Measure & Stir

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


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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.


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The Last Word Ice Cream Sundae

I made this in collaboration with my friend Johan from Moedern Kitchen, and this content is cross-posted there.

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This is not my first foray into the world of cocktail-inspired ice creams. My first was not up to snuff, and never made it to the web. My second was Mai Tai Soft Serve, which you may remember. Today, I am proud to share an ice cream Sundae inspired by one of my favorite classic cocktails, the Last Word. This drink is famous among cocktail enthusiasts, and as a Seattlite, it has a special place in my heart, since it was re-popularized in the modern cocktail renaissance by our very own Murray Stenson.

To make this ice cream sundae, we wanted to do something ambitious. It’s easy to get carried away when dealing with modernist techniques, and I think you will find that we did not exercise any restraint at all.

Just to review, the last word is a drink composed of equal parts:

The Last Word
3/4 oz London Dry Gin
3/4 oz Maraschino Liqueur
3/4 oz Green Chartreuse
3/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice

The green Chartreuse is really the key to this drink, as it is the source of its unique flavor. Even so, the combination and the balance are such that every element is a first class citizen. We went through several iterations before we settled upon this arrangement. What is the right way to marry an ingredient to a preparation? I confess I do not have any formal method for making these decisions.

The base of an ice cream sundae is the ice cream, and for that reason, it seemed fitting to use the base spirit of the drink, which in this case is London dry gin. As I have noted before, actual spirits do not come through strongly when added to an ice cream base. We can achieve much more flavorful results by using the root flavors of the spirit, rather than the spirit itself. To make a London dry gin ice cream, we used a hint of gin, but we steeped coriander, orange peel, and juniper berries into the cream. I don’t have the exact ratio, but this will get you pretty close. Note that we use the same base recipe as in Johan’s licorice ice cream.

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London Dry Gin Ice Cream
650g Whole Milk
225g Sugar
200g Egg Yolks
150g Heavy Cream
50ml London Dry Gin

Before combining the ingredients to make the ice cream, infuse the milk with gin botanicals. In a pan, toast up 2 tbsp of coriander seeds and 2 tbsp of juniper berries, until the oil starts to bloom on the juniper. When the berries are shiny, drop all of the spices into the milk, and gently heat on a stovetop for fifteen minutes along with one fat orange peel, trimmed of pith, then strain.

A good ice cream sundae should contain many layers and textures. Moreover, the last word, although quite spiritous, is a citrus-driven drink. It needs to the acidity and the punch of fresh sour lime juice. To achieve this end, we made a lime juice curd using this lemon curd recipe from chefsteps, subbing lemon for lime, and omitting the gelatin. I cannot stress this last point enough. In our first attempt, we used the optional gelatin suggested in the recipe, and wound up with a disgusting congealed mass.

For the maraschino, we made a zabaione, which Johan called by some incomprehensible Norwegian name (eggedosis) that he will probably edit in here.

Maraschino Zabaione
3 Large Egg Yolks
100 ml Heavy Cream
Sugar and Marschino to Taste
Integrate using a mixer (or a whisk, if you want to work on those arms), and load into an iSi whipping cannister. Charge it up and shake it.

For the green chartreuse, we made a fluid gel. Modernist techniques often feel like solutions in search of a problem, but in this case, a chartreuse gel was exactly the thing. We adapted this recipe from chefsteps as well, substituting fresh orange juice with green chartreuse, and omitting the citric acid. The texture and mouthfeel was unusual, but it felt very at home in a sundae, filling in the same space where one might otherwise find chocolate fudge sauce.

At this point, we had all of the elements, and a variety of soft viscosities, but a sundae also needs crunch, contrast, and texture. To this end, we repeated some of the flavors, and expanded on others. Ice cream wants some kind of cookie or crumble, and we opted to use two.

The first was a cinnamon shortbread, which we crumbled up and used as the bottom layer. I used this recipe from Serious Eats.

Cinnamon Shortbread
9 ounces (about 1 3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus a little more for greasing the pan
3 1/2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
A healthy outpouring of ground cinnamon.

Don’t overmix the cinnamon in the shortbread, in order to create a marbled effect. I don’t know how much I used, but you’ll know it’s right when you see it. Cinnamon may seem like an odd addition to the dessert, but it complements and expands on the cinnamon flavor that is present in green chartreuse. It does not repeat perfectly, but it does rhyme.

The second cookie was a tuile, which also came from Serious Eats.

Tuile
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (4 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/2 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sifted cake flour
2 large egg whites
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

We integrated this, allowed it to cool, then spread it into a thin layer on a silpat using an offset spatula, and baked it at 176 C until it was just brown all over, about 12 minutes. For the final plating, we just shattered it into pieces.

In addition to cookie textures, we added a couple of soft and chewy elements. The first was dried sweetened pineapple, compressed with a citrusy new age gin called Uncle Val’s Botanical. To make this, we bought dried sweetened pineapple chunks in bulk from a supermarket, and compressed them in a chamber vac with a shot of gin. The longer you leave them sealed in the bag, the softer they get. We let ours sit for about two hours before draining them. They kept in a jar for quite a while afterwards, and had the texture of soft gummy candy. We chose pineapple because it pairs wonderfully with lime, maraschino, and green chartreuse, but in truth, the pineapple was mostly covered by the gin.

Finally, we topped it with falooda seeds soaked in a mixture of London dry gin and water. These are popular in some asian and Indian desserts, and they have the amazing property that they will soak up any liquid in which they rest. They are sometimes colloquially called frogs eggs, but they have a similar texture to modernist caviar made with sodium alginate. Since they soaked up a little gin, they were the perfect vehicle to give a tiny boozy kick to the dessert, which was otherwise lacking.

The composition of the sundae was as follows, from top to bottom:

  • Gin-Soaked Falooda
  • Tuile Pieces
  • Maraschino Zabaione
  • Green Chartreuse Fluid Gel
  • London Dry Gin Ice Cream
  • Lime Curd
  • Citrus Gin-Compressed Pineapple
  • Cinnamon Short Bread Crumbles
  • Served in a Cocktail Glass

This was a lot of work, but the result was something truly special.

Cheers.


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Cinnamon-Smoked Coffee Toddy, My Way

I could have sworn I had posted some variation of this drink before, but I could not find it, and that makes today your lucky day. I have been enjoying variations on this drink for years, and the combination of dark demerara rum and black coffee remains one of my all time favorites.

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We’re still talking about hot toddies. One of my favorite things about this style is that it uses a bit more dilution than your standard shaken or stirred drink. A typical shaken cocktail gains between two and three oz of water, but I like my hot toddy with four to five, holding the total volume of spirits and modifiers between two and three oz, regardless.

The extra dilution lets you take a bigger swig, so you can really feel the warmth of the drink all the way into your belly. “Watery” isn’t always a bad thing, is what I’m trying to say, but in this drink, I like a toddy with a little more body.

A more basic version of this drink is garnished with a cinnamon stick, but since this is Measure and Stir, I decided to do something a little plus ultra. My friend Johan just bought a Polyscience smoking gun, and I’ve had this cloche lying around for ages, so we put two and two together. The cinnamon stick is there for the aroma, but if we set the cinnamon on fire, we can mobilize that aroma.

Moreover, there is something about black coffee, especially South American origins, that reminds me ever so vaguely of cigarettes. I don’t smoke cigarettes, and frankly, the smell makes me nauseous, but even so, I can see why they are considered such natural complements. Perhaps the subtle smokiness of some coffees is merely an artifact of the roasting process, (it can get pretty smoky inside a roaster), but to me, smoking the cinnamon plays on that same natural synergy.

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Cinnamon-Smoked Coffee Toddy
1.5 oz Demerara Rum (El Dorado 12)
.25 oz Simple Syrup
4 oz of brewed black coffee, your favorite light-roasted single origin.
Build the drink in a large snifter and then place it under a cloche full of cinnamon smoke for 1 minute. Alternatively, build in a mug and garnish with a whole cinnamon stick.

As you can see, I brewed my coffee in a chemex, and I used natural process Panamanian beans from one of my favorite local roasters, Slate Coffee. I think every bartender, barista, and bon vivant should know how to make a good pour over.

With ingredients of this high quality, it’s important not to overload the drink. Complex coffee and rum provide more than enough intrigue for a drink like this, while the cinnamon aroma welcomes you in. The simplicity of this drink is a perfect way to illustrate:

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

Cheers.


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

It’s getting cold again, and that means its time for my favorite family of mixed drinks: the hot toddy. What is a hot toddy, exactly? For me it’s a feeling you get when it’s rainy and cold outside, and you bring a glass of steaming, aqueous whiskey to your lips. When it’s done right, it warms you to your core.

And yet, the recipe is flexible. At its most essential, it consists of lemon, sugar, whiskey, and boiling water. That is a decent hot toddy all on its own, but it can be a bit plain. When I make it that way, I grate fresh cinnamon and nutmeg over the top, and garnish with a fatty orange peel.

Today, I wanted to do something a little different.

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This is baseball-inspired hot toddy that I threw together on a whim. This follows my standard hot toddy formulation, which I will be expositing for you at some length over the next few posts.

We start with a base spirit, and I chose to use Bourbon, because it is the all-American choice. I wish I could say it went deeper than that.

In order to evoke the theme of baseball, I made a root beer syrup by boiling star anise, cloves, and sassafras in a syrup made with 1 cup of water, 3/4 cup of white sugar, and 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Brown sugar is not as sweet as white, but the syrup is still a little rich this way. I finished the syrup with citric acid, to balance the sweetness.

In order to evoke popcorn, I lengthened this drink with 옥수수차 (Oksusucha) — Korean roasted corn tea. It doesn’t taste quite like popcorn, but it hits the right notes and joins the bourbon’s corn flavors to the sassafras’ herbaceousness.

To finish it off, I rimmed the toasted peanuts, ground with salt and sugar to taste. I admit the rim was a little sloppy, but the oily peanut clumped in a way that was difficult to work with. Drying this powder out, either by letting it sit out uncovered, or (maybe? by mixing it with a bit of tapioca maltodextrin) would probably help it form a more consistent coating. Even so, it was delicious.

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Seventh Inning Stretch
1.5 oz Vanilla-infused Bourbon
.5 oz Root Beer Syrup*
4 oz 옥수수차 (Oksusucha)
Salt peanut rim
Build the drink in a mug, finishing with still near-boiling oksusucha.

Root Beer Syrup
1 cup water
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp sassafras bark
1 tsp star anise
5 or 6 cloves
Bring to a boil, then simmer for ten minutes, then strain. Finish with 1 tsp of powdered citric acid.

When the drink was still piping hot, it had a bland flavor and alcohol burn. Once it cooled down to a comfortable temperature, the flavor was a bit muddy on the sip, but with pleasant roasty corn notes that gave way to a medium-bodied root beer finish. As the drink cooled, it became a little too sweet.

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

Cheers.


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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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Fourth of July Cocktail: Make America Flow Again

This is just a quick, four-day-late post to talk about my 4th of July drink. This one was shot gonzo-style (i.e., on my phone), served to a large crowd, and primarily about image. So basically, it was just like politics. Independence day is all about the red, white, and blue, so I decided to bring back that old resort classic, the Lava Flow, and garnish it with an attention-grabbing comb-over of blue sanding sugar.

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And honestly, that’s all there is to it. We had initially tried rimming the glass with blue sugar, but with this style of glass, that did not provide the density that I desired for maximum visual impact. Sprinkling blue sugar on top proved to be both more striking and simpler to execute.

For the puree, I blended a cup of raspberries, a cup of strawberries, and ~6 oz of raspberry jam, and stored the puree in a squeeze bottle. This produced both a richness of flavor and a thick viscosity, ideal for coating the outside of clear plastic party cups.

for the smoothie, we used compressed pineapple, made in my friend Johan’s chamber vac. It didn’t affect the final drink in any noticeable way, but it signaled our molecularly gastronomic values. The plating was the most interesting part of this drink, I am sure you will agree.

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Make America Flow Again
3/4 Cup of compressed pineapple
8 oz light rum (Bacardi)
4 oz Trader Joe’s Coconut Cream
3 oz lime juice
2 oz simple syrup (1:1)
2 Cups of ice
Blend it up, and pour it into a clear glass with red stripes of berry puree. Top with blue sanding sugar.

All of the above measurements are approximations, except the rum/lime/sugar. Perhaps ironically, I never measure my smoothies.

The most frustrating thing about this drink is that it tastes better if you swirl it all together, and that completely ruins the aesthetics. Personally I’d rather preserve its beauty, but most guests opted for the stir. Populism vs. elitism, I guess.

Happy (belated) fourth.