fine mesh strainer. The resulting syrup is a lovely forest green. To 200 ml of syrup I add several teaspoons of sucrose esters and beat with a whisk in a wide mouth bowl until a light, “soapy” foam forms.

Crispy Turkey Skin. For the turkey skin, I salted the skin from a turkey leg and placed it between two oven trays lined with silpats, weighed it down with some iron plates, and baked it at a low heat for an hour. When it came out of the oven, I trimmed it into a square. Eating the skin with the drink really recalls the flavors and aromas of the Thanksgiving meal.


The Day After Thanksgiving Sandwich
1.5 oz Wild Turkey Rye
.75 oz fresh cranberry
.5 simple
.25 mushroom stock
Pinch msg
Top with Savory Herbs Air

The dried mushroom on the skin was mostly for the photo. It looks dramatic but to be honest it does not smell great, and it is, of course, inedible. My favorite garnishes are those which transform the flavor of the drink they accompany, as with the olive in a martini. The turkey skin accomplishes that nicely. Maybe I should have done a dollop of mashed potatoes? Next year we’ll see if I can make an appetizing cocktail with turkey gravy.


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

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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Clarified Tomato with Shochu, Basil, Chocolate, Peppermint

Johan got a Spinzall from Booker and Dax, and we decided to revisit that old chestnut, the Bloody Mary. I’ve made bloody Maries in the past using a variety of tomatoes and flavor profiles, but it’s been quite a while. Partly that’s because, as I discovered, no one gets excited about savory cocktails. I’m doing this out of narcissism and my need for personal validation, so I mostly respond to my incentives in the market for your attention.



What makes a bloody Mary? I use this term as a catch-all for any savory drink with a tomato juice base. Is this fair? After all, there are many ways to use the tomato as a cocktail ingredient. Is every tomato sauce marinara? Indeed, is ketchup a form of marinara? is bolognese? What about tomato jam, tomato confit, salsa roja?

Obviously, our cocktail lexicon is lacking. The nomenclature is either foolishly over-specific or else uselessly broad. I think, if we are stuck with the language we have, this is a tomato sling.


Tomato juice does not taste very good, even when you use ripe, tail-end-of-autumn heirloom tomatoes. It is sweet, but not sweet enough, earthy, yes, but also too viscous. It has an umami note that makes it feel rich, but at the cost of being refreshing. You take a swig of tomato juice and “I want more of that” is precisely what you don’t think. “Ah, that quenched my thirst”, said no one, ever.

Among people who like tomato juice cocktails, they usually order them for breakfast, they mostly just want to snack on the pickles, and they probably don’t drink a lot of cocktails otherwise.

A big part of the problem with tomato juice is the texture. It’s fatiguing and satiating, dulling the appetite. A good mixed drink should excite the palate, preparing the imbiber for a meal. To fix this problem, we must alter the nature of the tomato juice itself. Pectinase is the answer.



There are many ways to clarify tomato juice. You could make a consommé. You could use agar agar and a cheesecloth. You could strain the juice through a coffee filter. You could, if you’re a little smarter, add pectinase and then strain the juice through a coffee filter.

If you have a spinzall, you could add pectinase, kieselsol, and chitosan, and run the juice through a centrifuge. In the past I have usually defaulted to the coffee filter method. It takes some planning, and it’s inappropriate for large volumes, but it works when you’re just making overengineered drinks for your frou frou blog.

My take is that anything you can do with a spinzall, you can make with other methods and a little more patience. The main advantage of the centrifuge is that it can process large volumes of liquid in relatively little time. If you’re clarifying juice for a dinner party, it might be worth it, but in the majority of cases, you will get comparable results with the coffee filter.


Now, let’s talk about the drink composition. Clarified juice becomes lighter in flavor as well as in color, but it retains its essential qualities. To complement the lighter flavor of the juice, I chose to use shochu instead of vodka for this drink. Shochu, despite its superficial similarities to vodka, has a lot of flavor. It tends to retain the qualities of the grain from which it was distilled.

Tomato juice has a pleasant acidity all on its own, so no further acid was needed. My goal for this drink was to cultivate a subtle flavor, best regarded slowly. A dash of simple syrup, a pinch of MSG, and a dash of chocolate bitters round out the flavor of the liquid, which I stirred.

Chocolate and tomato may seem like an unusual combo, but if you have ever enjoyed Chili or Molé, you are acquainted with the combination. A hint of sugar helps to bridge the savory tomato and the sweet chocolate. A pinch of MSG reinforces the savory qualities of the tomato.


The spinzall came with a manual, and in that manual was a recipe for herb-infused oil. I have been quite taken, lately, with the addition of aromatic oils to stirred drinks. A small oilslick floating on top of the drink can add dimensions of flavor and aroma that remain distinct from the aqueous liquid underneath. The ability to keep two liquids separate in the same cup opens a lot of possibilities for contrast and interplay.

It’s not a big stretch, considering that we often express citrus peels on top of our drinks already, to go from that to a more generous pour of an oil which is deliberately flavored. Some readers may have a negative reaction to the idea of drinking an oil, but in small quantities it is delicious, I assure you. It is much like drizzling a flavorful oil on top of a soup.

For my aromatic oil, I put mint leaves and basil leaves into a blender with sunflower oil, and then used the spinzall to separate the oil from the plant matter. The resulting oil was flavorful, but it took on too much of the chlorophyll “plant stem” flavor, and the aroma of the mint was lost. I brought it back by adding a few drops of peppermint essential oil, but it was kind of a kludge.

I think I would have preferred to make this oil using sous vide, and without macerating the green herbs.


Clarified Tomato with Shochu, Basil, Chocolate, Peppermint
1.5 oz shochu
1.5 oz clarified purple cherokee tomato juice
.25 oz simple syrup
1 dash Bitter Truth Theo Chocolate bitters
1 pinch of msg
stir, and garnish with peppermint and basil infused oil, and a mint leaf.

Basil and tomato, chocolate and tomato, chocolate and peppermint. These are the flavor affinities I was trying to exploit. Basil and mint are perhaps not the best compliments to each other, but they did layer nicely in this drink. I think the pepper mint was a bit tacked on, and if I could have, I would have emphasized the basil more, the peppermint less.

Somewhere in here, there is also a chocolate and peppermint oil drink, trying to escape.


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La Diabla: Tequila, Black Currant Cocktail

I wrote about this style of drink in my Mixology Crash Course, in which I discuss the use of whole fresh fruits. Indeed, there are bloggers who have built their entire oeuvre on this one drink formula. And why not? Drinks in this format are delicious, unchallenging, and appealing to almost everyone. The key is to use fresh, high quality seasonal produce.

Your local Safeway/Albertsons/Vons sells garbage-tier produce that’s been designed and bred for appearance and durability at the expense of flavor. If I may step on a soap box for a second, it’s garbage-in, garbage-out, and the berries, stone fruits, etc., at most supermarkets are bland and awful. Farmer’s markets and grocers that stock foods from local farms are integral to the success of fruit-based drinks.

The greatest chef in the world will struggle to make a good sauce, if constrained to mediocre industrial produce. A perfectly ripe peach, picked at the height of its season, needs no adornment to be a match for the finest meal from a 3-starred Michelin restaurant.


La Diabla
2 oz reposado Tequila
A handful of black currants
.5 oz simple syrup
.5 oz fresh lime juice
1 dash of Absinthe
Muddle the currants, shake it all over ice, and then pour over crushed ice into a large glass. Garnish with red or black currants.

The astute observer will recognize this as a twist on the classic El Diablo, though I have rendered it according to my own taste. I have omitted the ginger beer, and replaced it with a dash of absinthe, to serve as the herbal element. Anise and fennel are a natural complement to black currant, and this substitution exploits the combination.

Ginger beer is a bully that crowds out everything else in the glass, which is why it is ideally suited to the Moscow Mule, and why its presence in the original El Diablo is suboptimal.

Instead of creme de cassis, I used fresh black currants, which yield both lovely pink color and a sweet earthy flavor that pairs beautifully with vegetal, smokey tequila. I found that I had to make several.


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Black Yukon Suckerpunch

With the long-awaited return of Twin Peaks imminent, I decided to hop on that sweet pop culture traffic. I never actually watched the original show, but I did some homework, and I learned that David Lynch liked to be extremely detailed in his world-building. Even though no recipe for the drink was ever given, the mise en scène suggests that the drink might contain black coffee, bourbon, blue curaçao, and sparkling mineral water, and that a blender may be involved.

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Of course, detailed world-building only goes so far. In the end, it’s a TV show, and they probably weren’t afraid to bend the rules a bit to get the look that they wanted in the drink. You hear the blender in the scene, so it seems likely that the bartender blended egg whites and blue curaçao into an blue foam, and then spooned it on top of an irish coffee consisting of jack, simple syrup, and black coffee. Possibly it was topped with Perrier.

The blogger that taught me all this thought the Perrier went in the blender, and at first brush, that does not make much sense. A blender is going to shake all the gas out of the Perrier, but it will add a slight bit of acid from the carbonation. The formula for an egg white foam is egg white, sugar, water, and acid, usually lemon juice. This probably worked for him, but how does that help me?

Another blogger also took a stab at the drink recently, but I’m more inclined to call his a Brown Yukon Sucker Punch, because of the light color. The problem is that he used a crafty third wave coffee, and these modern light roasts, as much as I like to drink them, brew to a chocolatey light brown. In 1991, the coffee was roasted practically to ashes, and that’s the only way to get the color right without dye.

Personally, I’ll stick to my Ethiopian Kochere. If you’re squeamish about food coloring, 1. Use food grade activated charcoal powder and 2. Get over it, you ingest commercial food dyes all the time, probably without realizing it, unless you are Amish.

I also don’t care for the whipped cream meringue. It’s too white and too solid. Who wants to drink that creamy gloopy monstrosity?

Anyway, if you want the classic, stick with Jamesoart. His technique is accessible and probably the truest to the show. My version uses a modernist technique à la Jamie Boudreau. This is how to make the Black Yukon Suckerpunch in the 21st century.

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21st Century Black Yukon Suckerpunch
1.5 oz Bourbon
.5 oz Coffee liqueur
1 oz brewed black coffee
As much black food color as it takes (like 3 drops)
Blue Cocktail Foam
4 egg whites
6 oz blue curaçao
3 oz lemon juice
2 oz water
Combine all foam ingredients in an iSi whipping siphon and charge with two N02 cartridges.
Stir the bourbon, liqueur, and coffee over ice, and pour into a highball. Top with the blue cocktail foam.

Getting the texture of a cocktail foam just right is always a challenge. The ratio of sugar, water, lemon juice, and egg white has to be just right to get a foam that is stable and springy. To be honest, it takes a little luck, and I have found some variability in the stability of this foam recipe. If your foam is falling apart, try replacing some or all of the water with simple syrup.