Measure & Stir

I make drinks


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Rum Milk Punch

We have another winter warmer for you today, courtesy of Cocktail Virgin Slut, though we have modified it slightly and in an entirely canonical way. This is one of those recipes that does not necessarily grab you when you read it, but which is completely wonderful when you actually drink it. I made it for several family members over the Thanksgiving holiday, and they loved it.

It’s a great drink to make when you do not have the luxury of working out of your home bar, because most people have all of the necessary ingredients in their house. OK, sure, they might not have bitters, but there are some things a man should always carry on his person. And they might not have cinnamon syrup, but you can easily make some. Sugar, cinnamon, water it really is that easy.

Also, I only have one photo for you today, and I am sorry about that.

rum-milk-punch
1.5 oz Dark Rum (Doorly’s)
1.5 oz Whole Milk
.5 oz Bourbon (Evan Williams)
.5 oz Cinnamon Syrup
2 dash Aromatic Bitters (Angostura)
Dry shake and then shake over ice and double-strain over fresh ice. Garnish with cinnamon. Cloves and star anise are optional.

Don’t forget that when working with dairy, it is appropriate to dry shake first, as with egg whites, in order to froth the milk. I have also made this drink with half and half, which makes it yet more of an indulgence. And don’t skimp on the milk! Better milk will make a better drink, period.

In the original recipe, bourbon was the base, and rum was an accent, but I tried it both ways and decided that I wanted to bring the rum to the foreground. I think you could adapt any combination of your favorite brown spirits to this format, and still be happy with the results. Except don’t use scotch as the base, that does not sound great to me. But rye, brandy, aged cachaça? Go crazy.

According to Fred:

Milk Punches of this sort appear in Jerry Thomas’ 1862 Bartenders Guide: A Bon Vivant’s Companion and became popular brunch drinks especially in New Orleans

Milk punch is a versatile and portable recipe to memorize, especially in the colder months. I highly recommend it.
Cheers!


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Zabaione, Mostly

As we approach Christmas, it is at long last time to start drinking raw egg yolks. I have never been a huge fan of the flip style of drink, but my good friend Gualtiero convinced me to try making Zabaione, as it was one of his favorite childhood treats. Traditionally, Zabaione is a dessert made with egg yolks, sugar, and Marsala wine. I failed to acquire Marsala wine, so we ended up improvising with some of my favorite liqueurs, and that old Measure and Stir stand-by, vanilla-infused bourbon.

Vanilla infuses in bourbon the way bourbon infuses into my soul.

Zabaione2

Gualtiero belongs to the Italian Mother school of cooking, so he never uses any ratios or measurements, he merely cooks by feel and intuition. I often do this for my food, but when it comes to drinks, I try to follow a more exacting standard. In this case, we went with a more free-wheeling approach.

Zabaione Base
3 Medium Egg Yolks
Sugar to Taste
Combine egg yolks and sugar using an egg beater until thoroughly integrated.

Once you have your egg base, you can mix it with many different spirits. I had intended to try sweet vermouth, but alas, I got carried away. I did manage to play with the ratios a bit, and I found that I liked it best when the egg was in the foreground, letting the spirit round it out and add complexity.

Zabaione1
Strega with saffron garnish, Benedictine with fresh-grated cinnamon garnish, vanilla-infused bourbon with cocoa powder.

Zabaione “Template”
2 oz Zabaione Base
1 oz Brown Spirit or Spicy Liqueur
Stir until thoroughly integrated and serve at room temperature and garnish with cocoa powder.

It’s not really that much of a template, but it worked for me. The liqueurs were both very sweet on top of the sugar that was already in the egg, so you won’t want to drink very much of this. The egg mixture itself is so thick that it pours like cake batter, but the spirit thins it out enough to drink. Owing to its tremendous viscosity, you would not want to serve this drink cold, as it would scarcely move in the glass.

I really wanted the Strega to be the best, because I find it aesthetically pleasing when the various components of the drink come from the same origin. In this case, the Strega was the one that I would least like to make again, though curiously, it tasted the most like egg nog.

Benedictine already has notes of cinnamon in it, which the garnish helped to accentuate. It was an excellent flavoring agent, but I might have used a little less sugar in the eggs if I wanted to make this combination come out perfectly.

Vanilla-infused bourbon was the clear winner, and the cocoa powder was the best garnish. If you decide to make one of these three, I strongly encourage you to make the one with bourbon.

In the future we’ll try it with Marsala wine, brandy, and some kind of Manhattan, probably.
Salute!


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Popcorn-Bourbon Toddy

As Joe used the iSi whip cream dispenser to flash infuse some freshly popped popcorn into some bourbon, I prepared some spiced butter using the same winter spice mix that we used to make the vin brûlée. Once everything was ready, a tasty toddy was born. Delicious, fun, rather unusual, and seasonally appropriate. Not only would drinking one of these be a fine way to warm yourself up, it’d also go really well with a movie.

Popcorn Toddy
2 oz Popcorn-infused Bourbon
1 oz Brown sugar syrup
.75 oz Lemon juice
1 tablespoon Spiced butter
Dash of bitters
2 oz Near-boiling water (to top)

Melt the butter and spices together. Add ingredients to a snifter, top with 2 oz near-boiling water. Garnish with a popcorn skewer.

We originally wanted to use a rye, Old Overholt, as it tastes particularly corny on its own, but, alas, we didn’t quite have enough of it left to make the infusion, which is why we used bourbon instead. However, this was no loss, and I think it was actually a blessing in disguise because the bourbon perhaps adds more character and complexity. Still, I’d like to revisit this concept and use the ‘holt next time because it’d be interesting to see how its corniness bridges the whisky to the popcorn flavor. Then again, having said that, we’ve sworn off Old Overholt. Ever since Joe and I noticed how corny it tastes, it’s all we can taste. Its corniness almost ruins most drinks, in fact, and for that reason, we probably won’t be restocking that bottle. Yet I feel like every spirit has its uses, and perhaps this drink would be well suited to the corny corn corn taste of the ‘holt.

I was a bit worried that the popcorn flavor in the bourbon wouldn’t be very strong, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results of our infusion. The sip tastes like warm, slightly buttery, spicy bourbon, and smells like cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and star anise. As you swallow, you taste the popcorn, and the spices linger long enough to “season” the popcorn flavor, making it taste surprisingly like spiced popcorn.


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Vin Brûlée: Winter Spices, Red Wine, Citrus Peels

Quick Note from Joseph: Hey guys, sorry there was a little bit of miscommunication around the MxMo deadline. We’re still accepting late-comers, and it looks like a few more entries are still rolling in. Check back with us a little later in the week, when we will update the MxMo Roundup and enumerate all of the last-minute submissions. Thanks again for your patience and participation!

This recipe comes to us from an Italian friend, whose family has a tradition of celebrating the holidays every year with vin brûlée. Our friend directed us to this youtube video, which we used as the starting point for our recipe.

Vin Brûlée
1 bottle Red wine
.25 cup Sugar
1 tablespoon Winter spice mix (cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and star anise)
Peels of a lemon and an orange

Combine the wine, citrus peels, and spices in a medium-sized pot and simmer. Once integrated, light it on fire and wait for it to burn itself out. Remove the wine from the stove top and allow it to cool off, slightly. Serve while still warm.

In the video they use an entire cup of sugar, but that is far too sweet for our taste. A quarter cup will be plenty sweet, and is enough sugar to provide a nice viscosity and the desired amount of caramelization. As always, though, let your own good taste be your guide. As for the winter spice mix, we crushed cloves and star anise using a mortar and pestle, and added to that grated cinnamon and nutmeg. What a wonderful aroma!

Vin Brûlée, like a hot toddy, is a great drink to enjoy with dessert at your next family gathering, or any time during the fall and winter holidays, really. What would be more entertaining to your dinner guests than setting a pot of wine on fire? Plus, since you end up burning off most of the alcohol, the proof is low and it goes down easy.

The wine in this drink takes on a wonderful bouquet of winter spices, and tastes similar to a mulled wine, except that, unlike your standard mulled or spiced wine, because you set it on fire, the red wine takes on a deep caramel flavor. Sipping on this warm drink is certainly something to be thankful for this thanksgiving.

Salute!


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Gourd Vibrations

Happy Halloween! I wanted to use the scariest ingredient I could think of to make this drink, so I chose Campari, because although it does not scare me, many people seem to be averse to it. I personally enjoy challenging ingredients; I see them as new territories to conquer. James and I had a meal at a Seattle restaurant called Altura, where they served us an aperitif consisting of blood orange juice, carrot juice, and Campari in a miniature hurricane glass. It was only a taste, but the flavor of carrot and Campari paired surprisingly well. Perhaps it should not have been a surprise, as Campari contains the flavor of bitter orange peels, and carrot orange juice is a classic Moroccan combination, with a bit of ginger.

For holidays, I always like to do something a little bit special (just wait til Thanksgiving, wherein I will garnish a drink with a whole roast turkey…maybe), and James and I had been tossing around the idea of using a gourd as a serving vessel for a while. A raw gourd has sour, savory, and vegetal notes, and we were worried that it might strike a dissonant chord with a mixed drink if we used it as a vessel. The realization that made this whole thing come together was that the flavor of carrot juice could work as a bridge between the gourd vessel and the other flavors in the drink, provided that they mixed well with carrot.

The Gourd vessel itself was unexpectedly resilient. We were sure it was going to leak, but through artful placement of bamboo skewers, we managed to build a chalice that was thoroughly seaworthy. After that, the hardest part of making this drink was coming up with a suitable pun. Names that did not make the cut:

  • The Gourd, the Bad, and the Ugly
  • Oh My Gourd!
  • Gourd with the Wind
  • Here Today, Gourd Tomorrow
  • Gourd out of my Mind
  • Gourds and Ghoblins
  • Casper the Friendly Gourd

 
OK, I’m done. And I’m sorry.

Gourd Vibrations
2 oz Carrot Juice
1.5 oz Bourbon (Evan Williams)
.75 oz Campari
.5 oz Cinnamon Syrup
Dash of Aromatic Bitters (Angostura)
Shake over ice and double-strain into a chalice made out of a freaking gourd. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a sense of accomplishment.

As with many fresh juices, carrot juice has a mild flavor, easily overpowered by the more robust qualities of common cocktail ingredients. I had to add a full two ounces before it could stand up to the bourbon and cinnamon syrup. The quantity of Campari in this was also counter-intuitive, but when you are creating a cocktail, the rule is add a little bit, taste, add a little bit, taste. It’s a process that won’t always take you to the place you expect.

Bottoms Up!


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Punchius Pilate

For James’ birthday party, which was two weeks ago, we wanted to make a punch around his favorite spirit, Mezcal. (We also made Sangria.) So naturally, I turned to my favorite database of mixological knowledge, Cocktail Virgin Slut, wherein I found this little number, Punchius Pilate. This punch is a Frederic Yarm original, and we took only a small measure of license with his recipe.

In this punch, Fred blended Lapsang Souchong syrup with smokey tequila, grapefruit, ginger ale, and ancho chile. Here’s his recipe for Lapsang Souchong syrup, which we made, omitting the grapefruit zest. We also did not measure the spices too precisely, preferring to portion them by feel/smell. In Fred’s notes, he said he could have used more ancho chile, and indeed, I think we used more than he did in his original recipe.

Lapsang Souchong Tea Syrup
1. Boil water and measure out 6 oz. Add Lapsang Souchong tea (I added 3 tea bags to 12 oz for a double batch) and let steep for 5 minutes.
2. While the tea is steeping, muddle 1-2 cloves (I used 3 for a double batch), add 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8th tsp ancho chili powder, and the half the zest of a grapefruit.
3. Measure out 6 oz (by volume) of sugar. Add an ounce or two to the zest/spice mixture and muddle to extract the zest’s oil.
4. After the tea is steeped, add in all sugar, zest, and spices. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Cover and let sit for a few hours. Strain through a tea towel and store in refrigerator. Makes around 8 oz of syrup.

So, once again, we omitted the grapefruit, and used more spices than this recipe called for, playing it by intuition. When mixing drinks, it’s important to measure precisely, but when making syrups, sauces, (indeed, in cooking in general) we find that the best results usually follow from a mixture of intuition and trust in one’s own good taste. I do not need to know how much ancho, cinnamon, clove, and tea to put in this syrup; the description of the concept is enough to let me execute the recipe. To make it, simply ensure that all of the flavors are in balance, and strongly expressed.

We omitted the grapefruit zest because, in my mind, it isn’t really punch with out oleo saccharum, so rather than put the zest in the syrup, we started by macerating the peel of five large grapefruits in caster’s sugar for three hours, and then adding the rest of the ingredients. We also scaled the recipe up by a factor of three.

Punchius Pilate
1.5 Liters Reposado Tequila (El Jimador)
750 mL Mezcal (Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida)
750 mL Tawny Port (Cockburn’s Tawny)
24 oz Grapefruit Juice (Ruby Red)
20 oz Spiced Lapsang Souchong Tea Syrup
12 oz Lime Juice
Oleo Saccharum of 5 Large Grapefruits
Serve over ice and top with a bit of ginger beer.

We tweaked the ratios a little bit, mostly out of convenience. It’s easier to pour in the whole bottle of port rather than quibble about a few extra ounces. Moreover, we used slightly less Lapsang Souchong syrup as a tradeoff against the added sugar from the oleo saccharum. The Lapsang Souchong flavor came through beautifully, so I have no regrets. I did not make an ice ring mold, I confess, because I prefer to serve the punch personally. I like to buy a big block of ice, and carve off a chunk with my ice pick for each guest as I serve it.

Moreover, I prefer to add a little bit of ginger beer to each guest’s cup individually, so that the ginger beer will not lose its carbonation in the punch. This allows us to bottle any leftovers and save them for a week or two after the event. It’s true, the fresh citrus in the punch loses some of its subtler qualities after about two days, but adding a little spike of fresh lime when you pour it mostly ameliorates this problem.

As for the punch itself, it was a big hit, and everyone involved sang its praises. I actually preferred mine without the ginger beer, as it was less sweet, and I felt that it really let the smoke flavor come through. I was in the minority, however, as James and most of our guests preferred it with bubbles.

Cheers.


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Pumpkin Juice, Bourbon, Nutmeg

Pumpkin is one of those quintessential icons of autumn in America. Across the continent the orange globes are ubiquitous from late September until early November, especially in October, before halloween. Lately, the pumpkin proliferation has captivated our inner mixologist, and so here we are, mixing them into drinks. Furthermore, what sort of  cocktail blog we this be without a pumpkin drink in October?

There are many ways to integrate pumpkin flavor into your drinks. If you want the easy way out, there are some pumpkin liqueurs that are seasonally available, such as a pumpkin spice liqueur from Hiram Walker. Also, although I don’t personally recommend them, there are pumpkin-flavored vodkas which show up occasionally. But, if you’re looking to use raw pumpkin, as we did, your options include pumpkin syrup, pumpkin butter, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin puree, or  fresh pumpkin juice. We chose to use fresh pumpkin juice. Why? Because fresh pumpkin juice is tasty, and it’s rich in alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, fiber, vitamins C , В1, B2, В6, and E, potassium, magnesium, iron, and fatty acids. It has a semi-sweet, light, vegetal taste, and pairs well with cinnamon, vanilla,  nutmeg, and, most importantly, whiskey.

As always, it’s vitally important to use fresh juice. If you aren’t using fresh juice, we highly recommend investing in a juicer. Any kind of juicer is better than no juicer, as store-bought juices are usually pasteurized, which tragically destroys many of the health benefits and, more importantly, the flavor benefits, of using fresh juice. Besides, half the fun and charm of mixing drinks is using seasonal fruits and flavors, and what better or more fun way than to make some fresh juice at home?

Bourbon Pumpkin Patch
1.5 oz Bourbon
1 oz Fresh pumpkin juice, strained
.75 oz Cardamaro
.5 oz Cinnamon/Vanilla syrup
Dash of Angostura bitters

Shake, strain into a cocktail goblet, garnish with freshly ground nutmeg and a pumpkin sail.

This drink goes something like this: pumpkin juice and nutmeg on the sip, followed by the spices from the other elements in the drink, and finally the oaky barrel-aged tastes from the bourbon linger after the swallow. Cardamaro is the perfect fall aperitivo; it has just the right blend of spice and herb notes. It’s a tad bitter, but not as much as punt e mes or carpano antica. The pumpkin flavor came through, but not as strongly as we had hoped. If you choose to make one of these at home, here’s how to improve this recipe: the pumpkin juice needs to be reduced with sugar and spices, and the bourbon needs to be rye. We’d leave the Cardamaro right where it is, though, it’s perfect. Fresh nutmeg on top went a long way towards getting it there. Don’t skimp on that fresh nutmeg!

I want to say that this drink was awesome, but in all honesty, using the pumpkin’s juice probably isn’t the best way to incorporate it’s flavor into a cocktail. We made this drink to celebrate the fall, and to that end, I think we could have done better by making some kind of toddy, or perhaps another round of Memories of Fall.  Next time we mix with pumpkin, we’ll either try using the pumpkin’s seeds, which I’ve heard lend a delightful earthy quality to a drink, or we’ll make some pumpkin syrup.


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Banana Julep

I try to be as open as possible to different flavors and flavor pairings, but there is one flavor in this world that I simply loathe. I believe that food dislikes are arbitrary, so I am doing what I can to get past it, but try as I might, I simply cannot learn to like the flavor of bananas. If someone is sitting near me, eating a banana, I find the smell revolting. Most people seem to enjoy them–after all, what’s not to like? They are sweet, fruity, and tropical.

In an attempt to man up and get over it, I’ve been forcing myself to eat and drink various banana-flavored things, though I have not had much success in overwriting my preference. What ever will I do if I become marooned on a tropical island with nothing to eat but bananas? In an effort to help me defend against that likely scenario, James made some banana-infused bourbon, inspired by an entry on the menu at Canon called the smoking monkey.

Banana-Infused Whiskey
Slice a whole banana and submerge it in 12 oz of whiskey. After two days, remove it. As with all of your infusions, if the flavor of the reagent is too strong, you can dial it down by blending the infused spirit with more of the base spirit.

When he brought it over last week, I somehow got it into my mind to make a mint julep. One of my favorite syrups to make and keep on hand is vanilla-cinnamon syrup, but the last time I made a batch, I left it on the stove for about forty minutes, and the sugar started to caramelize. So I unwittingly made caramel-vanilla-cinnamon syrup, and it was excellent. A++, would make again.

Banana Julep
1.5 oz Banana-Infused Bourbon
.25 oz Cinnamon Caramel Vanilla Syrup
Mint Leaves
Smack some mint leaves in the palm of your hand and rub them around the inside of a tumbler, and then fill it with crushed ice. Stir the bourbon and the syrup together, and then strain them over the crushed ice. Garnish with more fresh mint leaves.

I am mostly ignorant in the ways of bananas, but I am led to understand that banana and caramel is a classic pairing. Anything flavored with banana is, for me, a sipper, but challenging flavors are how we expand our horizons. The mint flavor, which is very forward in a standard mint julep, was definitely in the background in this variation. The caramel in the syrup stomped all over it. There was still a hearty dose of mint in the nose, however, and I found that to be very pleasant.

I think you might get more out of the banana and mint combination in a sour with lime juice, but I have no regrets.


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Grapefruit, Vanilla, Rum, Cinnamon

I was mixing drinks at my friend James’ house last Sunday, and I suddenly had to improvise a drink for some ladies. I knew they did not want to drink turmeric and J. Wray, and I had already served them an aromatic drink of gin and plum wine, so the next round needed to be based on citrus. On this occasion, I had already stripped the peel from two grapefruits (a portent of drinks to come!), and I did not want to waste their juice.

Cinnamon and citrus is a match made in heaven, and lately I’ve been on a real cinnamon kick. I love the fragrance of it when its used as a garnish, and I love its spiciness and its depth. Cinnamon sticks are a must-have ingredient in your home bar; they are useful for infusions, garnishes, and syrups. In a pinch, you can use one to impale a citrus wheel, making an excellent addition to a tiki drink. It’s important to break the cinnamon apart before using it. Doing so releases its oil and its aroma.

Having settled on cinnamon and grapefruit (in Tiki terms, a blend called “Don’s Mix”), aged rum was an obvious choice. Honey syrup would have turned made this a sort of Rum Brown Derby, but James’ honey syrup had run out, so Monin vanilla took its place. Overall I was very pleased with this drink, and I think you will be, too. You don’t have to use Monin vanilla syrup. In fact, I encourage you to make your own:

Vanilla-Cinnamon Syrup
Two vanilla beans, split length-wise with a knife
Three Cinnamon sticks, preferably Canela
1.5 cups sugar
1.25 cups water

Simmer the syrup on the stove for fifteen minutes, and then allow to cool. Place the steeped spices in the vessel with the syrup, and add an ounce of vodka (or everclear) as a preservative.

Cinnamon Rum Derby
1.5 oz Aged Rum (Pusser’s)
1 oz Fresh Grapefruit Juice,
.5 oz Vanilla Syrup (Monin)
2 Cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

If you make Cinnamon-Vanilla syrup, you can omit the cinnamon sticks in the shaker. I was surprised how excellent this was, in fact, as I usually don’t love grapefruit juice. Don the Beachcomber knew what he was doing.


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Rum, Turmeric Juice, Lemongrass

Hot on the heels of the Curry Derby, I wanted to really explore this concept of turmeric in drinks. To that end, I purchased a healthy knob of turmeric, and ran it through my juicer, along with a bit of young ginger. The resulting juice was light, with a depth of peppery curry flavor, and a slight burn on the finish from ginger. Turmeric is something we have all experienced in Indian curries, but I had never really tasted it on its own, except for sad, dried out turmeric powder. A word to the wise: putting dried spices in your food is depressing; they have the texture of sand and most of the flavor. It’s the difference between a grand piano and a casio recorder.

The spices gave the drink a bitter dimension, but it still needed high notes, so I chose J. Wray and Nephew as the base. Lately I have been trying to temper my enthusiasm for rums with hogo — there are so many styles out there, after all — but the beauty of hogo is that it pairs so well with herbal and vegetal flavors. I enjoy seeking out such flavors, of course, so J. Wray is always in my well.

J. Wray and Turmeric was a good base, but the flavor was incomplete. A proper mixed drink needs an abrasive quality to make it pop. The most common sources for this are fortified wine, which provides astringency from herbs, and citric acid from fresh lemon or lime. There are other options: the tannin in tea can also be bracing, as can the pungency of aromatic bitters. Originally I had tried muddling some lemon grass in some simple syrup, but the lemon grass that I had purchased that day was of inferior quality, and would not convey a strong enough flavor to the syrup. I ended up deciding that rum called for lime, with the end result being a kind of succulent turmeric daquiri.

Tim Curry
1.5 oz Traditional Rum (J. Wray and Nephew)
1 oz Turmeric Ginger juice
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup

Muddle lemongrass in simple syrup, then combine all in a shaker. Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a piece of broken lemongrass.

Rum is a piratey drink, after all, and as such this drink is named after Tim Curry, mostly for his role in Pirates of the Plain, and because his name happens to fit the ingredients. Good. A couple of notes on working with turmeric: everything it touches will turn golden curry yellow. The tasteful 80s mauve of my juicer is now permanently stained golden. My finger nails, until they grow out. The place on the counter where some of the juice dripped. It’s positively Faustian. Definitely don’t spill it on your white shirt. Also, it oxidizes within about two hours, turning from glowing neon carrot to a more muted rust. Use it quickly if you want to extract maximum vibrancy.

Despite its appealing color, turmeric is not for the faint of heart. This drink was savory, halfway between a daquiri and a bloody mary, but not as thick. As the evening went on, we made this variation:

Señor Curry
1.5 oz Reposado Tequila (Espolón)
.75 oz Turmeric-Ginger Juice
.25 oz Lime Juice
.25 oz Pimento Dram (Homemade)
Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

This was not quite as good as the first version, but the reposado tequila hit some of the same notes as the J. Wray, and the allspice liqueur complimented both the juice and the tequila. Still, the recipe wasn’t perfect. I think I would have preferred chocolate instead of allspice, but I did not have any on hand.