Measure & Stir

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


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Enchanted Valentine’s: Snow White Forest Tonic with Hendrick’s Gin, Apple, Green Herbs, and Fernet Branca

The evil queen was a beautiful woman, but she was proud and arrogant, and she could not stand it if anyone might surpass her in beauty. She had a magic mirror. Every morning she stood before it, looked at her plate, and said:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who makes the tastiest dessert of all?

Continuing the Valentine’s day feast, Johan and I decided to serve a dessert-loaded menu. Our second course was inspired by Snow White by the Brothers Grimm. For this fairy tale, we served “The Other Half of the Poison Apple”, and as before, Johan describes it in excruciating detail at Moedernkitchen.

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As long as long as the queen was not the most beautiful woman in the entire land, her envy would give her no rest. She made a poisoned apple, and from the outside it was beautiful; white with red cheeks, and anyone who saw it would want it. But anyone who might eat a little piece of it would die.

“Are you afraid of poison?” asked the old woman. “Look, I’ll cut the apple in two. You eat the red half, and I shall eat the white half.”

Now the apple had been so artfully made that only the red half was poisoned. Snow-White longed for the beautiful apple; she barely had a bite in her mouth when she fell to the ground dead.

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As you can see, we got experimental with this one. In addition to the drink and the frozen apple, we served an aromatic fog made with eucalyptus and spruce oil. With the fog and the drink, my intention was to create a sense of being lost in an enchanted forest.

For the fog, we filled a glass vessel with crushed dry ice, and then at service time, poured in a mixture of near-boiling water and essential oils. Be sure to use tempered glass for this, or it can break the vessel. If the water is not hot, the vapor will be disappointing.

The sensation of sitting down to a drink, and feeling the sudden rush of cold vapor flowing over the table, and the sharp scent of eucalyptus opening the sinuses

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For the drink, I used Hendrick’s gin, fresh apple juice season with matcha and malic acid, and a syrup of blanched and blended green herbs.  I was aiming at a fresh green color, but as conceived, the drink ended up a little swampy. In person it was greener, swearsies. I had no deep, esoteric inspiration in this drink, just a pragmatic, bottom-up approach.

I knew I wanted to create the feeling of a forest, so I started with a gin base and layered in other green aromas and botanicals. In my mind, rosemary, sage, and shiso all taste “green”, but one could be forgiven for thinking of poultry spices. In the drink, this was not a concern, but on its own,  I did think of a roast chicken.

Green Herb Syrup
20g rosemary
20g sage
20g shiso
150 ml water
150 ml sugar
Blanch the herbs, then combine everything in a blender and blend on high until the mixture is smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer.

You could substitute mint for shiso, but cooked mint easily goes to toothpaste. Exercise caution. If possible, I would suggest juicing fresh mint à la minute, instead of macerating it into a syrup.

For the sour apple juice, I pressed three granny smith apples in a masticating juicer, seasoned it with powdered malic acid and matcha powder according to my taste, and whipped the mixture using a whisk attachment on an immersion blender. There is no precise recipe here, it is simply a matter of taste. The sour apple juice is filling in for lemon in this gin sour, and it needs to balance the sweet green syrup. If I had to put a number on it, I would say:

Sour Matcha Apple Juice
150 ml Fresh Granny Smith Apple Juice
10g Matcha Powder
3g Powdered Malic Acid
Combine all using an electric whisk.

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Lost in the Forest
1.25 oz Hendrick’s Gin
1 oz Sour Matcha Apple Juice
.5 oz Green Herb Syrup*
Shake over ice and double strain into an old-fashioned glass.
Float .25 oz of Fernet Branca.
Garnish with a rosemary sprig clipped to the side of the glass.

The float of Fernet Branca is mostly for aroma, but it gives the first few sips a bitter, bracing quality as well as a deep menthol aroma. The forest is dark and beguiling.

As you may notice, it is the year of the tiny clothespin. This cocktail garnish innovation is a real game-changer. Many aromatic ingredients are repellant if dropped into a drink,  but they can be beautiful and fragrant if held slightly aloft. Do yourself a favor.

Cheers.


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Rum, Allspice, Pineapple, Barley Wine

For the next drink in our beer cocktail series Joe really wanted to experiment with a barley wine. We shopped around and ended up using a locally brewed barley wine, from Pike Brewing. Usually I’m not super impressed with their beers, but their barley wine is pretty legit.

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Pineapple Express
1.5 oz Smith & Cross rum
.5 oz Allspice dram
2 oz Pineapple juice
Dash of aromatic bitters (Angostura)

Shake, strain over ice, top with 2 oz barley wine. Garnish with a pineapple wedge.

The idea to combine pineapple and barley wine started with blue cheese. Blue cheese and barley wine are great together. Blue cheese and pineapples are great together. Why not pineapples and barley wine? Turns out that they are indeed great together, no blue cheese required! We threw in the allspice as well because allspice fits in so well with rum and pineapple.

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This beer cocktail features a wonderful aroma of pineapples and musky hogo. The sip opens up with pineapples and allspice, and finishes with a smooth caramel flavor. The barley wine was pretty hoppy and bitter, and helped add an interesting dimension to the drink.

We kind of debated what sort of base spirit to use in this drink for a while, and eventually we settled on a rum with a funky, musky flavor profile, like a rhum agricole. Although it was very tasty, we can’t help but question ourselves. Perhaps this drink would have been even better if we had used a gin, a bourbon, or maybe even a scotch. If you decide to mix this yourself, start with gin (and orange bitters), and go from there.


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Mezcal, Lime, Cilantro, Negra Modelo

Continuing our beer week, today’s drink comes out of a book about beer cocktails, creatively named “Beer Cocktails”, by Howard and Ashley Stelzer. I really wanted to make a beer cocktail with mezcal, and so this one piqued my interest.

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Para Todo Bien
2 oz Mezcal
1 oz Lime juice
.75 oz Simple syrup

Muddle 3 – 4 sprigs of cilantro in the syrup, then add the mezcal and lime juice and shake over ice. Salt half of your glass’ rim, then double-strain the drink into the glass, topping it off with 4 oz Negra Modelo. Garnish with cilantro.

We unfortunately used the last of our cilantro when muddling, so we improvised and garnished our drink with a lime wheel. Also, the original recipe says you should top the drink with 12 oz of Negra Modelo, and that was supposed to make two servings in total. We decreased the amount of beer in ours to 4 oz and kept it to one serving because we didn’t want to drown the drink in so much beer, and because we felt like the portions seemed more enjoyable as a single serving.

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Admittedly, this drink is margarita-esque. A good way to save a bad margarita (maybe the kind you get at your neighborhood Mexican family restaurant, and the like) is to pour some Corona or Negra Modelo into your drink. This beer cocktail extends this idea, using a quality margarita as the base. It’s true that you won’t find any triple sec here, but the beer kind of occupies the same space and lends similar flavors to the drink. And of course the mezcal just keeps things mysterious and interesting.


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Bourbon, Suze, Creole Shrubb, Spaten Optimater

This week is beer cocktail week, so we’ll be posting a series of beer drinks. Today’s drink came together almost on its own, although its construction was controversial. Joe and I were trying to think of something to do with his bottle of Suze, maybe a spirit-driven drink. We came up with an idea and had something that tasted marvelous, but then Joe wanted to pour beer all over it. We debated whether or not we should add beer for about five minutes, and in the end Joe convinced me and we did it. I must say that it was worth it.

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Kaiser Suze
1.5 oz Bourbon
.25 oz Suze
.25 oz Creole Shrubb
Dash of aromatic bitters (Angostura)

Stir over ice, strain. Top with 2.5 oz Spaten Optimater (or any doppelbock will do). Garnish with an orange twist.

The beer we chose was Spaten Optimater, which is a dark German malt beer. On its own, it has a floral, malty, toasty bouquet and tastes of dark fruits – maybe prunes – and caramel, and finishes with a slight bitterness. What convinced me about this beer? Well, it just tastes great with bourbon. Also, this is one of Joe’s all-time favorite beers (as well as his father’s, so I’m told), and so in it went.

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Even without the beer, this drink tastes great. With the beer, though, it tastes even better, although it does loose a bit of its hard edge. The beer’s caramel and dark fruit flavors complement the bourbon, and its sourness emphasized the bitterness of Suze. The creole shrubb is almost a cheater’s ingredient (it’s so tasty!), and the citrus notes in the beer help it feel at home in the glass.

Enjoy!


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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!

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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!