Measure & Stir

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


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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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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.

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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.


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Valentine’s Cocktail Trio: Love Letter – Raspberry, Calvados, Malic Acid, Rose Air

For Valentine’s day, I invited some of my close friends over for an intimate cocktail party with an emphasis on technique. The first drink in my series was made with raspberry coulis ala Jacques Pepin, and topped with a rosewater sucro foam.

This project was a collaboration with my good friend Johan, whose interest in modernist cuisine was instrumental in creating these concepts. He was the one who suggested a raspberry powder, and as you can see, it is vibrant upon the plate.

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I have been chasing “soap sud” style foams for a while, and I finally found the right compound to make it. As critical as I was of José Andrés Bazaar Meats, they did clue me in to the appropriate recipe for a stable soap sud foam. To the best of my knowledge, Ferran Adria is the man who first had the idea to use sucrose esters to create this style of drink. In the past I had tried using soy lecithin, but the final product was too unstable to sit upon a plate, and would begin to approach soy milk.

For the raspberry coulis, I was inspired by this recipe for raspberry velvet from Jacques Pepin, who is a culinary hero of mine. The method is simple, and the resulting product is both sweet and tart. Upon mixing it into a drink, the flavor became dull, so I added additional malic acid and sugar to bring it back to life.

Initially I used brandy for the base spirit, but the flavor was too harsh. As I was tuning the drink, I was reminded of the common juice pairing of apple and cranberry, so I reached for my trusty bottle of calvados. Its soft and mellow flavor was the perfect base note for the tart purée.

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To garnish, pulverize freeze-dried raspberries and sift them through a fine mesh strainer. I put down a cocktail glass and tapped the strainer to create an empty circle on the serving tray.

To make the candied fruit, brush raspberries, blueberries, and rose petals with egg white, and then roll them in sanding sugar. It is important to use sanding sugar here, as granulated or powdered sugar will dissolve. Allow them to dry, uncovered, for at least six hours. They will keep for about two days.

In the picture, you can see that I used a mint leaf, but in practice this turned out to be a little tooth-pastey. A red rose petal, on the other hand, is subtle and tasteful.

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Love Letter
1.5 oz Raspberry Coulis ala Jacques Pepin
1.25 oz Calvados
1/4 tsp Malic Acid
1 Barspoon of Simple Syrup
1 Dash of Angostua Bitters
Shake and strain through a fine-mesh strainer
Top with Rosewater Air
Garnish With Candied Berries and Raspberry Powder

Rose Air
1/2 cup of water
1/2 oz simple syrup
1 teaspoon rosewater
1 teaspoon sucrose ester
Blend using a stick blender with a whisk attachment, or an egg beater.

Raspberry Powder
Pulverise freeze-dried raspberries in a mortar and pestle.
Sift them through a fine-mesh strainer

Candied Berries
Brush berries with egg whites and roll them in sanding sugar.

To be honest, I always feel like drinks with airs, foams, spheres, and other molecular trickery end up a little bit gimmicky. The gimmick takes away from the purity of the form, and unfortunately, this was no different. On the one hand, it is undeniable that the rose aroma contributed to the experience of this drink, both in appearance and flavor, but at the same time, there is a sense that it’s all a bit of a trick.

Still, I hope you enjoyed it. Cheers.


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Colors of Fall Cocktails: Orange (The Basic Bitch Cocktail)

Continuing in my fall series, I wanted to create drinks that were wholly orthogonal to each other. In a course of drinks, each experience should be distinctive.

In my AB testing for this drink, I started with a butternut squash juice made by running fresh juice from the squash through a chemex filter. I do not suggest grilling the squash before making the juice. The resulting liquid has a clean, sweet, penetrating flavor of squash, and a pale orange color. I mixed it with Demerara 12 Year, brown sugar syrup, and a small measure of balsamic vinegar, and served it in a coupe glass rimmed with brown butter powder (see below).

The final product was intriguing but a little underwhelming. Although the butter brown powder was delicious as a “hook” for the concept, the flavor of the actual drink was average. The balsamic vinegar did add a nice contrast and dimension, but my competing concept was better.

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Colors of Fall: Orange (The Basic Bitch Cocktail)
1 oz Bourbon (Russell’s Reserve)
.5 oz Vodka (Tito’s)
1.5 oz Roasted Pumpkin Juice*
1 Dash Simple Syrup
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake over ice and double strain into a coupe glass. Top with “Basic Bitch Foam*” and Brown Butter Powder*.

Whew, that’s a lot to unpack. The combination of a foam, a powder, and a relatively complex may strike some as decadent or over the top. I assure you that it is.

Let’s start with the “Basic Bitch Foam”. I am sure most internet denizens have seen this viral video by now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaghIdSJKvQ
One of the hallmarks of the basic bitch is the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, or PSL. For this foam, I made a pumpkin spice mélange and mixed it into maple syrup, lemon, egg white, and xanthan gum. I have found that foams work much better with a little xanthan gum for stabilization. Moreover, xanthan gum can be dispersed in liquids much more easily if you first make a slurry of xanthan gum and a small amount of sugar. This recipe is approximate, as I made the foam to taste:

Basic Bitch Foam
100 ml egg whites
350 ml Maple Syrup
50 ml lemon juice
6 g pumpkin spice mélange (cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg, clove, star anise)
1 g Xanthan Gum in a slurry with 5g of white sugar*
Combine lemon, maple syrup, and spice mélange. Make a slurry of xanthan gum and sugar, and then disperse it into the maple syrup mixture. Add the egg whites and then pour into an iSi Whipped Cream Canister. Charge with two n02 cartridges and shake vigorously. Store in the fridge.

For the brown butter powder, I followed this recipe at Chefsteps:

Brown Butter Powder
225 g Butter, unsalted
100 g Tapioca Maltodextrin
20 g Powdered sugar
2.5 g Salt, kosher
Brown the butter, add the sugar and salt, and then combine in a food processor with tapioca maltodextrin.

By volume, this recipe made significantly more powder than I wanted. In the future, I will cut this recipe in half.

Roasted Pumpkin Juice
Cut a pumpkin into pieces, roast about 10% of it in the oven and then mash it into a purée. Run the rest of it, raw, through a juicer, and blend the purée into the juice a little at a time, until you find a balanced flavor and a slightly thicker texture. I’m sorry, it’s hard to be more specific than that. When it’s right, you’ll know.

Next time I make it, I’ll note the weights of raw vs. roasted pumpkin, and update this post. For now, I enjoy the idea of drinks which require a personal touch and an idiosyncratic treatment. If you prepare this drink, you will have to rely on your own senses, and you will end up with a creation which is a little bit more your own.

Cheers.


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Colors of Fall Cocktails: Red

I wanted to capture the feeling and the essence of the autumn season in a series of drinks that celebrate both its flavors and the colors. In that vein, I have continued to draw my inspiration from the Japanese concept of Shiki, which I learned at Bar Gen Yamamoto.

This drink takes inspiration from the classic Bacardi Cocktail, which is a daquiri made with Bacardi and sweetened with grenadine instead of simple syrup. Long-time readers may remember that I have experimented with the idea of a cranberry daiquiri in the past, only at that time I preferred to think of it as a Rum Cosmopolitan. I have learned a lot since then, and I can say with confidence that this iteration of the concept is much more refined. The flavors are tight, complex, and yet easily approachable.

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Colors of Fall: Red
1.5 oz Light Rum (Cruzan Aged Light Rum)
1.5 oz Cranberry Reduction*
.5 oz Fresh Grenadine*
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake over ice and double strain into an old fashioned glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

In some ways this recipe seems very simple, though one can find an opportunity for artistry. In this drink it lies not behind the bar, but in the kitchen. For the cranberry reduction, simmer cranberries in a bit of water until they are soft and falling apart, and then blend them into a puree and work them through a strainer. I did not measure this, though I did stir it. It is easily reproducible if you follow your sense of taste. Cooking the cranberries brings out their natural bitter, sour, and earthy flavors, which we wish to accentuate.

A long and slow cook is ideal here, in order to concentrate the flavor. Too much heat will destroy it. Do not add sugar to the cranberries. We will find our source of sweetness in grenadine, which is made from fresh pomegranate juice. The pomegranate, like the cranberry, has a tart and earthy flavor, so it pairs well with the relatively naked cranberries, and saves the drink from being too one-noted.

For the grenadine, I followed Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s method. It is stellar. I chose to omit the orange flower water in this drink, though I did garnish with an orange peel.

The end result resembles a homemade cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving dinner. Preparing the drink is easy, but you will only have good results if you are attentive to detail when fabricating your grenadine and cranberry sauce. These things must be made according to one’s own good taste.

I tried this with a variety of different rums, and I found that the best was the simplest. And although I did not prefer it, I was intrigued when I substituted a half ounce of the rum in this drink with El Dorado 3 Year. The caramel notes of the demerara rum add complexity, but for me they took away from the central flavor of the cranberry.

Angostura bitters create a subtle spice note, to help impart a warming sensation in the cold of fall.

Cheers.


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Vanilla-Bourbon, Cranberry, Pecan Orgeat, Maple Syrup

Thanksgiving. Turkey time. A day spent with friends and family, stuffing ourselves into food comas. What are we thankful for? Bourbon whiskey, amari, and mezcal, of course!

Berry Nutty Maple Whiskey Sour
2 oz Vanilla-infused bourbon
.75 oz Cranberry juice
.5 oz Maple syrup
.5 oz Pecan orgeat
Dash of angostura bitters

Shake over ice, double-strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a pecan praline.

For today’s drink, we wanted to mix something using fresh cranberry juice. Let me emphasize the “fresh” part. Remember to keep it craft and always use real, freshly-juiced cranberries. None of that ocean spray 20% cranberry nonsense. Fresh cranberry juice is a splendid cocktail ingredient because it’s an excellent source of acidity, and using it is a great way to add sourness to a drink without relying on citrus juice.

To make pecan orgeat, we used the Serious Eats orgeat recipe, except that we used pecans instead of almonds. The sweetness of the vanilla-infused bourbon and maple syrup balance the sourness from the cranberry juice. The pecan orgeat adds a smooth, sweet, mild, buttery nuttiness, and tastes great with maple syrup. Honestly, when you make a drink using ingredients like these, its deliciousness is self-evident.

And now, to enjoy while perhaps sipping on a cocktail and nibbling on the last of grandma’s jell-o mold, I leave you with some lame Thanksgiving-inspired jokes:

What did the turkey say to the computer?
“Google, google!”

What kind of music did the pilgrims listen to?
Plymouth Rock.

What do you call an unhappy cranberry?
A blueberry!

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.


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Thai Tea Rum Fizz

Last week Joe and I were trying to use up the Thai tea syrup that we made for Thai week. I really wanted to try rum and Thai tea syrup together, so I suggested that we make a drink out of the two. We waited until later in the session to explore this idea, and, since we hadn’t made one yet, why not a fizz?

Thai Tea Rum Fizz
2 oz Doorly’s rum
1 oz Thai tea syrup
.75 oz Acid phosphate
1 oz Heavy cream
Dash of allspice dram
White of 1 Egg
Top with soda water and flamed angostura

Combine all but the toppers and dry shake for about a minute. Add ice and shake again to chill. Strain into a tall glass and top with soda water. Add 4 drops of angostura and use a toothpick to swirl it into the foam. Flame a bit more angostura over the top.

Traditionally, a fizz contains gin, lemon juice, sugar, and carbonated water. A Ramos fizz has all of that plus egg white, cream, and orange flower water. We decided to make ours more like the Ramos fizz, with some twists. I wanted the flavor profile to be focused on the rum and thai tea, so I chose to use acid phosphate as the souring agent, which is sour yet neutral. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any orange flower water, but we added some allspice dram to spice it up a bit, which paired well with the rum.

The fizz is an interesting form of cocktail. I guess I would describe this drink as kind of like an alcoholic milkshake. At first I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted, being rich and thick, but by the end of the glass I was sorry to see it finished. The aroma of charred bitters and the tiny bite from the allspice complement the rum rather well. Working with cream turned out to be a double-edged sword because, although it adds body to the drink and helps to draw out the sweetness in the tea flavor from the syrup, too much of it clobbers some of the tea’s complexity. For that reason, we used half as much cream as you usually would for a Ramos fizz.

Enjoy!


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Kenyan Ghost: Rum, Coffee, Orange, Orgeat

Another drink from last week’s MxMo tiki party, and courtesy of Kaiser Penguin’s archives. (Cached version in case his certificates are screwy). This is a very instructive tiki drink; it contains two lessons for us to learn. The first is a lesson about the construction of tiki drinks. The Kenyan Ghost contains a scant quarter ounce of coffee syrup or liqueur, totalling 6.6% of the drink. This flavor is quite subtle against the the canvas of rum, orange juice, orgeat, and bitters, and yet it not only stands on its own, but pervades the entire drink. If you were to forget the name, you might call it “that coffee-flavored tiki drink”.

And why is that? It’s because all of the other ingredients are tiki standards. You can mix rum and tropical fruit and citrus and spices til your arms fall off, and it will probably be awesome, and it will all sort of start to converge and taste like tiki. That’s the palette; as long as you stay in the palette, you get tiki. If you want to bend it, if you want to make something that tastes like an X-flavored tiki drink (for some value of X), you have to first make a tiki drink as a base, and then add that one flavor modifier. I haven’t developed any really bullet-proof tiki templates yet, but if you

  1. blend a couple of rums (Maybe one with hogo, maybe one that’s particularly aged)
  2. add the juice of a citrus fruit (lime, grapefruit, orange — rarely lemon)
  3. and the juice or a syrup from a tropical fruit (pineapple, passion, mango, guava, coconut, grenadine)
  4. add something either spicy or nutty (orgeat, allspice dram, angostura, cinnamon or clove syrup)

Shake it and pour it over crushed ice, you’ll get something in the right range. Proportions are left as an exercise for the reader, though you want about half of the drink to be rum, and you generally want an ounce or two of a fresh tropical juice, and about a total of 1 – 1.25 oz of sweeteners (liqueurs + syrups). Of course, when you’re creating a drink, always trust your palate and your nose. Throw some coffee or an herbal liqueur or some other oddball ingredient, and you suddenly have “that green chartreuse tiki drink” or what have you.

OK! That’s lesson one. A single out-of-palette ingredient, in this case, coffee syrup, determine the character of the entire drink. Lesson two will be revealed after the break.

Kenyan Ghost
1oz Pusser’s rum (Matusalem Clasico 10)
1oz Zaya rum (Zacapa 23. Close enough)
1oz Orange Juice
1/4oz Coffee Syrup (or 1/4oz coffee liqueur)
1/4oz Orgeat Syrup
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1/2oz Float of Blackstrap rum (Kraken)
orange slice and coffee beans, for garnish
Shake with ice and strain into a collins glass filled with ice. Float the blackstrap. Place the orange slice on top and arrange the coffee beans just so. Stick your straw through the hole in the middle of the orange and enjoy! (There’s more ice in the glass than it looks like)

Lesson two is the importance of the garnish! In the Kaiser’s preparation, he balances some coffee beans precariously upon an orange slice. When I served this drink to my friends, I actually followed his example, but with one small modification. I made small incisions in the orange wheel, and inserted the beans into the incisions. This allowed them to stay ensconced in the garnish without the risk of losing them.

You might ask yourself, how does this drink illustrate the importance of the garnish? For the version in the picture, I used a half-opened lily instead of an orange wheel with coffee, and the result was that the drink tasted flat and muddy. The smell of the coffee beans to accompany the sip drew out the flavor of the coffee in the drink, and made the drink distinctive.

Incidentally, if you want to save the lily garnish from mediocrity, all you have to do is drop a few coffee beans down into the flower.


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Old Fashioned Fernet Cocktail with Pineapple Foam

Last week’s foam adventure left me unsatisfied; though the foam itself was excellent, the total drink was lacking. And in the aftermath of my failure, I knew there was a reliable way to redeem myself. I brought back our old friend, that time-tested combination, pineapple and fernet. I have already spoken at some length about this combination; we all know it’s a winner. What I wanted to do with this drink was to showcase the foam with a simple drink that would support it. In my earlier experiment, I tried to unify two wholly disparate parts into a single drink, with predictable results.

Here, rather than putting two drinks in one glass and watching them fight, I envisioned a single drink, and split half of its components into a foam, and the other half into a cocktail. The marriage was perfect; I placed a simple foam on top of a simple drink, and it needed nothing.

I admit, I had my reservations about the foam recipe itself. To make a good foam, one needs to a balance the ratio of sugar to acid, not merely for flavor, but also for the structural integrity of the foam. Pineapple juice has a pH of about 3.0, whereas lemon juice hovers between 1.8 and 2.2. I used pineapple juice as the base of this foam, so I knew I needed to use significantly less citrus than in the whiskey sour foam from before, but I wasn’t sure how much less. I ended up taking a stab in the dark, and getting lucky. Pineapple juice also has a high sugar content, so one wonders if it might not be fine on its own.

Pineapple Foam
6 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice, strained.
1 oz Fresh Lime Juice, strained.
1 oz Simple Syrup
2 oz water
4 egg whites
Combine all in an iSi whipped cream dispenser and discharge two nitrogen cartridges. Allow the canister to rest in the refrigerator for ten minutes before use.


Old Fashioned Fernet Cocktail, Pineapple Foam
1.5 oz Fernet Branca
.25 oz Simple Syrup
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Stir over ice and strain into a rocks glass with a single large ice cube. Top with a generous amount of pineapple foam.

This drink needed nothing. Perhaps instead of an old fashioned, it should be called a new fangled, in reference to the molecular mixology technique here employed. Regardless, this was one of my finest original creations to date. The water mellowed out the flavor of the foam, balancing it against the Fernet, allowing the whole drink to breathe. A big danger with foam drinks is that the foam can overwhelm the drink underneath, and dilution of the foam is the secret to keeping the flavors in balance.


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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.