Measure & Stir

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


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Enchanted Valentine’s: Little Mermaid Cocktail with Wakame-infused Aquavit, Lemon, and Champagne

She saw the bright sun, and all around her floated hundreds of transparent beautiful beings; she could see through them the white sails of the ship, and the red clouds in the sky; their speech was melodious, but too ethereal to be heard by mortal ears, as they were also unseen by mortal eyes. The little mermaid perceived that she had a body like theirs, and that she continues to rise higher and higher out of the foam.

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Once again, and to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Johan and I have teamed up to create a course of three food and cocktail pairings, this time inspired by classic fairy tales. Our first dish was a surf and turf inspired by The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. Johan describes it in excruciating detail at Moedernkitchen.

I chose to pair the dish with a drink made from champagne and wakame-infused aquavit. Pairing mixed drinks with food is much more difficult than serving the drink on its own; cocktails contain strong spirits, and they easily overpower food. The best strategy is to keep the drink lighter than the food, and to echo at least one of its flavors.

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To approach the seafood in this dish, I used a trident approach: first, citrus and champagne, which we naturally pair with crab, octopus, salmon, or oyster. Second, aquavit, to remember the bread crumbs in the “sand”, and to evoke a Norwegian feeling. Third, seaweed, for its brine and its bitterness.

I tried, many moons ago, to infuse seaweed into a tincture, but I was inexperienced, and my cocktail tasted like the inside of an aquarium. Nori was the wrong choice. This time I selected wakame, and infused 200ml of aquavit with a scant teaspoon of dried wakame for five hours. It took on a pale green color, and developed a thalassic minerality.

Many people over-steep their infusions. You don’t throw teabags into a pot of water and leave it for hours. You don’t let your coffee sit in a french press for a month and brag about how long you spent infusing it. So why do are you so proud of your over-infused spirits? The flavor of an infusion should be balanced and subtle, and when you make an infusion, you should take an active role in the process. Taste it frequently, and find the optimal rate of extraction.

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At its core, this drink is a French 75, but then again, almost every drink has a classic for its heart. That’s not because of some sacred or innate property of the classic drinks, it is merely that the classics have been selected and honed over time to form a basis in the space of possible ethanol-sugar-water recipes. For reference:

French 75
1.5 oz Gin
.75 oz Lemon Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
2-3 oz Champagne

The other notable addition to this drink is dashi air, which I make by bringing a pot of water with a 2×2″ square of konbu and 50g of shaved bonito flakes to a boil in 200ml of water, killing the heat, and steeping for ten minutes before straining. If this sounds like cutting corners, it is, but I assure you my washoku game is on strong. Prior to boiling, I added 50 ml of mirin. I added it early, because I wanted the alcohol to boil off.

Finally, using an immersion blender, I integrated 5 g of sucrose ester (also called Texturas Sucro), which produces an airy foam. After pouring the drink into the glass, I carefully spooned the foam on top.

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Out of the Fathomless Deep
1 oz Wakame-infused Aquavit
.75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
Shake over ice and double-strain into a wine glass
Top with 2 oz Champagne and Mirin-Dashi Air

Garnish with a dried orange wheel clipped to the side of the glass.

Regarding the garnish, I sliced some orange wheels and dried them in a dehydrator until they were crunchy. Be careful not to get your orange wheel wet when you’re garnishing the drink, or it will get soggy. If you’re like me, your orange wheels will lose most of their aroma when you dry them. Since garniture is about olfactics as much as optics, I sprayed my dehydrated orange wheels with orange essential oil right before serving.

Since we used the same dashi air on the plate and in the glass, the flavors tracked each other closely.

Cheers.


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I Should Buy A Boat: Rum, Cinnamon, Grapefruit, Champagne

I had very fond memories of this rum, grapefruit, cinnamon drink, and in fact, I remembered it as one of my happiest accidents. So, the other day, I mixed one up and I found that the flavor was too sweet, perhaps even cloying. I have updated the drink, looking through the lens of more experience running this blog. The new version, which I have named, is a significant improvement.

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In the original, I used Monin vanilla syrup, and white grapefruit juice, and I derived the cinnamon flavor from cinnamon sticks. When I remade the drink, I used pink grapefruit juice, due to availability, and my homemade cinnamon+vanilla syrup, which I make a bit rich at 1.2 sugar/water. I think the Monin syrup is closer to 1.0, and that the juice of white grapefruit is undeniably dryer, and perhaps a bit more complex than that of the pink.

It was not only the sweetness of the drink that did offend, it was also the texture, which I found to be slightly syrupy. The flavor, however, was balanced between cinnamon and grapefruit, so I did not want to adjust the quantity of syrup. Making a lighter syrup would be one option, but I preferred to lengthen the drink by pouring it over ice, and topping it with two ounces of champagne.

The ice is perhaps unnecessary, but I wanted to serve it at a party as a highball, and it did not detract from the texture. If your syrup is not a bit rich, I would not use ice.

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I Should Buy a Boat
1.5 oz Dark Rum (Doorly’s)
1 oz Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice
.5 oz Cinnamon Syrup
2 oz Champagne
Shake all but Champagne over ice and double strain over fresh ice. Top with 2 oz Champagne and garnish with a grapefruit slice. Grate a bit of fresh cinnamon on top of the grapefruit in front of your guest, for aroma.

The flavors of this drink somehow came together in a way that suggested cherries and almonds, even though neither of those flavors was present in the ingredients. There might have been notes of those things in the champagne we used (which was from Trader Joe’s, I can’t remember the label), but certainly not enough to create those impressions as distinctly as they were present in the drink.

I worry that my garnishing procedure grows too elaborate, sometimes. Part of my garnish-o-mania derives from the necessity to take interesting photographs, but it has become one of my favorite parts of the craft.

This post is running long, but one quick note on the name. It had rum, and champagne, and I was serving it at a formal party, so I named it after a popular internet cat picture, which I much admire.

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This is one of my favorite original creations to date. Cheers!


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The Italian 50

I have a long-standing aversion to champagne cocktails, mostly on the basis that I think it looks unmanly to hold one at a bar. The only glass more feminine than a champagne flute is a hurricane, but both are OK in the proper context. If you are sitting on the beach at a resort, a hurricane glass full of coconut cream and rum, or even a bit of blue curaçao is probably ok, but if you order something like that in a bar on a Saturday night, I will probably make fun of you.

Anyway, In Northern Italy, the most popular aperitif is a drink called Spritz, and when my friend Gualtiero came by with a bottle of Prosecco, I knew it was time to make a drink in that vein. The classic Spritz recipe is delicious, but it’s a little too light for my tastes, and it goes a little something like this:

Spritz
1 oz Campari, Aperol, or Cynar
1 oz Prosecco
1 oz Sparkling Mineral Water

Combine in a glass and garnish with an orange wheel.

It goes without saying that your prosecco, mineral water, and ideally, your bitter liqueur will all be chilled before-hand. I like this recipe, but I’m usually in the mood for something a little stronger, so I crossed a Spritz with a French 75, and came up with The Italian 50:

The Italian 50
1 oz Dry Gin (Beefeater)
.5 oz Campari
3 oz Prosecco

Briefly stir gin and Campari together, and strain into a champagne flute. Top with 3 oz Prosecco and garnish with an orange wedge.

This was shockingly delicious, but I think it would have been just as good, and more appropriate to its name, if it had been made with Grappa instead of Gin. Alas, I do not have any Grappa, and I did not want to use Pisco, even though it’s a close approximation than gin. So the 50 in this comes from the fact that it is a 2/3 Italian 75, which multiplies out to be the Italian 50. Next time I’ll get some Grappa, and we’ll get all the way to 75.

The French 75 is essentially a Tom Collins with Champagne instead of sparkling water, meaning it makes use of lemon juice for its bracing quality. In the Italian 50, I am using Campari for this purpose instead, changing the drink from a sour drink to an aromatic one. In any case, the biggest win here is inherited from the spritz, which highlights the orange notes in Campari with a wedge of fresh orange. The aroma of orange when drinking this drink creates a decadent synergy with the Campari.

You could use Cynar instead of Campari, and if you do that, then I suggest a wedge of lemon, which is much more suited to Cynar than orange.