Measure & Stir

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


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The Last Word Ice Cream Sundae

I made this in collaboration with my friend Johan from Moedern Kitchen, and this content is cross-posted there.

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This is not my first foray into the world of cocktail-inspired ice creams. My first was not up to snuff, and never made it to the web. My second was Mai Tai Soft Serve, which you may remember. Today, I am proud to share an ice cream Sundae inspired by one of my favorite classic cocktails, the Last Word. This drink is famous among cocktail enthusiasts, and as a Seattlite, it has a special place in my heart, since it was re-popularized in the modern cocktail renaissance by our very own Murray Stenson.

To make this ice cream sundae, we wanted to do something ambitious. It’s easy to get carried away when dealing with modernist techniques, and I think you will find that we did not exercise any restraint at all.

Just to review, the last word is a drink composed of equal parts:

The Last Word
3/4 oz London Dry Gin
3/4 oz Maraschino Liqueur
3/4 oz Green Chartreuse
3/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice

The green Chartreuse is really the key to this drink, as it is the source of its unique flavor. Even so, the combination and the balance are such that every element is a first class citizen. We went through several iterations before we settled upon this arrangement. What is the right way to marry an ingredient to a preparation? I confess I do not have any formal method for making these decisions.

The base of an ice cream sundae is the ice cream, and for that reason, it seemed fitting to use the base spirit of the drink, which in this case is London dry gin. As I have noted before, actual spirits do not come through strongly when added to an ice cream base. We can achieve much more flavorful results by using the root flavors of the spirit, rather than the spirit itself. To make a London dry gin ice cream, we used a hint of gin, but we steeped coriander, orange peel, and juniper berries into the cream. I don’t have the exact ratio, but this will get you pretty close. Note that we use the same base recipe as in Johan’s licorice ice cream.

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London Dry Gin Ice Cream
650g Whole Milk
225g Sugar
200g Egg Yolks
150g Heavy Cream
50ml London Dry Gin

Before combining the ingredients to make the ice cream, infuse the milk with gin botanicals. In a pan, toast up 2 tbsp of coriander seeds and 2 tbsp of juniper berries, until the oil starts to bloom on the juniper. When the berries are shiny, drop all of the spices into the milk, and gently heat on a stovetop for fifteen minutes along with one fat orange peel, trimmed of pith, then strain.

A good ice cream sundae should contain many layers and textures. Moreover, the last word, although quite spiritous, is a citrus-driven drink. It needs to the acidity and the punch of fresh sour lime juice. To achieve this end, we made a lime juice curd using this lemon curd recipe from chefsteps, subbing lemon for lime, and omitting the gelatin. I cannot stress this last point enough. In our first attempt, we used the optional gelatin suggested in the recipe, and wound up with a disgusting congealed mass.

For the maraschino, we made a zabaione, which Johan called by some incomprehensible Norwegian name (eggedosis) that he will probably edit in here.

Maraschino Zabaione
3 Large Egg Yolks
100 ml Heavy Cream
Sugar and Marschino to Taste
Integrate using a mixer (or a whisk, if you want to work on those arms), and load into an iSi whipping cannister. Charge it up and shake it.

For the green chartreuse, we made a fluid gel. Modernist techniques often feel like solutions in search of a problem, but in this case, a chartreuse gel was exactly the thing. We adapted this recipe from chefsteps as well, substituting fresh orange juice with green chartreuse, and omitting the citric acid. The texture and mouthfeel was unusual, but it felt very at home in a sundae, filling in the same space where one might otherwise find chocolate fudge sauce.

At this point, we had all of the elements, and a variety of soft viscosities, but a sundae also needs crunch, contrast, and texture. To this end, we repeated some of the flavors, and expanded on others. Ice cream wants some kind of cookie or crumble, and we opted to use two.

The first was a cinnamon shortbread, which we crumbled up and used as the bottom layer. I used this recipe from Serious Eats.

Cinnamon Shortbread
9 ounces (about 1 3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus a little more for greasing the pan
3 1/2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
A healthy outpouring of ground cinnamon.

Don’t overmix the cinnamon in the shortbread, in order to create a marbled effect. I don’t know how much I used, but you’ll know it’s right when you see it. Cinnamon may seem like an odd addition to the dessert, but it complements and expands on the cinnamon flavor that is present in green chartreuse. It does not repeat perfectly, but it does rhyme.

The second cookie was a tuile, which also came from Serious Eats.

Tuile
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (4 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/2 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sifted cake flour
2 large egg whites
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

We integrated this, allowed it to cool, then spread it into a thin layer on a silpat using an offset spatula, and baked it at 176 C until it was just brown all over, about 12 minutes. For the final plating, we just shattered it into pieces.

In addition to cookie textures, we added a couple of soft and chewy elements. The first was dried sweetened pineapple, compressed with a citrusy new age gin called Uncle Val’s Botanical. To make this, we bought dried sweetened pineapple chunks in bulk from a supermarket, and compressed them in a chamber vac with a shot of gin. The longer you leave them sealed in the bag, the softer they get. We let ours sit for about two hours before draining them. They kept in a jar for quite a while afterwards, and had the texture of soft gummy candy. We chose pineapple because it pairs wonderfully with lime, maraschino, and green chartreuse, but in truth, the pineapple was mostly covered by the gin.

Finally, we topped it with falooda seeds soaked in a mixture of London dry gin and water. These are popular in some asian and Indian desserts, and they have the amazing property that they will soak up any liquid in which they rest. They are sometimes colloquially called frogs eggs, but they have a similar texture to modernist caviar made with sodium alginate. Since they soaked up a little gin, they were the perfect vehicle to give a tiny boozy kick to the dessert, which was otherwise lacking.

The composition of the sundae was as follows, from top to bottom:

  • Gin-Soaked Falooda
  • Tuile Pieces
  • Maraschino Zabaione
  • Green Chartreuse Fluid Gel
  • London Dry Gin Ice Cream
  • Lime Curd
  • Citrus Gin-Compressed Pineapple
  • Cinnamon Short Bread Crumbles
  • Served in a Cocktail Glass

This was a lot of work, but the result was something truly special.

Cheers.


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Tokyo Mixology Bar Benfiddich – Tokyo Craft Cocktail Series #6

BONUS EDIT: It appears that the bartender at Benfiddich has a blog!

As most of you are probably aware, I’m in the middle of a series of articles reviewing some of the best bars in Tokyo, a venture which I have unfortunately named “Measure and Stir’s Magical Mixological Journey in the Land of the Rising Sun(tm)”

So alright, that’s enough hotel bars. Let’s get to the good stuff. I would never have found Bar Benfiddich, in Nishi-Shinjuku, without a recommendation from our esteemed bartender at Gen Yamamoto, and I have to say, this was my favorite bar of the trip. Everything about this bar was great. When we sat down at the bar, we were the first customers of the night, and we had the place to ourselves for a good hour. When the bartender asked us what we want, we replied, bartender’s choice, of course. He then asked if we wanted something standard or interesting, and to long-time readers of Measure and Stir, you will know that I could only say “interesting”.

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Immediately, his eyes lit up and he went to work. I have been to bars where the wall is lined with jars full of spices, but usually it strikes me as empty posturing. In the case of Benfiddich, those whole spices are the cornerstone of their drink philosophy. Our bartender produced an enormous stone mortar and pestle, and made a fresh maceration of at least ten different whole spices, which he stirred with vodka and topped with ginger beer, ice, and mint. In such a preparation, the flavors of the spices are robust and very complete, because an infusion of fresh spices can capture very volatile aromas that do not persist for very long after grinding.

He then asked “Do you like Chartreuse?” Academic. He then produced a slender bottle of house-made green chartreuse, and served it to us neat, and in a highball with house-made tonic water. It was love at first sip. I definitely have a new favorite entry in the “& tonic” category of drinks.

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Other highlights of the trip included yet a second maceration of fresh ground spices, this time in the flavor profile of Campari, which he used to make a “no campari” Spumoni. The Spumoni, along with the White Lady, the Salty Dog, and the Nikolaschka (or whatever that drink is called) are classic era cocktails that seem to have found a particular popularity in Japan. Here is a recipe:

3/4 Campari
1 part Grapefruit juice
1 part Tonic water
Shake Campari and Grapefruit juice over ice, then double strain over fresh ice. Top with tonic and garnish with an orange wedge.

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At one point he made us a Manhattan with Carpano Antica and Luxardo cherry. The cherry liqueur really elevated this beyond the level of an ordinary Manhattan.

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My favorite drink of the night was a drink made with copious amounts of muddled shiso and kumquats, but then, I am a fiend for fresh shiso.

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Benfiddich also served us a bloody Mary that was much in line with the one from Gen Yamamoto, but a bit more savory. It was grand.

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I didn’t catch what was in this drink, but it was similar to the cream and kabocha from Gen Yamamoto. It was served in a bamboo vessel that the bartender himself had made. Small touches like this really give Benfiddich a lot of character.

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This drink contained freshly shredded ginger and gin. The ginger flavor was strong, but it did not have much of the heat tha toften comes with fresh ginger.

I almost feel like Benfiddich was Gen Yamamoto’s sister bar, though I do not believe they are affiliated. Like Gen Yamamoto, the bar counter itself is made from a single piece of wood, cut vertically from a tree, and apparently provided by the same company. The decor is rustic, and I felt like I was sitting inside a feudal Japanese apothecary, complete with old wooden lanterns.

The enthusiasm and ingenuity of the bartender really impressed me, and for this reason, Benfiddich was my favorite bar of the trip.

Rum Diddly Dum

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Video post number two, in which I make a carbonated drink using an obscure vietnamese herb.

 

Rum Diddly Dum

2 oz Kinh Gioi-infused light rum
.5 oz Dry Vermouth
.5 oz Cane Syrup
.5 oz Lime Juice
.25 oz Green Chartreuse
Shake all and strain into your carbonation device of choice. Carbonate, pour into a flute, and garnish with a fresh leaf of kinh gioi.

Cheers.


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Murray Stenson; The Bitter Word

It is a bitter word indeed, today, my friends; Murray Stenson, that bartender of bartenders, is suffering from a heart ailment and is unable to work. As a bartender, he is without health insurance, and he needs your help. Others, such as Doug and Paul have already written eloquently and at some length as to why you should help, if you enjoy craft cocktails or care about the craft cocktail scene. So Kindly mosey on over to MurrayAid.org, where you can show your appreciation to the man who brought The Last Word back from the dead.

To show our support for Murray, we mixed up an emergency round of a riff on the last word, which we call the Bitter Word:

The Bitter Word
.75 oz Fernet (Branca)
.75 oz Lime Juice
.75 oz Maraschino Liqueur (Luxardo)
.75 oz Green Chartreuse
Shake over ice and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a pineapple slice.

Pineapple matches well with all of the other flavors in this drink, so I guessed that it would make an excellent garnish, and indeed, it did. The brilliance of the last word recipe is that you can swap the “base” spirit for just about anything–bourbon, rum, mezcal, fernet–and still come out with something that works very well. That said, the original will always be the best. All elements in the drink are so perfectly balanced, and its flavor is bright and crisp, but not blinding. I see variations on this drink popping up all over the place, these days, and you have Murray to thank. In this version, the bitter menthol from the fernet complements the herbal spices of the green chartreuse rather nicely, and the lime and maraschino help to round out the last word’s perfectly balanced flavor profile.

I’m pretty new to this scene, but the one time I did sit across the bar from Mr. Stenson, at the Canon, he came right up and greeted me, even though a different bartender was serving my side of the bar. Real hospitality, that. You spend what, fifteen dollars for a good drink at a good bar? And if you’re like me, you order three or four rounds. Why not stay in next Friday, mix up the Last Word, and donate to a good cause?