Measure & Stir

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


7 Comments

Carrera: Apricot, Vanilla, Bourbon, Vodka, Cinnamon

I made this a few weeks ago, and I just couldn’t let it sit any longer. I think it is one of my best drinks to date. I was influenced by my time in Japan, particularly at the bar of Gen Yamamoto, who I think is one of the most creative and inspiring bartenders in the business. The strength of his drinks is in their subtlety, and in the way that the natural flavors of his ingredients become objects of contemplation.

To duplicate this effect, I have been casting fresh fruit juices from my macerating juicer in the role of the base spirit, and using lower volumes of alcohol as accent marks. The juice from soft fruits is often saturated with soft pulp, and as such the yield from an apricot or a kumquat is halfway between a juice and a purée. The balance of the viscosity of the juice against that of the spirits provides ample space for a bartender to meditate on texture.

carerra

Carrera
1.25 oz Fresh Apricot Juice
.5 Vanilla-Infused Bourbon
.5 Vodka
.5 Fresh Orange Juice [optional]
1 Barspoon agave syrup

Shake and strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a coupe glass. Agitate the mixture through the strainer with a barspoon if necessary. Grate fresh cinnamon across the top.

In the past I was quite offended by vodka, but I have found that it is highly desirable in this style of drink. Soju, Shochu, Sake, and Vodka all have their place when the emphasis is on the delicate and ephemeral. The mere presence of alcohol can make other flavors seem louder and more distinct. Wine, whiskey, coffee — we are accustomed to looking for the entire world of culinary flavors in these things — but perhaps we can perform the same trick with an apricot?

My method is to use a minimum of a spirit to achieve its presence in the end product, and then pad the volume of 80 proof liquor in the drink up to a single ounce. In this case, I wanted to combine the vanilla and bourbon with the taste of fresh apricot, but I wanted the bourbon to play the auxiliary role.

Apricot can be quite acidic when consumed as a juice; it is tangy and floral, and a bit of sweetness from syrup draws out hints of spice; cinnamon in the garnish and vanilla in the bourbon should be like echoes of the notes struck by the fruit. Raw fruits and vegetables can possess a surprisingly complexity all on their own, if one is patient and attentive. Anything as strong as bitters or herbal liqueur would be distracting, like a crashing cymbal in the middle of a cello suite.

Finally, an optional half measure of orange juice blends very seamlessly into the apricot, elongating it, and recalls the flavor of a tangerine. Unfortunately, it sacrifices some of the apricot’s sharpness. I suggest trying both variations.

乾杯!


Leave a comment

Bad Girl Concoction

Long time readers will recall that I have used gastrique as an ingredient before. And indeed, there is only so much you can do with gastrique. It is a bold, full-spectrum flavor that easily overwhelms other ingredients. It needs very little modification to taste complete. I had a shrub-based drink at Canon in Seattle, and I’m not exactly sure how it was formulated, but it inspired me to revisit vinegar drinks. I used a similar gastrique recipe as before, but this time I used strawberry puree instead of smashed blueberries. I fortified the caramel, apple cider vinegar, and strawberry sauce with a little balsamic vinegar for complexity.

I tried mixing it as a sour, using lemon juice, but I found the flavor to be a little one-dimensional. As luck would have it, I had a bottle of cocchi americano that was just slightly past its prime. Vermouth acquires a bit of a vinegar tang when it has been open for too long, but since I was already using a vinegar ingredient, I figured I didn’t have much to lose. It turns out, slightly off vermouth goes very well with gastrique.

badgirlconcoction

Bad Girl Concoction
1.5 oz Bourbon (Wild Turkey 101)
.75 oz Cocchi Americano
.5 oz Strawberry Balsamic Gastrique
Eye dropper of cardamom bitters*
Hard shake over ice and double strain into a coupe. Garnish with a smacked mint sprig.

Making bitters at home is pretty easy. If you have a bittering agent such as gentian or angelica root, you can steep 1 teaspoon of gentian root in a high-proof, neutral grain spirit for about 20 minutes to form a bitter base, which can then be infused at your leisure with other flavors.

Cardamom Bitters
4 oz Everclear 151
1 Tsp Gentian Root
1 Tbsp Crushed Cardamom
2 oz sugar
2 oz water
Peel of one large orange

  1. Wrap the reagents in a cheese cloth or other porous wrapper and steep them in the everclear for half an hour.
  2. Strain the reagents into 2 oz of water and simmer them in a small pot with the sugar, until the flavors are fully extracted and integrated.
  3. Combine the syrup with the infusion of everclear and dispense with an eyedropper.

This drink is named after a line from Busta Rhymes’ hymn to the female posterior, #Twerkit. The flavor of this drink leads with cardamom and strawberry, with a base note of bourbon and a finish from the vinegar and vermouth. I hope you find it to be refreshing.


2 Comments

Yuppie Salad

Hello Internet, I am sorry I was so late to speak with you this week. I have not forgotten you, but my time has been short. James and I could not really decide on a theme for session #4, so we made an eclectic collection of drinks exploring various ideas.

I drink fresh juice for health, and I am always struck by the brilliant, verdant color of fresh spinach or kale juice. I wanted to make a drink that could capture that color, and I know it’s a little bit out there, but I took inspiration from the sweet salads that I have enjoyed in many yuppie restaurants

yuppie salad

Yuppie Salad
1.5 oz Gin (Hendrick’s)
1 oz Spinach Juice
.5 oz Strawberry Juice
.25 oz Orgeat
.25 oz Balsamic Vinegar
Shake over ice and double-strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a skewered roasted red pepper.

Now I know what you’re thinking; “Darnit guys, couldn’t you just stir up a base spirit with some vermouth, maybe add a dash of absinthe or something? Spinach juice, really?” Spinach juice actually has a very mild flavor, and with the little bit of orgeat + vinegar, this really did taste like I was drinking a fancy salad. It was grassy, tangy, sweet, and fruity. Slivered almonds might also have been nice.


3 Comments

Tequila Reposado, Imbue, Suze

Happy Repeal Day!

A few weeks ago, after work, Joe and I went to a bar on capitol hill, here in Seattle, called Liberty. I asked the bartender to mix something for me with Suze, since I saw it proudly displayed in their bar, and was thinking about that Suze gimlet. I didn’t have any particular base spirit in mind, so I let the bartender make whatever he felt like. Having enjoyed this drink so much, Joe sought out a bottle of Suze for himself, and since acquiring it, we’ve made this drink several times.

tequila-suze-imbue2

Genciana
1.5 oz Tequila Resposado
.75 oz Dry vermouth (Imbue)
.375 oz Suze

Stir, strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

At the bar, this drink was made using the 6:3:1 formula, using Cocchi Americano, which we’ve done a few times since, and which is great. However, in a home bar, it’s not practical to have more than one dry and one sweet vermouth open at a time, and Joe’s dry vermouth du jour happened to be Imbue, a bittersweet vermouth from Oregon. Imbue tastes like pears, honey, and pinot gris in the sip, with a bitter, dry, herbal finish. We thought that Imbue needed a little bit of extra help to stand up against the Suze, and so we adjusted the amount in this recipe.

tequila-suze-imbue1

This drink is a brilliant golden yellow color and smells appropriately of lemon. Somehow the fruit notes from the vermouth combine with the lemon and Suze to produce a sip with a hint of nuttiness, almost like a cashew flavor, that is hard to explain, but delicious. The finish is bitter, from the Suze as well as the vermouth, and smokey, from the tequila.

A very tempting way to enjoy Suze, indeed.


5 Comments

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!