Measure & Stir

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


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In His House in R’lyeh

…he related startling fragments of nocturnal imaginery whose burden was always some terrible Cyclopean vista of dark and dripping stone, with a subterrene voice or intelligence shouting monotonously in enigmatical sense-impacts uninscribable save as gibberish. The two sounds frequently repeated are those rendered by the letters “Cthulhu” and “R’lyeh.”
The Call of Cthulhu, by H. P. Lovecraft

Friends, let’s talk about squid ink. Ever since the early days of Measure and Stir, I have wanted to try to make a squid ink cocktail. It’s rare to be able to make a drink which is so jet black, blacker than blackstrap rum, blacker than coffee, blacker even than kurogoma. I don’t normally select drink ingredients based upon their color, but in this instance I was hoping to capitalize on the briny, oceany flavor of the squid ink.

I had never tasted squid ink on its own, and it turns out that while it smells very fishy, it tastes primarily of salt, and only subtly of that. The amount of squid ink needed to color a drink is much smaller than the amount needed to flavor it. A pinch of salt would work about as well.

Integrating the squid ink into the drink was a small challenge. It is very solid, and although it can be dispersed, it will not do so willingly. A vigorous thrashing with my barspoon is not enough to break it up; I had to use my immersion blender, which I also use for making egg white foams. For the base of this drink, I selected a rum sidecar, hoping for synergy between its citrus and any oceany flavors which might manifest.

Moreover, I used Kraken rum as my base, both for its thematic content and because I have greatly enjoyed rum sidecars made with kraken in the past.

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In His House In R’lyeh

1.5 oz Kraken Rum
.75 oz Lemon Juice
.5 oz Cointreau
1 tsp squid ink
Combine all ingredients mixing tin and integrate using an immersion blender. Once the squid ink is dispersed, shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with many tentacular strips of orange rind, and a dash of evil.

I’ll flatter myself and say that the briney flavor of the squid ink created an intriguing impression of fresh seafood that blended harmoniously with the flavors of citrus and spiced rum. To be honest, I wasn’t totally sold on the spices, but they did add something that would have been missing with an unspiced rum. I have a bit of a one-track mind when it comes to these things, but an unspiced rum and a dash of mezcal might have been an improvement.

I won’t say this was an immensely delicious drink, but I could see it as an acquired taste, and I enjoyed the novelty of the flavor, if nothing else. I tried making a second squid ink cocktail, but it looked exactly the same, sans theatrical garnish. Thereupon I grew tired of such monotonous aesthetics, and made drinks of other colors. My recommendation is that you only make one squid ink cocktail per session.


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Libation Laboratory: Smith and Cross, Pineapple, Acid Phosphate

Last week, we were sipping on some  Smith & Cross, discussing how we hadn’t made any great tasting cocktails with it yet, and decided to fix that. Joe had procured this particular bottle on his last trip to California, as Smith & Cross can’t be found in Washington (yet?). It has a great caramel flavor, with hints of mixed tropical fruits.

We both agreed that this rum would taste great with pineapple, but we were tired of mixing tiki drinks. We were also tired of mixing sours, yet we both wanted to add some kind of souring agent. We didn’t want to use lemon or lime juices, really, since we felt like either would interfere with the groovy combo of pineapple juice and Smith & Cross. So we turned to an old soda ingredient, acid phosphate, which tastes of nothing, but adds sourness to a drink

From there, our opinions differed, and so today we present to you two drinks; variations on the same theme.

La Cruz y Piña
1.5 oz Smith & Cross rum
.75 oz Pineapple juice
.25 oz Cointreau
.25 oz Acid phosphate
.25 oz Kraken rum (to float on top)

Shake, strain, float .25 Kraken rum on top, garnish with blood orange wedges impaled on a sugar cane spear.

James: The acid phosphate does a great job of adding a neutral sourness to the rum and pineapple, but I personally felt like it needed some sort of citrus note, so I settled on using Cointreau. Blood oranges not only look sexy, but their tart aroma and appearance help to emphasize the orange liqueur. Although I was trying not to go tiki, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the genre, especially given the ingredients, and so I floated some Kraken on top. It was totally worth it.

The Limeless Lime
1.5 oz Smith and Cross
1 oz Pineapple Juice
.5 oz Falernum (Velvet)
.5 oz Acid Phosphate
Shake over ice and garnish with a pineapple fan.

Joseph: I made a pineapple fan by selecting three fronds from a pineapple and pinning them together with a toothpick, if that’s not completely obvious. I think it probably is. To be honest, I have overdosed on tiki lately, but the falernum/pineapple/dark rum combo is assuredly a tropical one. What was interesting to me was the way that we are so accustomed to lime in tiki, that I could not help but think of lime, even though I knew there was none. When I first purchased Mr. O’Neil’s acid phosphate, I was not entirely sure what to do with it, because I am so used to sourness being conjoined with citrus. I think the real intrigue of acid phosphate is not what it adds to a drink, but what it makes possible to take away.

Using acid phosphate is interesting because you can subtract the lemon or lime from any sour drink this way, and simplify it, preserving its balance while emphasizing its aromatic qualities. The orange in James’ drink impressed me more than the falernum in mine; both drinks were satisfying, but on the night in question, my mood was more for the fresh flavor of orange rather than the warming and exotic spice of cloves.

Have a great weekend, and we’ll see you again on Monday!


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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!