Measure & Stir

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


2 Comments

Thaiquila

Brown, bitter, and stirred is a genre to which we probably don’t pay enough attention. To be perfectly honest, by the time you add two fortified wines, two liqueurs/amari, and/or two base spirits, things start to taste a little muddy. I went through a period where I mixed every BB&S that I came across, and they all ran together in my mind.

Fernet, St. Germain, Bourbon, Lillet? Reposado, Nonino, Punt e Mes, Tiki bitters? Why not? Appleton Reserve, Dry Sherry, Pimento Dram, Campari? Don’t mind if I do. Personally, I like to keep it simple most of the time, because I really want to notice each flavor distinctly. The theme at our last session was tea, and astute readers might have noticed various manifestations of Camellia sinensis in several of our recent posts.

For this drink, we wanted to infuse the tea in a spirit, and we chose an old favorite, Thai tea, which is black tea that has been flavored with star anise, crushed tamarind, and possibly orange flower water, and we infused it into Reposado tequila for about an hour and a half. It’s important when infusing tea into spirits to taste them frequently, to avoid creating a tanniny mess with a drying and unpleasant mouthfeel.

thaiquila

Thaiquila (Sorry about the name)
1.5 oz Thai Tea-Infused Reposado Tequila (El Jimador)
.75 oz Sweet Vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz Amaro Zucca
1 dash Orange Bitters (Scrappy’s Seville)
Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

I love Amaro Zucca, and I found that the earthy flavor of the rhubarb was well-balanced against the flavors of the tea and the vermouth. 6-3-1 may not be the most exciting formula in the world, but it’s solid, and with careful choices, it can pay off in a big way. I always taste and smell a few different options for each slot when I am using a formula like this, to make sure that the flavors fit. Two flavors that are too similar will blur together, making the drink “muddy”. Ideally, the flavors should be far enough apart from each other that they all come through on their own.

BB&S drinks almost always benefit from a fresh orange or lemon peel, depending on the ingredients. Though spirits are very good at capturing aromas, they can never quite retain the bright flavor of fresh citrus oil.

A personal rule, though far from a universal one, is to avoid having two ingredients in drink with the same flavors. If you have orange liqueur, you do not need orange juice. It’s redundant. The only time I break this rule is with bitters.

On a completely different subject, and as a little bit of administratriva, we tend to have about one mixing session about every two weeks, and then blog about it over the next two. Most sessions have a theme, or an ingredient set from a particular market. We’ve had three sessions so far this year, and I’m going to start calling them out in the posts in question. Makes it fun.

I’ll be sipping on one of my favorite bourbons this weekend. I hope your plans are as exciting as mine!


31 Comments

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!


1 Comment

Des Esseintes

CVS is an endless repository of new and exciting drinks, though I probably lean on them too much. But see, I have this bottle of Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida burning a hole in my bar, and then this brilliant opportunity to mix it with an amaro comes along, and how could I resist? Amaro Nonino tends toward the sweeter side of amari, and I find that, much like Cardamaro, it occupies the same same general flavor profile as a good sweet vermouth. Make a Manhattan with Nonino or even Ramazotti instead of vermouth and you’ll see what I mean. They are substantially different from a sweet vermouth, but when you put them in your drink, they do the same thing.

In light of this similarity, I think this drink, Des Esseintes, is a lot like a Martinez with mezcal instead of gin. Of course, the devil is in the details, and I think the pairing of Nonino and Mezcal is a grand one, so much so that I tried to realize it with gummy bears, but you shouldn’t do that, probably.

Des Esseintes

1.5 oz Mezcal (Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida)
1.5 oz Amaro Nonino
1 barspoon Maraschino (Luxardo)
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
2 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters

Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

The mezcal’s smokiness made for an enjoyable riff on a classic, but overall this was too sweet for my palette. I think it would have been a lot better with only one ounce of amaro, particularly because Nonino is so very sweet. If someone asked me for a mezcal drink, this is not the first one I would make for them, but it might be the third.