Measure & Stir

I make drinks


Indochine: Green Chartreuse and Basil

Basil season is upon us, so what better time to enjoy the Indochine? I am not referring to this atrocious glass of candy from Sandra Lee, but rather to this elegant concoction from Mayahuel in Manhattan, courtesy of CVS. I don’t have a lot to say about this one, except you should make it. It’s a little lower-volume than I am used to, but the combination of Zacapa 23, Green Chartreuse, and fresh basil is just too good to miss. Green Charteuse is spicy and herbal on its own, but it contains the extracted flavors of its herbs. When a flavor is extracted into alcohol it becomes abstracted — it retains its aroma but not the fullness of its flavor. By adding fresh herbs, we build a flavor which tastes much more complete, like a song that ends on the right note.

All of the flavors in this drink have a certain earthy quality — oak wood, leaves, sugar cane, spices. It would be perfect to sip on your patio, or even out in a forest. Zacapa 23 is a little bit expensive to be using it as the base spirit in a lot of mixed drinks, but every time I have made a drink with it I have been very impressed. When I use it in a rum drink, I almost feel like I’m cheating. It’s that great.

.75 oz Zacapa 23 Rum
.25 oz Green Chartreuse
.375 (3/8) oz Lime Juice
.25 oz Simple Syrup
5 Thai Basil Leaves

Muddle the basil leaves in the simple syrup, then shake all ingredients over ice and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with candied ginger, or, if you don’t have any of that, a fresh basil leaf.

This drink was a little small, so if you doubled the proportions, I would certainly empathize. It looks insubstantial in my double old-fashioned glass, but I don’t have a smaller rocks glass, something I shall have to rectify soon. The original recipe called for candied ginger, which would have been a nice aroma to accompany the drink, but I really enjoyed the additional scent of basil as I took a drink. Basil has a delicate flavor, so the extra aroma from the garnish really helps it shine.

You should make this, it is excellent.

1 Comment

Zig Zag Cafe

On Wednesday night I went to the Zig Zag Cafe by Pike Place Market. It no longer has the prestige of Murray Stenson, but the drinks are still great and the service is lively. Their menu is on the conservative side, which I think reflects the aesthetic of the place, and probably also the tastes of an older man. You won’t find cantelope lemongrass soda or tamarind foam, but you will find top shelf spirits handled with the care they deserve.

In all of my visits to the Zig Zag I have found that they dilute their drinks slightly more than other craft bars I have visited, and also more than I do at home. I am not criticizing their choice — I think it is more stylistic than cheap. The higher water content means that their drinks are always immaculately cold and smooth, but they sacrifice a little bit of the intensity of the flavor. The additional dilution makes their drinks very accessible; there is nothing harsh or caustic about anything that they serve, and I surmise that caters to the crowd in a major tourist location like Pike Place Market.

For my first drink I ordered the Cubano, and unlike many bars, the Zig Zag does not say where their drinks were created.  A quick google did not prove fruitful, so I’m guessing it is a Zig Zag original. The Cubano features light rum, green chartreuse, dry vermouth, lemon and lime juice. I don’t know the exact proportions, but it was fairly Chartreuse-forward, so I’ll take a guess:


1 oz Light Rum (Wray and Nephew, but maybe try Mount Gay)
.5 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
.5 oz Green Chartreuse
1/2 Tsp Lemon Juice
1/2 Tsp Lime Juice

Stir and double strain (or just don’t get any citrus pulp in there, anyway)

I made the drink with these proportions and it was very much as I remember, but I do not think they used Wray and Nephew. The funkiness from my choice of rum combined with the the dry vermouth was a bit more assertive than in the one at the Zig Zag, and I may try it again with something milder.

For my second drink I had the Bitter Pimm’s, which was a marriage of Pimm’s No. 1 and Amaro Montenegro. This was among the best application of Amaro Montenegro that I have tasted. I’ve always felt that it has a cotton candy, bubblegum kind of flavor, and it fit right in with the fruity qualities of the Pimm’s. (Apologies for the terrible glare on the lemon.)