Measure & Stir

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


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Bourbon, Suze, Creole Shrubb, Spaten Optimater

This week is beer cocktail week, so we’ll be posting a series of beer drinks. Today’s drink came together almost on its own, although its construction was controversial. Joe and I were trying to think of something to do with his bottle of Suze, maybe a spirit-driven drink. We came up with an idea and had something that tasted marvelous, but then Joe wanted to pour beer all over it. We debated whether or not we should add beer for about five minutes, and in the end Joe convinced me and we did it. I must say that it was worth it.

kaiser suze

Kaiser Suze
1.5 oz Bourbon
.25 oz Suze
.25 oz Creole Shrubb
Dash of aromatic bitters (Angostura)

Stir over ice, strain. Top with 2.5 oz Spaten Optimater (or any doppelbock will do). Garnish with an orange twist.

The beer we chose was Spaten Optimater, which is a dark German malt beer. On its own, it has a floral, malty, toasty bouquet and tastes of dark fruits – maybe prunes – and caramel, and finishes with a slight bitterness. What convinced me about this beer? Well, it just tastes great with bourbon. Also, this is one of Joe’s all-time favorite beers (as well as his father’s, so I’m told), and so in it went.

kaiser suze2

Even without the beer, this drink tastes great. With the beer, though, it tastes even better, although it does loose a bit of its hard edge. The beer’s caramel and dark fruit flavors complement the bourbon, and its sourness emphasized the bitterness of Suze. The creole shrubb is almost a cheater’s ingredient (it’s so tasty!), and the citrus notes in the beer help it feel at home in the glass.

Enjoy!


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Apple Mocktail

From time to time, one entertains a guest who does not wish to drink alcohol, for reasons of pregnancy, designated driverdom, alcohol intolerance, teetotalism, mormonism, or similar pathologies. This drink isn’t really for those people, because it pushes the mocktail line ever so slightly. This drink is more for those nights when one wishes to drink without drinking. On one such night, I found myself in possession of fresh apple juice, ginger beer, and acid phosphate, and I had a good feeling that I could put those together.

The acid phosphate from art of drink has been an intriguing and challenging ingredient to handle; it truly has no flavor, only the experience of dry sourness. As such, it is difficult to tell how much you are using when you taste your drink before you chill and dilute it. It works about like lemon juice, with a half to three quarters of an ounce being the appropriate measure to sour a drink with no citrus.

Apple Mocktail

3 oz Fresh Apple Juice (Could use unfiltered apple juice)
.75 oz Acid Phosphate (Could use lemon juice)
.25 oz Angostura bitters

Shake over ice and strain over fresh ice. Top with 2 oz ginger beer (Bundaberg) and float a dash of Angostura bitters.

It’s hard to see in the photo, but the float of angostura bitters made a beautiful color gradient of dark red to light brown over the height of the drink. I admit, the use of bitters does give this an extremely mild alcohol component, but it’s not enough to notice or to improve impair your judgement.

As I formulated this drink, the angostura wasn’t as pronounced as I would have liked, and neither was the sourness. I still haven’t found the acid phosphate drink that I dream of, and I would suggest that if you do replicate this one, you should use lemon juice, instead, and you use a whole ounce. An ounce of acid phosphate would also be fine, but it’s kind of an expensive ingredient to be mixing up in ounces.


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Flamed Pisco Sour

Writing code all day will make just about anyone feel crazy, and last Monday the monotony was starting to get to me, so I walked down to my neighborhood Sur La Table, and I bought myself a flamethrower. If you are putting together the menu for a bar, a flamed drink serves two purposes; first, it gets the attention of all your patrons, and incites them to order “the one with the fire”, which hopefully equals more sales. Second, it’s flipping awesome.

Jeffrey Morgenthaler describes a technique for flaming a drink in which he fills a pressurized olive-oil sprayer with a mixture of bitters and Stroh 160, and then uses it to flame the surface of a Pisco Sour. The Pisco sour is an ideal candidate for this treatment, because it is made with an egg white, and as such has a rich, foamy head. You could garnish any mixed drink with scorched bitters, and it impart the same aroma, but egg white drinks have the added bonus that you can caramelize the top of the foam, capturing the the flavor of the bitters as well.

The garnish in a drink should look beautiful, but it also plays a functional role most of the time: it gives the drink most of its aroma. A mixed drink does not have a strong smell, but a fresh herb, spice, or citrus peel completes the experience of the drink. In that sense, scorched bitters is the garnish, even though it leaves no tangible artifact in the glass.

Some men just want to watch the world burn. In order to take this picture, I had to spray fire all over the egg white for about three times as long as you’re supposed to, and the surface that was touched by the flame turned into a paper film with the flavor of crème brûlée, and a texture that I wouldn’t serve to anyone whom I actually liked. As a matter of fact, it took me three of these before I got it right, but the research was not unpleasant.

You probably know all about the Pisco Sour–Pisco is a type of pomace brandy, similar to grappa, and is the national spirit of Peru.  Moreover, the Pisco Sour is the Peruvian national cocktail, which they celebrate on the first Saturday of every February. It is a very simple drink, but there are a couple of interesting details, which I shall discuss momentarily.

Scorched Pisco Sour
1.5 oz Pisco
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
1 Egg White

Dry shake* and then add ice and shake again. Double strain into a cocktail glass. Fill an olive-oil sprayer with a mixture of Angostura bitters and 151 rum (or Stroh 160) and burn the top of the egg white foam for a few seconds.

If your drink looks like the one in my picture, you actually overdid it with the fire. You don’t want a slimy membrane of burned meringue on top of your drink. Most Pisco sour recipes only call for half an egg white, but I like to use a whole one in this kind of application, to guarantee that you have plenty of foam to work with.

The traditional garnish for a Pisco sour is freshly-grated nutmeg, and I honestly prefer that to the more common (in the states) clover made out of angostura bitters. Scorching the bitters is a fun variation, however, and worth it just for the pyrotechnics.

*A note on dry shaking your sour: I always used to find that, when dry-shaking my drinks, little droplets from the drink would escape from my shaker and get all over my hands and clothes. This frustrated me greatly, because in order to properly dry-shake a drink, you need to shake it mightily, and in so doing whip up the egg white into a rich foam. I asked around on the internet, and they told me that the temperature of a drink with ice is what prevents it from breaking through the seal on your shaker. So for this drink, I placed a single ice cube in the shaker for my “dry” shake, and I was delighted to discover that the drink did not leak.


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Bacon-Infused Bourbon

Like you, I had heard of bacon-infused bourbon, and this trendy process known as “fat-washing”, wherein a spirit is infused with animal fat. I was always skeptical, because it seemed gimmicky, and who really wants to drink a whole drink that tastes like meat, anyway? I tried some Bakon Vodka, and I was surprised by how mild and not-terrible its bacon flavor is. I was expecting artificial bacon flavor, which is disgusting, as you will know if you have tried such abominations as bacon salt, bacon breath mints, or anything else of that nature. I think the problem is that you can only really extract about half of the flavor, so such products always taste oddly incomplete, and lack the fatty savoriness of real bacon.

I changed my mind when I visited RN74 Seattle, a mere two blocks from my office, and tried an original bacon cocktail there consisting of bacon-infused bourbon, Cynar, and Laphroaig. The bacony qualities of the scotch married the bacon in the bourbon beautifully! So I knew I had to try making my own. If you search the internet for instructions, you will find a handful of websites describing the process, followed by the identical recipe for an old fashioned bacon cocktail. I followed their instructions, which are, very simply:

  1. Fry some bacon
  2. Drain off the fat, and measure out a third of a cup
  3. Pour the fat into some bourbon, and allow it to infuse for about five hours
  4. Put the bottle in the freezer overnight. All of the fat will have floated to the top by now, where it will solidify
  5. Strain out the fat as you pour your now bacon-infused bourbon into a clean vessel.

 

Since you can do it in one day, this is one of the easiest infusions I have ever made. The bacon flavor in the bourbon is incomplete, much the same way as in Bakon vodka or bacon salt, but the bourbon provides a nice rich base for it, and some of the fat seems to diffuse in the spirit, giving it a slightly thicker, slightly oily viscosity, which is not unpleasant. Since so many people went out of their way to give me the recipe for an old fashioned, I made it my starting point:

Old Fashioned Bacon Cocktail

1.5 oz Bacon-Infused Bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
.25 oz Grade B Maple Syrup
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Stir, and strain over ice. Garnish with a crispy strip of bacon.

The internet said to garnish it with an orange peel, but I think the bacon garnish is way more dramatic, aromatic, and delicious. The presence of a piece of bacon greatly added to the sensation and enjoyment of bacon in the drink, much more than an orange would. The flavor of the maple syrup was subtle, but noticeable, and a great pairing in any context.

Even though this drink is good, it’s more valuable for its novelty than for its excellence. I was happy to try it, but I would probably never order it in a bar, nor do I have a strong inclination to mix it again for myself. I’d much rather just eat bacon. Still, I wanted to see what else was out there, and I didn’t want to mindlessly parrot the same information that’s already all over the internet. So I did a bit of research, and I found this video from Jamie Boudreau, in which he offers up a drink called the Chocolate Cochon:

Chocolate Cochon
1.5 ounces bacon-infused bourbon
.25 ounce amaro Ramazotti
.25 ounce crème de cacao (homemade)
.25 ounce kirsch
Dash of Angostura bitters

Stir over ice, strain over fresh ice, and garnish with a flamed orange peel.

This is the kind of thing you would expect from Jamie Boudreau. I didn’t have any Kirsch, but honestly, I can’t imagine that made one whit of difference. I combined all of the ingredients, pre-stir, minus the kirsch, and the only thing I could taste was the bacon bourbon, the bitters, and a touch of sweetness from the liqueurs. The flavors of chocolate and Ramazotti were barely there at all, except maybe as a hint of muddy complexity on the swallow. I cannot imagine that a quarter ounce of kirsch, which has a very light flavor, would have made all that much difference. I ended up compensating by adding a little extra chocolate, but on the whole, this drink lead me to a very deep understanding of drinks that use bacon-infused bourbon as the base.

They all taste exactly the same. The one from RN74, the old-fashioned, the slightly mangled Chocolate Cochon. It doesn’t matter what you do. Get a little sugar in there, a little bitter, and call it good. That said, I really wanted to try to make something a little different, and I had recently acquired a bottle of Lustau Oloroso Dry Amontillado Sherry, and I thought it would be just the thing to bury this bacon bourbon once and for all.

Hogwash

1.5 oz Bacon-infused Bourbon
.75 oz Dry Amontillado Sherry (Lustau Oloroso)
Dash of Simple Syrup
Dash of Angostura Bitters

Stir over ice and garnish with a flamed orange peel

This is a very recognizable take on the formula for an aromatic cocktail. It does not sound terribly original or surprising, but even so I highly recommend it to you over the others. Amontillado sherry tastes like dry white wine, with a hint of something savory on the tongue, followed by a vivid mushroom flavor on the swallow. The umami qualities of the sherry and the mushroom finish complemented the bacon while taking this drink in a very different direction from the other cocktails I have seen with it. Jamie was onto something with the flamed orange peel; that hint of a burned flavor is just the right aroma for this spirit.

Cheers.


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Memories of Fall: Apple Brandy and Cardamaro

In almost every mixed drink I have encountered, there is a perishable ingredient, something that is just slightly inconvenient to keep fresh and on hand. If it isn’t fresh citrus juice, it is fortified wine, and if it is neither of those, it is some kind of dairy ingredient. Even an old fashioned cocktail, or a Sazerac isn’t really complete without a slice of fresh citrus peel. David Embury divided mixed drinks into two broad categories:  Sour and Aromatic, the former depending upon sour citrus juice, and the latter depending upon fortified wines and bitters.

There are other mixologists with other ideas, but at the end of the day you’re pouring sugared and flavored ethanol, and it’s not as if all of these categories exist in some discoverable form in nature, the way subatomic particles do. Anyway, fortified wines will live a lot longer in your fridge than fresh lemons will in your fruit bowl, and it is both easy and refreshing to make a drink that contains only spirits.

I think many drinkers neglect the aromatic style, either because they mistakenly believe that they dislike vermouth, or because they have never seen how rewarding an aromatic cocktail can be. Technically speaking, only aromatic mixed drinks are cocktails, and only a subset of them, for that matter. Last Thursday I was in the mood for an aromatic drink using apple brandy, and I invoked my favorite 6:3:1 formula for a quick tipple.

Memories Of Fall

1.5 oz Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
.75 oz Cardamaro
.25 oz Allspice Liqueur (homemade)
dash of angostura bitters

Stir over ice and strain into a coupe glass. Drink in the Spring time.

This was a warming drink, and it felt like something you would sip on a crisp fall afternoon. I made this drink several weeks ago, when it was still technically spring, so it was deliciously out of season, not because the ingredients were unseasonal, but because the flavors were. The Cardamaro lent a round, herbal flavor to the sip, which was complimented by spiced apple on the swallow.


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Des Esseintes

CVS is an endless repository of new and exciting drinks, though I probably lean on them too much. But see, I have this bottle of Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida burning a hole in my bar, and then this brilliant opportunity to mix it with an amaro comes along, and how could I resist? Amaro Nonino tends toward the sweeter side of amari, and I find that, much like Cardamaro, it occupies the same same general flavor profile as a good sweet vermouth. Make a Manhattan with Nonino or even Ramazotti instead of vermouth and you’ll see what I mean. They are substantially different from a sweet vermouth, but when you put them in your drink, they do the same thing.

In light of this similarity, I think this drink, Des Esseintes, is a lot like a Martinez with mezcal instead of gin. Of course, the devil is in the details, and I think the pairing of Nonino and Mezcal is a grand one, so much so that I tried to realize it with gummy bears, but you shouldn’t do that, probably.

Des Esseintes

1.5 oz Mezcal (Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida)
1.5 oz Amaro Nonino
1 barspoon Maraschino (Luxardo)
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
2 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters

Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

The mezcal’s smokiness made for an enjoyable riff on a classic, but overall this was too sweet for my palette. I think it would have been a lot better with only one ounce of amaro, particularly because Nonino is so very sweet. If someone asked me for a mezcal drink, this is not the first one I would make for them, but it might be the third.


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Appetizer

I was looking for a drink to make with heavy cream when I happened upon this little beauty from CVS. The appetizer is perhaps oddly named, because with heavy cream and two very potent bitters, I think it walks the line between dessert and digestif. A proper aperitif should be dry and stimulating to the appetite, whereas this drink feels more like something to sip after a long meal.

The original drink called for Dubonnet, which I did not have, but on CVS he substituted Bonal, which I also did not have. I chose to use Cardamaro, because I find it to be similar to Bonal, though probably Dubbonet is more like sweet vermouth than Cardamaro. I wouldn’t stress about it, as long as you use a decently sweet and bitter and high-quality fortified wine, because Fernet and Angostura are the real heroes of this drink.

Appetizer

.5 oz Fernet Branca
.5 oz Angostura Bitters
.5 oz Heavy Cream
.5 oz Dubbonet (Cardamaro… I know)

Shake over ice and double-strain into a fluted glass.

The original recipe called for a cocktail glass, but I chose to use a fluted one, because the purpose of a cocktail glass’ wide mouth is to diffuse the fumes from the alcohol. The greater surface area of the cocktail glass also allows more heat to bleed into the drink, so it will warm quicker. I wanted to capture the aromas from the bitters when sipping this drink, rather than release them into the air with a cocktail glass. I also wanted to split the drink between three people, and these were convenient. But the logic is sound.

The sweetness of the dairy perfectly modulated the bitterness of the Fernet and Angostura. This was the most unusual drink I have tried all year, and I greatly enjoyed it. Somehow, the combination of spices and the cream made me feel like I was sipping on some kind of Tikka Masala. There was nothing savory in the drink, but still, the overall impression was one of curry.

I made this drink at the end of the night, and to be honest I was looking for something with a bit more of a dessert quality to it, so I mixed up a second round, swapping Fernet Branca with Branca Menta, which is Fernet Branca’s much sweeter cousin. The extra sugar greatly diminished the sensation of eating curry, and made this drink feel like a grown-up Grasshopper.

In the future, I will tend to make the Branca Menta variation, but I encourage you to try it both ways.