Measure & Stir

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


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Carrera: Apricot, Vanilla, Bourbon, Vodka, Cinnamon

I made this a few weeks ago, and I just couldn’t let it sit any longer. I think it is one of my best drinks to date. I was influenced by my time in Japan, particularly at the bar of Gen Yamamoto, who I think is one of the most creative and inspiring bartenders in the business. The strength of his drinks is in their subtlety, and in the way that the natural flavors of his ingredients become objects of contemplation.

To duplicate this effect, I have been casting fresh fruit juices from my macerating juicer in the role of the base spirit, and using lower volumes of alcohol as accent marks. The juice from soft fruits is often saturated with soft pulp, and as such the yield from an apricot or a kumquat is halfway between a juice and a purée. The balance of the viscosity of the juice against that of the spirits provides ample space for a bartender to meditate on texture.

carerra

Carrera
1.25 oz Fresh Apricot Juice
.5 Vanilla-Infused Bourbon
.5 Vodka
.5 Fresh Orange Juice [optional]
1 Barspoon agave syrup

Shake and strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a coupe glass. Agitate the mixture through the strainer with a barspoon if necessary. Grate fresh cinnamon across the top.

In the past I was quite offended by vodka, but I have found that it is highly desirable in this style of drink. Soju, Shochu, Sake, and Vodka all have their place when the emphasis is on the delicate and ephemeral. The mere presence of alcohol can make other flavors seem louder and more distinct. Wine, whiskey, coffee — we are accustomed to looking for the entire world of culinary flavors in these things — but perhaps we can perform the same trick with an apricot?

My method is to use a minimum of a spirit to achieve its presence in the end product, and then pad the volume of 80 proof liquor in the drink up to a single ounce. In this case, I wanted to combine the vanilla and bourbon with the taste of fresh apricot, but I wanted the bourbon to play the auxiliary role.

Apricot can be quite acidic when consumed as a juice; it is tangy and floral, and a bit of sweetness from syrup draws out hints of spice; cinnamon in the garnish and vanilla in the bourbon should be like echoes of the notes struck by the fruit. Raw fruits and vegetables can possess a surprisingly complexity all on their own, if one is patient and attentive. Anything as strong as bitters or herbal liqueur would be distracting, like a crashing cymbal in the middle of a cello suite.

Finally, an optional half measure of orange juice blends very seamlessly into the apricot, elongating it, and recalls the flavor of a tangerine. Unfortunately, it sacrifices some of the apricot’s sharpness. I suggest trying both variations.

乾杯!


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Turkish Bath: Apricot Bourbon, Cumin, Lemon, Rosewater

There’s something almost magical about a hot toddy that can transform a rainy, miserable day into a warm, cozy one. Last Saturday was such an occasion, and this was the perfect remedy, and an excellent drink.

Turkish Bath
1.5 oz Apricot-infused bourbon
.5 oz Lemon juice
.5 oz Cumin syrup
1 oz Near-boiling water
2 Drops of rosewater

Combine apricot bourbon, cumin syrup, and lemon juice in a tea cup. Top with hot water and float the rose water on top. Garnish with a bourbon-soaked apricot.

I was skeptical when Joe told me he wanted to make a drink using cumin syrup. When he told me about his apricot bourbon infusion, this wasn’t what I had in mind. We had thought that Apricot and Cumin was a classic Turkish pairing, but it turns out it’s actually Moroccan. That is unfortunate, but we are not going to change the name, because the name “Turkish Bath” suits the idea of the toddy so well. The inspiration for this drink came from taking a page out of Drink Inc‘s book, looking to cuisine to find a flavor pairing that is not obvious, at least not to us Americans. We were very pleased with the results.

Apricot Bourbon Infusion
1 cup Bourbon (Evan Williams)
1 cup dried apricots
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar

Shake it up and let it infuse for 1 week.

The apricot bourbon was absolutely delicious on its own. Using dried apricots worked brilliantly, and – best of all – you can reuse the bourbon-soaked apricots as garnishes. As usual, a 1:1 ratio of fruit to spirit and roughly a tablespoon of sweetener results in deliciousness.

Cumin Syrup
1 Tsp powdered cumin (Freshly ground seeds would be better)
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar

Simmer and stir until fully integrated.

The most surprising element of the drink was the cumin syrup, and its interaction with the apricot flavor. On its own, it’s both sweet and savory. It isn’t particularly spicy, but it does have a certian warmth. As you sip the drink, you’re greeted by the cumin’s glow, wich compliments the nature of a hot toddy splendidly. The drink is at once sweet, spicy, and soothing. Fruity, but also savory. Perfectly balanced, and very relaxing.

Also noteworthy is the affect that the rosewater has on the drink. Make sure to drop it on top, right after pouring hot water over the other ingredients. Its role is aromatic, and its presence adds a floral complexity that works well with the citrus from the lemon juice, and also with the sweet fruity taste of apricots.

If you enjoyed this drink, I also recommend checking out this apple cider hot toddy from a while back. Fresh apple cider, rye, cinnamon, and cloves together make for another delicious fall toddy. Also, a shout out to The Liquid Culture Project’s Hot Scotch Toddy, which is awesome.

Bottoms up!


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Missionary’s Downfall: Blended Pineapple and Mint

For a cocktail party, I decided to get my Tiki on and make a ridiculously complicated drink. Usually, those two aims are at cross purposes, but I chose a blended drink, which allowed me to produce happiness in large batches. I did a little bit of research before attempting to make the Missionary’s Downfall, and I ended up using this recipe from Doug.

Most of the other recipes I found called for whole pineapple instead of pineapple juice, which probably would have made the drink more viscous, but I enjoyed the icy purity of this variation. Part of me always feels a little dirty making a sweet, tropical blended drink, because I worry that it’s a slippery slope to the slippery nipple and other such sophomoric drivel.  It’s just so accessible, isn’t it? So convenient. Where is the whole egg? Where is the challenging quantity of Cynar?

Indeed, as I was pouring this my inner bar snob started swearing quietly in the back of my brain about amari and liqueurs with secret recipes known only by a handful of monks, but you can’t listen to the haters. Fresh pineapple and mint is delicious, and I even managed to sneak in some of my favorite rum, J. Wray and Nephew.

Missionary’s Downfall

.5 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
.5 oz. Apricot Brandy (Rothman and Winter)
1 oz. Honey Syrup
1 oz. White Rum (J. Wray and Nephew)
1.5 oz Fresh Pineapple juice
10-20 Mint Leaves
6 oz. Small or Crushed Ice

Combine all ingredients in a blender and pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

For the honey syrup, check out the writeup I did on the Sleepy Bear. I couldn’t really taste the apricot in this, but the flavor was exotic and balanced, and the mint was not too overpowering. In fact, the drink was surprisingly dry, and the mint sprig, planted in the middle of the ice, looks like a tiny tree. It’s true, the mint sprig in my picture fell over, but it was my fault for cutting it too large; I was making these at a party, and speed won out over photography. Even so, I was pleased by the appearance of the drink, with tiny fragments of mint intermixed among the particles of ice.

One of the really excellent things about blended drinks is that you can make them five at a time, so they are well-suited for larger gatherings. When blending a drink, a higher ratio of ice to other ingredients will result in a fluffier texture, while slightly diluting the flavor. Less ice will make the drink a bit more soupy, which will cause it to melt faster, but the flavors will be more concentrated. In order to get the optimum texture while preserving the flavor, good blended drinks require more sugar, to intensify the flavor against the dilution.

That’s exactly what we see here, with an ounce of syrup, an ounce and a half of sweet juice, and half an ounce of liqueur to a relatively scarce ounce of rum and half ounce of lime. If you were to shake this drink instead, you would find it cloying.


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Pisco Apricot Tropical

Another one from CVS, The Pisco Apricot Tropical has a bit of a tiki quality. I was mostly drawn to this recipe on account of the apricot liqueur, which  I only recently acquired for the first time, and I have been looking for different recipes to showcase it. The fresh pineapple juice was a bonus, but I always enjoy it immensely. For this reason, I try to always keep a pineapple on hand, just in case I need fresh pineapple juice. Admittedly, there are a couple of cans tucked away in my fridge, because you never know when you’ll need to make an Algonquin or a Kentucky at a moment’s notice.

Once you start using a juicer, you will never go back. Pasteurizing juice is just a hair away from murdering it — the texture goes all gummy, and all of the bright flavors depart, ne’er to return. In fact, one of the major components of the recent cocktail revival is that bartenders have stopped using pre-made sour mixes and turned instead to fresh juices, which are superior in every way. If you have ever had a drink made with sour mix, you know just how awful it is, and how far we have come.

Pisco Apricot Tropical

2 oz Pisco (Santiago Queirolo)
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz Apricot Liqueur (Rothman and Winter)
1 dash Angostura Bitters

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

Despite the sweet-sounding recipe, this drink was very dry and stimulating to the appetite. Pisco has a clean, crisp grape flavor, and it was a surprising match to the other fruit flavors in this recipe. They all blended together, and the end result tasted like  a dry white gummy bear. The key word here is dry; there was none of the sweetness of candy. This was among the best sours I’ve had all year, but I would definitely drink it as an aperitif, and not for dessert.


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Gin, Apricot, Dry Vermouth

I just bought a new bottle of Hendrick’s, which is a modern gin with roses and cucumbers mingling amongst all those other, more familiar gin botanicals. It is my favorite gin for a martini, or anything that is very gin-forward. For this drink I really wanted to be able to taste apricot liqueur and gin, so I went with the tried and true formula of 6:2:1 base spirit, fortified wine, liqueur. The resulting drink was very dry, and when I tasted it pre-stir, the apricot was only salient on the swallow.

Even though the apricot was mild, I could tell that much more was going to stop on the subtler notes of the gin and vermouth. Instead of liqueur, I added a bar spoon of simple syrup, and it brought out the fruit without clobbering the botanicals. I don’t have a name for this, but I do have a strong preference that you don’t try to call it an “apricot martini”.

Unnamed Apricot Gin Thing

1.5 oz Gin (Hendrick’s)
.5 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz Apricot Liqueur (Rothman and Winter)
1 Barspoon Simple Syrup

Stir over ice and garnish with a slice of cucumber.

I make my own simple syrup, but I keep it in the trader joe’s simple syrup bottle, for convenience.

I really need to get better at garniture. The orange hue of the apricot liqueur was not sufficient to give this drink even a faint color, but the flavor was there in just the right measure. It’s easy to invent a three ingredient drink, or a four ingredient drink if one of them is lemon or lime juice. Some kind of aromatic bitters would have been nice in this, but none of the ones I have on hand really struck me. Angostura is far too heavy for something like this, but fee’s orange might do the trick. Next time.

The cucumber was pleasant to munch on after it sat in the drink for a few minutes, but a candied orange wheel would really have made this drink great.