Measure & Stir

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


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Halloween Cocktail: 80s Cocktail Stranger Things 2 Tequila Sunrise Cranberry Grenadine Nostalgia

WUBBA LUBBA DU-Oh, sorry, that was last month’s horror story.

Alright, yes, I’m a day late for Halloween and five days late for the Stranger Things 2 Premier, but in the long run that won’t matter. Most of my traffic comes from the long tail (an excellent name for a drink), so I’ll post when I want and call it what I want. There is an evil presence in the air, whispering to artisans of all types, offering them a dark pact: turn your work into a series of ads for pop culture trends and I will bring you traffic.

I guess that makes me Dr. Faustus.

I made this drink because there was an instagram competition held by Death and Co NYC to make a drink to commemorate the new season of Stranger Things. Be sure to check out the hashtag https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/strangerthingsab/. In particular take a look at this beauty by Ashley Minette, I think it captured the aesthetic of the show more than anyone else.

In order to bring some 80s nostalgia, I decided to make a classic staple of 80s drinking, the tequila sunrise. First, let me say that the tequila sunrise is a terrible drink, best left in the 80s along with mullets and neon spandex pants on men.

That said, sometimes we can make familiar things strange, so I decided to try to update this drink to suit modern tastes by using seasonal ingredients. Instead of the usual orange juice, I used fresh persimmon juice, which is a stunning and scintillant shade of orange. Persimmon, of course, is a fall crop.

In lieu of the usual pomegranate grenadine, I made a cranberry grenadine using fresh cranberry juice, sugar, and orange flower water. I treated both of them with powdered malic acid to find an appropriate balance of flavors. Because of the layered nature of the drink, we don’t necessarily get to taste the ingredients together, and we want to insure a pleasing balance between acidity and sweetness throughout. In practice this is difficult to achieve, but we can get close.

As always with these things, it comes down to an exercise of your personal good taste.

Mind Flayer
2 oz fresh persimmon juice (seasoned with malic acid)
1.5 oz mezcal
dash of simple syrup
.5 oz Cranberry Grenadine

Pour the grenadine into the glass, then shake the other ingredients and carefully pour them over the grenadine, creating a gradient effect.

[Spoiler Alert]
The fog from the dry ice is meant to be evocative of the scene where the Mind Flayer possesses Will Byers. I tried using activated charcoal in the liquid that I poured over the dry ice, but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) the resulting mobilization of CO2 vapor did not mobilize any of the charcoal particles. I did some reading and it turns out it is not possible to make colored fog using dry ice.

Erlenmeyer flasks suck as drinking vessels. The narrow neck kills any aroma that might come off of the drink, and it impacts your perception of the flavor quite a bit. They look good in the photo but they aren’t fun as serving vessels, not even with a straw.

Cheers.


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Colors of Fall Cocktails: Red

I wanted to capture the feeling and the essence of the autumn season in a series of drinks that celebrate both its flavors and the colors. In that vein, I have continued to draw my inspiration from the Japanese concept of Shiki, which I learned at Bar Gen Yamamoto.

This drink takes inspiration from the classic Bacardi Cocktail, which is a daquiri made with Bacardi and sweetened with grenadine instead of simple syrup. Long-time readers may remember that I have experimented with the idea of a cranberry daiquiri in the past, only at that time I preferred to think of it as a Rum Cosmopolitan. I have learned a lot since then, and I can say with confidence that this iteration of the concept is much more refined. The flavors are tight, complex, and yet easily approachable.

fall_trio_red

Colors of Fall: Red
1.5 oz Light Rum (Cruzan Aged Light Rum)
1.5 oz Cranberry Reduction*
.5 oz Fresh Grenadine*
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake over ice and double strain into an old fashioned glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

In some ways this recipe seems very simple, though one can find an opportunity for artistry. In this drink it lies not behind the bar, but in the kitchen. For the cranberry reduction, simmer cranberries in a bit of water until they are soft and falling apart, and then blend them into a puree and work them through a strainer. I did not measure this, though I did stir it. It is easily reproducible if you follow your sense of taste. Cooking the cranberries brings out their natural bitter, sour, and earthy flavors, which we wish to accentuate.

A long and slow cook is ideal here, in order to concentrate the flavor. Too much heat will destroy it. Do not add sugar to the cranberries. We will find our source of sweetness in grenadine, which is made from fresh pomegranate juice. The pomegranate, like the cranberry, has a tart and earthy flavor, so it pairs well with the relatively naked cranberries, and saves the drink from being too one-noted.

For the grenadine, I followed Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s method. It is stellar. I chose to omit the orange flower water in this drink, though I did garnish with an orange peel.

The end result resembles a homemade cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving dinner. Preparing the drink is easy, but you will only have good results if you are attentive to detail when fabricating your grenadine and cranberry sauce. These things must be made according to one’s own good taste.

I tried this with a variety of different rums, and I found that the best was the simplest. And although I did not prefer it, I was intrigued when I substituted a half ounce of the rum in this drink with El Dorado 3 Year. The caramel notes of the demerara rum add complexity, but for me they took away from the central flavor of the cranberry.

Angostura bitters create a subtle spice note, to help impart a warming sensation in the cold of fall.

Cheers.


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Rum Cosmopolitan

Few topics in mixology are more divisive than vodka; I never thought that was the case, but there seem to be two major camps on the issue; in the first camp, there are snobs like me, who believe that any drink that is good with vodka is better with something else. In the second camp, there are people who feel that it is wrong to judge people for their plebian tastes. I think its safe to say that, for those of us in the first camp, we don’t seriously look down on people who enjoy vodka, we simply enjoy snobbery as part of the game. If you can’t enjoy snobbery, you are taking yourself too seriously.

Anyway, I’m done preaching. Today we’re going to talk about the cocktail that may have single-handedly started the craft cocktail revolution; the Cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitans made cocktails cool again, and raised the general public’s interest in drinking cocktails, which had fallen out of fashion as their production descended to McDonald’s-esque lows in the 1990s. I wish I could take credit for that insight, but it was Doug of the Pegu Blog who taught me.

Cranberries are in season, and as with our Thanksgiving drink, the Berry Nutty Maple Whiskey Sour, we wanted to make a sour that uses cranberry juice as the primary source of acidity. To that end, we re-jiggered the classic Cosmopolitan around some of our principles here at Measure and Stir. First off, the vodka had to go. Our first attempt involved using gin, but that was a mistake. Doug warned me:

The ground is littered with the bodies of cocktailians who tried to turn the Cosmopolitan into a decent gin cocktail. The fabled Metropolitan heresy has wasted more good gin on bad results than you can imagine.

Cranberry-orange is a classic flavor pairing, but somehow it just does not mix well with gin’s botanicals. This drink became successful when we swapped the gin for J. Wray and Nephew, an overproof rum with some serious hogo.

Rum Cosmopolitan
1.5 oz Traditional Rum (J. Wray and Nephew)
1 oz Cointreau
.75 oz Fresh, Unsweetened Cranberry Juice
.25 oz Lime Juice
Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with skewered cranberries.

We replaced the sweet and watery cranberry cordial that is commonly used in this drink for fresh, unsweetened cranberry juice, dialed down the lime, and balanced the sourness of the juices with a whole ounce of Cointreau. The result is a very dry, slightly sulfurous cranberry-orange pairing, brightened by a bit of lime. If you like your cosmos sweet, a dash of simple syrup would not be amiss.

We garnished the drink with skewered cranberries, which look very nice but impart virtually no aroma. In a later version of the drink, which is not pictured, we also added small twist of orange peel, and it added both a splash of contrasting color and a mild orange oil aroma. Delightful.

Bottoms up!


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Vanilla-Bourbon, Cranberry, Pecan Orgeat, Maple Syrup

Thanksgiving. Turkey time. A day spent with friends and family, stuffing ourselves into food comas. What are we thankful for? Bourbon whiskey, amari, and mezcal, of course!

Berry Nutty Maple Whiskey Sour
2 oz Vanilla-infused bourbon
.75 oz Cranberry juice
.5 oz Maple syrup
.5 oz Pecan orgeat
Dash of angostura bitters

Shake over ice, double-strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a pecan praline.

For today’s drink, we wanted to mix something using fresh cranberry juice. Let me emphasize the “fresh” part. Remember to keep it craft and always use real, freshly-juiced cranberries. None of that ocean spray 20% cranberry nonsense. Fresh cranberry juice is a splendid cocktail ingredient because it’s an excellent source of acidity, and using it is a great way to add sourness to a drink without relying on citrus juice.

To make pecan orgeat, we used the Serious Eats orgeat recipe, except that we used pecans instead of almonds. The sweetness of the vanilla-infused bourbon and maple syrup balance the sourness from the cranberry juice. The pecan orgeat adds a smooth, sweet, mild, buttery nuttiness, and tastes great with maple syrup. Honestly, when you make a drink using ingredients like these, its deliciousness is self-evident.

And now, to enjoy while perhaps sipping on a cocktail and nibbling on the last of grandma’s jell-o mold, I leave you with some lame Thanksgiving-inspired jokes:

What did the turkey say to the computer?
“Google, google!”

What kind of music did the pilgrims listen to?
Plymouth Rock.

What do you call an unhappy cranberry?
A blueberry!

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.


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Infused Soju

For my new years eve party, I wanted to get as many people tore up as possible, with a minimum of at-party-time prep work. I had been frequenting the Quoin in Fremont, and their main libatory accomplishment is the fact that they serve house-infused soju. Soju, for those of us who are ready, is a Korean distillate of rice (or other starchy produce) with a neutral flavor, similar to vodka. It is usually a little sweeter than vodka, and the wikipedia article is difficult to parse, but it seems like they might just be adding some sugar on the back end.

The Jinro soju that I purchased clocked in at 48 proof, which is low enough to serve over ice and still give everyone a good time. I did a bit of googling and I found out that infusing fruit in soju is a traditional korean practice for preserving the flavors of fruit in the summer time. That makes this drink a bit out of season for the time I made it, but the end product was quite satisfying.

As you can see, I made two different varieties for the party. On the left, cranberry, orange peel, and cinnamon combined to make a spicy, wintery potion which I finished, the day of the party, with half a cup of simple syrup. It came out a bit too sweet for my personal taste, but it was surely a hit with the ladies. The cranberry flavor was perceptible, but it was milder than I was hoping.

If I did this again, I would consider pureeing the cranberries in the blender and then finely strain the infusion into a serving vessel. That might put too many bitter vegetal notes in the drink, so another option would be to concentrate the pureed cranberry’s flavor into a syrup, which I would mix into the soju a couple of days before serving.

Cranberry Orange Cinnamon Soju

4.5 liters of the highest proof soju you can find

2 lbs cranberries

one stick of cassia cinnamon

peel from 2 organic oranges

Allow the mixture to infuse for two weeks, stirring and tasting every two days. Remove the cinnamon stick after ~1 week, once the cinnamon flavor is evident but not overpowering.

On the right is soju infused with roasted butternut squash and a single vanilla bean. Like most squashes, the butternut when roasted took on a slightly sour note, but as the vanilla flavor matured it developed a quality not entirely unlike play-doh, in a good way. I was personally much more pleased with this soju than the other, but the sweetened, familiar flavor of orange cranberry proved to be a bigger crowd-pleaser.

Vanilla Butternut Squash

4.5 liters of Soju

1 Butternut squash, roasted in the oven until soft and caramelized, cut away from the peel.

1 vanilla bean, split open.

Allow the mixture to infuse for two weeks, stirring and tasting every two days. The vanilla bean can accompany the squash throughout the duration of its voyage.