Measure & Stir

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


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Mulled Wine (Glogg): Red Wine, Cognac, Port, Winter Spices,

Clearly, we could all use a drink tonight. Moreover, it’s winter and that means it’s hot toddy time, though I confess I did take a break to make you some ice cream. Let’s not overthink it.

I have made many mulled and spiced wines, and if you dig through deep history you can even find a forgettable post about it on this very blog.

There’s not a lot to say about it, to be honest. The basis of any good hot toddy is brown spirits and winter spices. Warm gin, is that something you want? Rhetorical. To feel the warmth from your drink, you need to use a rich brown spirit like bourbon, rum, or brandy, and to make a composed toddy, you need cinnamon at the very least.

glogg2

The cool thing about both brown spirits and brown spices is that they already have soft, “muddy” flavors. Curries and winter stews are the same way. They have big, layered flavors that all blur together into something indistinct, complex, and pleasant. We eat things like this in the winter because they are comforting, and the same principle applies to our drinks.

This exact mulled wine is a Norwegian variant of mulled wine, noteworthy because it is served with slivered almonds and raisins, which soak up the drink and, in the words of my friend Johan, “give you something to munch on”. I found the inclusion of almonds in this toddy to be a delightful addition.

glogg

Mulled Wine (Glogg)
1 bottle of red wine
200 ml brandy
100 ml port
150 g sugar
2 tsp cardamom pods
12 cloves
4 sticks of cinnamon
2 split vanilla beans
4 cm of peeled ginger
2 anise stars
1 fat orange peel

Combine all in a pot and simmer for ten minutes, being careful not to boil. Strain and serve in a cup with raisins and slivered almonds.

As you can see, this recipe is straightforward. It will not surprise you, but it will please a crowd, and if you’ve been trudging through snowy fjords, I’m told, it’s the perfect pick-me-up. I actually scaled the sugar down significantly from the original recipe, because I like my drinks to be only moderately sweet, but if you are inclined to more syrupy concoctions, I could not hold it against you if you doubled it.

Hot Toddy Lesson Three: Use a base of brown spirits and winter spices.

Cheers.


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Acid Trip #2: Kyoho Grape, Lavender

 

I spoke yesterday of malic acid, and also of Kyoho grapes. Moreover, I have written in the past of the inspiration that I found at bar Gen Yamamoto, which informed an apricot cocktail earlier this summer. In that post, I described the philosophical underpinnings of this drink.

I wanted to apply Gen’s “shiki” style of Japanese seasonality to the Kyoho grape, so I started with brandy as a base to preserve the purity of the grape’s flavor. We can add a bit of drama to this otherwise harmonious pairing by playing up the contrast between sweet and sour. I would not make such an attempt with standard souring agents, but since malic acid is already present in the grape, the additional tartness feels very natural and flowing.

grapeAcidTrip

Acid Trip #2
1 oz Brandy (Cognac Salignac)
.5 oz Vodka (Tito’s)
8 Kyoho grapes, muddled
2 Dashes Scrappy’s Lavender Bitters
1 Dash of Simple Syrup
1/8 Tsp Powdered Malic Acid
Shake and double strain into an Old Fashioned Glass. Garnish with a grape.

The grape on its own was a little too simple. With the brandy tracking so closely to the grape juice, I needed one other flavor to create some space and some distance in the perception of the drink’s flavor, and lavender worked surprisingly well. I did not anticipate the deliciousness of this pairing, and I was pleasantly surprised. Lavender and grape were made for each other, and I imagine that lavender grape preserves would be wonderful.

I think this drink beautifully captured the experience of a fresh grape, while maintaining a refined complexity.

Cheers.


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Jack Rose

Alright, we’ve been getting a little too crazy around here. It’s time to dial it back and make something classic. Fortunately I’ve had a bottle of Berneroy XO Calvados burning a hole in my bar, and it’s so delicious it’s almost like cheating. It’s not quite as assertive as Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy, which is my default for these kinds of drinks, but it has a very round, complex apple flavor, with a perfect balance of oak and vanilla from aging.

Building off of that fine Calvados, I made some grenadine using Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s recipe. I had used this process before, but I had omitted the pomegranate molasses. This time, I managed to procure some, and the difference is astonishing. Unlike sugar cane molasses, pomegranate molasses is tart and raisiny, and it transforms the grenadine from a mere pomegranate syrup into something reminiscent of a lime cordial, except with pomegranate. After tasting this style of grenadine, I will never go back.

jack rose

Jack Rose
1.5 Calvados
.5 oz Grenadine
.5 oz Lime Juice
Shake over ice and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

I think a classic Jack Rose is made with lemon, but I have tried both variations and I prefer mine with lime. As much as I like mixing Spinach and Orgeat, drinks like the Jack Rose have endured for a reason. They are delicious.

Cheers.


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Measure and Stir X Boozed And Infused

We were gone for a while, but though we stopped blogging, we did not stop making and enjoying drinks. One of my favorite tipples of my sabbatical came from the excellent blog Boozed and Infused, wherein Alicia did make Gingerbread Liqueur. I have a weakness for all things ginger-flavored, and the idea of this liqueur spoke to me greatly. Only a few days after seeing it, I rushed out to buy some molasses and infuse up a double batch.

I followed the recipe more or less to the letter, and I was very pleased with the result. The molasses turn the liqueur an inky black, blacker than fernet, blacker even than black strap rum. As I thought of what drink I wanted most to make with this spirit, I found that I wanted most to pair it with oranges.

cant catch me

As I sat down with a glass of gingerbread liqueur, I was moved by the holiday spirit to read back through the entire Boozed and Infused archive, and I have saved my favorite posts in their history to share with you.

I was most intrigued by the idea of a Maple Mushroom Martini, for I am ever in search of novel flavors and combinations. I can imagine the velvety umami flavor of a mushroom mixed with maple, and I think it must be similar to the combination of maple bacon.

My thirst was further whetted by this beautiful-looking Chili-Agave Liqueur, a link which is worth following for the photo alone, which depicts Lemon peels, cinnamon, peppercorn, and a variety of chili peppers in tequila. If I were to use it in a drink, I would want to capture their colors in the garnish.

cant catch me 2

Can’t Catch Me
1.5 oz Gingerbread Infusion
.125 oz Allspice Dram
2 Dash Orange Bitters (Scrappy’s Seville Orange)
Stir over ice and garnish with an orange zest tied around a gingerbread cookie.

As I was building the menu for my birthday party and I had all of this gingerbread liqueur sitting around, I opted to serve it in the format of an old fashioned, with a small amount of pimento dram to deepen the spice, and my new bottle of seville orange bitters to add a little bit of brightness. The long orange peel gives it a beautiful nose. Moreover, the spicy gingerbread cookie was truly delicious once it became saturated in the drink. The recipe I used produced a very crisp, biscuit-like cookie, which was able to soak up quite a bit of the underlying drink without falling apart.

I think this liqueur would also do very well in a sour, which is an experiment I shall be trying soon, but probably not photographing. The recipe should be pretty obvious, something like:

Gingerbread Sour
1.5 oz Gingerbread Liqueur
1 Egg white
.75 oz Lemon Juice
Dash of simple syrup
Dry shake, then shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with spicy aromatic bitters in the foam.

Some things you know will be great without even trying them. Big thanks to Booze and Infused. Alicia and Eileen, please keep up the good work.


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Brandy, Kumquat, Honey, Weissbier

Before we get started today, a couple of announcements: First, this week is beer week at Measure and Stir, in which we will be making a series of beer cocktails for your enjoyment. Second, after beer week has concluded, we will be taking a hiatus for the rest of the year, so as to enjoy the holidays in a truly relaxed fashion. Third, we are approaching our 25,000th pageview, and will hit it sometime mid-week. Hurray!

beerquat

I have never been able to find too much enthusiasm for beer cocktails, but I think that their time for me has finally arrived. We have a few in the past, specifically Jacob Grier’s Mai Ta-IPA, and later our popular Stouthearted. The idea behind beer cocktails never really clicked for me because I did not like the viscosity of the beer in a mixed drink. What made it come together was a drink in an episode of Drink, Inc., in which they added orange marmalade and apricot purée. I realized that the viscosity is not a bug, but a feature, and that the trick to making an excellent beer-based drink is to play to the viscosity, in some cases by adding something even thicker.

I think beer-based drinks are perfect in the colder months, because their heartiness is warming and nourishing. Moreover, kumquats are in season, so we took paired a kumquat puree with a citrusy Weißbier, and fortified it with honey, another complement to wheat, and brandy, which pairs well with honey. The result was a very pleasing highball, which we served with a fat straw to allow the imbiber to get pieces of the sweet kumquat peel.

beerquat2

1.5 oz Brandy (Cognac Salignac)
.5 oz Kumquat Purée
.75 oz (Honey Liqueuer) Barenjäger
Dash Orange Bitters (Scrappy’s Seville)
Shake over ice and then doubTop with 2.5 oz Weißbier (Franziskaner) and garnish with an orange spiral. Serve with a fat straw. (not pictured)

The orange was very fragrant and the bits of kumquat peel were chewy, adding an interesting texture to the drink. Drinking kumquat pulp might not sound very appealing, but I was inspired by a drink I had in a tea shop in Kyoto. They served me a cup of iced tea with yuzu marmalade sitting at the bottom, and I greatly enjoyed eating the pieces of peel.

This drink was acidic and refreshing, with a nice roundness from the Barenjäger, which is slightly bitter.

Prost!


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The Pearsnip: Pear, Vanilla, Parsnip, Lemon

It is gastrophysics* week here at Measure and Stir, a week in which we make drinks using unusual flavor pairings suggested by molecular gastronomy. The idea  is that if ingredients have chemically similar aromas, they will probably taste and smell good together. Some of our experiments turned out better than others, but I think this one was probably the best of the bunch. It helped that we started with an excellent base, namely, pear and vanilla-infused brandy.

(*Yes, I know, it’s a silly word)

To make the infusion, I chopped up a bartlett pear, and infused it in one cup of cognac along with a tablespoon of cane sugar and a filleted vanilla bean. After three days, the infusion was ready, and thoroughly delicious. In my experience, brandy is the best spirit to combine with pears. This was one of the best infusions I have made, and I really wanted it to be the star of this drink, so I started with two ounces of the pear-infused brandy.

Parsnip juice has a very light flavor, but it is sweet, much like carrot juice. Indeed, I often think of a parsnip as an albino carrot. I found that I had to add two ounces of parsnip juice to balance it against the brandy. That combination was delicious on its own, but it still needed some acidity to add interest upon the palate, and lemon is less disruptive than lime or vermouth. Half an ounce of lemon was just right, along with a touch of brown sugar syrup, to bring out the parsnip, and two dashes of grapefruit bitters, for depth.

I cannot explain that last decision, it just felt right.

The Pearsnip
2 oz Pear Vanilla Brandy (infused Cognac Salignac)
2 oz Parsnip Juice
.5 oz Lemon Juice
.25 oz Brown Sugar Syrup
2 dashes Grapefruit Bitters (Fee’s)
Shake over ice and double-strain into an old fashioned glass. Garnish with pear wedge impaled on vanilla bean, and grate a little bit of vanilla bean over the top.

Ordinarily I am opposed to grating anything over the top of a drink, lest the small particles disrupt the texture of the drink. Nutmeg and cinnamon work in this format, but lemon or lime zest are unpleasant to imbibe, in my opinion. I was on the fence about the vanilla bean, but we ran it over a microplane grater and it was surprisingly flavorful and unobtrusive.

Until next time, keep it craft.


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Peach Sangria

For a party last weekend, James and I made peach sangria. Most people, I have found, are skeptical when I tell them that I am going to serve them sangria. They have, perhaps, a mental image of a cloying wine kool aid, syrupy, carbonated, disgusting. But sangria can be also be beautiful, subtle, sophisticated… if only you treat her like a lady. First, in my mind, there is no room in red sangria for fruit juice or carbonation*. Rather I like to make it as an infusion of fruit in wine, fortified with spirits. In this instance I followed my go-to recipe, which I am going to share with you now, but with one modification; last time I made this sangria, I had not yet learned the secrets of oleo saccharum, that most unctuous of syrups, and I felt a strong intuition that it would improve the subtle orange qualities of the drink.

(*We did a white sangria not too long ago, which contained both fruit juice and sparkling wine, but it was a different beast all together. Really, “white sangria” is a bit of an oxymoron.)

Take a look here, feast your eyes on all those glorious citrus oils floating on its surface:

Peach Sangria
6 Bottles of Your Favorite Rioja
500 ml Triple Sec (Cointreau)
500 ml Cognac (Salignac)
Oleo Saccharum of 12 Oranges
6 lbs of Peaches, peeled and cut into chunks
Allow the mixture to infuse over night, and then top with two sliced lemons right before serving. Pour over ice as you serve.

The brandy in this recipe is critical, for it adds notes of wooden complexity that give the drink a three dimensional quality on the palate. Without it, the punch tastes a bit flat. What is perhaps most striking about this sangria is its dryness. Though it acquires a mellow peach roundness, it retains the dry tannin notes from the rioja, a wine which, as a genre, has hints of strawberry and vanilla that marry well with orange and peach. Whenever I need to serve a lot of drinks in a pinch, this is my method. It does not work in the winter months, when peaches are scarce, but in summer it is perfect for a trip to the beach or an afternoon barbecue.

Indeed, these were the last peaches of the season. I have played with the idea of infusing spices into the wine for winter, but I’m not sure if that can still properly be called sangria. Cheers!


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Fresh Juice Drink Template

As I experiment with different drink formats and classes of ingredients, I find my experiments will cluster around some very specific structures, and today I would like to share a template that I have developed for making drinks with fresh fruit juices. To get a good drink out of this template, you have to put some thought into the flavors you are combining, but I have found it to be pretty reliable.

Fresh Juice Template
1.5 oz base spirit
1 oz fresh fruit juice
.75 oz fortified wine
.25 oz syrup or liqueur
(optional) dash of bitters

This template is intended for juices that are not highly acidic, such as lemon or lime. It is not a template for a sour, but rather a template for succulent juices. Andy would even go so far as to call this genre of drink “succulent”, but I consider to be overkill. Each ingredient in the template has a purpose, and should be selected in order to best fill that role within the drink.

The fresh juice is the starting point. We start with produce, such as carrots or strawberries, and then we build our flavor profile around the juice of that ingredient. After selecting the juice, we select the base spirit. A good approach, though not the only approach, is to consider cuisine which contains your produce, and to choose a base spirit from that same region or theme. For example, peppers of all varieties make a fine accompaniment to tequila, while rums pair well with tropical fruits.

After selecting a juice and a liqueur, you should select your sweetener. A little bit of sugar will help to draw out the flavor of the fresh juice, which tends to be more aqueous than is entirely optimal in a mixed drink. The sweetener needs to complement both the juice and the spirit; curaçao for orange juice is an entirely reasonable choice, and maraschino is a brilliant accompaniment to pineapple or to fresh berries.

In some cases, you really want to let the flavor of the fruit stand on its own, and then simple syrup, or honey syrup, or demerara syrup will tend to be the best choices.

Finally, select a fortified wine. In most cases, this should be dry vermouth, as it will add complexity and dryness to the drink without interfering, but Cardamaro is an excellent accompaniment to fall flavors, and Stone’s Ginger pairs quite well with many fruits.

Alexandra’s Wish
1.5 oz Cognac (Salignac)
1 oz Fresh Strawberry Juice
.75 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz Demerara Syrup
1 Dash Orange Bitters (Regan’s)
Shake over ice and garnish with a lemon peel.

Don’t forget to strain the fresh juice through a fine-mesh strainer BEFORE you add it to the drink, as it will otherwise impede the straining of the drink at serving time, and to create the most smooth and elegant texture. Moreover, the expressed lemon oil is critical to the excellence of this drink. Don’t leave home without it!


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Fernet Alexander

It’s been a while since we had a Fernet drink around here, and for that I apologize. I’ve had this one sitting in the queue for a while, but it’s been very warm lately, and I wasn’t in the mood for a drink with heavy cream. No matter — the time has finally come. We’ve all heard of the Brandy Alexander, one of the few classic cocktails that endured even through the dark days of flavored vodkas and canned sour mixes. It was unchallenging enough that people still ordered it, even when their tastes were at rock bottom, drinking drinks like Sex on the Beach and the Key Lime Pie Martini.

Fortunately for all of us, craft cocktails have come back into the spotlight. The Brandy Alexander is quite a good drink in its own right, but clearly, the Fernet Alexander, a simple variation on a theme, has much to offer us. The bitter, herbal qualities of Fernet, the lingering flavor of mint, married to chocolate and softened by cream. I used my own chocolate liqueur, of course. It is a pleasant variation, but I found myself craving something sweeter, for once. I think the idea of the Brandy Alexander had set my expectations to dessert, and after mixing one of these, I immediately tried it again with Branca Menta. The end result was much closer to a Grasshopper, but with additional complexity from Branca Menta over Creme de Menthe. At least this one isn’t bright green.

Brancahopper

1 oz Branca Menta
1 oz Chocolate Liqueur
1 oz Heavy Cream

Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with grated nutmeg.

The original idea for a Fernet Alexander came from CVS. It is appropriate to shake drinks with dairy ingredients in them very hard, in order to froth the milk or cream. In this case, I probably should have shaken more, or perhaps even given it a dry shake; I love it when dairy-based drinks are a bit foamy. The logical progression from this is the Ramos Fernet Fizz, I think. Coming soon.


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Memories of Fall: Apple Brandy and Cardamaro

In almost every mixed drink I have encountered, there is a perishable ingredient, something that is just slightly inconvenient to keep fresh and on hand. If it isn’t fresh citrus juice, it is fortified wine, and if it is neither of those, it is some kind of dairy ingredient. Even an old fashioned cocktail, or a Sazerac isn’t really complete without a slice of fresh citrus peel. David Embury divided mixed drinks into two broad categories:  Sour and Aromatic, the former depending upon sour citrus juice, and the latter depending upon fortified wines and bitters.

There are other mixologists with other ideas, but at the end of the day you’re pouring sugared and flavored ethanol, and it’s not as if all of these categories exist in some discoverable form in nature, the way subatomic particles do. Anyway, fortified wines will live a lot longer in your fridge than fresh lemons will in your fruit bowl, and it is both easy and refreshing to make a drink that contains only spirits.

I think many drinkers neglect the aromatic style, either because they mistakenly believe that they dislike vermouth, or because they have never seen how rewarding an aromatic cocktail can be. Technically speaking, only aromatic mixed drinks are cocktails, and only a subset of them, for that matter. Last Thursday I was in the mood for an aromatic drink using apple brandy, and I invoked my favorite 6:3:1 formula for a quick tipple.

Memories Of Fall

1.5 oz Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
.75 oz Cardamaro
.25 oz Allspice Liqueur (homemade)
dash of angostura bitters

Stir over ice and strain into a coupe glass. Drink in the Spring time.

This was a warming drink, and it felt like something you would sip on a crisp fall afternoon. I made this drink several weeks ago, when it was still technically spring, so it was deliciously out of season, not because the ingredients were unseasonal, but because the flavors were. The Cardamaro lent a round, herbal flavor to the sip, which was complimented by spiced apple on the swallow.