Measure & Stir

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


2 Comments

Enchanted Valentine’s: Beauty and the Beast Cocktail with Rose, Bourbon, Pomegranate

Who told you that you might gather my roses? Was it not enough that I allowed you to be in my palace and was kind to you? This is how you show your gratitude, by stealing my flowers? But your insolence shall not go unpunished!

The merchant, terrified by these furious words, dropped the fatal rose, and, throwing himself on his knees, cried: “Pardon me, noble sir. I am truly grateful to you for your hospitality, which was so magnificent that I could not imagine that you would be offended by my taking such a little thing as a rose.

beatyandbeast-00227

We finished our Enchanted Valentine’s Day with a cream puff and a cocktail centered around roses, and inspired by Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. As before, Johan describes his half of the project in excruciating detail.

Despite the French setting of the story, the flavor of rose is most at home amongst Levantine flavors, and without any particular intention, we found ourselves pairing it with arak, pistachio, and pomegranate, as well as white chocolate and bourbon. We had a few false starts with this dish, but ultimately we landed in a place that made me feel proud.

At one point I tried smoking the drink by burning rose petals, but it made the drink smell like cigarettes and cheap perfume. Beautiful cloche or no, I cannot suggest rose petal smoke in any capacity.

beautyandbeast-00226

To keep things sweet, and to announce our desserty intentions, I used a vanilla-infused bourbon as the base of this drink, and paired it with a rose shrub, a rinse of arak, and a bit of pomegranate juice. The rose shrub was perfect in this drink, and to be honest I made it as much for the pun value as for the flavor. I’ve used rose syrup before, but to develop the  complexity of the rose, I chose to extract the flavor of fresh rose petals into white vinegar.

Don’t get fancy with the vinegar when you’re making something like this. Apple cider or champagne vinegar would muddy this up too much. To get a clean flavor, I used distilled white vinegar as my base.

Rose Shrub
170g of sugar
150 ml of white vinegar
All of the petals from 6 red roses
In a large bowl, toss all the petals in the sugar to coat them, and let them sit, covered, for half a day. Add the vinegar and stir. Allow the shrub to sit covered, at room temperature, for 2-3 more days.

For the garnish, I bought some wires for arranging flowers, and wired a whole fresh rose around the stem of a coup glass. My roses weren’t very fragrant, so I sprayed them with a little bit of rose-flower water before serving. It’s easy to overdo it with rose flower water, so be careful.

beautyandbeast-00230

Be So Kind as to Bring Me a Rose
1.5 oz Vanilla-Infused Bourbon
.5 oz Rose Shrub
.25 oz Pomegranate Juice
1/2 tsp of Arak
Stir over ice, strain, and serve in a coupe with a rose wired around it. Intimidate your guests with your gruff presence and threatening demeanor.

At this point I have used vanilla-infused bourbon in so many drinks that I’m not going to bother to talk about it. Drop a vanilla bean in a bottle of bourbon. Wait about three days. There is no need to ever remove the vanilla bean. If the vanilla gets too strong, blend the vanilla bourbon with un-infused bourbon at mixing-time.

I never thought mixology would take me to flower arranging, but here I am.


2 Comments

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.

trappedinacage

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.


Leave a comment

Seventh Inning Stretch: Root Beer, Bourbon, Salted Peanuts, Oksusucha

It’s getting cold again, and that means its time for my favorite family of mixed drinks: the hot toddy. What is a hot toddy, exactly? For me it’s a feeling you get when it’s rainy and cold outside, and you bring a glass of steaming, aqueous whiskey to your lips. When it’s done right, it warms you to your core.

And yet, the recipe is flexible. At its most essential, it consists of lemon, sugar, whiskey, and boiling water. That is a decent hot toddy all on its own, but it can be a bit plain. When I make it that way, I grate fresh cinnamon and nutmeg over the top, and garnish with a fatty orange peel.

Today, I wanted to do something a little different.

seventh-inning-stretch

This is baseball-inspired hot toddy that I threw together on a whim. This follows my standard hot toddy formulation, which I will be expositing for you at some length over the next few posts.

We start with a base spirit, and I chose to use Bourbon, because it is the all-American choice. I wish I could say it went deeper than that.

In order to evoke the theme of baseball, I made a root beer syrup by boiling star anise, cloves, and sassafras in a syrup made with 1 cup of water, 3/4 cup of white sugar, and 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Brown sugar is not as sweet as white, but the syrup is still a little rich this way. I finished the syrup with citric acid, to balance the sweetness.

In order to evoke popcorn, I lengthened this drink with 옥수수차 (Oksusucha) — Korean roasted corn tea. It doesn’t taste quite like popcorn, but it hits the right notes and joins the bourbon’s corn flavors to the sassafras’ herbaceousness.

To finish it off, I rimmed the toasted peanuts, ground with salt and sugar to taste. I admit the rim was a little sloppy, but the oily peanut clumped in a way that was difficult to work with. Drying this powder out, either by letting it sit out uncovered, or (maybe? by mixing it with a bit of tapioca maltodextrin) would probably help it form a more consistent coating. Even so, it was delicious.

seventh-inning-stretch-2

Seventh Inning Stretch
1.5 oz Vanilla-infused Bourbon
.5 oz Root Beer Syrup*
4 oz 옥수수차 (Oksusucha)
Salt peanut rim
Build the drink in a mug, finishing with still near-boiling oksusucha.

Root Beer Syrup
1 cup water
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp sassafras bark
1 tsp star anise
5 or 6 cloves
Bring to a boil, then simmer for ten minutes, then strain. Finish with 1 tsp of powdered citric acid.

When the drink was still piping hot, it had a bland flavor and alcohol burn. Once it cooled down to a comfortable temperature, the flavor was a bit muddy on the sip, but with pleasant roasty corn notes that gave way to a medium-bodied root beer finish. As the drink cooled, it became a little too sweet.

Hot Toddy Lesson One: pay close attention to your serving temperature. There is a perfect window, and you need to find it.

Cheers.


Leave a comment

Phat Beets: Beet, Rye, Cumin, Balsamic Vinegar, Orange Oil and Green Peppercorn

I know, I know, I haven’t written in a year. I’m not going to waste a lot of time on throat-clearing but I want to assure you that I’m still here, and I still like you, and as always, I want to help you elevate your cocktail game.

drink

I was fishing around for novel flavor combinations that would be timely for the winter season, and I found that green peppercorn jelly is appropriate to mix with beetroot, as is cumin, as is orange oil. I decided to put all four of them together, using beet juice as the bridge between the other ingredients.

For the beetroot, I ran several beets through a masticating juicer and then a fine-mesh strainer and then a chemex. Chemex clarification of juices works better with some juices than others. Beet is among the ones that work less well. Although my beet juice did achieve an elegant texture, its color was so dark that there was no noticeable effect of clarification. You could safely skip the chemex step, but you might consider straining through a 100 micron superbag.

I tried this drink with both bourbon and rye, and I discovered that the additional sourness that comes from a rye was a better complement to the sweet and earthy notes of the cumin and beet. Use a workhorse rye for this, as anything subtle will tend to be drowned out.

For the cumin syrup I toasted about a teaspoon of whole cumin seeds in a pan, then crushed them and simmered them in a 1:1 simple syrup until their flavor was extracted.

In the past I used to reach for lemon juice as my cocktail acid of choice, but a man can only drink so many lemon or lime sours before he starts to ask what other acids exist. Most every good cocktail has a source of acidity, except for the family of drinks that takes after the old fashioned.

For this drink I used a quarter ounce of 10 year aged balsamic vinegar. It is syrupy and sweet, but it also adds the ascetic tang on the backend that is needed to find balance and challenge.

Finally, for the green peppercorn jelly, I crushed ~2 teaspoons of green peppercorns with a mortar and pestle, and simmered them with sugar, agar agar, and filtered water. As soon as the agar dissolved, I poured the mixture through a strainer into a small mold and let it set in the fridge. In 20 minutes I had a firm, pale green jelly.

garnish

Phat Beets
1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (RI1)
.75 oz Finely Strained Beet Juice
.5 oz Toasted Cumin Syrup
.25 oz Extra-Old Balsamic Vinegar
Express Orange Oil over the drink and discard the peel.
Serve with Green Peppercorn Agar Agar Jelly.

 

Green Peppercorn Jelly
250ml Filtered Water
1 Tsp Green Peppercorns, crushed
1 Tbsp. Sugar
2g Agar Agar powder
Bring all to a boil and whisk until sugar and agar agar are fully dissolved. Strain into a small mold and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

This is not one of those viscerally delicious, I-can’t-wait-to-have-another-one type of drinks. I don’t think beet juice is anyone’s favorite, but my hope is that a refined palate can appreciate this as a much more cerebral cocktail experience. First, the imbiber should take a sip of the drink, and observe its sweet, earthy, and spicey notes. The flavors are more or less orthogonal and exist such that each is distinct.

Then, they should take a bite of the peppercorn jelly. The subtle piperitious burn lingers on the palette with an unctuous, floral note. Another sip reveals an unexpected synergy between peppercorn, beetroot, and cumin, pulling the brighter elements of the drink’s composition into contrast against the bassy note of the pepper.

I apologize (#sorrynotsorry) for the previous two paragraphs but I have been watching a lot of Iron Chef Japan lately.

Cheers.


1 Comment

Colors of Fall Cocktails: Orange (The Basic Bitch Cocktail)

Continuing in my fall series, I wanted to create drinks that were wholly orthogonal to each other. In a course of drinks, each experience should be distinctive.

In my AB testing for this drink, I started with a butternut squash juice made by running fresh juice from the squash through a chemex filter. I do not suggest grilling the squash before making the juice. The resulting liquid has a clean, sweet, penetrating flavor of squash, and a pale orange color. I mixed it with Demerara 12 Year, brown sugar syrup, and a small measure of balsamic vinegar, and served it in a coupe glass rimmed with brown butter powder (see below).

The final product was intriguing but a little underwhelming. Although the butter brown powder was delicious as a “hook” for the concept, the flavor of the actual drink was average. The balsamic vinegar did add a nice contrast and dimension, but my competing concept was better.

fall_trio_orange

Colors of Fall: Orange (The Basic Bitch Cocktail)
1 oz Bourbon (Russell’s Reserve)
.5 oz Vodka (Tito’s)
1.5 oz Roasted Pumpkin Juice*
1 Dash Simple Syrup
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake over ice and double strain into a coupe glass. Top with “Basic Bitch Foam*” and Brown Butter Powder*.

Whew, that’s a lot to unpack. The combination of a foam, a powder, and a relatively complex may strike some as decadent or over the top. I assure you that it is.

Let’s start with the “Basic Bitch Foam”. I am sure most internet denizens have seen this viral video by now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaghIdSJKvQ
One of the hallmarks of the basic bitch is the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, or PSL. For this foam, I made a pumpkin spice mélange and mixed it into maple syrup, lemon, egg white, and xanthan gum. I have found that foams work much better with a little xanthan gum for stabilization. Moreover, xanthan gum can be dispersed in liquids much more easily if you first make a slurry of xanthan gum and a small amount of sugar. This recipe is approximate, as I made the foam to taste:

Basic Bitch Foam
100 ml egg whites
350 ml Maple Syrup
50 ml lemon juice
6 g pumpkin spice mélange (cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg, clove, star anise)
1 g Xanthan Gum in a slurry with 5g of white sugar*
Combine lemon, maple syrup, and spice mélange. Make a slurry of xanthan gum and sugar, and then disperse it into the maple syrup mixture. Add the egg whites and then pour into an iSi Whipped Cream Canister. Charge with two n02 cartridges and shake vigorously. Store in the fridge.

For the brown butter powder, I followed this recipe at Chefsteps:

Brown Butter Powder
225 g Butter, unsalted
100 g Tapioca Maltodextrin
20 g Powdered sugar
2.5 g Salt, kosher
Brown the butter, add the sugar and salt, and then combine in a food processor with tapioca maltodextrin.

By volume, this recipe made significantly more powder than I wanted. In the future, I will cut this recipe in half.

Roasted Pumpkin Juice
Cut a pumpkin into pieces, roast about 10% of it in the oven and then mash it into a purée. Run the rest of it, raw, through a juicer, and blend the purée into the juice a little at a time, until you find a balanced flavor and a slightly thicker texture. I’m sorry, it’s hard to be more specific than that. When it’s right, you’ll know.

Next time I make it, I’ll note the weights of raw vs. roasted pumpkin, and update this post. For now, I enjoy the idea of drinks which require a personal touch and an idiosyncratic treatment. If you prepare this drink, you will have to rely on your own senses, and you will end up with a creation which is a little bit more your own.

Cheers.


3 Comments

Acid Trip #1: Peanut Butter Jelly Time

Peanut-butter-jelly-time

Hello friends. We haven’t spoken in a while, and I want you to know that I have missed you. Lately in my cocktail journey, I have been contemplating the composition of basic drinks. With precious few exceptions, all of the standard drink formulas combine a base spirit with a source of acid and a source of sugar. In spirited drinks, the acid and the sugar often reside in a single bottle, in the form of a fortified wine. In a sour drink, acidity comes from lemon or lime, and sugar comes from syrup, liqueur, or both.

I have explored vinegar in the past, and also acid phosphate, but there still exists a lot of unexplored territory. Can the acidic component of drink mirror and meld into the other ingredients, as opposed to merely synergizing with them?

pbj2

There is a wide world of flavors to be captured in syrups and liqueurs, but in most drinks, we find that the carrying capacity for sweeteners is very low before the drink becomes cloying. It may be that we like the interplay between a sweet fruit juices and a liqueur, but that the desirable attributes of such a blend are overpowered by a balancing volume of lemon or lime juice.

This problem can be overcome by the use of acid phosphate, but although it is neutral in flavor, it is expensive and its acidity is low relative to its volume.

A better choice is to find a source of acid that can reinforce the natural flavors of fruit juice. Most juices contain multiple acids, but a very common one is malic acid, particularly in apples and grapes. It is commonly used in wine-making, but I have been experimenting with it as a souring agent in juice-driven drinks. Malic acid tastes fruity and succulent all on its own, and when it is added to a juice that already contains it, it reinforces and amplifies certain aspects of that juice.

pbj

Acid Trip #1

1.25 oz Wheated Bourbon (Weller 107 Antique)

.75 oz Peanut Syrup*

6 Kyoho Grapes, Muddled

1/8 Tsp Powdered Malic Acid

Grated Cinnamon

Pinch of Salt

Muddle grapes, grate a little fresh cinnamon, and shake all over ice. Double-strain into a coupe glass with a lightly salted rim and garnish with skewered grapes.

Kyoho grapes are fat and juicy with an intense sweet flavor. They almost taste like grape jelly all on their own. I found some at the farmer’s market and I knew they would be perfect for my malic acid experimentation.

I combined them with a peanut syrup, which one might even call peanut orgeat, but how does one decided what constitutes an orgeat? Is it merely a nut-based syrup? Is it the presence of rose or orange flower water? Does it require apricot pits, overnight steeping processes, or perhaps the blood of innocents? Some orgeat processes I have read are more like a sweetened almond milk, calling for nuts to be crushed or ground. In any case, this is how I made my peanut syrup:

Peanut ‘Orgeat’

1/2 Cup Water

1/2 Cup Peanut Butter

1/2 Cup Sugar

Pinch of Salt

Bring peanut butter and water to a boil, then simmer for ten minutes. Stir in sugar and strain through a fine-mesh strainer.

The resulting syrup was viscous, unctuous, creamy, and opaque. I made the syrup more intense by adding a bit of salt and freshly-grated cinnamon to the drink before shaking it, but you could also integrate them right into the syrup to simplify the recipe during drink service. I will definitely do so in the future. The cinnamon should not read as cinnamon; it should fade into the background and add just a little woody, spicy complexity to the peanut.

I chose to use a wheated bourbon for this because the whiskey is playing the role of bread to the peanut butter and grape. Without additional malic acid, this drink would have been too sweet, but the powdered acid allowed me to make whiskey and peanut butter sour, with grape standing in for lemon. Concept drinks don’t always work out, but this one did. I would proudly serve it to anyone.

Cheers.


7 Comments

Carrera: Apricot, Vanilla, Bourbon, Vodka, Cinnamon

I made this a few weeks ago, and I just couldn’t let it sit any longer. I think it is one of my best drinks to date. I was influenced by my time in Japan, particularly at the bar of Gen Yamamoto, who I think is one of the most creative and inspiring bartenders in the business. The strength of his drinks is in their subtlety, and in the way that the natural flavors of his ingredients become objects of contemplation.

To duplicate this effect, I have been casting fresh fruit juices from my macerating juicer in the role of the base spirit, and using lower volumes of alcohol as accent marks. The juice from soft fruits is often saturated with soft pulp, and as such the yield from an apricot or a kumquat is halfway between a juice and a purée. The balance of the viscosity of the juice against that of the spirits provides ample space for a bartender to meditate on texture.

carerra

Carrera
1.25 oz Fresh Apricot Juice
.5 Vanilla-Infused Bourbon
.5 Vodka
.5 Fresh Orange Juice [optional]
1 Barspoon agave syrup

Shake and strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a coupe glass. Agitate the mixture through the strainer with a barspoon if necessary. Grate fresh cinnamon across the top.

In the past I was quite offended by vodka, but I have found that it is highly desirable in this style of drink. Soju, Shochu, Sake, and Vodka all have their place when the emphasis is on the delicate and ephemeral. The mere presence of alcohol can make other flavors seem louder and more distinct. Wine, whiskey, coffee — we are accustomed to looking for the entire world of culinary flavors in these things — but perhaps we can perform the same trick with an apricot?

My method is to use a minimum of a spirit to achieve its presence in the end product, and then pad the volume of 80 proof liquor in the drink up to a single ounce. In this case, I wanted to combine the vanilla and bourbon with the taste of fresh apricot, but I wanted the bourbon to play the auxiliary role.

Apricot can be quite acidic when consumed as a juice; it is tangy and floral, and a bit of sweetness from syrup draws out hints of spice; cinnamon in the garnish and vanilla in the bourbon should be like echoes of the notes struck by the fruit. Raw fruits and vegetables can possess a surprisingly complexity all on their own, if one is patient and attentive. Anything as strong as bitters or herbal liqueur would be distracting, like a crashing cymbal in the middle of a cello suite.

Finally, an optional half measure of orange juice blends very seamlessly into the apricot, elongating it, and recalls the flavor of a tangerine. Unfortunately, it sacrifices some of the apricot’s sharpness. I suggest trying both variations.

乾杯!