Measure & Stir

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


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Tom Kha Soju

It’s Thai week here at Measure & Stir, a week of Thai-inspired drinks made using the limited pallet of beer, wine, and soju; lower-proof spirits that don’t require a liquor license to pour – perfect drinks for any Thai restaurant to serve!

Today I present a drink that Joe and I both agree was one of the best drinks we came up with this week. When we thought “Thai”, we thought “tom kha“, and stealing an idea from Steve Livigni, of Drink inc, we set out to make a drink inspired by the soup. We imagined lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves infused in soju.

We made this drink last Saturday, during our first Thai drinks mixing session. I think it was probably the best drink we made that day. The idea just came together so well. The aroma of galangal, the bright zest from the lemongrass, and the citrus notes from the kaffir leaves are represented brilliantly in soju infusion. Add some coconut juice and it’s flavor Thaime.

Live and Let Thai, version 1
2 oz Lemongrass/Galangal/Kaffir Lime Leaf-Infused Soju
1 oz Coconut Milk
.75 oz Fresh Lime Juice
.5 oz Demerara Syrup

Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a kaffir lime leaf.

This drink was awesome… But when we decided to hold another Thai mixing session on Wednesday, our creative juices began to flow and we had a lot of ideas. So we iterated…

Live and Let Thai, version 2
2 oz Lemongrass/Galangal/Kaffir Lime Leaf-Infused Soju
1 oz Coconut Milk
.5 oz Fresh Lime Juice
.5 oz Demerara Syrup
1 tsp Bird’s-eye chili-infused soju
1 dash Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce)

Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a kaffir lime leaf and a sprig of lemongrass.

Now, you may be thinking “fish sauce?”. And as you mix this drink, you may think to yourself “this stuff smells awful, how can this possibly taste good in a drink?”. Trust us. It does. This is why we decided to make this drink again. The fish sauce amps up all of the flavors, and lends a certain umami to the drink, especially accentuating the richness of the coconut flavor. The flavors in the first version are too mild, and don’t really shine. The improvements we made for the second iteration are keepers, and vastly improved this drink. You should make this version of the drink if you choose to mix one for yourself.

Dry shaking this drink didn’t seem to affect how the coconut juice frothed in the end. Also, as we discovered the night we made the Singha Highballs, adding a teaspoon of bird’s-eye chili-infused soju doesn’t affect the flavor of a drink in a significant way, but does add just enough heat to simulate the sensation of drinking a stiffer spirit, something that’s usually missing in a cocktail with a base spirit like soju.

Usually this would be the last post this week, but since Joe and I went a little crazy with Thai week, we’ve decided to keep on posting all the way through the weekend. Stay tuned for another drink tomorrow, followed by our final Thai drink menu and summary on Sunday.


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Macadamia Nut Liqueur, Pineapple and Coconut

I’ve never been to Hawaii myself, but several of my friends have been on holiday there during the last year. They’ve all brought back delicious snacks, and there’s always some kind of macadamia-based treat included amongst the bounty. I don’t know what it is about this state, but it must be overflowing with macadamia nuts. The last friend of mine to visit the 50th state brought back what has been my favorite macadamia treat so far: macadamia nut liqueur.

Being a gift from Hawaii, this ingredient was destined to be mixed into a macadamia-themed tiki drink, like Joe’s Tkach Tiki Delux, only we wanted to make sure that the macadamia flavor was the main attraction, so Joe and I blended up this tropical treat. Behold!

This drink is nuts, so we call it Macadamia, or Macadamia Piña Colada
3 oz Macadamia nut liqueur
2 oz Smith & Cross rum
2 oz Matusalem rum
1 oz Coconut cream (critically important: use unsweetened coconut cream, not coco lopez)
.5 oz Fresh lime juice
.5 oz Fresh lemon juice
2 or 3 generous handfuls of freshly sliced pineapple chunks

Add all ingredients to a blender with plenty of ice. Blend until the ice is crushed. Pour into four glasses and smack some mint leaves for a garnish.

Something about blended tiki drinks is just really pleasing. What begins with a minty scent is followed by bright tropical notes from the fresh pineapple and citrus juices. The macadamia’s sweet nutty taste rounds out a rummy swallow. Personally, I like to keep the ice in my mouth and munch on it afterwards, but I’m weird like that.

We regret that the garnish was not grandiloquent, however, mint was definitely the right choice for this drink. I always enjoy tiki drinks that come with a fruity garnish, but in our haste to mix other drinks we neglected to cut a pineapple wedge. I guess nothing we could have done here would top the pineapple-as-a-vessel piña colada we made a while ago. If you choose to create a more impressive garnish, you really should keep the mint spring in the mix, as it provides a critical fragrance to this drink.

Aloha!


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Painkiller: Orange, Pineapple, Coconut, Rum

This has been an exhilarating week here at Measure & Stir; yesterday, I passed my ten thousandth pageview. It was a small personal milestone. To celebrate, let’s cap off the week with the last of a series of tiki drinks that I made two weeks ago. Observant readers will note that this was the last drink that I made that night, and although my mixology stayed viable, my skill with the camera had, by this time, degraded. The entire affair was inspired by a late night romp through Kaiser Penguin‘s archives, and they were so strong that it became a bit of an unwitting bender.

The sacrifices I make for you, my fine readers!

A Painkiller tastes like a Piña Colada with bit of orange, though with one critical distinction. The most interesting thing about this drink, in my opinion, is the blending technique, which is to blend on high for about three seconds. Such a process does not yield the homogeneous, fluffy-yet-creamy texture of a smoothie, but rather a slushy, icy texture halfway between smoothie and crushed ice. It’s an intriguing haptic sensation that distinguishes it from run of the mill blended drinks, and from its more common cousin.

I hope it goes without saying, by now, that if you aren’t going to use fresh Pineapple juice, you should not bother to make this drink. If you are at a bar and you suspect that they are not going to use fresh pineapple juice, similarly, I suggest ordering another drink.

Painkiller (Grog Log, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry)

4oz Pineapple Juice
1oz Orange Juice
1oz Coconut Cream (Unsweetened)
.25 oz Simple Syrup
4oz Pusser’s Rum (or 2 1/2oz gold – used Matusalem Clasico 10; 2oz Dark Spiced– used Kraken)
8oz crushed ice
Blend at the speed of light for no more than three seconds, and pour into an enormous and daunting glass. Grate some nutmeg and cinnamon on top. Or don’t. (Or a strawberry and an orange peel rose)

You can make an orange peel rose by cutting the longest fat orange peel that you can, and then rolling it around itself so that it resembles a rose. I just dropped it on top of the blended ice — delicious! Be sure to express some of the oil of the orange before rolling it.

Instead of Coco Lopez, I used canned coconut cream from the local Japanese market, though I think the coconut cream itself is a product of the Philipines. Coconut milk/cream is one of the very few non-fresh ingredients that is reasonable to use. Making your own coconut milk or cream is a laborious process, and would easily cost twenty dollars worth of coconuts to make the quantity that you can buy in a single can for a single dollar. Coconut cream, in particular, is mostly fat, and therefore degrades very little when preserved with heat, as in canning.

Coco Lopez is also extremely sweet, which is why I added a quarter ounce of simple syrup, to compensate for using unsweetened coconut cream. If you want to approximate the flavor of the drink with unsweetened coconut cream, you probably want half an ounce of Simple Syrup, or even three quarters. Personally I find it cloying, which is why I buy the unsweetened stuff and then add sugar according to my taste.

Have a good weekend!


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Curry Derby

Another drink that I mixed at my parents’ house, this one by request. My father had visited Crave in Cincinnati, and ordered this drink, and he asked me to recreate it. If you follow the link, you will notice that their menu is cheesy; too big, too full of flavored vodkas, too full of names like “Kinky Heat”. As much as I want this menu to be ironic, we all know it’s serious.

Whatever. Coconut and turmeric is a flavor that I have enjoyed in at least one Indian curry, and I have long been intrigued by the possibility of turmeric in drinks, so I was eager to try this recipe. When asked, the bartender provided the following helpful instructions:

Kentucky Derby

1.5 oz Bourbon (Maker’s Mark)
1 oz of Coconut water
.25 oz of ginger infused simple syrup
.25 oz Monin Coco syrup
.25 teaspoon of turmeric powder

Shake vigorously over ice and double strain over ice into a rocks glass. Rim the glass with cinnamon sugar.

That’s all well and good, but the drink was too sweet as formulated above, so we opted to omit the coconut syrup and the cinnamon sugar rim. In retrospect, a bit of cinnamon would have fit the curry theme nicely, but this business with the sugar on the rim… is an indulgence best left to the ladies. Campari on the rim–that’s more my style! But I did not do that. Plain cinnamon is anhydrous and unpleasant in the mouth, so it ought not to be used for a rim. No, to put cinnamon in this drink, a cinnamon stick garnish, as yesterday, would be ideal.

Curried Derby
1.5 oz Bourbon (Woodford Reserve)
1 oz of Coconut water
.25 oz of ginger syrup
.25 teaspoon of turmeric powder

Hard shake and double strain over ice. Garnish with a cinnamon stick (dehydrated fig).

Powdered turmeric sucks every bit as much as every other powdered spice. Don’t use it, unless you want your drink to have a slightly powdery texture, no matter how much you shake it. Real gangstas of cocktailia run some fresh turmeric through a juicer, and make turmeric ginger syrup. YES! Turmeric ginger syrup, and cinnamon-infused bourbon, that is the Curried Derby that my heart truly desires.

Make a syrup using a cold process, i.e., mix the pure juice with equal parts of sugar and shake it in a sealed jar until the sugar is fully integrated. I don’t know how strong the turmeric juice will be in flavor, but I would start it with equal parts of turmeric and ginger juice, and taste until balanced. As for the cinnamon bourbon, only infuse it for a couple of hours, lest the cinnamon completely over take the whiskey. I will take these thoughts, which I have had just now as I was writing this post, and report back.

Astute readers will also notice that we dropped the completely boring and nondescript name, and everyone involved is better for it.


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Malibooya! Rum Daisy in Coconut

Note: If you came here looking for Kanye’s “recipe” in his song, this is my take on it, and it bears only a vague resemblance to what he says in the song. If you want to make the recipe from song, I suggest the following proportion:
1.5 oz Grey Goose Vodka
.5 oz Malibu Coconut “Rum”
Combine all in a mixing glass with ice and stir 40 times. Stirring with ice dilutes the drink, in addition to making it colder, so that it will taste smoother. Strain the mixture into a chilled cocktail glass. This recipe tastes like shite, so I humbly suggest that you use also add one ounce of coconut water, from a brand such as Zico or Vita Coconut Water. If you really want to class it up, of course, read on:

In the words of the philosopher Kanye West:

Chick came up to me and said,
This the number to dial
If you wanna make your #1 your #2 now
Mix the Goose and Malibu, I call it Mali-BOOYA

As you probably know, we don’t believe in Vodka here at Measure and Stir, except for fortifying syrups and disinfecting minor cuts and scrapes. We also don’t believe in Malibu, which is probably the least appetizing thing in the world ever to be labelled rum. Indeed, on account of Mr. West, I now refer to any drink as Malibooya when its chief components are drawn from the following: (Flavored or not) Vodka, Malibu, Midori, Jager, Sour Apple Pucker, Peach Schnapps, low-proof fruit-flavored “liqueurs”, red bull, sprite, and pasteurized orange juice.

Even so, I sometimes hear the siren song of coconut rum, whose call I answer by pouring J. Wray and Nephew into a coconut. And yes, I did, in fact, put lime in the coconut, and then I proceeded to “drink it all up”. Though to be honest, even though I adore fresh coconut water, I’m not sold on it as an ingredient for a mixed drink; coconut milk and cream provide a much more rounded and robust coconut flavor, because they incorporate the qualities of the coconut meat, and the richness of its fat, into the drink. Coconut water is so thin that it almost makes this a grog.

(not my greatest photo, I know)

Malibooya #2

3 oz Fresh Young Coconut Water
2 oz Traditional Rum (Wray and Nephew)
.75 oz Curacao (Clement Creole Shrub)
.5 oz Lime Juice

Drain a fresh young coconut, and measure out just enough coconut water for your drink. Shake all ingredients over ice, then double strain and funnel back into the coconut. Drink it through a straw.

The more astute of you will have noticed that this is a rum daisy that has been diluted with fresh coconut water. I put my coconut in the freezer for half an hour before I drained them, so that the interior of the shell would be cold. A true bad-ass of tiki would, of course, lop off the top of the coconut with a machete, instead of just punching a hole in it with his ice pick, but my training is not yet complete, and I have yet to purchase a machete. (Incidentally, can anyone recommend a good one?)

If I had done that, I would have been able to fill the coconut with ice, and it would have been a much better drinking experience for this relatively low-proof drink. Drinking out of a coconut is a lot of fun, but I regretted my choice of Clement Creole Shrub in this drink. CCS (as we say in the biz) has a very robust orange flavor, and it stomped on the relatively light coconut flavor. You would be better off with Cointreau (or similar) for this one.


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Pina Colada, Pineapple Vessel

Happy Monday!

Doug from the Pegu Blog taught me the idea of turning a pineapple upside down and cutting the leaves to make a stem, such that the upside-down pineapple becomes a goblet for a drink. The recipe he gives there is deliciously rummy, but I wanted to get my blend on, so I got some coconut milk from the local asian market, and blended it with lime juice and dark rum. I saved some nice-looking leaves from the pineapple base and skewered them on a toothpick for a quick and dirty garnish. A longer bamboo skewer would have looked a lot better, but as it is it reminded me of a little sailboat, taking me to some exotic tropical destination.

I learned to blend before I learned to mix drinks, and I love to make a good smoothie, even without booze.

I don’t make frozen drinks very often, but since we’re on the subject, I thought I would share here some tips on creating the optimal blend. Unfortunately, when I blend I go by feel, so I don’t have an exact ratio to give you.

Pina Colada

Fresh pineapple, cut into chunks

Unsweetened Coconut milk (use the kind that comes in a can like this)

Fresh lime juice

Simple syrup

Dark Rum

Ice

Blend first without ice, to gauge the flavor, and then again with ice.

There’s no magic to making a good pina colada, but rather you must exercise your good taste, and strive for a balance of flavors which captures the essence of the pina colada. In a perfect preparation, there will be about 2.5 times as much ice by volume as pineapple chunks, and the coconut milk will add the necessary aqueous element to allow the blades of the blender to turn smoothly. Even with my ridiculously powerful vitamix, if the drink is too dry, the blades will form a little vaccuum around themselves at the bottom the blender, and turn without turning the drink.

Blending all of the ice into a slushy texture dramatically increases the dilution of the drink, and makes it very cold, so it becomes necessary to add a small quantity of simple syrup. Otherwise, the ice will numb the tongue, and the drink will be bland.

I suggest blending the fruit and juice before introducing the other ingredients, so that you can establish a good baseline of flavor before committing to ice. You probably want a ratio of about 2/3 blended pineapple to 1/3 coconut milk, and about 1/2 oz of simple syrup for every five ounces of fruit, but I just made those numbers up. Keep the lime in parity with the simple syrup, and constantly taste it.

Is the coconut fully expressed in combination with the pineapple? if not, add a bit more. Is the total drink sweet enough? Before it is iced, it should be just slightly sweeter than you want the final product. Once you have perfected your smoothie, add about 3 oz of rum per person, and then blend with ice. Hollowing out a pineapple is kind of a pain, but it’s worth it once in a while to beat the heat.