Measure & Stir

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


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Miracle Mango Sour

Chok Anan or “Miracle Mango” is a the most common mango cultivar in Thailand. I wish I could tell you that the mango soju sour I am going to share with you today was infused with miracle mangos, but the fact is, it was made with a cultivar from the USA, the nearly ubiquitous Tommy Atkins. At the peak of its ripeness, this is not a bad mango, but it is far from the best. If you decide to make this drink at home, I highly, highly suggest that you use a better cultivar, such as my personal favorite, the Ataulfo. I have not actually tried a Chok Anan, but I think that would be even better, given the spirit of this drink (pun most certainly intended).

When I first received news of the Thai cocktail challenge, I set out five infusions for my mixing lab. My infusions were Juniper, Bird’s Eye Chile, Mango Basil, Sugar Cane, and Kaffir Lime/Galangal/Lemongrass. Those of you who enjoy Thai food can probably anticipate tomorrow’s drink, based on that information. Sugar cane, by the way, was entirely underwhelming, and when I tried mixing it with orange juice, it was positively awful. Thus did I kiss my dreams of a Mai Thai good bye. I haven’t given up hope for the sugar cane infusion, but it pairs with orange juice about as well as garlic pairs with whipped cream. Maybe if you’re Ferran Adrià you can make that work, but I sure can’t. Juniper-infused soju may taste like gin, but sugar cane-infused Soju resembles rum only metaphorically.

Anyway, I wanted this cocktail menu to feature an egg white sour, as I consider the genre to be one of the more interesting products of the modern mixology revival, and I figured we would pick some relatively unchallenging flavors. I infused a handful of Thai basil in this Soju for two days, and the flesh of a Tommy Atkins mango for four, and the result was a hint of basil on the sip, followed by a rich mango backend.

“Miracle” Mango Sour
2 oz Mango-Basil infused Soju
.5 oz Passion Fruit Syrup
.5 oz lime juice
.5 oz egg white
Dry shake, and then shake over ice. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a lime twist.

In my original formulation of this drink, which is pictured, I used .75 oz each of lime juice and passion fruit syrup, and only .5 oz of egg white. As a result, the ratio of egg white to other ingredients was too low, and the drink did not acquire a pleasing foam head. Upon further consideration, I decided that the syrup and lime in my first version were too high, which is why I have presented a slightly scaled down version of the sweet/sour component of this drink. I believe that with this formulation, the .5 oz of egg white will be enough to froth correctly.

Moreover if I had it to do over again, I would probably skewer a couple of mango cubes on a bamboo skewer, and wrap a lime twist around it. So, in summary: do what I said, not what I did, use a miracle mango to make the infusion, and garnish more artistically. There’s always a tradeoff with egg white sours between double-straining to remove any fine pieces of ice vs. creating a superior foam head. Different shaking techniques can minimize ice sharding, so we’ll probably have to talk about that soon.

Cheers.


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Mixology Monday: It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green

This month’s Mixology Monday is being hosted by Ed from Wordsmithing Pantagruel, and the theme is “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green”, which means that the drink has to contain at least one green ingredient, and the more, the better. Green Chartreuse, Midori, spinach, cactus… it just has to be green. Personally, I’m really hoping someone makes a drink with Waldmeister syrup, though that someone is not me. Pandan would also be nice. If I were a real gangsta, todays drink would be made with Pandan, but I have not yet reached the max level.

It just so happens that, in addition to Mixology Monday, this week is Thai week here at Measure & Stir, on account of the fact that I was asked to create some mixed drinks with Thai ingredients for a restaurant that can only pour wine, beer, and soju. I found the constraint on ingredients to be very engaging, and I went out the very next day and filled my cart with Soju, Kaffir lime leaves, Thai basil, lemongrass, galangal, coconut milk, thai chiles, and mango, and started a series of infusions. Soju is like slightly sweet, low-proof vodka, which means if we want to make it taste interesting, it has to be infused.

We’ve had a couple of non-standard juleps in the past weeks: one with cilantro and tequila, and one with banana-infused bourbon, and I have to say, the julep format is quickly becoming one of my favorites. There is something so fresh and refreshing about a glass full of crisp, green herbs and crushed ice. For me, Thai basil is one of the most distinctive flavors in Thai cuisine, so it was natural to try to build a julep around it. Moreover, I wanted to capture the capsaicin heat of Thai food, for this drink. Any good whiskey comes with a bit of a burn, which sugar and water do much to diminish, but since we’re using soju, we have to get that burn from another source.

And regarding our MxMo theme, just look how green that is:

Bird’s Eye Julep

2 oz Thai Chile and Lemongrass-infused Soju
.25 oz Demerara syrup
1 Dash Orange Bitters (Regan’s)
Muddle Thai basil and Demerara syrup in a cold glass. Fill with crushed ice and then pour in the soju. Give it a quick stir and then garnish with more fresh basil.

For the infusion, we chopped up two stalks of lemongrass and four Bird’s Eye Chili peppers, (the green kind) and allowed them to steep in 8 oz of soju for five days. The lemongrass flavor was very subtle compared to the chili, which made up the bulk of the flavor in this infusion. The Thai basil greets the nose in a really big way, so that when you imbibe this drink, the aroma of fresh basil completely fills the senses. I like to serve my juleps in a relatively wide-mouthed glass, so that you both see and smell the fresh herbs, and they make a strong impression.

This drink would be the perfect accompaniment to a big bowl of green curry, with its sensual blend of burning peppers and cooling basil. A huge thanks to Ed for hosting MxMo! See you next month.


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Elena’s Virtue

This is not the version of Elena’s virtue that I intended to make for you, but it is the one I unwittingly made, and therefore, it is the one you get. I first learned about this drink when I was researching the Kingston Club, and it did not take me long to find the original over at Cask Strength. Unfortunately, I googled for it again and instead I found a really gimmicky PDF full of Mai Tai variations in from various Seattle restaurants, and one of them was a different version of Elena’s virtue, published by the same bartender, but modified to include the rum that sponsored the promotional PDF, which was half full of drink recipes and half full of ads for a rum that tricked me.

Anyway, when I went to make the drink, I followed the PDF rather than the blog post, because I was not paying attention, and as a result I did not make the drink that I intended. What I made ended up being pretty good, also, it just did not achieve the goal of a mai tai flavor using only Italian liqueurs. The original omitted the lime juice, and substituted Amaro Nonino in place of rum. Using rum and lime guarantees a flavor much closer to a Mai Tai, but the original also, I am sure, would achieve the impression of a Mai Tai.

Elena’s Virtue

1 oz Aged Rum
.5 oz Amaro Montenegro
.5 oz Lime Juice
.25 oz Tuaca
.25 oz Luxardo Amaretto
.25 oz Ramazzotti

Shake ingredients and strain over crushed ice. Garnish with an orange zest and basil, then pour .25 oz Ramazzotti amaro into a decanter, fill with hickory  smoke, and pour over the drink.
— Mixologist: Andrew Bohrer

I did all of that, except I did not smoke any Ramazotti. Instead, I added a dash of mezcal to .25 oz of Ramazzotti and poured that over the drink.

Let’s face it; you’re probably not going to go around smoking a decanter of Ramazzotti in your home. I certainly don’t care to. Mezcal may not have a hickory flavor, but it certainly adds a lot of smoke. Even though I made the more mainstream version, it’s easy to see how an ounce of Nonino instead of rum, and no lime juice, would be Mai-Tai like. Amaro Montenegro has a noteworthy lime flavor, and the combination of Amaro Nonino and Tuaca does a passable impression of rum, while remaining true to its bitter roots.

Morever, Ramazzotti has a pronounced orange flavor, taking the place of the curacao in this drink, and Amaretto, although made with peach pits, has a flavor very similar to orgeat. All of the elements are there, but they are present in the form of tones of flavor in liqueurs and bitters. Mr. Andrew Bohrer’s drink is very clever, and you should read his blog.


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Basil and Gin

I was in a particular experimental mood one night, and I had just purchased a fresh basil plant, so I thought I could probably put those things together. Alas, as I was eyeing the various liqueurs upon my shelf, I spied the bottle of Domaine de Canton, and was reminded of the way that thai cooking often combines basil with ginger. Would that I had not had such a thought, for Domaine de Canton makes a very poor cocktail; it is long on sugar and meager in ginger flavor. I have never mixed a drink with it that I loved, though I must confess it comes in a very appealing bottle. Ginger liqueur sounds great, of course, but the problem is that ginger, though spicy and strong of flavor, has a very light aroma.

As such, its flavor is not well-captured by the infusing process. Perhaps the good folks who make it are distilling it, but their website is unclear. Whatever they are doing, it is not working, because their product contains only the barest hint of a ginger flavor, and as such, it does not contribute to any drink with which it is mixed unless it makes up the majority of the drink’s volume. A quick browse through the recipes at the Domaine de Canton website confirms this analysis; all of the drinks they feature are very heavy on the liqueur. Perhaps that’s merely a ploy to sell more of their product, but either way, it’s a terrible mixer.

In its defense, it is delicious on its own, and I highly enjoy it neat or on the rocks, with with a twist of lemon peel. Since this post turned into an impromptu review of Domain de Canton, I’m going to sum up the pros and cons:

Pros: Excellent bottle. The spirit itself is slightly spicy from the ginger, and has a subtle vanilla flavor, with a hint of pear. Proof: 56, which is pretty good for a liqueur.

Cons: The flavor is too light to make any impact on a mixed drink unless you make it the bulk of the drink’s volume, throwing your sugar balance out of whack. Even dry gin overpowers it.

In any case, if you want ginger flavor in your drink, the proper way to do it is with either fresh ginger juice or fresh ginger syrup, which is made by shaking equal parts of white sugar and fresh ginger juice. Notice the common theme with these two ingredients. Ginger juice actually retains most of its flavor for a couple of days if properly sealed and refrigerated. I usually just use the fresh juice on its own, because that frees me to get my sugar from another source. A ginger syrup is useful if I know I want it to be the only sugar in the drink, but I find the fresh juice to be more versatile. If you don’t have a juicer, you can grate the ginger and squeeze the gratings through a strainer.

Basil and Gin
1.5 oz Gin (Beefeater)
.5 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
.5 oz Domaine de Canton
1 dash Angostura Bitters
6-7 basil leaves
Muddle the basil leaves in the Domaine de Canton and then stir all with ice. Strain into a cocktail class and garnish with a smacked basil leaf and a lime peel.

Astute readers will notice that I grated lime zest on to the top of this drink, whereas my instructions call for a lime peel. I had never tried grating lime zest over a drink before, and for some reason it occurred to me as I was making this one to give it a shot. I don’t recommend this. In all honesty, I can’t see any reason to ever use grated lime zest over cutting a peel and expressing the oils. Grating puts substantially less oil into the drink, and produces a much fainter aroma. That would be fine if you only wanted a very faint sensation of lime, but when you do it this way, you end up with little pieces of zest floating in the drink, and that just sucks.

A proper drink should never have anything disrupting its texture. You want a light lime flavor? Just discard the peel instead of leaving it in the drink. Who came up with this grating idea? It looks dramatic, sure, but it simply is not functional. Stick to twists and large, rectangular peels.

Moreover, basil does not yield its flavor to a drink when it is muddled. Perhaps if I had used super fine sugar it would have worked better, but, in exactly the opposite situation from ginger, basil has a strong aroma and a mild flavor, therefore, if you want to truly capture its flavor, you need to use a tincture or an infusion.

On top of those two mistakes, I ended up using twice as much as I wanted in an attempt to make the flavor discernible. So the basil was poorly expressed, there was lime zest floating on top, and the whole drink was too sweet. In summary: Don’t make this drink, at least not this way. I will probably not iterate on this it, but if I did, the basil would be infused into the gin, and the ginger flavor would come from fresh juice, and I would use orange bitters instead of Angostura. If you never make a mistake, it means you aren’t taking enough risks.


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Dusty Bottoms

Continuing with our week of highball drinks, this is a drink that some of my friends had at a bar in San Diego called Prohibition. It’s a popular name for a craft cocktail bar, it seems. In any case, they visited the bar, and then came to visit me and told me of this drink. I then tried to recreate it, based upon their description of the ingredients and the flavor. But before we go any further, this is the perfect time to mention some errata from my earlier post, How To Make Better Drinks I wouldn’t ordinarily bother, but the post in question is in my side bar, so I feel it’s important to keep the information in good repair. In the list of problems with the drink, I somehow neglected to mention:

11. The herbs are over-muddled. We’re not making pesto, and a muddler is not a mortar and pestle. All of the menthol in mint lives in little hair-like structures on the surface of the leaf. If you bruise the leaf of the mint, you are going to release bitter chlorophyll flavors into your drink, and it will taste grassy. I suppose that could be deliberate, but a discerning palate will perceive it as an error. The better way to handle mint is to place it on the palm of your hand and give it a few good, hard, smacks. In general, when muddling herbs or citrus peels, apply firm pressure but do not tear the flesh of the plant. Fruit, on the other hand, ought to be pulverized.

The drink that my friends described to me contained reposado tequila, yellow Chartreuse, lime juice, muddled sage, and ginger beer. I do not know the exact proportions of the drink as it was served at Prohibition, but by knowing a little bit about the construction of a highball, we can come pretty close. In most cases, we want to have a total of two ounces of hard liquor in the drink, and the very natural way to do this, in this case, is with one and a half ounces of the base spirit, tequila, and one half ounce of the modifier, yellow chartreuse.

I want the flavor of the yellow chartreuse to be balanced against the acidity and flavor of the lime juice, so in this case I also used a half ounce of lime juice. Depending who you listen to, you might end up with three quarters of an ounce of liqueur, for a sweeter drink, but I like them dryer, and I plan to add more sugar in the form of ginger beer. When topping a drink with soda, many people make the mistake of filling the glass. This makes it look pretty, but you will end up putting a highly variable amount of soda into the drink, depending on the glass you use. If you want to preserve the flavor of the other elements, it is best to measure. You can always add a little more, so I limited myself to one ounce of soda water.

We made this drink after my friend Julian had just finished moving into a new apartment, so the name was appropriate. Moreover, it was a hot summer day, so whereas I usually would have used ice cubes, I wanted this drink to be a bit lighter and more refreshing, so I used crushed ice instead of ice cubes. In either case, as we discussed yesterday, it is important to fill the glass completely full with ice, to slow the melting process as much as possible. The ice does not look especially crushed in this picture, but I assure you, it was. Julian’s cat, Mimosa, wanted in on the action.

Dusty Bottoms (via Prohibition, in San Diego, CA)
1.5 oz Reposado Tequila (Espolón)
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Yellow Chartreuse (Strega)
4-5 Sage Leaves (Basil)
1 oz Ginger Beer (Bundaberg)

Lightly muddle the sage leaves in the yellow Chartreuse, and then combine all except the ginger beer in a shaker. Shake over ice, and then strain over fresh ice. Add the ginger beer and Garnish with a sage leaf.

I did not have any sage at this particular juncture, but I did have basil, fresh off the plant, and it was close enough on this occasion. I also substituted Strega for yellow Chartreuse, and you can see the bottle poking it’s head up in the background. I like to bring my own ice when I’m mixing at a remote location, because the quality of the ice is critical to the quality of the drink.


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Indochine: Green Chartreuse and Basil

Basil season is upon us, so what better time to enjoy the Indochine? I am not referring to this atrocious glass of candy from Sandra Lee, but rather to this elegant concoction from Mayahuel in Manhattan, courtesy of CVS. I don’t have a lot to say about this one, except you should make it. It’s a little lower-volume than I am used to, but the combination of Zacapa 23, Green Chartreuse, and fresh basil is just too good to miss. Green Charteuse is spicy and herbal on its own, but it contains the extracted flavors of its herbs. When a flavor is extracted into alcohol it becomes abstracted — it retains its aroma but not the fullness of its flavor. By adding fresh herbs, we build a flavor which tastes much more complete, like a song that ends on the right note.

All of the flavors in this drink have a certain earthy quality — oak wood, leaves, sugar cane, spices. It would be perfect to sip on your patio, or even out in a forest. Zacapa 23 is a little bit expensive to be using it as the base spirit in a lot of mixed drinks, but every time I have made a drink with it I have been very impressed. When I use it in a rum drink, I almost feel like I’m cheating. It’s that great.

Indochine
.75 oz Zacapa 23 Rum
.25 oz Green Chartreuse
.375 (3/8) oz Lime Juice
.25 oz Simple Syrup
5 Thai Basil Leaves

Muddle the basil leaves in the simple syrup, then shake all ingredients over ice and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with candied ginger, or, if you don’t have any of that, a fresh basil leaf.

This drink was a little small, so if you doubled the proportions, I would certainly empathize. It looks insubstantial in my double old-fashioned glass, but I don’t have a smaller rocks glass, something I shall have to rectify soon. The original recipe called for candied ginger, which would have been a nice aroma to accompany the drink, but I really enjoyed the additional scent of basil as I took a drink. Basil has a delicate flavor, so the extra aroma from the garnish really helps it shine.

You should make this, it is excellent.