Measure & Stir

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


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Pining for a Caipirinha

I missed Mixology Monday this month, but last night I was getting into the Zirbenz and I suddenly realized I had a great application for it. So, I say in the video that this is for MxMo, but the fact is that I didn’t make it in time. Well, you can’t have everything.

Pining for a Caipirinha
1.5 oz Aged Cachaça (Novo Fogo)
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur
.5 oz Lime Oleo Saccharum
Shake and double-strain over cracked ice. Garnish with lime quarters.

I love Caipirinhas, but I think that as a built drink, it suffers from a flat texture. When there is fresh citrus in my drink, I want the aeration that comes from shaking. When you make a classic caipirinha, you muddle limes with granulated sugar in the glass, and the sugar helps to macerate the peels, releasing oils and juice. Freshly expressed lime oil is a big part of the Caipirinha experience, but I don’t like the fact that the ratios are unmeasured, so I took the elements of the Caipirinha and brought them into proper cocktail alignment.

Lime oleo saccharum is a pain to make, because lime peels are smaller and more brittle than lemon, orange, or grapefruit, but by using it in this drink, we are able to dramatically bolster the aromatic components of the lime, and get very close to the true essence of the flavor of Caipirinha.

An ounce of sweet ingredients does feel like a bit much, but you will find that, with the ice and the shaking, the drink comes out very cold, and the added sugar helps to punch through the dulling effect that cold has on the tastebuds. Moreover, Zirbenz is not a very sweet liqueur, so its inclusion is more about flavor than sweetening.

I always notice that lime oil has a lot in common with pine, so I put these two ingredients together to highlight that similarity. Zirbenz is a tough ingredient to use, because although it tastes strong on its own, the pine flavor is not penetrating, and is easily covered up by other botanicals such as those found in gin or vermouth. To be perfectly honest, if pine flavor is your goal, I think you would get farther using  essential oil than you will with this liqueur.

Even so, the Zirbenz has a raisiny quality along with its resiny quality, so it fits nicely between aged Cachaça and lime oil. I’ll try to post more often, I swear.


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Matcha Grandmother’s Toddy

If the name is confusing, say it out loud, like “Not ya Grandmother’s Toddy”. The joke isn’t funny if you explain it. I know. The hour is late so I’m going to make this a quick one.

matchatoddy2

James had the idea to have a small tea party, in which all of our drinks would contain tea. I was greatly enthused by the idea, and we set about brainstorming some different ideas. In the brainstorming phase I thought, “this ingredient is going to be a snap!” But it turns out that tea is very subtle, and there are many opportunities for the drink to go horribly wrong.

For our first drink we wanted to get some green tea in a glass with some hogo. The problem is that brewed tea has a very light flavor, and a tea syrup made in the usual way has a similarly light flavor. There was no way it was going to stand up to a high proof spirit! So the first thing I tried was brewing six cups of green tea, and then reducing it to roughly 2 cups. Making the reduction caused the tea to oxidize, and it lost both its green color and its grassy flavor.

In fact, it started to taste like a black tea, but not like a good one. So we dumped that. Fortunately, I had some matcha powder in my cabinet, and we were able to find a solution that was both flavorful and colorful.

If you want to get the flavor of green tea in a drink, matcha is your best friend. A brief green tea infusion in vodka, pisco, or gin is another way, but I think matcha delivers the boldest and truest flavor of green tea. It is very bitter, however, and not in a delicious fernet kind of way.

matchatoddy1

Matcha Grandmother’s Toddy
1.5 oz Cachaça (Pitú)
1.5 oz Cocchi Americano
3 oz boiling water
1/4 tsp matcha powder
1/2 tsp white sugar
In a mixing glass, combine matcha, sugar, and boiling water. Stir vigorously. Add spirits and pour into a warmed irish coffee mug. Top with a matcha whipped cream*, lime twist, grated lime zest, and skewered blueberries.

We ended up using cachaça instead of J. Wray, for it has a similar flavor, but it is not quite so pungent and overpowering. This is one of my favorite drinks to date, both in taste and appearance. I loved the sulfurous, vegetal funk of the cachaça against the grassy, floral tea, along with the bitter notes from the cocchi on the backend.

The presentation was inspired by this Orange Pisco Hot Chocolate from Serious Eats. By the way, here’s how to make matcha whipped cream:

Matcha Whipped Cream
.5 L Heavy Cream
1 tsp matcha powder
sugar to taste
Combine all in an iSi whipped cream dispenser, pressurize, and shake.

Bottoms up!


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Herbed Oleo Saccharum: Dill, Rosemary, Orange Oil

In his book, Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl, David Wondrich reveals that the foundation of a good punch is a concoction called oleo saccharum, which simply means “oily sugar”. That may not sound especially appetizing, but it is among the most delicious and under-appreciated ingredients in a mixed drink.  You don’t have to use it to make a giant punch; it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to make a single drink (or three). Usually it is made from lemons, but any citrus fruit will do, and I like to mix it up, as you have probably noticed. The process is a little bit time-consuming, but the end product is amazing, and worth it.

To make it, all you have to do is peel some of your favorite citrus fruit, being careful not to get any of the pith. I find this is especially challenging with limes, which is why I will not be making lime oleo saccharum any time soon. If you do, I recommend finding the freshest limes you can, as lime skins are thinner than lemons or oranges, and you have to get them before they can even slightly dry out. I was inspired to make this by a trip I took, several months ago, to the Teardrop Lounge in Portland, where they were serving an original drink called Perennial Punch, consisting of green tea, J.Wray, cachaça, dry aperitif wine, and herbed oleo saccharum.

I loved the idea of muddling herbs with the citrus peels, so I selected rosemary and dill, and muddled them in a bowl with the peel from four oranges, and a few ounces of sugar. I did not measure the sugar, I just eyed it. Add enough sugar to coat the peels, muddle them, and repeat a couple of times. Each time you muddle, the sugar will puncture the oil glands in the citrus peel and become saturated, so you end up using a substantial amount, perhaps an ounce per orange.

After you have combined the sugar and citrus peels, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it sit for an hour, muddling occasionally. By the end, you get a rich, sweet oil with a heavenly smell. I mean really, truly, I am going to repeat this, it’s the key takeaway from this whole post: herbed oleo saccharum may be the greatest smell I have ever smelled.

The first drink I made with the oil was an attempt to partially reproduce the perennial punch. I did not bother to blend J. Wray and cachaça, as they have a similar flavor, and I find such blends to be gimmicky. Perhaps that is my ignorance. In any case, I did not quite get the dilution right on this one, and the flavor was good, but a bit on the watery side. As such, it’s hard to judge the success of the recipe. Everyone screws it up occasionally, and I was using unfamiliar ice, but that’s no real excuse.

Kind of Perennial Punch
1.5 oz Cachaça (Pitú)
.5 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
.5 oz Herbed Oleo Saccharum
1 oz Soda Water
Stir all except soda over ice and strain over fresh ice. Top with soda and garnish with a rosemary sprig and an orange peel, because why not.

Other than the bad dilution, this was pretty tasty. The original used Pineau de Charentes, which I do not have, but the vegetal funk from the cachaça was a great match to the herbs in the oleo saccharum. Even over-diluted, the flavors of orange oil and herbs were salient. I made two of these at once, so I ended up wasting most of my precious oil on an error. I had enough to make one more drink, but it was all stuck to the herbs and peels that I had used in the preparation. I decided to take no chances, so I poured all of the still oil-saturated herbs and peels into my shaker with some gin and some lime juice, and I made a drink that is almost impossible to screw up.

Unintentional Herbed Semi-Gimlet
1.5 oz Gin (Aviation)
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Herbed Oleo Saccharum, plus oil-saturated sprigs of herb and orange peel

Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

This drink was stunningly good. I call it a semi-gimlet because a proper gimlet is made of gin and lime cordial, but the process of making a good lime cordial is essentially making a lime oleo saccharum and then mixing it with strained lime juice. So this is a semi-gimlet in that the oleo saccharum was made with oranges, but if I had made it with limes, it would really just be an herbed gimlet. My process also placed extra emphasis on the citrus oil, so it would be a very unusual gimlet, at that.


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Raspberry Caipirinha

Raspberries are in season, just begging us to make use of their sunny, jammy flavors. Moreover, I just purchased a new bottle of Cachaça, because every once in a while I get that Caipirinha itch. Let’s see if we can play matchmaker with those.

Cachaça is mostly produced in Brazil, where 390 million gallons are consumed annually, compared with 4 million gallons outside the country. I don’t know about you, but I am doing my part to beat the Brazilians and put the US on the map for Cachaça consumption. USA! USA! USA! And of course, the Caipirinha is the national cocktail of Brazil, but to be honest, I find the combo of lime, sugar, and (essentially) very funky rum to be a little one-note and boring, so I like to add in one other fruit, which varies according to my mood.

Unfortunately, such a drink is technically called a Capifruta, but sometimes the technically correct is also the hopelessly ugly, and “Capifruta” sounds really grating to my American ears, whereas Caipirinha does not. Unlike economics or physics, this is an instance where judicious use of language can actually shape reality, so I will refrain from calling this drink by its “correct” name.

I never add more than one fruit besides lime, because we’re making a mixed drink, not a big bowl of mashed up fruit. Sometimes I use kumquats, and then I omit the lime altogether.

Raspberry Caipirinha

2 oz Cachaça (Pitú)
3 – 4 lime wedges (aim for .5 oz of juice)
4 – 5 raspberries
.5 oz simple syrup

Place raspberries and limes in a mixing glass and muddle thoroughly. Shake over ice and then pour the entire contents of the shaker into an old-fashioned glass. The smashed up lime wedges are the garnish.

The process I described here is the traditional way, as far as I know, and it is the one I followed for this photograph, but I did not enjoy the little pieces of ice floating on top of the drink, and I don’t think anyone else would, either, so I suggest finely straining this over fresh cracked ice and then garnishing it with a fresh lime wedge.

It won’t quite have the rustic feeling if you do it that way, but it will produce a more polished drinking experience. Rough up the garnish limes a little if you really need to.

Much like the old fashioned, you could use caster sugar instead of simple syrup, and the granules of sugar would macerate the lime peel a little more effectively than simple muddling, releasing more lime oil. As with the old fashioned, I will mention that the ROI on this procedure is very small, but you can do it if you feel exceptionally fancy. You will really want to use caster sugar, though, so as to avoid undissolved sugar granules in the final drink, which you will agree is much worse than slightly less lime oil.

Cheers.