Measure & Stir

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Mai Tai Soft Serve Ice Cream

Hey guys, I hope you’ve been staying cool this summer. Me? I’ve been keeping it -196C with some homemade ice creams and a dewar of LN2. I’ve been especially interested in making small batch ice creams out of some of my favorite classic cocktails.

For my first foray into the world of the glacier, I tried to render a Mai Tai into frozen dairy, and the results were sweet and refreshing.

mai tai icecream

I used this Chefsteps soft serve recipe as my base, and unto this, I added the flavors of a classic Mai Tai; rum, orange liqueur, orgeat syrup, and lime.

Obviously, you can’t pour a bunch of lime juice into sugar and milk, so getting the lime flavor just right was the biggest challenge in producing this dessert. Instead of lime juice, I used essential lime oil, and a little bit of grated lime zest.

Moreover, I have learned in previous experiments that even highly reduced spirits do not stand up to the bold flavors of milk and cream. My approach, therefore, is to add strongly flavored oils and essences to the ice cream base instead, to mimic the flavors of my desired cocktail ingredients. Orange oil is much more effective than cointreau; juniper berries and coriander seeds steeped in milk will convey a much bolder flavor of gin than gin itself.

I chose to use a soft serve base because I wanted this to be a lighter ice cream, and because I was afraid the flavor of the custard would stomp on the already complex tapestry of the Mai Tai. To amp up the rummy flavor, I replaced the white sugar in the base recipe with Demerara sugar, to mimic the flavor of the rum. The end result still didn’t have enough rum flavor, (a good mai tai makes rum the hero) so I ended up serving the final output in a cocktail glass floating on top of a little El Dorado 12.

Also, and I cannot stress this enough, garnish it with a spring of mint. A Mai Tai without mint barely qualifies. Smack the mint in your hand and slap it all around the interior of the glass before you nestle it on top of that ice cream. Yeah girl.

Mai Tai Soft Serve Base
225 g Whole Milk
100 g Demerara Sugar
95 g Heavy cream
12 g Nonfat dry milk powder
3.5 g Salt

1 TBSP Torani Orgeat Syrup
A small splash each of essential lime and orange oils
Grated Zest of 3 small limes
375 ml Dark Rum
50 ml Cointreau

Reduce the Rum and Cointreau on a simmer down to 100ml total, stir everything together, and allow the mixture to chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Then make it into ice cream using an ice cream maker or a stand mixer, LN2, and a blowtorch. Obviously, I favor the technique that lets you play with the most dangerous toys.

Stay frosty.


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Valentine’s Trio

A little more housekeeping here, just a roundup of my Valentine’s day menu from earlier this year. Each drink was paired with a small bite. I had attempted a Valentine’s menu in 2015, but the concepts never quite made it onto the blog. At that time, I had created early versions of the Love Letter and No More Cremes, but neither drink was fully developed until quite recently.

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Love Letter

Raspberry coulis à la Jacques Pépin, calvados, malic acid, rose air, raspberry powder, candied berries.

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Heavy-Handed Symbolism

Homemade chocolate liqueur, blood orange juice, citric acid, egg white, chocolate macaron with orange buttercream and candied orange.

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No More Crèmes in Brûlée

Buttermilk crème anglaise, demerara rum, whole milk, angostura bitters, tonka bean, caramel disk, doenjang caramel sauce, toasted brioche.

This was a really great opportunity for me to focus on technique, as putting it together required me to make classic French sauces, fabricate a liqueur, prepare candied fruits, german buttercream, two different caramels, and a scented cocktail air.

It was also another exciting opportunity to practice the art of writing a cocktail menu.

Cheers.


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Spring Quartet: Voyagé to the Far Easter: Easter Dinner with Cocktail Pairings

This is just a bit of housekeeping, because when I do a series of posts with a common theme, I like to have a single landing page for them. Herein, I will sum up my collaboration with Johan at Moedernkitchen on a four course Easter dinner with cocktail pairings.

shisoready
Shochu Think You Can Dance? / Shiso Ready!
An amuse-bouche of shiso sorbet, paired with a fizzy aperitif of shochu, ginger, daikon, and horseradish.

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Easy Peasy Matcha Crusta and the Slaughter
Lamb “katsu”, smashed peas, rowanberry jam, paired with a drink of gin, sugarsnap peapods, green tea, and mint.

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Easter Bunny and Do You Even Carrot All?
Rabbit leg confit, parsnip puree, caramelized shallots, “melted” carrot, paired with a drink of light rum, mango, carrot, and habanero.

theperfectblossom
The Perfect Blossom
Cherry blossom opera cake, cherry blossom tofu mousse, and cotton candy, paired with a drink of white tea, junmai daiginjo sake, and preserved cherry blossom.

If it was not immediately obvious, our goal for each course was to appear in a different color commonly associated with the easter season. If our pastels were a little too vibrant, well, who really wants to eat pastel-colored food? Gross.

Most people don’t want to drink four cocktails in a row, even if they are paired with food, so I kept the alcohol content a little lower than average, (~1 oz per drink) and my strategy was to use abrasive agents such as ginger, horseradish, mint, habanero, and tannins from tea in order to offset the rich food. Mixed drinks often deal in strong flavors, and it is easy to overpower a food accompaniment.

For the best degustation, keep your drinks light and your food bold.

Cheers.


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Spring Quartet: The Perfect Blossom: Sake, Tea, Sakura

We finished off the Spring Quartet with a celebration of cherry blossoms. We made an opera cake consisting of white sponge soaked in pink syrup, cherry blossom-flavored butter cream, and cherry blossom-flavored white bean paste. That may sound odd if you are not used to the idea of beans in dessert, but it was beautifully in line with the theme, I assure you.

As before, this was a collaboration with Johan from Moedernkitchen.

Also pictured, though not recommended, was a mousse of soft tofu and cherry blossom honey. The mousse itself was delicious, but our decision to serve it with a paper straw inside of a painted egg left it with a musky, off note. Never serve anything in a goose egg.

Purely for decoration, we adorned some branches from a local cherry tree with little puffs of cotton candy.

Since cherry blossom has a subtle flavor, I wanted to stay true to its subtlety, and let it speak for itself. I prepared a lightly sweetened white tea, and stirred in some preserved cherry blossom powder. The powder is sweet, salty, and dusty pink.

This is another one of those preparations where your own good taste must be your guide. The flavor of the tea itself was softer, even, than the sake and the cherry blossom, so I steeped it to a richer extraction than I would if I were drinking it on its own. I then stirred in preserved cherry blossom powder and simple syrup according to my desire.

theperfectblossom
Cherry Blossom Tea
1 oz of high quality sake. I used a Junmai Daiginjo sake with delicate floral and mineral notes.
2 oz of white tea, seasoned with preserved cherry blossom
The tiniest dash of simple syrup.

The tea here was intended as a foil to the much richer cake that it accompanied. In concert with the other ingredients, it was a pleasant harmony. On its own, it might have been a bit lackluster.

Cheers.


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Spring Quartet: Easter Bunny and Do You Even Carrot All? Mango, Habanero, Carrot, Rum

Hey guys, I’m a little behind in writing up my Spring Quartet, in which I collaborated with Johan at Moedernkitchen to create a four course meal called Spring Quartet: Voyagé to the Far Easter.

For the third course, we served a rabbit confit on a bed of mashed parsnips and caramelized onions, topped with a “melted carrot”.

easterbunny

I paired this with a drink of carrot, mango, and habanero juice, shaken with rum. For the mango juice, I sautéed a ripe mango in brown butter, and then juiced a second, raw mango, and blended the two together. This is a technique that is becoming old hat to measure and stir regulars, I am sure, although the brown butter is a bit of a twist.

For the carrot juice, I used the same raw+cooked formula, but I opted to sous vide the carrots at 85C for 20 minutes. Regarding the different cooking techniques, I had initially tried cooking the mango sous vide, but the brown butter flavor won out, adding a surprising richness. Unfortunately, it left behind some tiny butter particles in the final drink, which were not discernible on the palate, but which were visually unappealing.

In order to facilitate rapid service, I blended the mango, carrot, and habanero juice about an hour before our guests started arriving, and seasoned the juice with tartaric acid and simple syrup. I did not cook any of the habaneros. For my taste, I wanted the burn to be noticeable without being overly challenging to the imbiber.

I chose tartaric acid because neither mangos, nor carrots, nor habanero have a significant component of malic or citric acid. Tartaric acid is probably a flavor that you associate with sour candies such as pixie sticks or sour patch kids. On its own, the association is hard to avoid, but when mixed into juices or sauces it provides a clean, slightly chemical acidity that is a refreshing change of pace from other, more common culinary acids.

The motif of French meets Japanese fell apart a little bit in this dish. My original concept simply did not work with the meal, so this drink ended up being a bit of an improvisation. I used El Dorado Three as the base spirit of this drink, because the rum-mango-habanero connection was too tempting to avoid, and because I love Demerara rum. El Dorado Three is like Bacardi’s more sophisticated cousin.

doyouevencarrotall
Do You Even Carrot All?
2 oz Mango-Carrot Juice Blend (see above)
1.5 oz El Dorado 3
Shake over ice and strain into a small goblet. Garnish with candied carrot.

As with the Easy Peasy Matcha Crusta, I suggest blending the fresh juices in this drink to your taste, and then combining it with a standard measure of rum.

For the candied carrot, I used a y-peeler to cut long strips of peeled carrot, dipped them in a rich simple syrup, and baked them at 200F for about 30 minutes. While they were still hot and pliable, I used chopstick to curl them into spirals, and then allowed them to cool on a wire rack.

Cheers.


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Easy Peasy Matcha Crusta and The Slaughter

As the Spring Quartet progressed, the harmony of our naming scheme might have come apart. Johan at MOEdern Kitchen opted to call his dish “The Slaughter”, but I thought that was too light-hearted, and I went with the more serious “Easy Peasy Matcha Crusta”.

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Sugar snap peapods are both green and in season, so they were a perfect fit, thematically. I love their earthy bitterness. In order to bring out their best flavor, we cooked some of them sous vide at 85C for 15 minutes, and combined their juice with that of raw peapods. The raw ones have more green plant complexity, while the cooked ones trade some bitterness for sweetness.

To the peapod juice, I added fresh mint juice, sugar, and tartaric acid. The exact seasoning of your juices is a matter of taste. I cannot tell you a precise recipe because your crop of peapods will be different from mine. Trust your own good judgement, and try to find a balance of sweet, sour, and bitter. Add a pinch of salt, and the juice of fresh mint until it finishes with a bit of cooling menthol.

Regarding the choice of acid, how is one to choose? I wanted acidity, not flavor, because the drink is complex on its own, but I also needed to cut the sweetness. All sweet and no sour is like a life with all pleasure and no pain. It spoils children and cocktails alike, and lacks dimension.

I opted to use tartaric acid for this drink, in order to preserve the purity of the flavor, rather than accidentally invoke the juiciness of malic acid or the lemony quality of citric acid. It’s a curious thing that these acids, without affecting flavor, are still evocative of their common carriers.

A crust of green tea around the rim of the glass made an elegant garnish, and its flavor complemented the other green elements of the drink. Greens of most varieties pair well together, and the grassiness of matcha is no exception. In the same vein, gin, made from green botanicals, likes other greens.

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Easy Peasy Matcha Crusta
1.5 oz gin
1.5 oz Green juice blend (see above)
Shake, double strain, and pour into a glass rimmed with green tea.

For the matcha crusta:
Combine white sugar and matcha powder, then coat the rim of a glass with juice from a wedge of lime, and then apply it to the matcha mixture.

It matched the meal, of course, which consisted of a high tech lamb nugget, deep fried in panko and parsley, on a bed of green pea mash, topped with rowanberry jam.

Mint and gin complement lamb, peas match with peapods. It’s not rocket science, but it would have been if we served it with arugula.

Cheers!


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Shochu Think You Can Dance? / Shiso Ready!

For Easter dinner, I collaborated once again with my friend Johan, and this time we produced a four course meal, each with a cocktail pairing. A degustation, if you will, which we called “Spring Quartet: Voyagé to the Far Easter”.

The idea for this meal was to combine French and Japanese influences, and to paint each course in one of the pastel colors that are generally associated with Easter: Blue, Green, Yellow, and Pink. We had to wing it a bit on the yellow, as you will see, but for today, we are starting with blue.

shisoready

The first course was an amuse bouche of shiso sorbet and shochu soda. There is nothing in nature that is both blue and edible, except certain pigments which turn purple in the color in the presence of acid, such as that found in blueberry skins and pea flowers. Ergo, we had to cheat, by stirring in a little bit of blue gel dye.

There are many purists in this day and age who will vocally eschew the use of food coloring, only to pour up a negroni and delight in its brilliant red color, which certainly was not rendered from the crushed up corpses of cochineals. In these days of modernist cuisine, a man can be forgiven his use of industrial chemicals.

Beyond that, I wanted to incorporate the flavor of radish, which is crisp, bracing, and appropriate to the spring season. Unfortunately, radish juice is utterly flavorless, scarcely even maintaining its subtle isothiocyanatic burn. In search of radishy flavor, we tried juicing daikon, only to find that, upon oxidization, developed a rancid smell. Finally, we fell upon horseradish, and boosted it with ginger.

I am far from an expert on shochu, but I will note that, while it bears a superficial resemblance to vodka, it manages to have far more flavor, and as is typical of Japanese cuisine, it is nuanced and understated. I visited my local Japanese market, and picked up a bottle of Ginza no Suzume, distilled by Yatsushika Sake Brewery.

shochuthinkyoucandanceShochu Think You Can Dance?

1 oz High Quality Shochu
.25 oz strained fresh horseradish juice
.25 oz strained fresh ginger juice
The teensiest drop of blue gel dye
Dash of simple syrup
Stir over ice, strain, and top with 1.5 oz chilled soda water
Garnish with cubes of daikon

It turns out, the way to get daikon into the drink was to float the cubes on top. Daikon is boyant, and crunching into one or two of the cubes on the sip releases a bit of extra radish flavor. I soaked the daikon in water prior to service, to help mellow out their otherwise too-pungent flavor. I learned this technique at Gen Yamamoto in Tokyo, and indeed, the entire drink is an homage to his bar and style.

Sip this slowly, and notice how all of the flavors are manifest, yet light and airy upon the psyche.

We served this with a shiso lime sorbet, made by pulverizing ice, fresh shiso, lime juice, sugar, and corn syrup in a food processor. I was inspired by a similar sorbet that I had at a fine Japanese restaurant, in the course of a kaiseki dinner.

Cheers.


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The Shameless Clickbait: Thin Mint Girlscout Cookies, Vodka, Espresso, Milk

Alright guys, it’s time to get real. It’s girlscout cookie season, and I enjoyed the opportunity to make this cocktail using a “seasonal” ingredient. It’s like Card-Table-Outside-The-Grocery-Store-To-Table. I know you’re all looking to make thin-mint infused vodka, and pin it to all your friends, so I have made a drink just for you.

Behold! I integrated 2 oz of vodka and two girlscout cookies using an immersion blender, and then pushed them through a fine-mesh strainer. The finer, the better. If you have an 80 micron strainer, that would be ideal. Push the thin mint vodka through the strainer, and then pull a shot of espresso using your fancy espresso machine (you could also use a moka pot, or even a little bit of strong black coffee), add sugar according to your taste, and shake it up like a cafe shakerato.

thinmint

The Shameless Clickbait
1.5 oz Thin Mint Vodka
1 Shot of Espresso or 1.5 oz Strong Coffee
.5 oz Whole Milk
Simple Syrup to your taste

Shake over ice and strain into a glass rimmed with chocolate shavings. Smacked mint leaf more for the photo.

To be honest this didn’t quite have the clarity of flavor I was looking for. Coffee muddied the thin mint a bit, and a dash of creme de menthe would probably have brought it back. Still, if you’re trying to drink thin mints as a cocktail, you could do a lot worse.

Cheers


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Acid Trip Roundup

Perhaps you can relate to this: I had hit a wall in my cocktail creation strategy, because I wanted to combine the flavors of liqueurs and spirits without ending up with a sugary mess. The specific drink that started my mental wheels turning is the Alaska Cocktail, which can be found in various proportions around the internet, but it’s somewhere in the vicinity of:

Alaska Cocktail
1.5 oz Gin
.5 oz Yellow Chartreuse
Dash of Orange Bitters
Stir and Garnish with a lemon peel.

The problem with this drink, which I hope is immediately obvious to everyone, is that it is very sweet, and has a syrupy mouthfeel. How do we know this, without mixing it? Simple, look at what is missing. There is no fortified wine, there is no citrus juice, and there is no soda water. It seems obvious in retrospect, but I asked myself, what do all of those things have in common?

They are all sources of acid; citric, malic, and carbonic, respectively. I had mixed an Alaska earlier that day, and although I can recognize it as a kind of fancy old-fashioned cocktail with gin as the base and yellow chartreuse as the modifier, it was not satisfying to me. I wanted more chartreuse flavor without more sugar.

I could add a vermouth bianco to try to balance it while minimally impacting flavor, but that’s still a different, albeit a better sounding drink. The question became, how can I make vermouth more sour, so that I can play it off of a larger quantity of liqueur? The answer was to bolster the natural acidity of vermouth.

As luck would have it, winemakers already use powdered tartaric and malic acids to fine-tune the acidity of theirs wines, and such acids are easy to procure. Wines, even fortified wines, are balanced to be consumed on their own, but as a mixological reagent, we often want things to cleave to extremes. We add more sugar and alcohol, but we never think to add more acid.

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I am not the first cocktail enthusiast to have this idea. Since I had this realization, I have found that most books on molecular mixology will have at least one drink that uses a powdered acid to find balance, but they never place enough emphasis on the power of this technique. Using powdered acids to precisely calibrate the “dryness/sweetness” of a drink is THE key to liberation from traditional mixology.

And don’t get me wrong: I love traditional mixology, but I think by now we have fully explored the space of pouring old liqueurs into brown spirits and fortified wines. It’s not that every possible combination has been explored, but certainly, there are no surprises. If we want truly new and creative cocktail ideas, we must be able to break away from the monopoly that the classic punch formula has on the world of craft cocktails. Between the Manhattan and the Whiskey Sour, you have the structure of virtually all prohibition era drinks*.

(*Yes, I know about possets and flips and milk punches and hot toddies and old-fashioned cocktails etc. etc. etc.)

So I bought some acid powders: citric, tartaric, and malic.

AND UNTO THIS, THE ACID TRIP SERIES WAS BORN.

pbj
Peanut Butter Jelly Time

Wheated Bourbon, Peanut Orgeat, Kyoho (or Concord) Grape Juice, Cinnamon

grapeAcidTrip
Kyoho Grape and Lavender

Brandy, Muddled Kyoho (or Concord) Grape, Lavender Bitters

appleAcidTrip
Caramel Apple and Fennel

Fresh-pressed apple juice, Demerara Rum, Caramel Sauce, Absinthe

Acidity is life.

Cheers.


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Valentine’s Cocktail Trio: No More Crèmes in Brûlée – Buttermilk Crème Anglaise, Demerara Rum, Milk, Tonka Bean

Wrapping up my Valentine’s Cocktail Trio, I have a drink inspired by the classic French dessert, crème brûlée. They don’t want you to have craft cocktails, and that’s why it’s important to make them.

nomorecremesinbrulee

For this drink I made a crème anglaise, and once again, I used my sous vide. This time, I adapted this Chefsteps recipe by cooking the mixture for 20 minutes at 82C, and then blending it until smooth.

Originally I had used whole milk, as the recipe dictates, but the drink lacked a certain depth that can only come from proper acidity. In pursuit of acidity, I substituted whole milk for buttermilk, and this allowed me to develop a crème anglaise with a pleasant lactic tartness.

This ingredient was nearly complete on its own, and required little adornment to become a fully realized drink. At first I tried shaking it with only demerara rum, but the drink was too thick; it was so thick, in fact, that shaking did nothing to aerate it. I wanted an airier texture and a lighter mouthfeel, so I ended up adding some 1% milk to lengthen it. It worked like a charm, allowing the shaken drink to hold some air bubbles and accumulate a pleasant froth.

It’s important to use 1% here, because the drink is already quite rich with milkfat. The goal is to lighten the texture, so whole milk is not appropriate.

I chose to use demerara rum as the base spirit for this drink because I wanted its caramel notes, which are right at home in a crème brûlée.

To cement the theme and round out the caramel element, I garnished with a caramel disk. The imbiber cracks open the caramel disk with a small spoon (not pictured), much as one would a real crème brûlée. Many thanks to Johan for this idea.

As with the Poison Yu, I grated a little bit of tonka bean on this drink, though I put it underneath the caramel disk, so that its aroma would only be released upon cracking the caramel.

For the nibble, I served a round of toasted brioche drizzled with doenjang caramel sauce. Doenjang is a Korean fermented bean paste similar to miso, and it gives the caramel a savory umami note. I was inspired by my recent trip to a Shakeshack, where they were serving miso caramel milkshakes. I also topped the brioche with a bit of smoked salt.

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No More Crèmes in Brûlée
1 oz Demerara Rum (El Dorado 12)
1.25 oz 1% Milk
2 Tablespoons of Buttercream Crème Anglaise
Dash of Angostura Bitters
Shake and double strain, then top with grated tonka bean and a caramel disk. Serve with a small spoon.

Caramel Disk
Arrange granulated sugar on a silpat and then slowly caramelize it into a disk with a propane blowtorch. This takes a little while, so do it ahead of time and store them wrapped in parchment paper in the fridge.

Although this presentation was not as visually stunning as the other drinks in my series, for me, it was the most enjoyable to drink. You may have noticed that I used less alcohol in this one. When I jiggered it with a standard amount, it was slightly too boozy. I prefer to keep all of my drinks in a standard measure, but sometimes you have to break the rules.

The formula is really just an adaptaiton of an old classic, Rum Milk Punch. They drink about the same way.

I hope you had a happy Valentine’s day, or failling that, that you were able to drink away your sorrows.

Cheers.