Measure & Stir

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


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Phat Beets: Beet, Rye, Cumin, Balsamic Vinegar, Orange Oil and Green Peppercorn

I know, I know, I haven’t written in a year. I’m not going to waste a lot of time on throat-clearing but I want to assure you that I’m still here, and I still like you, and as always, I want to help you elevate your cocktail game.

drink

I was fishing around for novel flavor combinations that would be timely for the winter season, and I found that green peppercorn jelly is appropriate to mix with beetroot, as is cumin, as is orange oil. I decided to put all four of them together, using beet juice as the bridge between the other ingredients.

For the beetroot, I ran several beets through a masticating juicer and then a fine-mesh strainer and then a chemex. Chemex clarification of juices works better with some juices than others. Beet is among the ones that work less well. Although my beet juice did achieve an elegant texture, its color was so dark that there was no noticeable effect of clarification. You could safely skip the chemex step, but you might consider straining through a 100 micron superbag.

I tried this drink with both bourbon and rye, and I discovered that the additional sourness that comes from a rye was a better complement to the sweet and earthy notes of the cumin and beet. Use a workhorse rye for this, as anything subtle will tend to be drowned out.

For the cumin syrup I toasted about a teaspoon of whole cumin seeds in a pan, then crushed them and simmered them in a 1:1 simple syrup until their flavor was extracted.

In the past I used to reach for lemon juice as my cocktail acid of choice, but a man can only drink so many lemon or lime sours before he starts to ask what other acids exist. Most every good cocktail has a source of acidity, except for the family of drinks that takes after the old fashioned.

For this drink I used a quarter ounce of 10 year aged balsamic vinegar. It is syrupy and sweet, but it also adds the ascetic tang on the backend that is needed to find balance and challenge.

Finally, for the green peppercorn jelly, I crushed ~2 teaspoons of green peppercorns with a mortar and pestle, and simmered them with sugar, agar agar, and filtered water. As soon as the agar dissolved, I poured the mixture through a strainer into a small mold and let it set in the fridge. In 20 minutes I had a firm, pale green jelly.

garnish

Phat Beets
1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (RI1)
.75 oz Finely Strained Beet Juice
.5 oz Toasted Cumin Syrup
.25 oz Extra-Old Balsamic Vinegar
Express Orange Oil over the drink and discard the peel.
Serve with Green Peppercorn Agar Agar Jelly.

 

Green Peppercorn Jelly
250ml Filtered Water
1 Tsp Green Peppercorns, crushed
1 Tbsp. Sugar
2g Agar Agar powder
Bring all to a boil and whisk until sugar and agar agar are fully dissolved. Strain into a small mold and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

This is not one of those viscerally delicious, I-can’t-wait-to-have-another-one type of drinks. I don’t think beet juice is anyone’s favorite, but my hope is that a refined palate can appreciate this as a much more cerebral cocktail experience. First, the imbiber should take a sip of the drink, and observe its sweet, earthy, and spicey notes. The flavors are more or less orthogonal and exist such that each is distinct.

Then, they should take a bite of the peppercorn jelly. The subtle piperitious burn lingers on the palette with an unctuous, floral note. Another sip reveals an unexpected synergy between peppercorn, beetroot, and cumin, pulling the brighter elements of the drink’s composition into contrast against the bassy note of the pepper.

I apologize (#sorrynotsorry) for the previous two paragraphs but I have been watching a lot of Iron Chef Japan lately.

Cheers.


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Sangriento Maria: Mezcal, Heirloom Tomato, Cumin, Chili Garlic Sauce

Joe, for whatever reason, is determined to make a bloody mary that he honestly enjoys, despite agreeing that nobody is excited by savory cocktails and that the bloody mary may be beyond saving. At best, in my opinion, tomato drinks taste like spiked, soupy salsa. At worst, they’re retch-inducing. Yet Joe tries to not only make these drinks palatable, but to make them great. His measure of success is whether or not we’d want to mix the drink twice in a night. This time it actually happened!

Sangriento Maria
2 oz Mezcal
2 oz Heirloom tomato juice
.5 oz Lime juice
.5 oz Cumin syrup
1/2 teaspoon of Chili Garlic Sauce (Huy Fong)

Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail goblet filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a quesadilla, si se puede.

To give this drink a more round tomato flavor, we used a medley of freshly juiced heirloom tomatos instead of sticking to one variety. If you don’t have any cumin syrup on-hand, or don’t feel like going through the trouble of making a batch, you can mix a pinch of cumin with simple syrup, to taste, and achieve a similar flavor. The bit of chili garlic was some last-minute serendipity, as I happened to have a bottle of Huy Fong in the fridge at the time.

Serving this sort of drink over ice helps to cut down on the tomato juice’s heavy viscosity, making it easier to enjoy. I’ve also found that using a smokey spirit, like mezcal, helps to distract you from the fact that you’re drinking tomato juice. That, or using teas also works well with tomato drinks. This bloody mary was so tasty that we ended up mixing another at the end of the night, but, the second time we made it, it did have that “spiced salsa” quality to it, so we’ve adjusted the amount of chili garlic sauce for our final recipe, presented above.

This is the last bloody mary drink for a long while. Lo sentimos.


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Turkish Bath: Apricot Bourbon, Cumin, Lemon, Rosewater

There’s something almost magical about a hot toddy that can transform a rainy, miserable day into a warm, cozy one. Last Saturday was such an occasion, and this was the perfect remedy, and an excellent drink.

Turkish Bath
1.5 oz Apricot-infused bourbon
.5 oz Lemon juice
.5 oz Cumin syrup
1 oz Near-boiling water
2 Drops of rosewater

Combine apricot bourbon, cumin syrup, and lemon juice in a tea cup. Top with hot water and float the rose water on top. Garnish with a bourbon-soaked apricot.

I was skeptical when Joe told me he wanted to make a drink using cumin syrup. When he told me about his apricot bourbon infusion, this wasn’t what I had in mind. We had thought that Apricot and Cumin was a classic Turkish pairing, but it turns out it’s actually Moroccan. That is unfortunate, but we are not going to change the name, because the name “Turkish Bath” suits the idea of the toddy so well. The inspiration for this drink came from taking a page out of Drink Inc‘s book, looking to cuisine to find a flavor pairing that is not obvious, at least not to us Americans. We were very pleased with the results.

Apricot Bourbon Infusion
1 cup Bourbon (Evan Williams)
1 cup dried apricots
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar

Shake it up and let it infuse for 1 week.

The apricot bourbon was absolutely delicious on its own. Using dried apricots worked brilliantly, and – best of all – you can reuse the bourbon-soaked apricots as garnishes. As usual, a 1:1 ratio of fruit to spirit and roughly a tablespoon of sweetener results in deliciousness.

Cumin Syrup
1 Tsp powdered cumin (Freshly ground seeds would be better)
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar

Simmer and stir until fully integrated.

The most surprising element of the drink was the cumin syrup, and its interaction with the apricot flavor. On its own, it’s both sweet and savory. It isn’t particularly spicy, but it does have a certian warmth. As you sip the drink, you’re greeted by the cumin’s glow, wich compliments the nature of a hot toddy splendidly. The drink is at once sweet, spicy, and soothing. Fruity, but also savory. Perfectly balanced, and very relaxing.

Also noteworthy is the affect that the rosewater has on the drink. Make sure to drop it on top, right after pouring hot water over the other ingredients. Its role is aromatic, and its presence adds a floral complexity that works well with the citrus from the lemon juice, and also with the sweet fruity taste of apricots.

If you enjoyed this drink, I also recommend checking out this apple cider hot toddy from a while back. Fresh apple cider, rye, cinnamon, and cloves together make for another delicious fall toddy. Also, a shout out to The Liquid Culture Project’s Hot Scotch Toddy, which is awesome.

Bottoms up!