Measure & Stir

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Pumpkin Juice, Bourbon, Nutmeg

Pumpkin is one of those quintessential icons of autumn in America. Across the continent the orange globes are ubiquitous from late September until early November, especially in October, before halloween. Lately, the pumpkin proliferation has captivated our inner mixologist, and so here we are, mixing them into drinks. Furthermore, what sort of  cocktail blog we this be without a pumpkin drink in October?

There are many ways to integrate pumpkin flavor into your drinks. If you want the easy way out, there are some pumpkin liqueurs that are seasonally available, such as a pumpkin spice liqueur from Hiram Walker. Also, although I don’t personally recommend them, there are pumpkin-flavored vodkas which show up occasionally. But, if you’re looking to use raw pumpkin, as we did, your options include pumpkin syrup, pumpkin butter, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin puree, or  fresh pumpkin juice. We chose to use fresh pumpkin juice. Why? Because fresh pumpkin juice is tasty, and it’s rich in alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, fiber, vitamins C , В1, B2, В6, and E, potassium, magnesium, iron, and fatty acids. It has a semi-sweet, light, vegetal taste, and pairs well with cinnamon, vanilla,  nutmeg, and, most importantly, whiskey.

As always, it’s vitally important to use fresh juice. If you aren’t using fresh juice, we highly recommend investing in a juicer. Any kind of juicer is better than no juicer, as store-bought juices are usually pasteurized, which tragically destroys many of the health benefits and, more importantly, the flavor benefits, of using fresh juice. Besides, half the fun and charm of mixing drinks is using seasonal fruits and flavors, and what better or more fun way than to make some fresh juice at home?

Bourbon Pumpkin Patch
1.5 oz Bourbon
1 oz Fresh pumpkin juice, strained
.75 oz Cardamaro
.5 oz Cinnamon/Vanilla syrup
Dash of Angostura bitters

Shake, strain into a cocktail goblet, garnish with freshly ground nutmeg and a pumpkin sail.

This drink goes something like this: pumpkin juice and nutmeg on the sip, followed by the spices from the other elements in the drink, and finally the oaky barrel-aged tastes from the bourbon linger after the swallow. Cardamaro is the perfect fall aperitivo; it has just the right blend of spice and herb notes. It’s a tad bitter, but not as much as punt e mes or carpano antica. The pumpkin flavor came through, but not as strongly as we had hoped. If you choose to make one of these at home, here’s how to improve this recipe: the pumpkin juice needs to be reduced with sugar and spices, and the bourbon needs to be rye. We’d leave the Cardamaro right where it is, though, it’s perfect. Fresh nutmeg on top went a long way towards getting it there. Don’t skimp on that fresh nutmeg!

I want to say that this drink was awesome, but in all honesty, using the pumpkin’s juice probably isn’t the best way to incorporate it’s flavor into a cocktail. We made this drink to celebrate the fall, and to that end, I think we could have done better by making some kind of toddy, or perhaps another round of Memories of Fall.  Next time we mix with pumpkin, we’ll either try using the pumpkin’s seeds, which I’ve heard lend a delightful earthy quality to a drink, or we’ll make some pumpkin syrup.


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Banana Split: Chocolate, Banana, Lemon

I’m James, Joe’s friend and apprentice of alcohol. Loyal readers may remember me from the review I wrote of Bourbon and Branch, a bar in San Francisco. Joe has invited me to contribute to Measure & Stir as an official author. I am honored to be here, and pledge to do my best to help record our experimental drinking sessions for posterity, and to give you a glimpse into our libation laboratory, aka Joe’s place. For my first post, I decided to write about a drink that used an infusion I made.

Word of the banana-infused bourbon Joe and I have been mixing with recently had spread around amongst our clique, and Joe and I found ourselves drinking one evening with one such friend, Julian. Naturally it was a perfect opportunity for us to pour out a little more of that beautiful banana booze. As Joe and I pondered what to mix with it, I realized the obvious: chocolate and bananas. I spotted Joe’s crazy-good Theo chocolate liqueur out of the corner of my eye, begging to be synergized with that banana whiskey.

Banana Split Sour
1.25 oz Banana-infused whiskey
.25 oz Chocolate liqueur
.25 oz Lemon juice
Shake, double strain, and garnish with a lemon peel.

We chose to split the drink into three small glasses, so that each of us could enjoy a taste, which was a shame because it was so delicious that I wish we could have all enjoyed our own full-sized drinks. The banana and chocolate combination is as delicious as your intuition tells you. The taste is enhanced by the sweet floral qualities provided by the lemon juice, and the oaky spice from the bourbon completes the drink on the swallow.

Joe later gave me this pro tip: Adding fresh lemon juice to a drink can impart a confectionary quality to it. For this reason, Joe chose to mix this drink as a sour. It was a great idea, and this handy hint is worth remembering. Alone, the banana-infused whiskey and chocolate liqueur taste great together, but with a little lemon juice the flavor pops, and the drink becomes candy.

Seriously, don’t forget that lemon peel garnish! The aroma from the peel helps this drink pop.


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Bourbon and Stone’s Ginger

Quick Aside: MxMo: Equal Parts is up at CVS.

This is another one from my recent trip to visit my family, in which I found myself mixing drinks from my father’s bar. It was my sheer delight to find him in possession of a bottle of Stone’s Ginger, a fortified wine made from a blend of fermented raisins and ginger. It is sweet and has a spicy ginger flavor. Being a fortified wine, and given its flavor profile, it can be used in a similar manner to sweet vermouth, though a Manhattan with Stone’s Ginger is a very different beast, indeed.

For this drink, I followed that good old 6:3:1 template about which we’ve all heard so much, and I garnished with a preserved ginger heart, which as far as I can tell is a piece of ginger that’s been cut down to a roughly spherical shape and then preserved in a canning process using whiskey and sugar. It makes the ginger very tender, and you can bite into it and chew it.

Aside from the noteworthy garnish, there is not too much to say about the structure of this one; it’s extremely standard. I sweetened the whole operation some orange oleo saccharum (not the herbed one in that link) that I had lying around from an earlier drink, and poured it over ice. Orange, ginger, bourbon, ginger. If you follow the template, you will almost always have a good drink.

Untitled
1.5 oz Bourbon (Woodford Reserve)
.75 oz Ginger Wine (Stone’s)
.25 Orange Oleo Saccharum
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Stir over ice and then strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a preserved ginger heart on a bamboo skewer.

Not my most beautiful photo, I know, but a beautiful way to enjoy your bourbon. Serving this drink on the rocks made it a bit lighter than it would have been otherwise, and in the California heat, that is exactly what you want. Stone’s Ginger is an excellent product, though I have not seen it in WA. Definitely pick up a bottle if you have a chance.


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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.


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Guest Post: Bourbon and Branch

Hey, my name’s James. I’m usually around when Joe decides to mix up a few drinks, and so he’s become my cocktail sensei. I recently had the opportunity to visit San Francisco on business, and Joe recommended that I check out a place called Bourbon and Branch. It was easy to convince my coworkers to join me for a few drinks, and once I had told them that this bar had Joe’s endorsement, it was a done deal. His recommendation did not disappoint.

Bourbon and Branch is a pretentious speakeasy-style bar located on a grimy downtown San Francisco street corner, under a sign that reads “Anti-Prohibition League”. Being a snobbish drinkery, gaining entrance was, of course, an ordeal. Reservations had to be made. A passphrase had to be received. An intercom had to be used. There are rules one must obey. Personally, I can do without all the role play involved with this sort of thing, but I see how it adds some charm to the experience, and is appealing to some people. Either way, this set the tone for what was to be an evening of fine drinking.

I later learned that this particular location has been operating continuously as a bar since the pre-prohibition era, enduring the ages under various names and ownerships. The latest incarnation is a surprisingly large-scale operation. They even sell gift cards.

The server who greeted us at the door instructed us to wait as our table was prepared. As we waited, I looked around the bar and soaked in the atmosphere. The room was dimly lit by a few glowing light fixtures scattered about and a pair of extravagant chandeliers which hung above the bar. The room felt intimate, but not isolating. Everything screamed of that 1920s/speakeasy/prohibition vibe – almost to the point of feeling a bit like a cheesy theme park, but not quite.

Business wasn’t bumping that night, but it wasn’t dead either. There were a few people sitting at the bar, quietly chatting amongst themselves and enjoying their cocktails. Behind the bar were two bartenders, dressed to match the ambiance, who were busy mixing and shaking drinks. The bar itself boasted a huge selection of spirits, with an entirely separate display showcasing an impressive collection of whiskey.

After a short wait, we were shown to our table. I was surprised at how large the place was. Our server lead our party into a back room that I hadn’t previously noticed, which was easily as large as the front area, but was filled entirely with booths. We were seated at one of the booths towards the back of the room, along a very narrow slab of wood that had been attached at one end to the wall, which served as our rickety table. As we sat down, I watched as another party was shown through a false bookcase into yet another back room, which I guess is “the library”, another bar area, I suppose.

Our server directed our attention to the end of the table, where we saw a hefty, wooden bound tome. It was their menu. The thing was over 50 pages long. The book’s size was such that, when spread open to read, it barely fit atop our narrow table. The covers and spine were decorated beautifully with engraved patterns. It had a table of contents. The first four or five chapters were dedicated to different sorts of cocktails: sweet/fruit-based, spirit-driven, egg-whites, etc. The remainder of the book served as a catalog of spirits, liquors, and fortified wines.

We enjoyed a few rounds that night, but the drink I enjoyed the most was my first drink. I ordered what I guess is a twist on the Manhattan, which they called Agent Smith. Rye, green chartreuse, punt e mes, maraschino, and chocolate bitters. Ever since I had this drink, I’ve been on a rye and green chartreuse kick. The chocolate bitters really tied the whole experience together. Everybody was impressed with their drinks throughout the night, and we decided to end our stay with a nightcap of absinthe.

The one aspect that disappointed was the service, however. It was terribly slow. Bizarrely, they refused our party of four more than a single copy of the menu. C’mon now. If your menu is 50 pages long, how can you expect four people to share it at once?

Even if hoity-toity speakeasys aren’t your thing, the quality of the drinks was superb, so check out Bourbon and Branch if you’re ever in San Francisco. Being a pretentious tavern, their rules (the first page in the menu) “strongly discourage” guests from using cellphones, speaking loudly, flash photography, or wearing hats indoors. I’d like to thank Mike, who broke pretty much all of these rules to bring us these candid photos.


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Curry Derby

Another drink that I mixed at my parents’ house, this one by request. My father had visited Crave in Cincinnati, and ordered this drink, and he asked me to recreate it. If you follow the link, you will notice that their menu is cheesy; too big, too full of flavored vodkas, too full of names like “Kinky Heat”. As much as I want this menu to be ironic, we all know it’s serious.

Whatever. Coconut and turmeric is a flavor that I have enjoyed in at least one Indian curry, and I have long been intrigued by the possibility of turmeric in drinks, so I was eager to try this recipe. When asked, the bartender provided the following helpful instructions:

Kentucky Derby

1.5 oz Bourbon (Maker’s Mark)
1 oz of Coconut water
.25 oz of ginger infused simple syrup
.25 oz Monin Coco syrup
.25 teaspoon of turmeric powder

Shake vigorously over ice and double strain over ice into a rocks glass. Rim the glass with cinnamon sugar.

That’s all well and good, but the drink was too sweet as formulated above, so we opted to omit the coconut syrup and the cinnamon sugar rim. In retrospect, a bit of cinnamon would have fit the curry theme nicely, but this business with the sugar on the rim… is an indulgence best left to the ladies. Campari on the rim–that’s more my style! But I did not do that. Plain cinnamon is anhydrous and unpleasant in the mouth, so it ought not to be used for a rim. No, to put cinnamon in this drink, a cinnamon stick garnish, as yesterday, would be ideal.

Curried Derby
1.5 oz Bourbon (Woodford Reserve)
1 oz of Coconut water
.25 oz of ginger syrup
.25 teaspoon of turmeric powder

Hard shake and double strain over ice. Garnish with a cinnamon stick (dehydrated fig).

Powdered turmeric sucks every bit as much as every other powdered spice. Don’t use it, unless you want your drink to have a slightly powdery texture, no matter how much you shake it. Real gangstas of cocktailia run some fresh turmeric through a juicer, and make turmeric ginger syrup. YES! Turmeric ginger syrup, and cinnamon-infused bourbon, that is the Curried Derby that my heart truly desires.

Make a syrup using a cold process, i.e., mix the pure juice with equal parts of sugar and shake it in a sealed jar until the sugar is fully integrated. I don’t know how strong the turmeric juice will be in flavor, but I would start it with equal parts of turmeric and ginger juice, and taste until balanced. As for the cinnamon bourbon, only infuse it for a couple of hours, lest the cinnamon completely over take the whiskey. I will take these thoughts, which I have had just now as I was writing this post, and report back.

Astute readers will also notice that we dropped the completely boring and nondescript name, and everyone involved is better for it.


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The Sexton in Ballard

After an arduous night of bar-crawling in places where they shake Manhattans, I stumbled into The Sexton, in search of a night cap more in line with my own tastes. Or maybe I wanted to talk to a girl sitting by the window. Either way, they had what I was looking for. They have their menu on their home page, but just in case you want to see it as I saw it, here it is:

This was only the first page, of which there were two or three of mixed drinks. Such an expansive menu might be intimidating for an inexperienced cocktail drinker, but I enjoyed the variety, and I thought the menu was well put-together. The Banyan is a great way to class up the much more ubiquitous strawberry margarita, and the pig rider presses the chocolate/tequila/chili pepper buttons that we all know and love. Alas, I did not opt for a tequila drink, though as I am writing this post, it would surely hit the spot. I would also like to call your attention to the tasteful inclusion of a variation of The Bitter End, a drink which appears in many different forms, but which always includes a float of amaro or aromatic bitters, so that the last few sips of the drink pack a substantial bitter wallop.

On this particular night, I ordered the Double Bind, a mixture of bourbon, lemon-sage shrub, ginger beer, and bitters, and I was compelled to do so by a recent fascination with vinegar in cocktails. It was a highball, as you could guess from the inclusion of the ginger beer, and the served it in a mason jar, which I found to be pleasantly rustic. To make this drink at home, you will, of course, need to make a lemon-sage shrub. I suggest the following process for making shrub syrup:

Lemon-Sage Shrub
4 large lemons
1.5 oz sage
1 cup sugar
1 cup white vinegar
Slice the lemons thinly, peel and all, and place them in a sealed container. Bruise the sage, and add it to the lemons. Cover the mixture in the sugar, and allow it to sit in a sealed container in the fridge for 2-3 days. Strain off the solids, being sure to scrape any undissolved sugar from the inside of the container, and add it to the vinegar. Bottle it, and allow it to mellow in the fridge for 2-3 more days.

As the shrub sits, its flavors will harmonize and change chemically. Essentially, the vinegar pickles the syrup. If you added a few lemon peels to the bottled syrup, I wouldn’t blame you, but be careful, as they may overpower the relatively delicate sage flavor.

The Double Bind?
2 oz Bourbon
.75 oz Lemon-Sage Shrub
2 Dashes of Bitters

Shake over ice and then strain into a tumbler full of fresh ice. Top with 1.5 oz ginger beer and garnish with a lemon wedge.

Apologies to the Sexton if I got it wrong, but that’s how I would start. Before shaking, taste the mixture, and make sure that the flavors of the bourbon and the shrub are in harmony together. If the flavor of the shrub is not pronounced enough, add another quarter ounce. Many props go to the Sexton for using the appropriate amount of ice, and for crafting an interesting drink. I’m not sure how much of the sage I tasted in the instance of the drink that they served me, but the concept is very solid, and the flavor of the sage comes down to individual execution.

They garnished the drink with a lemon wedge, but my inclination would be to use a toothpick to spear a sage leaf to that self-same lemon wedge, the more to convey the flavor of the fresh herb.


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Bacon-Infused Bourbon

Like you, I had heard of bacon-infused bourbon, and this trendy process known as “fat-washing”, wherein a spirit is infused with animal fat. I was always skeptical, because it seemed gimmicky, and who really wants to drink a whole drink that tastes like meat, anyway? I tried some Bakon Vodka, and I was surprised by how mild and not-terrible its bacon flavor is. I was expecting artificial bacon flavor, which is disgusting, as you will know if you have tried such abominations as bacon salt, bacon breath mints, or anything else of that nature. I think the problem is that you can only really extract about half of the flavor, so such products always taste oddly incomplete, and lack the fatty savoriness of real bacon.

I changed my mind when I visited RN74 Seattle, a mere two blocks from my office, and tried an original bacon cocktail there consisting of bacon-infused bourbon, Cynar, and Laphroaig. The bacony qualities of the scotch married the bacon in the bourbon beautifully! So I knew I had to try making my own. If you search the internet for instructions, you will find a handful of websites describing the process, followed by the identical recipe for an old fashioned bacon cocktail. I followed their instructions, which are, very simply:

  1. Fry some bacon
  2. Drain off the fat, and measure out a third of a cup
  3. Pour the fat into some bourbon, and allow it to infuse for about five hours
  4. Put the bottle in the freezer overnight. All of the fat will have floated to the top by now, where it will solidify
  5. Strain out the fat as you pour your now bacon-infused bourbon into a clean vessel.

 

Since you can do it in one day, this is one of the easiest infusions I have ever made. The bacon flavor in the bourbon is incomplete, much the same way as in Bakon vodka or bacon salt, but the bourbon provides a nice rich base for it, and some of the fat seems to diffuse in the spirit, giving it a slightly thicker, slightly oily viscosity, which is not unpleasant. Since so many people went out of their way to give me the recipe for an old fashioned, I made it my starting point:

Old Fashioned Bacon Cocktail

1.5 oz Bacon-Infused Bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
.25 oz Grade B Maple Syrup
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Stir, and strain over ice. Garnish with a crispy strip of bacon.

The internet said to garnish it with an orange peel, but I think the bacon garnish is way more dramatic, aromatic, and delicious. The presence of a piece of bacon greatly added to the sensation and enjoyment of bacon in the drink, much more than an orange would. The flavor of the maple syrup was subtle, but noticeable, and a great pairing in any context.

Even though this drink is good, it’s more valuable for its novelty than for its excellence. I was happy to try it, but I would probably never order it in a bar, nor do I have a strong inclination to mix it again for myself. I’d much rather just eat bacon. Still, I wanted to see what else was out there, and I didn’t want to mindlessly parrot the same information that’s already all over the internet. So I did a bit of research, and I found this video from Jamie Boudreau, in which he offers up a drink called the Chocolate Cochon:

Chocolate Cochon
1.5 ounces bacon-infused bourbon
.25 ounce amaro Ramazotti
.25 ounce crème de cacao (homemade)
.25 ounce kirsch
Dash of Angostura bitters

Stir over ice, strain over fresh ice, and garnish with a flamed orange peel.

This is the kind of thing you would expect from Jamie Boudreau. I didn’t have any Kirsch, but honestly, I can’t imagine that made one whit of difference. I combined all of the ingredients, pre-stir, minus the kirsch, and the only thing I could taste was the bacon bourbon, the bitters, and a touch of sweetness from the liqueurs. The flavors of chocolate and Ramazotti were barely there at all, except maybe as a hint of muddy complexity on the swallow. I cannot imagine that a quarter ounce of kirsch, which has a very light flavor, would have made all that much difference. I ended up compensating by adding a little extra chocolate, but on the whole, this drink lead me to a very deep understanding of drinks that use bacon-infused bourbon as the base.

They all taste exactly the same. The one from RN74, the old-fashioned, the slightly mangled Chocolate Cochon. It doesn’t matter what you do. Get a little sugar in there, a little bitter, and call it good. That said, I really wanted to try to make something a little different, and I had recently acquired a bottle of Lustau Oloroso Dry Amontillado Sherry, and I thought it would be just the thing to bury this bacon bourbon once and for all.

Hogwash

1.5 oz Bacon-infused Bourbon
.75 oz Dry Amontillado Sherry (Lustau Oloroso)
Dash of Simple Syrup
Dash of Angostura Bitters

Stir over ice and garnish with a flamed orange peel

This is a very recognizable take on the formula for an aromatic cocktail. It does not sound terribly original or surprising, but even so I highly recommend it to you over the others. Amontillado sherry tastes like dry white wine, with a hint of something savory on the tongue, followed by a vivid mushroom flavor on the swallow. The umami qualities of the sherry and the mushroom finish complemented the bacon while taking this drink in a very different direction from the other cocktails I have seen with it. Jamie was onto something with the flamed orange peel; that hint of a burned flavor is just the right aroma for this spirit.

Cheers.


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Vanilla Whiskey Fix

You may notice a marked difference in the quality of the photography in this post. For that, I need to thank my friends Michael Schmid, John Sim, and Matt Barraro, for having an awesome camera and technical skills, and for contributing their time to taking pictures of some of my drinks.

Today I present a twist on a classic, the whiskey fix. Fixes and Sours are the two broad categories of short punch, with the difference between them being that a fix is served over ice, whereas a sour is served up. Neither is diluted with an aqueous element such as soda water or ginger beer. One of the first drinks I learned to make, and one of the most accessible, is the whiskey sour. The basic formula for a sour or a fix is:

2 oz of base spirit
.75 oz of lemon or lime juice
.5 oz of syrup.

Shake over ice and double strain.

With the difference being that a fix should be strained over fresh ice into an old-fashioned glass, and a sour should be strained into a cocktail glass or, if you listen to Andy, a sour goblet. A sour becomes a daisy if it is modified with a liqueur instead of a syrup. Adding a bit of liqueur to a sour made with syrup makes it fancy — curaçao or maraschino are the common choices, but any high quality liqueur is acceptable.

It is sometimes desirable to thicken a sour or a fix with an egg white, in which case one must first “dry shake” the drink, which is to say, shake it without ice, to foam the egg white, before shaking it with ice. In the winter time, an egg white is very appealing, but in the summer, I usually choose to omit it.

Whiskey Fix
1.5 oz vanilla-infused bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz brown sugar syrup

Shake over ice, double-strain over fresh ice.
Garnish with fruits in season (lychees).

I love vanilla-bean infused bourbon whiskey, and I always keep a bottle on hand. It takes about one week for the vanilla flavor to fully mature in the whiskey, though many whiskey-lovers might find that this is treating the whiskey a little too harshly, and indeed, one ought not to give this treatment to a whiskey that is too fine. I wouldn’t go cheaper than Evan Williams, but I also wouldn’t go more expensive than Buffalo Trace or Bulleit. Vanilla brings out the oaky qualities in the bourbon, and adds a little more interest to the relatively commonplace whiskey sour.

My friend James made this drink in my house about a month ago, and he chose to use brown sugar syrup instead of simple. Since then, I have made it this way exclusively, and it’s a drink that I will serve to any guest in a pinch.

It is proper to garnish a fix with seasonal fruit, as they contribute interesting aromas, and add a fancy, festive quality to the presentation. I just happened to have these lychees on the day that we took the pictures, and after de-pitting them carefully with a paring knife, I skewered them with bamboo and set it on top of the glass. Most people don’t eat lychees very often, at least in the U.S., so the opportunity to eat an uncommon tropical fruit adds even more intrigue to the experience.

If you don’t have lychees, I have also garnished this with fresh pineapple, and with raspberries, and both are great.


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Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail

So much has been said about the old fashioned that I will not embarrass myself by trying to describe its history, but I will describe my ideal of how to make one. I often make variants by employing a different base spirit or a flavored syrup. The old fashioned cocktail is a template as much as it is a particular drink, and yet, made with rye, simple syrup, and angostura bitters, it is the perfect platonic ideal of a what a cocktail ought to be. The very first cocktails were little more than bitters and sugar added to a base spirit, and all evolution of modern cocktails has flowed out of such a marriage of flavors.

Somehow in the dark ages of drinking, the 60s to the late 90s, the old fashioned was twisted and perverted into a drink with a pulverized fake maraschino cherry, and a smashed up orange and sometimes, god forbid, a drink topped with club soda or–almost unthinkable–sprite. But this marvel has returned to us, probably in large part because of the show Mad Men. You’ll never be Don Draper, but even so, holding an old fashioned will add 25% to the classiness of any outfit.

2 oz base spirit (Buffalo Trace Bourbon)

1 barspoon (1/8 oz) simple syrup

dash of bitters

orange peel

Cut a fat piece of orange peel, and then trim it with a knife into a perfect rectangle. Make sure not to leave any pith on the peel. Place it in the bottom of the glass, and pour the simple syrup on top. Using a muddler, carefully smash the orange peel, just enough to squeeze out its oils. Add the bitters and the whiskey, and then pour the drink into a tumbler filled with ice. Stir, and then pour the drink back into the old fashioned glass, over ice.

To make the drink look perfect, a single large ice cube is best. You can make your own at home with this tovolo ice cube tray.

There are those who will build the old fashioned in the glass, but neglect to stir it. This results in an inferior drink, because it will not reach the necessary temperature, nor will it reach the appropriate dilution. A counter-intuitive aspect of making excellent drinks: slightly more dilution can result in a more intense flavor, as an overly strong alcohol burn can numb and overpower the palate.

Some will make this drink with a sugar cube instead of simple syrup, and they will use the bitters to break down the cube. Such a method is more laborious, and its only advantage over syrup is slight; the granulated sugar will help to macerate the orange peel, and will produce a superior experience of orange oil. I confess I do not usually trouble myself with this, but I appreciate the ritual.

Coming soon: old fashioned cocktail variants.