Measure & Stir

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


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Acid Trip #2: Kyoho Grape, Lavender

 

I spoke yesterday of malic acid, and also of Kyoho grapes. Moreover, I have written in the past of the inspiration that I found at bar Gen Yamamoto, which informed an apricot cocktail earlier this summer. In that post, I described the philosophical underpinnings of this drink.

I wanted to apply Gen’s “shiki” style of Japanese seasonality to the Kyoho grape, so I started with brandy as a base to preserve the purity of the grape’s flavor. We can add a bit of drama to this otherwise harmonious pairing by playing up the contrast between sweet and sour. I would not make such an attempt with standard souring agents, but since malic acid is already present in the grape, the additional tartness feels very natural and flowing.

grapeAcidTrip

Acid Trip #2
1 oz Brandy (Cognac Salignac)
.5 oz Vodka (Tito’s)
8 Kyoho grapes, muddled
2 Dashes Scrappy’s Lavender Bitters
1 Dash of Simple Syrup
1/8 Tsp Powdered Malic Acid
Shake and double strain into an Old Fashioned Glass. Garnish with a grape.

The grape on its own was a little too simple. With the brandy tracking so closely to the grape juice, I needed one other flavor to create some space and some distance in the perception of the drink’s flavor, and lavender worked surprisingly well. I did not anticipate the deliciousness of this pairing, and I was pleasantly surprised. Lavender and grape were made for each other, and I imagine that lavender grape preserves would be wonderful.

I think this drink beautifully captured the experience of a fresh grape, while maintaining a refined complexity.

Cheers.


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Brandy, Kumquat, Honey, Weissbier

Before we get started today, a couple of announcements: First, this week is beer week at Measure and Stir, in which we will be making a series of beer cocktails for your enjoyment. Second, after beer week has concluded, we will be taking a hiatus for the rest of the year, so as to enjoy the holidays in a truly relaxed fashion. Third, we are approaching our 25,000th pageview, and will hit it sometime mid-week. Hurray!

beerquat

I have never been able to find too much enthusiasm for beer cocktails, but I think that their time for me has finally arrived. We have a few in the past, specifically Jacob Grier’s Mai Ta-IPA, and later our popular Stouthearted. The idea behind beer cocktails never really clicked for me because I did not like the viscosity of the beer in a mixed drink. What made it come together was a drink in an episode of Drink, Inc., in which they added orange marmalade and apricot purée. I realized that the viscosity is not a bug, but a feature, and that the trick to making an excellent beer-based drink is to play to the viscosity, in some cases by adding something even thicker.

I think beer-based drinks are perfect in the colder months, because their heartiness is warming and nourishing. Moreover, kumquats are in season, so we took paired a kumquat puree with a citrusy Weißbier, and fortified it with honey, another complement to wheat, and brandy, which pairs well with honey. The result was a very pleasing highball, which we served with a fat straw to allow the imbiber to get pieces of the sweet kumquat peel.

beerquat2

1.5 oz Brandy (Cognac Salignac)
.5 oz Kumquat Purée
.75 oz (Honey Liqueuer) Barenjäger
Dash Orange Bitters (Scrappy’s Seville)
Shake over ice and then doubTop with 2.5 oz Weißbier (Franziskaner) and garnish with an orange spiral. Serve with a fat straw. (not pictured)

The orange was very fragrant and the bits of kumquat peel were chewy, adding an interesting texture to the drink. Drinking kumquat pulp might not sound very appealing, but I was inspired by a drink I had in a tea shop in Kyoto. They served me a cup of iced tea with yuzu marmalade sitting at the bottom, and I greatly enjoyed eating the pieces of peel.

This drink was acidic and refreshing, with a nice roundness from the Barenjäger, which is slightly bitter.

Prost!


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Libation Laboratory: Running the Gimlet, Part I

MxMo update: It looks like all of the MxMo latecomers are in, so we went ahead and updated the post with four new entries from Southern Ash, Feu-de-Vie, Chemistry of the Cocktail, and Bartending Notes. Their drinks are awesome, so be sure to check them out. We can’t wait to see you all next month.

Inspired by a New York Times Magazine article describing a “raw” lime cordial, Joe and I decided to explore the spectrum of citrus cordials. We made lemon, lime, and grapefruit cordials and mixed a series of gimlets with each, using an array of base spirits selected because we thought they’d be interesting to try out. In this series, we present our tasting notes.

For the first post in this series, we made lemon gimlets using Zucca, Smith & Cross, and Cognac Salignac. I’ve always made a gimlet using a 4:1 ratio of gin to lime cordial, so we used this as our starting point. However, as we quickly learned, this ratio was designed for gin, and, as always, you should use your taste as your guide when trying something new. Also, home-made cordials are going to taste sweeter and more intense than anything store-bought. For each of our gimlets we fixed the amount of cordial to .5 oz, then poured .5 oz of base spirit at a time, tasting and adjusting until the flavors were balanced well enough.

To make a cordial, make a simple syrup, only add citrus peels and use citrus juice instead of water. Trimming the pith from the peels is a pain, but an essential step because citrus pith tastes bitter. It’s OK to be a little lazy with the piths when making a lemon or grapefruit cordial, but you really do want to remove as much pith as you can when you’re working with limes. Just for completeness, here’s the recipe we used to make our cordials:

Citrus Cordial
Citrus peels (pith removed)
1 cup fresh citrus juice
1 cup sugar

Peel your citrus fruits and remove all pith from the peels. Add all ingredients to a medium-sized pot over medium heat and stir until integrated. Strain and discard the peels.

In the image above, from left to right, we have:

Zucca Lemon Gimlet

Eye: Very dark, can’t see the lemon cordial at all.
Nose: Spicy, bright citrus.
Sip: Bittersweet, zucca and lemon blend together well.
Finish: Bittersweet, pretty much the same as it started.

It’s well known that rhubarb tastes great with citrus, especially oranges and lemons. Zucca, of course, is bittersweet, and its citrus notes are amplified by the lemon cordial. A great gimlet, probably my second favorite of the three.

Smith & Cross Lemon Gimlet

Eye: Dark brown/yellow, an intriguing amber color.
Nose: Sweet caramel with a hint of lemon.
Sip: Dark caramel and fresh, funky hogo.
Finish: Exotic fruits, bright citrus.

Joe and I both agree that this was the winner. Smith & Cross is one of our favorite rums, and the lemon cordial makes it sing to us. It’s amazing how the fruit in the rum is amplified by the lemon cordial. It was a great match.

Cognac Salignac Lemon Gimlet

Eye: Looks yellow, almost like pineapple juice.
Nose: Cognac and lemon, predictably.
Sip: Sweet, caramel, bright lemons.
Finish: Weak finish from the cognac, lemon overwhelms it.

The first few sips of this were great, and Joe and I were considering it for second place, but the problem was that the cognac finished weakly, and is overwhelmed by the lemon cordial in the swallow.

Join us again next week, when we’ll explore the lime cordial.


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The Pearsnip: Pear, Vanilla, Parsnip, Lemon

It is gastrophysics* week here at Measure and Stir, a week in which we make drinks using unusual flavor pairings suggested by molecular gastronomy. The idea  is that if ingredients have chemically similar aromas, they will probably taste and smell good together. Some of our experiments turned out better than others, but I think this one was probably the best of the bunch. It helped that we started with an excellent base, namely, pear and vanilla-infused brandy.

(*Yes, I know, it’s a silly word)

To make the infusion, I chopped up a bartlett pear, and infused it in one cup of cognac along with a tablespoon of cane sugar and a filleted vanilla bean. After three days, the infusion was ready, and thoroughly delicious. In my experience, brandy is the best spirit to combine with pears. This was one of the best infusions I have made, and I really wanted it to be the star of this drink, so I started with two ounces of the pear-infused brandy.

Parsnip juice has a very light flavor, but it is sweet, much like carrot juice. Indeed, I often think of a parsnip as an albino carrot. I found that I had to add two ounces of parsnip juice to balance it against the brandy. That combination was delicious on its own, but it still needed some acidity to add interest upon the palate, and lemon is less disruptive than lime or vermouth. Half an ounce of lemon was just right, along with a touch of brown sugar syrup, to bring out the parsnip, and two dashes of grapefruit bitters, for depth.

I cannot explain that last decision, it just felt right.

The Pearsnip
2 oz Pear Vanilla Brandy (infused Cognac Salignac)
2 oz Parsnip Juice
.5 oz Lemon Juice
.25 oz Brown Sugar Syrup
2 dashes Grapefruit Bitters (Fee’s)
Shake over ice and double-strain into an old fashioned glass. Garnish with pear wedge impaled on vanilla bean, and grate a little bit of vanilla bean over the top.

Ordinarily I am opposed to grating anything over the top of a drink, lest the small particles disrupt the texture of the drink. Nutmeg and cinnamon work in this format, but lemon or lime zest are unpleasant to imbibe, in my opinion. I was on the fence about the vanilla bean, but we ran it over a microplane grater and it was surprisingly flavorful and unobtrusive.

Until next time, keep it craft.


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Peach Sangria

For a party last weekend, James and I made peach sangria. Most people, I have found, are skeptical when I tell them that I am going to serve them sangria. They have, perhaps, a mental image of a cloying wine kool aid, syrupy, carbonated, disgusting. But sangria can be also be beautiful, subtle, sophisticated… if only you treat her like a lady. First, in my mind, there is no room in red sangria for fruit juice or carbonation*. Rather I like to make it as an infusion of fruit in wine, fortified with spirits. In this instance I followed my go-to recipe, which I am going to share with you now, but with one modification; last time I made this sangria, I had not yet learned the secrets of oleo saccharum, that most unctuous of syrups, and I felt a strong intuition that it would improve the subtle orange qualities of the drink.

(*We did a white sangria not too long ago, which contained both fruit juice and sparkling wine, but it was a different beast all together. Really, “white sangria” is a bit of an oxymoron.)

Take a look here, feast your eyes on all those glorious citrus oils floating on its surface:

Peach Sangria
6 Bottles of Your Favorite Rioja
500 ml Triple Sec (Cointreau)
500 ml Cognac (Salignac)
Oleo Saccharum of 12 Oranges
6 lbs of Peaches, peeled and cut into chunks
Allow the mixture to infuse over night, and then top with two sliced lemons right before serving. Pour over ice as you serve.

The brandy in this recipe is critical, for it adds notes of wooden complexity that give the drink a three dimensional quality on the palate. Without it, the punch tastes a bit flat. What is perhaps most striking about this sangria is its dryness. Though it acquires a mellow peach roundness, it retains the dry tannin notes from the rioja, a wine which, as a genre, has hints of strawberry and vanilla that marry well with orange and peach. Whenever I need to serve a lot of drinks in a pinch, this is my method. It does not work in the winter months, when peaches are scarce, but in summer it is perfect for a trip to the beach or an afternoon barbecue.

Indeed, these were the last peaches of the season. I have played with the idea of infusing spices into the wine for winter, but I’m not sure if that can still properly be called sangria. Cheers!


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Fresh Juice Drink Template

As I experiment with different drink formats and classes of ingredients, I find my experiments will cluster around some very specific structures, and today I would like to share a template that I have developed for making drinks with fresh fruit juices. To get a good drink out of this template, you have to put some thought into the flavors you are combining, but I have found it to be pretty reliable.

Fresh Juice Template
1.5 oz base spirit
1 oz fresh fruit juice
.75 oz fortified wine
.25 oz syrup or liqueur
(optional) dash of bitters

This template is intended for juices that are not highly acidic, such as lemon or lime. It is not a template for a sour, but rather a template for succulent juices. Andy would even go so far as to call this genre of drink “succulent”, but I consider to be overkill. Each ingredient in the template has a purpose, and should be selected in order to best fill that role within the drink.

The fresh juice is the starting point. We start with produce, such as carrots or strawberries, and then we build our flavor profile around the juice of that ingredient. After selecting the juice, we select the base spirit. A good approach, though not the only approach, is to consider cuisine which contains your produce, and to choose a base spirit from that same region or theme. For example, peppers of all varieties make a fine accompaniment to tequila, while rums pair well with tropical fruits.

After selecting a juice and a liqueur, you should select your sweetener. A little bit of sugar will help to draw out the flavor of the fresh juice, which tends to be more aqueous than is entirely optimal in a mixed drink. The sweetener needs to complement both the juice and the spirit; curaçao for orange juice is an entirely reasonable choice, and maraschino is a brilliant accompaniment to pineapple or to fresh berries.

In some cases, you really want to let the flavor of the fruit stand on its own, and then simple syrup, or honey syrup, or demerara syrup will tend to be the best choices.

Finally, select a fortified wine. In most cases, this should be dry vermouth, as it will add complexity and dryness to the drink without interfering, but Cardamaro is an excellent accompaniment to fall flavors, and Stone’s Ginger pairs quite well with many fruits.

Alexandra’s Wish
1.5 oz Cognac (Salignac)
1 oz Fresh Strawberry Juice
.75 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz Demerara Syrup
1 Dash Orange Bitters (Regan’s)
Shake over ice and garnish with a lemon peel.

Don’t forget to strain the fresh juice through a fine-mesh strainer BEFORE you add it to the drink, as it will otherwise impede the straining of the drink at serving time, and to create the most smooth and elegant texture. Moreover, the expressed lemon oil is critical to the excellence of this drink. Don’t leave home without it!