Measure & Stir

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


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MxMo LXVII: Garnish Grandiloquence: A Study in Garnishing with Cheese


If you were reading last week, you might have noticed that three out of five of our drinks featured cheese in the garnish. This was no coincidence, but rather a deliberate study using cheese as an ingredient in a mixed drink. I do not have a whole lot to add to the content of those posts, but I will note that while I think cheese can be an effective garnish, it is a positively disgusting ingredient to actually mix into a drink. Do you want to drink alcohol broccoli cheddar soup? Me neither.

Ultimately, I think would prefer to have a good cocktail, and cheese on the side, rather than try to mash them together into some kind of unholy Frankendrink. Speaking of which, all of the drinks in this post use flavor pairings suggested by molecular gastronomists, who analyze the chemical makeup of varios foods’ aromas, and use similarity as a basis to suggest novel combinations. Anyway, these are my creations:

Pineapple Under the Sea
We used kefir yoghurt to try to bridge the distance between pineapple and gin, on the one hand, and blue cheese, on the other. As the imbiber takes a sip of the drink, the smell of blue cheese fills the nostrils, creating a surprising synergy with the pineapple juice. Kefir is a fickle beast, as a cocktail ingredient, but the pineapple tames it nicely.

Rainy Day
You could almost call black tea, tomato, and grilled cheese a rainy day survival kit. We clarified fresh heirloom tomato juice using a coffee filter, and paired it with earl grey-infused Pisco. Savory drinks are hard to love, but the tannin in the black tea went very well with the tomato’s umami notes. Unlike in the Pineapple Under the Sea, you couldn’t really smell the cheese in the garnish, but it was still a tasty snack.


That’s No Moon!
The strength of the cheese in this drink was somewhere in the middle between the other two, with the cooked Parmesan contributing a subtle aroma to bolster the flavors of strawberry and honey. This was the weakest drink of the trio, and even though the nuttiness of the cheese matched well with the flavor of the honey, it left something to be desired. Actually eating the Parmesan wafer was pleasant. We used honey to “glue” the wafer to the glass, so that even though it appears to be resting precariously on the rim, it was in reality quite sturdy.


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Rainy Day: Tomato, Black Tea, Pisco, Lime

As you have probably noticed, this week is all about using science to take advantage of unintuitive flavor combinations by looking for chemical similarities in aromas. Today’s pairing is tomato and black tea. It turns out that molecular gastronomy enthusiasts have their own version of mixology monday, which they call “They Go Really Well Together“, and that’s how I discovered this particular combination.

The unfortunate truth is that it’s hard to get excited about savory drinks, and tomatoes lean very heavily toward the umami side of the flavor spectrum, so even if you sweeten it, it’s going to be savory. One trick I have found for making tomato a more appetizing cocktail ingredient is to clarify it, as we did during our Bloody Mary Workshop. The procedure is very simple; pour fresh tomato juice into a funnel lined with a coffee filter and wait a few hours. You could even set it up in the fridge and let it go over night if you needed to make a lot. The end product still tastes like tomato juice, but it has a mercifully un-chunky texture, which I think is the worst part of tomato in a cocktail.

I wanted to use a relatively neutral spirit for the base of this drink, and I’ve been flush with Pisco lately, so it was a convenient choice. In order to get some black tea in this drink, I decided to infuse earl grey into the Pisco. Tea infuses into hot water in a matter of a few minutes, and it infuses into strong spirits only slightly slower. I let the earl grey steep in the Pisco for only fifteen minutes before it became dark and cloudy with the tea. But don’t trust my steep time; as with all infusions, your own good taste must be the final arbiter regarding how long to allow it to infuse.

Rainy Day
1.5 oz Earl Grey-Infused Pisco (Tabernero)
1.5 oz Clarified Heirloom Tomato Juice
.25 oz Simple Syrup
.25 oz Lime Juice
Pinch of Salt
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake over ice and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a tiny grilled cheese sandwich and a cherry tomato.

This drink had a tangy, pungent flavor from the combination of the tomato and lime, which also went nicely with the bergamot in the earl grey. I did enjoy the interplay between the tea’s bitter tannin and the tomato’s roundness, but as with all savory drinks, it’s hard to love it. Actually, James thought it might be the best tomato drink we have made, and I am inclined to agree. It didn’t have any of the salsa or soup qualities from which most Bloody Mary style drinks suffer. If you like tomato juice, it’s worth a try, otherwise, may I direct you to The Pearnsip.

Before I go, a quick note on the theme: I garnished this drink with a grilled cheese because I reasoned, on a rainy Washington day, what could be better than a cup of hot tea, a bowl of tomato soup, and a grilled cheese sandwich? This drink was my attempt to capture all of those elements in a single preparation. You have to eat the grilled cheese right away, unfortunately, as it is but a single bite, and it does not retain its heat, not even long enough for a photo shoot.

Salud!


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Flash-Infused Peach Ginger Bourbon, Black Tea

A secondary use of the iSi whipped cream dispenser is making flash infusions, as in this Kaiser Penguin article on five minute falernum. This technique as my original motivation for wanting one, but when I learned that it could be used for cocktail foams, it motivated me to buy one at once. For my first foray into flash infusions, I decided to use peach and ginger to infuse bourbon. I thought this flavor combination would perfectly capture what I like about drinking iced tea on a summer afternoon.

Peach Ginger Bourbon Flash Infusion
2 Ripe peaches, peeled and cut into small pieces
4 Medallions of fresh ginger
8 oz bourbon
Place all in a whipped cream dispenser canister and seal. Discharges two nitrous oxide cartridges into the canister and allow to rest for ten minutes. Discharge all pressure before opening.

Alas, on this afternoon I selected white peaches that were under-ripe, and their flavor was very light in the infusion. Fortunately, I used young ginger as an accompaniment, and the ginger flavor was light as well, yielding a balanced infusion. I would have preferred a stronger flavor, and I am certain that riper produce and mature ginger would have delivered. Even so, I soldiered on, adding lychee black tea and turbinado sugar syrup. Lychee-flavored tea was not my intention, but I was mixing on location, and it was available. The combination worked surprisingly well; the subtle lychee flavor rounded out the peach and ginger with an indistinct fruitiness that did not detract from the peach and bourbon flavor. On the whole, tea is a watery ingredient, and it made the drink very light, though in a pleasant way.

Peach Ginger Bourbon Iced Tea (beta)
1.5 oz Peach and Ginger-Infused Bourbon (Evan Williams)
.75 oz Lychee Black Tea
.25 oz Turbinado Syrup
Stir over ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with a fat orange peel.

This was good, but here’s what would have been better:

Peach Ginger Bourbon Iced Tea (beta)
1.5 oz Peach and Ginger-Infused Bourbon (Evan Williams)
.5 oz Lychee Black Tea
.25 oz Turbinado Black Tea Syrup
1 Dash Peach Bitters
Stir over ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with a fat orange peel.

Sugar really brings out the fruit flavors. And yet a part of me can’t help but wonder if all the pressure really did, in this case, was squeeze juice out of the fruit? Indeed the viscosity of the bourbon did thicken and resemble the nectar of a peach. My impression is that this technique would work better for herbs and spices than whole fruits.