Measure & Stir

A Craft Cocktail Blog for the Home Bartender that Focuses on Original Creations Drawn from Culinary Inspiration.


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Enchanted Valentine’s: Little Mermaid Cocktail with Wakame-infused Aquavit, Lemon, and Champagne

She saw the bright sun, and all around her floated hundreds of transparent beautiful beings; she could see through them the white sails of the ship, and the red clouds in the sky; their speech was melodious, but too ethereal to be heard by mortal ears, as they were also unseen by mortal eyes. The little mermaid perceived that she had a body like theirs, and that she continues to rise higher and higher out of the foam.

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Once again, and to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Johan and I have teamed up to create a course of three food and cocktail pairings, this time inspired by classic fairy tales. Our first dish was a surf and turf inspired by The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. Johan describes it in excruciating detail at Moedernkitchen.

I chose to pair the dish with a drink made from champagne and wakame-infused aquavit. Pairing mixed drinks with food is much more difficult than serving the drink on its own; cocktails contain strong spirits, and they easily overpower food. The best strategy is to keep the drink lighter than the food, and to echo at least one of its flavors.

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To approach the seafood in this dish, I used a trident approach: first, citrus and champagne, which we naturally pair with crab, octopus, salmon, or oyster. Second, aquavit, to remember the bread crumbs in the “sand”, and to evoke a Norwegian feeling. Third, seaweed, for its brine and its bitterness.

I tried, many moons ago, to infuse seaweed into a tincture, but I was inexperienced, and my cocktail tasted like the inside of an aquarium. Nori was the wrong choice. This time I selected wakame, and infused 200ml of aquavit with a scant teaspoon of dried wakame for five hours. It took on a pale green color, and developed a thalassic minerality.

Many people over-steep their infusions. You don’t throw teabags into a pot of water and leave it for hours. You don’t let your coffee sit in a french press for a month and brag about how long you spent infusing it. So why do are you so proud of your over-infused spirits? The flavor of an infusion should be balanced and subtle, and when you make an infusion, you should take an active role in the process. Taste it frequently, and find the optimal rate of extraction.

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At its core, this drink is a French 75, but then again, almost every drink has a classic for its heart. That’s not because of some sacred or innate property of the classic drinks, it is merely that the classics have been selected and honed over time to form a basis in the space of possible ethanol-sugar-water recipes. For reference:

French 75
1.5 oz Gin
.75 oz Lemon Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
2-3 oz Champagne

The other notable addition to this drink is dashi air, which I make by bringing a pot of water with a 2×2″ square of konbu and 50g of shaved bonito flakes to a boil in 200ml of water, killing the heat, and steeping for ten minutes before straining. If this sounds like cutting corners, it is, but I assure you my washoku game is on strong. Prior to boiling, I added 50 ml of mirin. I added it early, because I wanted the alcohol to boil off.

Finally, using an immersion blender, I integrated 5 g of sucrose ester (also called Texturas Sucro), which produces an airy foam. After pouring the drink into the glass, I carefully spooned the foam on top.

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Out of the Fathomless Deep
1 oz Wakame-infused Aquavit
.75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
Shake over ice and double-strain into a wine glass
Top with 2 oz Champagne and Mirin-Dashi Air

Garnish with a dried orange wheel clipped to the side of the glass.

Regarding the garnish, I sliced some orange wheels and dried them in a dehydrator until they were crunchy. Be careful not to get your orange wheel wet when you’re garnishing the drink, or it will get soggy. If you’re like me, your orange wheels will lose most of their aroma when you dry them. Since garniture is about olfactics as much as optics, I sprayed my dehydrated orange wheels with orange essential oil right before serving.

Since we used the same dashi air on the plate and in the glass, the flavors tracked each other closely.

Cheers.


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Trapped in a Cage of Their Own Making with a Beast They’ve Been Feeding For Years

In this drink, the name came first. That may be obvious. I encountered this phrase over two years ago, and it resonated with me, so I wrote it down, and saved it for later. I knew that I wanted to build the drink around dragonfruit, and to boldly announce the “beast” element of the title. In the end, I was able to invoke the theme in several ways.

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The drink itself is composed of duck-fat infused bourbon, dry vermouth, lime juice, maple syrup, and pineapple and dragon fruit purée. I confess, if I saw this drink from a distance, I would be tempted to call it overcomplicated, but as it is my own brainchild, I have only fond feelings for it.

Let me explain. Trapped in a Cage… starts with dragonfruit, to give it the aspect of the beast. Pineapple juice expands the flavor along the already tiki-ish premise of a hollowed out fruit as serving vessel. To reinforce the beast motif, it is appropriate to use a spirit washed with animal fat, and I have found that bourbon is the spirit most amenable to such treatments.

From (relatively) bland dragonfruit, pineapple, and bourbon, we have nearly arrived at the flavor of an Algonquin, hence dry vermouth completes the classic cocktail at the core of this adventure. Bacon bourbon is a little passé, though as I think through dynamics of this drink, it would have been a fine choice. To keep things fresh, I opted for duck fat, instead.

Beef would have been too heavy, and uncured pork fat leaves a repellant funk. No, the musky oiliness of duck fat was the best option, and between bourbon and duck, I found myself craving a hint of maple syrup. In my loose adherence to a tiki theme, I turned to lime juice for the acidity to balance the sweetness, and garnished with cilantro, mostly for the look.

Trapped in a Cage of Their Own Making with a Beast They’ve Been Feeding For Years
2 oz duck fat-washed bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz dry vermouth (Ransom)
.5 oz maple syrup
60g dragonfruit
60g pineapple
a tiny pinch of salt
Blend all with a hand blender, and then shake over ice. Strain only with a Hawthorne.
Serve in a hollowed out dragonfruit and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Perhaps this is no ordinary tiki drink. Indeed, one of my friends who was present at this session called it “Jurassic” Tiki, and for a brief moment I had visions of an entirely new subgenre of cocktail. Jurassic Tiki aims to trade faux orientalism for a prehistoric sensibility. It finds exotic flavors by combining animal ingredients with primordial imagery, and imagines a cocktail culture in a world untouched by human ingenuity, ruled by ancient monsters locked in an endless Hobbesian struggle.

Then I saw that damn paper umbrella and realized that my entire manifesto would collapse in the face of a tiny anachronism.

For the plating I used pineapple fronds, scrubbed animal bones, cilantro, dragonfruit, a lime husk, black lava salt, and smoke from oak chips.

The drink itself is surprisingly subtle, with each component making a distinct contribution. Notes on method:

  • The Ransom dry vermouth has a strong flavor, and I might have used a bit more had I been using my more usual Dolin.
  • The proportions of lime and maple syrup were ad hoc, as they must ever be in a drink so heavily loaded with fresh produce. Variability is inescapable, and your good taste must be your guide.
  • Dragonfruit has very little flavor, and is best used as a textural element.
  • Fat-washing a spirit takes about 24 hours:
    • Pour 1/4 cup of softened fat into 1 cup of spirit.
    • Shake it, and allow it to infuse for about a day.
    • Place the infusion in the freezer, and leave the fat to separate and solidify.
    • Strain through a coffee filter.
  • A pinch of salt helps the pineapple shine.

Cheers.


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Hot and Bothered: The Art of The Toddy

This winter I did a series of hot drinks, and this is my one stop landing page for all things toddy. You might have already seen my tutorial on Hot Drinks in my recent Mixology Crash Course, but whereas that post was focused on fundamentals, this series is more in keeping with my core mission here: original compositions.

Every toddy comes with a lesson!

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Seventh Inning Stretch: Root Beer, Bourbon, Salted Peanuts, Oksusucha

In which I make a syrup with root beer botanicals.

Hot Toddy Lesson One: Pay close attention to your serving temperature. There is a perfect window, and you need to find it.

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Cinnamon-Smoked Coffee Toddy, My Way

In which I update one of my old standbys.

Hot Toddy Lesson Two: Give your toddy some body by lengthening it with a flavorful liquid.

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Glogg: Norwegian Mulled Wine

In which I make the Norwegian version of this classic crowd-pleaser.

Hot Toddy Lesson Three: Use a base of brown spirits and winter spices.

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My Toddy’s So Buddha-Licious

In which I make the best pun of my career.

Hot Toddy Lesson Four: A toddy is a classic punch.

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Boozy Hot Chocolate

In which I covertly reference Army of Darkness.

Hot Toddy Lesson Five: Use a lower ABV when lengthening with milk.

Let’s pour a hot drink for 2016.

Cheers.


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How Bout Some Hot Chocolate Huh?

To be honest, I don’t have that much to say about this. Is a hot chocolate a hot toddy? It’s one of those wacky philosophy questions; irrelevant, precious, and decadent, like the Gettier Problem. I made this drink by request, since after Johan made his chocolate entremet, he had a big bowl of leftover sour cream dulcey chocolate mousse, and let’s be real, the cocoa bean is his dark master.

To make the chocolate base, we used whole non-homogenized jersey milk, and melted in chopped up feuves of Valrhona Araguani 72% and Valrhona Caramellia. To the chocolate base we added Frangelico, George Dickel Rye, and Angostura bitters. For garnish, we used a dollop of sour cream mousse, which Johan describes in pain-staking detail.

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Hot Chocolate (Cocktailish Proportions)
.5 oz Rye (George Dickel)
.5 oz Frangelico
5 oz Hot chocolate milk
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Garnish with a healthy dollop of Sour Cream Dulcey Chocolate Mousse

Remember, your drink is only as good as the worst thing you put into it. When your drink is mostly milk and chocolate, that means you need to use good milk and good chocolate.

An unfortunate quality to hot milk drinks: they seem to make the burn of strong spirits more pronounced. If you pour the booze much heavier, the drink becomes less soothing and more abrasive.

Hot Toddy Lesson Five: Use a lower ABV when lengthening with milk.

Cheers.


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My Toddy’s So Buddha-Licious: Rye, Buddha’s Hand, Lemon

Note: While you read this post, please bask in the glow of this early 2000s pop smash, Bootylicious by Destiny’s Child.

I know, I just did a Buddha’s Hand Cocktail, but then I realized I had an opportunity to make a drink with the best name in the history of my blog.

In last week’s post, I tried to capitalize on a complex harmony between dill, citrus, salmon, and aquavit. For this hot toddy, I wanted to get back to the essence of the Buddha’s Hand. At its heart, a hot toddy is pretty close to a classic punch, but with the “weak” element heated. Your classic punch is 1 part sour, 2 parts sweet, 3 parts strong, 4 parts weak. This is usually rendered as lime juice, simple syrup, rum, and water, but if you make that drink, it doesn’t feel quite right:

1-2-3-4 punch?
.5 oz lime
1 oz simple syrup
1.5 oz rum
2 oz water

After shaking with ice, you can expect your 3 oz cocktail to gain about 2 oz of water. Personally though, I prefer .75 oz of lime, and .5 oz of sugar, for a 1.5-1-3-4 sort of ratio. Well, times and tastes changes. Anyway, all of this is a long lead up to say that a classic punch is usually made with an oleo saccharum, and in this instance, the classic punch ratio ended up being perfect. Perhaps oleo saccharum isn’t as sweet as 1:1 simple syrup?

toddysobuddhalicious Please note that the rosemary above was completely decorative, sandwiched in between two separable glass pieces in the unique serving vessel that we found for this drink. A stemless cocktail glass sits snugly inside a glass bowl, insulated by a layer of air. Not only is this perfect for keeping your drink warm, but it has a bulbous shape that reminded me of a laughing Buddha. Of course, one of these Buddha Tiki Mugs would be even better.

My Toddy’s So Buddha-Licious
1.5 oz rye (Dickel)
1 oz Dilled Buddha’s Hand Oleo Saccharum
.5 oz lemon juice
Top with 2 oz boiling water and float a single star anise inside.

As you will recall, the Buddha’s hand oleo from last week had some dill in it, but by the time I made this drink a couple days later, the dill flavor had mellowed substantially. I chose rye to further blur the flavor of dill in the drink, a job it did admirably owing to its pickley notes. Lemon flavor is similar enough to Buddha’s hand that it can play a supporting role, while leaving the oily fragrance of its lead to be the star.

This drink captured the flavor of Buddha’s hand with a lot of purity. In a way, it tasted like an idealized Buddha’s hand might, if only the fruit had flesh to go with its unctuous skin.

I got away from winter spices this week, which allowed us to focus on the core composition of this style. Hot Toddy Lesson Four: A toddy is a classic punch.


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If You Meet the Buddha in Norway: Aquavit, Buddha’s Hand, Dill, Lemon

It’s a cruel irony of winter that all the best citrus comes into season in a time when we are least interested in its crisp, refreshing nature. Nevertheless, sometimes you have to tell seasonality to shove off, because Buddha’s hand is only with us for a short time.

If you are not familiar with it, Buddha’s hand is a fragrant citrus fruit that is shaped more like a squid than a hand, but its skin is rich and oily with a flavor that is somewhere between a lime and a quince. It’s pith is light enough in flavor that you could slice it thin and eat it on its own, though it is a bit chewy.

Naturally, I made it into an oleo saccharum, along with some fresh dill. My inspiration here was a tuna crudo that I ate last week, which was served with tangerine gel and fresh dill. I liked the combination so much that I decided to build a drink around it.

Alas, the season for Buddha’s hand is upon us, but the season of the tangerine has not quite come. I found some exceptional satsuma mandarins in their stead, and paired the drink with a duo of salmon.

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If You Meet the Buddha in Norway
1.5 oz Aquavit (Linie)
.75 oz Dill + Buddha’s Hand Oleo Saccharum
.5 oz Lemon Juice
.25 oz Distilled White Vinegar

Macerate the Buddha’s hand with sugar and fresh dill, and allow it to sit until the sugar becomes saturated in its oil. Shake, strain, and garnish with a sprig of fresh dill. Serve with a duality of salmon.

The drink is named after a famous Zen kõan, which says that if you meet the Buddha on the road, you should kill him. And perhaps you should. I like to imagine that in Norway, The Buddha spawns in the form of a salmon, and not only do you kill him, but you fillet him, turn his belly into gravlaks, and quick-cure his loin with salt and sugar.

Moreover, you should serve said quick-cured salmon loin with dill sprigs, supremes of satsuma orange, and rock salt. This, I am sure, will bring you enlightenment. Many thanks also to Johan for making the gravlaks using what I’m sure is an ancient Norwegian recipe, which only vikings are capable of wielding.

Speaking of enlightenment, astute drinkers will notice that I split the acid in this drink between white vinegar and lemon juice. I’m almost sorry for the way this sounds, but straight lemon or lime sours are a bit pedestrian these days. We need a bold, vivacious source of acid, and for me, the slight tang of acetic was a perfect compliment to the cured flavor of the gravlaks, the briny caraway of the aquavit, and the ascetic Buddha’s hand.

Cheers.


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Mulled Wine (Glogg): Red Wine, Cognac, Port, Winter Spices,

Clearly, we could all use a drink tonight. Moreover, it’s winter and that means it’s hot toddy time, though I confess I did take a break to make you some ice cream. Let’s not overthink it.

I have made many mulled and spiced wines, and if you dig through deep history you can even find a forgettable post about it on this very blog.

There’s not a lot to say about it, to be honest. The basis of any good hot toddy is brown spirits and winter spices. Warm gin, is that something you want? Rhetorical. To feel the warmth from your drink, you need to use a rich brown spirit like bourbon, rum, or brandy, and to make a composed toddy, you need cinnamon at the very least.

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The cool thing about both brown spirits and brown spices is that they already have soft, “muddy” flavors. Curries and winter stews are the same way. They have big, layered flavors that all blur together into something indistinct, complex, and pleasant. We eat things like this in the winter because they are comforting, and the same principle applies to our drinks.

This exact mulled wine is a Norwegian variant of mulled wine, noteworthy because it is served with slivered almonds and raisins, which soak up the drink and, in the words of my friend Johan, “give you something to munch on”. I found the inclusion of almonds in this toddy to be a delightful addition.

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Mulled Wine (Glogg)
1 bottle of red wine
200 ml brandy
100 ml port
150 g sugar
2 tsp cardamom pods
12 cloves
4 sticks of cinnamon
2 split vanilla beans
4 cm of peeled ginger
2 anise stars
1 fat orange peel

Combine all in a pot and simmer for ten minutes, being careful not to boil. Strain and serve in a cup with raisins and slivered almonds.

As you can see, this recipe is straightforward. It will not surprise you, but it will please a crowd, and if you’ve been trudging through snowy fjords, I’m told, it’s the perfect pick-me-up. I actually scaled the sugar down significantly from the original recipe, because I like my drinks to be only moderately sweet, but if you are inclined to more syrupy concoctions, I could not hold it against you if you doubled it.

Hot Toddy Lesson Three: Use a base of brown spirits and winter spices.

Cheers.