Measure & Stir

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


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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.


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The Sexton in Ballard

After an arduous night of bar-crawling in places where they shake Manhattans, I stumbled into The Sexton, in search of a night cap more in line with my own tastes. Or maybe I wanted to talk to a girl sitting by the window. Either way, they had what I was looking for. They have their menu on their home page, but just in case you want to see it as I saw it, here it is:

This was only the first page, of which there were two or three of mixed drinks. Such an expansive menu might be intimidating for an inexperienced cocktail drinker, but I enjoyed the variety, and I thought the menu was well put-together. The Banyan is a great way to class up the much more ubiquitous strawberry margarita, and the pig rider presses the chocolate/tequila/chili pepper buttons that we all know and love. Alas, I did not opt for a tequila drink, though as I am writing this post, it would surely hit the spot. I would also like to call your attention to the tasteful inclusion of a variation of The Bitter End, a drink which appears in many different forms, but which always includes a float of amaro or aromatic bitters, so that the last few sips of the drink pack a substantial bitter wallop.

On this particular night, I ordered the Double Bind, a mixture of bourbon, lemon-sage shrub, ginger beer, and bitters, and I was compelled to do so by a recent fascination with vinegar in cocktails. It was a highball, as you could guess from the inclusion of the ginger beer, and the served it in a mason jar, which I found to be pleasantly rustic. To make this drink at home, you will, of course, need to make a lemon-sage shrub. I suggest the following process for making shrub syrup:

Lemon-Sage Shrub
4 large lemons
1.5 oz sage
1 cup sugar
1 cup white vinegar
Slice the lemons thinly, peel and all, and place them in a sealed container. Bruise the sage, and add it to the lemons. Cover the mixture in the sugar, and allow it to sit in a sealed container in the fridge for 2-3 days. Strain off the solids, being sure to scrape any undissolved sugar from the inside of the container, and add it to the vinegar. Bottle it, and allow it to mellow in the fridge for 2-3 more days.

As the shrub sits, its flavors will harmonize and change chemically. Essentially, the vinegar pickles the syrup. If you added a few lemon peels to the bottled syrup, I wouldn’t blame you, but be careful, as they may overpower the relatively delicate sage flavor.

The Double Bind?
2 oz Bourbon
.75 oz Lemon-Sage Shrub
2 Dashes of Bitters

Shake over ice and then strain into a tumbler full of fresh ice. Top with 1.5 oz ginger beer and garnish with a lemon wedge.

Apologies to the Sexton if I got it wrong, but that’s how I would start. Before shaking, taste the mixture, and make sure that the flavors of the bourbon and the shrub are in harmony together. If the flavor of the shrub is not pronounced enough, add another quarter ounce. Many props go to the Sexton for using the appropriate amount of ice, and for crafting an interesting drink. I’m not sure how much of the sage I tasted in the instance of the drink that they served me, but the concept is very solid, and the flavor of the sage comes down to individual execution.

They garnished the drink with a lemon wedge, but my inclination would be to use a toothpick to spear a sage leaf to that self-same lemon wedge, the more to convey the flavor of the fresh herb.


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Kingston Club

Via Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the Kingston Club is one of the best drinks I have tried in a long time. Seattle finally decided to get warm, so I’ve been drinking lots of highballs in an attempt to beat the heat. I’ve also been ordering highballs around the city, and I’m disappointed to tell you that even many craft bars will manage to screw up this format. The most common mistake I see is the failure to use enough ice. When you make a rocks drink, it is essential that you fill the glass completely with ice. If you don’t, it will melt too quickly, and you will be left with a watery highball, its flavor a mere specter of your intention.

For this reason, I don’t recommend ordering a highball when you are eating at a restaurant; even if the bartender was diligent, it may take your server a while to bring you the drink, and the ice will melt. I can’t remember where I heard this line, but I like to tell my guests to “drink it before the ice gets scared”.

I’d never owned a bottle of Drambuie before last week, and this was the drink that convinced me to make the purchase. I love its peppery, scotchy flavor, and I was intrigued by Morgenthaler’s use of this spirit as the base of a Tiki drink.

Kingston Club

1.5 oz Drambuie
1.5 oz Pineapple Juice
.75 oz Lime juice
1 tsp Fernet Branca
3 dashes Angostura bitters

Fill a Collins glass with ice and one ounce of soda water. Shake over ice and strain. Garnish with an orange peel.

If you followed the link above, you saw that his was a lot prettier than mine, but that’s OK, because mine was just as delicious. You would think that equal parts of liqueur and fresh pineapple juice would be too sweet, but the level of citrus in this drink was perfect, making it much dryer than I had anticipated. When I was planning to make this drink, I remembered it as having rather more Fernet than it actually does, but when I went to make it, I discovered it had only a teaspoon, which is exactly equivalent to 1/8 of one ounce.

Those who have been reading for a while will recall my love of Fernet and Pineapple, which was one of the main reasons I wanted to make this. As such, I apologize for the low amount of Fernet in this drink, and I will try to find one for you that has substantially more in the near future.


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Angostura 1919 Rum and Clement Creole Shrub Review

I had the good fortune to pick up a bottle of Angostura 1919 rum and a bottle of Clement Creole Shrub from the new Total Wine that opened up in Bellevue. The 20% + 3.77/liter surcharge on hard liquor in WA state is probably worth it considering that we now have Total Wine and soon, Bevmo. It does raise the price on the bottle of Angostura rum from thirty-six dollars to forty-eight, and that burns, but it’s better than not being able to buy Angostura rum at all. There’s still nowhere to buy Smith and Cross, except maybe the obscenely overpriced Wine and Spirits World in Wallingford.

No one outside of Seattle really cares about that, though. On to the reviews!

Angostura 1919 Rum

According to the manufacturer, this rum is blended from rums that are aged a minimum of eight years in bourbon casks. I definitely could notice a bourbon quality in the nose, which is full of vanilla, and as I take a sip, I am greeted immediately by honey, which then gives way to tobacco. The strongest flavor in this rum, by far, is the flavor of fresh tobacco, which permeates the swallow and lingers on the finish. It’s very smooth, and distinctively flavored. It might be a bit simple for some palates, but I greatly enjoy when an aged spirit captures one or two flavors very well, as I think you would agree this rum does with the flavor of tobacco.

I do not smoke cigars, but if I did, I think this rum would be a perfect accompaniment. If you can get it for thirty-six dollars, it’s a pretty fair price, but fifty is a little much. Angostura 1919 is not the first rum I’d buy for my bar, and it’s not the second, but it very well might be the third. (After Smith and Cross or Wray and Nephew, and Zacapa 23) It’s great on ice or in an old fashioned cocktail, but as with most high-end rums, mixing it into a more complicated drink is probably a waste. If you want to go the aromatic route, I suggest mixing it with dry Amontillado sherry and a dash of Angostura bitters, of course.

Clement Creole Shrubb

 This orange liqueur received extremely good reviews, and I was very eager to try it. Clement Creole Shrubb is the only curaçao liqueur I know that uses Rhum Agricole as the base, as opposed to brandy or a neutral spirit. It’s very similar to Gran Marnier, and it’s probably not worth keeping both in your bar unless you are a very serious curaçao enthusiast, but it’s certainly worth keeping one or the other. I think this liqueur is extremely suited to tiki drinks or any rum-based concoction, because it already has a lot of rum notes from its base spirit. If you sip it neat, it greets you with a very bright orange oil flavor with a sugarcane backend and a little bit of pepper. I like it perhaps a bit more than Gran Marnier for mixing, but not quite as much for sipping neat. It makes a killer Sidecar,  Mai Tai, or Daisy, that’s for sure. High quality Curaçao is a must have for your home bar, and this is light years ahead of Gran Gala, which is only fit for removing grease stains from my driveway.

Fancy Old-Fashioned Rum Cocktail
1.5 oz Aged Rum (Angostura 1919)
.25 oz Curaçao
1 Dash Aromatic Bitters (Angostura)

Stir over gently over ice and pour over one large ice cube. Garnish with an orange peel.

I wanted to experience both of these spirits simultaneously, and of course, they were highly complementary to each other, so I made a fancy Old Fashioned. When using a liqueur such as Maraschino or Curaçao in place of simple syrup it becomes “fancy”, and it should be called as such. When making this substitution in drinks with a large volume of syrup (more than .5 oz), it is generally better to use .5 oz of the liqueur, and simple syrup for the rest, lest you overpower the other flavors in the drink.


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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.