Measure & Stir

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


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Blood and Smoke

So we were brainstorming what to do with various teas, and we wanted to try every way we could think of to get tea into a drink. We tried infusing the tea in spirits, and in vinegar, and in syrups; we tried brewing the tea and reducing it, we tried matcha, we tried adding boiling tea to hot toddies and chilled tea to iced-tea style drinks. We had one drink that failed three times. Sometimes you just have to make peace with your failures… Cardamom and earl grey are just too similar to make a nice drink together.

But this is not a post about failure! This is a riff on a drink we made last summer, the Blood and Oak. I wish I could say it was for Mixology Monday, but it isn’t. I inverted the um, uh, the– I inverted the infusion! Normally you would infuse the base spirit, but for this one I infused the liqueur. I’m so edgy.

blood and smoke

Blood and Smoke
2 oz Mezcal (Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida)
1 oz Blood Orange Juice
.5 oz Lapsang Souchong Syrup
.25 oz Ancho Chili-Infused Campari
Shake over ice and double strain into a coup. Garnish with a blood orange peel.

This was a little too sweet. I wanted that lapsang souchong in the drink, but the syrup just added unnecessary sugar. You can see I followed the same formula that you would for a Blood and Sand. I infused the campari with a dried ancho chile, seeds removed, for about two hours. You have to watch a chili pepper infusion very carefully — overdo it and it turns into mace. I think if I had to do it again, I would put the lapsang in with the ancho, and just infuse it all into the campari. Bump up the proportion to .5, and I think you would have a much more respectable drink.

So, if you actually do it, do it like this:

Blood and Smoke (Revised)
2 oz Mezcal (Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida)
1 oz Blood Orange Juice
.5 oz Lapsang Souchong and Ancho Chili-Infused Campari
Shake over ice and double strain into a coup. Garnish with a blood orange peel.

And adjust the proportions to your taste. You need to select an amount of orange juice that mediates, but does not nullify, the capsaicin burn from the chili, and it might be that .75 oz works better. That depends on the strength of your infusion and your own good taste.

Sorry I missed you, MxMo, and Cheers.


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Libation Laboratory: Smith and Cross, Pineapple, Acid Phosphate

Last week, we were sipping on some  Smith & Cross, discussing how we hadn’t made any great tasting cocktails with it yet, and decided to fix that. Joe had procured this particular bottle on his last trip to California, as Smith & Cross can’t be found in Washington (yet?). It has a great caramel flavor, with hints of mixed tropical fruits.

We both agreed that this rum would taste great with pineapple, but we were tired of mixing tiki drinks. We were also tired of mixing sours, yet we both wanted to add some kind of souring agent. We didn’t want to use lemon or lime juices, really, since we felt like either would interfere with the groovy combo of pineapple juice and Smith & Cross. So we turned to an old soda ingredient, acid phosphate, which tastes of nothing, but adds sourness to a drink

From there, our opinions differed, and so today we present to you two drinks; variations on the same theme.

La Cruz y Piña
1.5 oz Smith & Cross rum
.75 oz Pineapple juice
.25 oz Cointreau
.25 oz Acid phosphate
.25 oz Kraken rum (to float on top)

Shake, strain, float .25 Kraken rum on top, garnish with blood orange wedges impaled on a sugar cane spear.

James: The acid phosphate does a great job of adding a neutral sourness to the rum and pineapple, but I personally felt like it needed some sort of citrus note, so I settled on using Cointreau. Blood oranges not only look sexy, but their tart aroma and appearance help to emphasize the orange liqueur. Although I was trying not to go tiki, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the genre, especially given the ingredients, and so I floated some Kraken on top. It was totally worth it.

The Limeless Lime
1.5 oz Smith and Cross
1 oz Pineapple Juice
.5 oz Falernum (Velvet)
.5 oz Acid Phosphate
Shake over ice and garnish with a pineapple fan.

Joseph: I made a pineapple fan by selecting three fronds from a pineapple and pinning them together with a toothpick, if that’s not completely obvious. I think it probably is. To be honest, I have overdosed on tiki lately, but the falernum/pineapple/dark rum combo is assuredly a tropical one. What was interesting to me was the way that we are so accustomed to lime in tiki, that I could not help but think of lime, even though I knew there was none. When I first purchased Mr. O’Neil’s acid phosphate, I was not entirely sure what to do with it, because I am so used to sourness being conjoined with citrus. I think the real intrigue of acid phosphate is not what it adds to a drink, but what it makes possible to take away.

Using acid phosphate is interesting because you can subtract the lemon or lime from any sour drink this way, and simplify it, preserving its balance while emphasizing its aromatic qualities. The orange in James’ drink impressed me more than the falernum in mine; both drinks were satisfying, but on the night in question, my mood was more for the fresh flavor of orange rather than the warming and exotic spice of cloves.

Have a great weekend, and we’ll see you again on Monday!


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La Vida Buena: A Mezcal Negroni

A few weeks ago I was at the Rob Roy, in Seattle, celebrating a friend’s birthday. The men’s room at Rob Roy is covered in graffitti, like pretty much any men’s room at any bar, only the scribblings at Rob Roy aren’t just of random profanity. They’re cocktail recepies. Yes dear readers, it just so happens that today’s drink came to me in a public bathroom. But, hey, sometimes inspiration comes from unexpected places.

La Vida Beuna
1.5 oz Mezcal
.75 oz Sweet Vermouth
.25 oz Campari

Pour all components into a mixing glass over ice and stir. Strain drink into a cocktail glass over a nice, fresh ice chunk. Garnish with a blood orange peel.

It has become popular recently to templatize the negroni. The classic negroni is an equal parts drink made of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Although this ratio tastes fine, it isn’t my favorite. I find that the texture of an equal parts negroni is overwhelmingly syrupy because of the amount of Campai used. Also, I find that in this ratio the Campari’s bitterness overpowers the gin and vermouth. These days it seems to be more popular to use a 3:2:1 template, which does a great job of addressing these two critiques. In this version we used 6:3:1 because the original recipe I saw in the bathroom at Rob Roy called for Aperol, not Campari. Some handy advice: you can substitute Campari for Aperol and get away with it as long as you use half as much Campari.

La Vida Buena is a mezcal version of the old, classic drink. Personally, I prefer the smoky taste of mezcal in a negroni over gin, as I enjoy the additional layer of complexity it brings to the glass. I also simply love mezcal, and pretty much anything that has mezcal in it. The aroma from the blood orange peel lends the sip a subtle tartness that plays well with vermouth, and foreshadows the bitters from the Campari, which linger after the swallow.

Cheers!


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Blood and Oak

You know what you don’t see often enough? Scotch cocktails. I think they are unpopular because they are generally made with blended scotch whiskey, and blended Scotch whiskey is not compelling. Personally I am not a huge fan of blended Scotches. Even the finer ones taste muddy and indistinct compared to the clarion symphony that is the experience of a quality single malt. I have tasted some small batch vatted malts that were very good, and I am aware that there is an art to blending them, but certainly the common ones are boring and awful.

On the other hand, single malt Scotches are expensive, and mixing them with other ingredients (besides other single malts?) is a kind of sacrilege. The distiller spent ever so much time and care to imbue that scotch with all of its most sublime and subtle qualities. Many recipes do call for small measures of Islay Scotches, I think because they are outside of the mainstream palate, and because their flavors are very bold. Indeed, it is a bold Scotch that can convey its character when it shares space in a glass with other ingredients.

As the season turns colder, I’ve been feeling a longing for the warming embrace of a mixed drink with single malt, and lucky for me, blood oranges are coming into season. Therefore, it is time to make one of the most famous scotch-based drinks, the Blood and Sand. I wanted to modify this drink to highlight the virtues of  one of my favorite single malts, the Balvenie Doublewood, so I re-jiggered it to be more Scotch-centric.

Blood and Oak
2 oz Balvenie Doublewood
1 oz Blood orange juice
.5 oz Drambuie
.25 Sweet Vermouth (Punt e Mes)
dash of orange bitters

In contrast. the proportions for the blood and sand almost seem like they were designed to hide the scotch:

Blood and Sand
1 oz Blended Scotch Whiskey
1 oz Blood Orange Juice
.75 oz Sweet Vermouth
.75 oz Cherry Heering
Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

I wanted to set it free, so I doubled the proportion of the Scotch, and dropped the liqueur and vermouth substantially. Cherry Heering is an elephant, and it will crush the other flavors in a drink with reckless oblivion. I replaced it with Drambuie, which is made with Scotch whiskey already, which means that it interferes less with the base spirit. I had originally considered cutting the vermouth entirely, but after tasting it pre-vermouth, I knew it needed that hint of bitterness and depth, so I kept it, but I dialed the vermouth down to a quarter ounce, and added orange bitters.

The end result is oaky, with a backend of bitter citrus. I have made this drink in the past using regular orange juice, and it sucks. Blood orange is the only true orange juice for this drink.