Measure & Stir

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


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Avocado, chili-infused tequila, mezcal

Nestled amongst the limes, lemons, and oranges of Joe’s fruit bowl was an avocado. I think I heard him say something like “I’m tired of ‘vacation cocktails’, but I really want to make a blended drink”. Then I saw him reach for the avocado, and watched as he scooped out about 1/4 of it into the blender, and so we started constructing this little number.

That night I had brought over an infusion made with tequila and cayenne peppers. I really enjoyed the bird’s eye soju infusion we had made for Thai week, but I knew that tequila would have been a better match. Joe recommended using a reposado tequila, which was a great idea. Since I had decided to work with tequila, I thought I’d choose a different pepper, and so I selected several mild-looking cayenne peppers and submerged them in tequila for a few days. I also threw in a tablespoon of agave nectar, as I’ve found that adding a small amount of sweetener can really help an infusion pop, and agave and tequila harmonize perfectly together.

Cayenne Peppers and Tequila Reposado
1 cup tequila reposado
3 cayenne peppers, cut in half
1 tablespoon agave nectar

Let infusion for 2 – 3 days, tasting regularly. Remove peppers as soon as you taste the burn. Avoid over-infusion.

I was careful to taste the concoction regularly as I was afraid it would become too spicy. After two and half days or so, I grew impatient, surprised by how mild the infusion was, and decided to add another pepper. It must have been a particularly spicy one, however, as the next time I tasted it I knew the infusion had to stop immediately. Maybe it had even gone on for too long, so let this be a lesson for you: chilis are unpredictable. Some are hot. Some aren’t. I don’t know how to tell them apart, and if you have tips, please share them with us by dropping a comment.

We had been telling ourselves all night that’d we get around to using it, but so far we had been struggling to find a drink for my spicy tequila. Naturally, avocado and tequila go well together, and so finally its time had come. We decided to use it as a modifier, to add some spicy kick to a drink, since my infusion had come out so hot. I can’t quite remember where the idea to use both tequila and mezcal came from, but I want to say it was because we wanted to make some sort of Mexican tiki drink. Most tiki drinks use two rums, so why not two “tequilas”? The rest of the drink kind of built itself, as I said before, agave nectar and tequila are partners in lime.

As we tasted the nearly finished drink, we realized it needed a pinch of salt. Joe was going to use regular kosher salt, but I jokingly urged him to use some fancy artisan salt. “We’ve got a blended avocado, some cayenne pepper-infused tequila, mezcal, fresh lime juice, agave nectar… Keep it craft, Joe. Keep it craft.” And so we did.

Keep it Craft
1.5 oz Mezcal
.5 oz Cayenne-infused Tequila
.5 oz Lime Juice
.75 oz Agave Nectar
1/4 of a small avocado
pinch of fancy salt

Blend thoroughly over ice and pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

The avocado gave the drink a nice, rich texture, similar to a blended piña collada, only slightly creamier. The spice from the chili-infused tequila and the smoke from the mezcal pierce through the mellow avocado, reinforced by the agave nectar. The pinch of salt helps to tone down the avocado a little bit, so be sure to include it, if you make your own. Indeed, it was a great blended drink without being a rum/tiki/vacation drink, and I can’t wait to make another.


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Oaxacan Flower: Horchata, Mezcal

Steve Livigni and Daniel K. Nelson, of ‘Drink, Inc.’, have come up with a brilliant drink built around my favorite agua fresca, horchata. You can check out the story behind the drink by watching their youtube video (spoilers: they invent it for some restaurant).

We wanted to do it properly and make our own homemade horchata… Unfortunately neither of us had ever made it before, and every recipe we could find was different. Apparently there are a million ways to make horchata, and everyone seems to have their own recipe. We decided to wing it and make up our own.

Horchata
1 cup milk
1 cup rice
1 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean

Combine rice, milk, and water in a medium-sized pot and heat it up over a medium heat. Crumble up the cinnamon sticks into the pot. Split the vanilla bean down its center and add it to the pot too. Don’t let it boil, just keep it warm, and let it cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Stop before the rice is fully cooked. Dump the lot into a blender, add additional water, and purée. Keep going, adding water until the desired consistency is achieved. Strain through a cheesecloth.

In the end, we sweetened things up with some vanilla/cinnamon syrup, to taste. If I were to make horchata again, I might add some raw, chopped almonds while the rice is cooking, and perhaps omit the milk altogether (subbing in an additional cup of water instead). There is certainly room for improvement and experimentation here, so if you have any horchata advice, please share your tips!

Oaxacan Flower
1.5 oz Spice-infused Mezcal
2 oz Horchata
Dry shake (to froth the horchata) and serve over crushed ice. Garnish with a lime wedge, star anise, cloves, and grate fresh cinnamon over the top.

The original recipe calls for spice-infused mezcal, but they never mention what sort of spice to use. We just used regular mezcal. No regrets. Mezcal and horchata work astonishingly well together. The spices in the garnish highlight the cinnamon pep provided by the horchata, and the mezcal’s flavors are truly transformed, shifted toward the sweeter side of the spectrum, but still complex, bold, and smoky. This drink would pair perfectly with some delicious adobada tacos, and has become one of my all-time favorite mezcal drinks.

¡Disfruten sus bebidas, mis compañeros de borracheras! Salud.


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Macadamia Nut Liqueur, Pineapple and Coconut

I’ve never been to Hawaii myself, but several of my friends have been on holiday there during the last year. They’ve all brought back delicious snacks, and there’s always some kind of macadamia-based treat included amongst the bounty. I don’t know what it is about this state, but it must be overflowing with macadamia nuts. The last friend of mine to visit the 50th state brought back what has been my favorite macadamia treat so far: macadamia nut liqueur.

Being a gift from Hawaii, this ingredient was destined to be mixed into a macadamia-themed tiki drink, like Joe’s Tkach Tiki Delux, only we wanted to make sure that the macadamia flavor was the main attraction, so Joe and I blended up this tropical treat. Behold!

This drink is nuts, so we call it Macadamia, or Macadamia Piña Colada
3 oz Macadamia nut liqueur
2 oz Smith & Cross rum
2 oz Matusalem rum
1 oz Coconut cream (critically important: use unsweetened coconut cream, not coco lopez)
.5 oz Fresh lime juice
.5 oz Fresh lemon juice
2 or 3 generous handfuls of freshly sliced pineapple chunks

Add all ingredients to a blender with plenty of ice. Blend until the ice is crushed. Pour into four glasses and smack some mint leaves for a garnish.

Something about blended tiki drinks is just really pleasing. What begins with a minty scent is followed by bright tropical notes from the fresh pineapple and citrus juices. The macadamia’s sweet nutty taste rounds out a rummy swallow. Personally, I like to keep the ice in my mouth and munch on it afterwards, but I’m weird like that.

We regret that the garnish was not grandiloquent, however, mint was definitely the right choice for this drink. I always enjoy tiki drinks that come with a fruity garnish, but in our haste to mix other drinks we neglected to cut a pineapple wedge. I guess nothing we could have done here would top the pineapple-as-a-vessel piña colada we made a while ago. If you choose to create a more impressive garnish, you really should keep the mint spring in the mix, as it provides a critical fragrance to this drink.

Aloha!


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Pina Colada, Pineapple Vessel

Happy Monday!

Doug from the Pegu Blog taught me the idea of turning a pineapple upside down and cutting the leaves to make a stem, such that the upside-down pineapple becomes a goblet for a drink. The recipe he gives there is deliciously rummy, but I wanted to get my blend on, so I got some coconut milk from the local asian market, and blended it with lime juice and dark rum. I saved some nice-looking leaves from the pineapple base and skewered them on a toothpick for a quick and dirty garnish. A longer bamboo skewer would have looked a lot better, but as it is it reminded me of a little sailboat, taking me to some exotic tropical destination.

I learned to blend before I learned to mix drinks, and I love to make a good smoothie, even without booze.

I don’t make frozen drinks very often, but since we’re on the subject, I thought I would share here some tips on creating the optimal blend. Unfortunately, when I blend I go by feel, so I don’t have an exact ratio to give you.

Pina Colada

Fresh pineapple, cut into chunks

Unsweetened Coconut milk (use the kind that comes in a can like this)

Fresh lime juice

Simple syrup

Dark Rum

Ice

Blend first without ice, to gauge the flavor, and then again with ice.

There’s no magic to making a good pina colada, but rather you must exercise your good taste, and strive for a balance of flavors which captures the essence of the pina colada. In a perfect preparation, there will be about 2.5 times as much ice by volume as pineapple chunks, and the coconut milk will add the necessary aqueous element to allow the blades of the blender to turn smoothly. Even with my ridiculously powerful vitamix, if the drink is too dry, the blades will form a little vaccuum around themselves at the bottom the blender, and turn without turning the drink.

Blending all of the ice into a slushy texture dramatically increases the dilution of the drink, and makes it very cold, so it becomes necessary to add a small quantity of simple syrup. Otherwise, the ice will numb the tongue, and the drink will be bland.

I suggest blending the fruit and juice before introducing the other ingredients, so that you can establish a good baseline of flavor before committing to ice. You probably want a ratio of about 2/3 blended pineapple to 1/3 coconut milk, and about 1/2 oz of simple syrup for every five ounces of fruit, but I just made those numbers up. Keep the lime in parity with the simple syrup, and constantly taste it.

Is the coconut fully expressed in combination with the pineapple? if not, add a bit more. Is the total drink sweet enough? Before it is iced, it should be just slightly sweeter than you want the final product. Once you have perfected your smoothie, add about 3 oz of rum per person, and then blend with ice. Hollowing out a pineapple is kind of a pain, but it’s worth it once in a while to beat the heat.