Measure & Stir

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


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Trapped in a Cage of Their Own Making with a Beast They’ve Been Feeding For Years

In this drink, the name came first. That may be obvious. I encountered this phrase over two years ago, and it resonated with me, so I wrote it down, and saved it for later. I knew that I wanted to build the drink around dragonfruit, and to boldly announce the “beast” element of the title. In the end, I was able to invoke the theme in several ways.

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The drink itself is composed of duck-fat infused bourbon, dry vermouth, lime juice, maple syrup, and pineapple and dragon fruit purée. I confess, if I saw this drink from a distance, I would be tempted to call it overcomplicated, but as it is my own brainchild, I have only fond feelings for it.

Let me explain. Trapped in a Cage… starts with dragonfruit, to give it the aspect of the beast. Pineapple juice expands the flavor along the already tiki-ish premise of a hollowed out fruit as serving vessel. To reinforce the beast motif, it is appropriate to use a spirit washed with animal fat, and I have found that bourbon is the spirit most amenable to such treatments.

From (relatively) bland dragonfruit, pineapple, and bourbon, we have nearly arrived at the flavor of an Algonquin, hence dry vermouth completes the classic cocktail at the core of this adventure. Bacon bourbon is a little passé, though as I think through dynamics of this drink, it would have been a fine choice. To keep things fresh, I opted for duck fat, instead.

Beef would have been too heavy, and uncured pork fat leaves a repellant funk. No, the musky oiliness of duck fat was the best option, and between bourbon and duck, I found myself craving a hint of maple syrup. In my loose adherence to a tiki theme, I turned to lime juice for the acidity to balance the sweetness, and garnished with cilantro, mostly for the look.

Trapped in a Cage of Their Own Making with a Beast They’ve Been Feeding For Years
2 oz duck fat-washed bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz dry vermouth (Ransom)
.5 oz maple syrup
60g dragonfruit
60g pineapple
a tiny pinch of salt
Blend all with a hand blender, and then shake over ice. Strain only with a Hawthorne.
Serve in a hollowed out dragonfruit and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Perhaps this is no ordinary tiki drink. Indeed, one of my friends who was present at this session called it “Jurassic” Tiki, and for a brief moment I had visions of an entirely new subgenre of cocktail. Jurassic Tiki aims to trade faux orientalism for a prehistoric sensibility. It finds exotic flavors by combining animal ingredients with primordial imagery, and imagines a cocktail culture in a world untouched by human ingenuity, ruled by ancient monsters locked in an endless Hobbesian struggle.

Then I saw that damn paper umbrella and realized that my entire manifesto would collapse in the face of a tiny anachronism.

For the plating I used pineapple fronds, scrubbed animal bones, cilantro, dragonfruit, a lime husk, black lava salt, and smoke from oak chips.

The drink itself is surprisingly subtle, with each component making a distinct contribution. Notes on method:

  • The Ransom dry vermouth has a strong flavor, and I might have used a bit more had I been using my more usual Dolin.
  • The proportions of lime and maple syrup were ad hoc, as they must ever be in a drink so heavily loaded with fresh produce. Variability is inescapable, and your good taste must be your guide.
  • Dragonfruit has very little flavor, and is best used as a textural element.
  • Fat-washing a spirit takes about 24 hours:
    • Pour 1/4 cup of softened fat into 1 cup of spirit.
    • Shake it, and allow it to infuse for about a day.
    • Place the infusion in the freezer, and leave the fat to separate and solidify.
    • Strain through a coffee filter.
  • A pinch of salt helps the pineapple shine.

Cheers.


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My Toddy’s So Buddha-Licious: Rye, Buddha’s Hand, Lemon

Note: While you read this post, please bask in the glow of this early 2000s pop smash, Bootylicious by Destiny’s Child.

I know, I just did a Buddha’s Hand Cocktail, but then I realized I had an opportunity to make a drink with the best name in the history of my blog.

In last week’s post, I tried to capitalize on a complex harmony between dill, citrus, salmon, and aquavit. For this hot toddy, I wanted to get back to the essence of the Buddha’s Hand. At its heart, a hot toddy is pretty close to a classic punch, but with the “weak” element heated. Your classic punch is 1 part sour, 2 parts sweet, 3 parts strong, 4 parts weak. This is usually rendered as lime juice, simple syrup, rum, and water, but if you make that drink, it doesn’t feel quite right:

1-2-3-4 punch?
.5 oz lime
1 oz simple syrup
1.5 oz rum
2 oz water

After shaking with ice, you can expect your 3 oz cocktail to gain about 2 oz of water. Personally though, I prefer .75 oz of lime, and .5 oz of sugar, for a 1.5-1-3-4 sort of ratio. Well, times and tastes changes. Anyway, all of this is a long lead up to say that a classic punch is usually made with an oleo saccharum, and in this instance, the classic punch ratio ended up being perfect. Perhaps oleo saccharum isn’t as sweet as 1:1 simple syrup?

toddysobuddhalicious Please note that the rosemary above was completely decorative, sandwiched in between two separable glass pieces in the unique serving vessel that we found for this drink. A stemless cocktail glass sits snugly inside a glass bowl, insulated by a layer of air. Not only is this perfect for keeping your drink warm, but it has a bulbous shape that reminded me of a laughing Buddha. Of course, one of these Buddha Tiki Mugs would be even better.

My Toddy’s So Buddha-Licious
1.5 oz rye (Dickel)
1 oz Dilled Buddha’s Hand Oleo Saccharum
.5 oz lemon juice
Top with 2 oz boiling water and float a single star anise inside.

As you will recall, the Buddha’s hand oleo from last week had some dill in it, but by the time I made this drink a couple days later, the dill flavor had mellowed substantially. I chose rye to further blur the flavor of dill in the drink, a job it did admirably owing to its pickley notes. Lemon flavor is similar enough to Buddha’s hand that it can play a supporting role, while leaving the oily fragrance of its lead to be the star.

This drink captured the flavor of Buddha’s hand with a lot of purity. In a way, it tasted like an idealized Buddha’s hand might, if only the fruit had flesh to go with its unctuous skin.

I got away from winter spices this week, which allowed us to focus on the core composition of this style. Hot Toddy Lesson Four: A toddy is a classic punch.


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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.

glogg

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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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.

cinnamon-smoked-coffee-toddy

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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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.